Living with Asperger syndrome (AS) and mental health issues is not an easy feat. It never is. Imagine yourself in a room full of people. All those people are laughing and mingling. Meanwhile, you aren’t. You’re sitting there in the corner all alone, watching everyone make nice with each other. Nobody even acknowledges that you’re there.
You just sit there, crushed from the inside. You have trouble expressing yourself because you don’t know how to. Your fear of being rejected eats you up. Your fear or feeling inadequate to others eats you up. As you live with these issues, those whom you’re around can’t understand your pain. You’re constantly feeling glum and angry. You feel as if this condition drags you into an abyss that leads to no return.
Growing up, I never was able to fit in. As a kid, I couldn’t look an adult in the eye. I never had the capacity to. There was just something about looking at another person that made me feel very uncomfortable. In social situations, my heart would pound very fast. I always got nervous. I would often be left out because I couldn’t relate to the other children. Being bullied didn’t help curb my condition; it only worsened it. Every day, I would get humiliated. I would be made fun of because of the way I talked, walked, and looked. Imagine trying to answer a question in class and people mocked you. Every word you would say, they’d make this expression that tries to rob you of your voice.
As I was around my family, they couldn’t relate to my conditions either. I constantly sent them cries for help and they just rejected me. Nobody listened. This made me feel terrible. Growing up as a black man, mental health was something people around me chastised. They didn’t believe in therapy and mental illness, so they tried to dismiss me by telling me that I’m ‘acting white’ and ‘retarded’. Truth of the matter is, mental illness runs on both sides of my family, so I don’t understand why they tried to shy away from that. During my therapy for anger management, I got diagnosed with depression when I was still a teenager.
I attempted to take my own life at 10 or 11 years old, but my mum stopped me. From then, I would use writing as my means to communicate. I loved it. In class, I would be the first person to get up and share what I’d written. I impressed my teachers with my impeccable writing abilities. My creativity was amplified. There was nothing limiting it.
That didn’t mean my issues with my low self-esteem and the inability to become proactive in social situations waned. The kids would call me all sorts of demeaning names, such as retarded, stupid, and many more. I lost my father when I was just a year old, and his loss alone has had a grave impact on how I grew up. As a black man, growing up without a father - that’s not easy. My father was very outgoing. Everyone loved him. He was so resilient. Everyone tells me I look like him, but I’m the complete opposite. I’m not as outgoing as he was; I’m reclusive and shy. I don’t open up too much.
These issues with my mental health, bullying and my bout with Asperger’s did not cease. At the age of 14, I was booked into a mental health hospital. They had me on medication for a while, in attempt to curb my depression and behavioural disorder, but this didn’t help me. I stopped taking them in 2013. Once I got to high school, I was on the verge of giving up. I carried all this baggage. I bared all these wounds. Nobody understood my story but, I didn’t stop writing. I let my talent carry me to first base.
I let the arts influence me. Writing was my only escape. It was the only place I could go and not be judged. Little did I know, this escape pushed me to write my first book at the age of 15. That book marked my coming of age and how much I’ve matured. It was living proof that I wasn’t going to let my disorders define me. They told me that I wouldn’t be able to function once I got to high school. All these specialists who doubted me - I proved them wrong.
Fast forward to now, I have written over 80 books. I’m aiming to publish a hundred. I am now also attending a prestigious college. I have a message for you all. Never let your circumstances define who you are: you can be anything!