An Unbelieveably Great Memoir by Ben

Hi everyone! (Well, not everyone, but some of everyone)

I was sick for, like, a bunch of my life.

When I was younger, there were so many things wrong with me it’s hard to count, but I’ll try: I had Autism, OCD, an eating disorder, anxiety, tics, sensory issues, problematic social skills, and probably other things that I forgot. Oh right, duh, I used to scream—a lot.

When most people think about Autism, they think about people who can’t talk; I guess I was kind of like that. My speech was delayed, so it was hard for people to understand me (It was difficult for me to say Rs, Ls, and THs). I also couldn’t/didn’t say “Thank-you, “Please”, “Excuse-me”, or any other words like that. It felt too weird to say these things.

There was this one time I went over to a friend’s house (I say friend here, but it wasn’t like I had a truckload of friends following me around, also, this kid wasn’t very nice, but, back to our story). At some point when I was there, I told his parents I was “dusty” — I meant thirsty, but it was extremely hard to understand me, so they thought I was telling them I was dusty! I don’t remember the details, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t get water until I left their house.

I also used to get pronouns mixed up. For example: I would use the word “You” when I meant “Me, and vice versa. So I would say stuff like “You want more water”, when I meant “I want more water”, or “You want me to feed you”, when I meant “I want you to feed me”.

Autism makes people have strong interests, to the exclusion of just about anything else. So I had things that I would do all the time, such as draw trains (actually, I would want my parents to draw trains for me). When I was little, I had limited interests (trucks, trains, backhoes, did I say trains already?) Even not long ago, I had some singular interests - most recently were atlas-reading, doing the Rubik’s Cube, practicing magic tricks, and reading reference books. These were each at separate times. I would spend nearly all day doing one of those things.

It didn’t feel weird to me at the time, but these interests were different than most people’s. There used to be this house in Ithaca that had the bottom of its downspout missing. And for some reason, I used to LOVE driving by that house (over and over again) to see the downspout. It had a sort of creepiness that was interesting…to me. I also used to love watching the trains go by in downtown Ithaca. The other way these interests were different: At first, it would be really fun to do whatever it was, but toward the end of each obsession, I would get increasingly anxious, until finally after weeks or months, I wouldn’t do that particular activity any more.

I also had general anxiety, which made it so I wouldn’t want to do anything unless my mom did it with me. Also, it made me stay up late worrying that my parents would leave the house—even though there was no good reason for the worry. It didn’t matter. Even if I knew the worry was silly, I would still overthink and stress about it. Also, I would worry about death a lot.

When I used to go #2, I was too anxious to go by myself, so I would sit on my mom’s lap while I pooped! I remember the time when my mom finally decided to stop doing that…I wasn’t happy. But I don’t blame her at all for not wanting to go to the bathroom with me anymore.

I also had OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). If you don’t know what OCD is, then go online and look it up. No, just kidding! Basically, OCD is a mental disorder that makes people do any of the following: Feel the need to do things over and over again (Compulsively), such as washing your hands over and over and over, even though your hands are perfectly clean; or, think about things over and over again (Obsessively), such as worrying that something will hurt you, even though it obviously won’t, or just blowing small problems up and making them seem like big problems.

For a while (just a couple years ago actually) I was washing my hands a LOT! Mostly, though, I would have obsessive thoughts, which can be awful. A couple years back, I was feeling guilty for just about everything! Imagine you bump someone accidentally, and maybe forget to apologize. That shouldn’t fill you with a horrible guilty feeling for days or months, right? But that’s the thing about OCD; it doesn’t make sense. I was feeling guilty almost all the time, and it was awful. I would do something like bump someone or some-such, and then I would be depressed and sad and guilty, and the more I would think about it, the worse it would seem, and the OCD would try to make me apologize, even though it wasn’t necessary. So yeah, that was the most recent major form of OCD for me, but before that, there were other things I would think about Obsessively.

It looks like we’ve come to the eating disorder, which I remember with much fondness (that’s a joke).

When I was a little kid, we were vegetarians (because my mom had been one for her whole life). But I was getting sick, so we decided to start eating meat to try the GAPS diet (this was when we stopped eating sugar, fruit, potatoes, nuts, grains, and a ton of other things, which made me healthier; later, we added specific supplements that helped a lot). And guess what? I though meat was disgusting! This was due in part to the fact that I had never eaten it before, and also because I had an eating disorder—which made me dislike almost every food anyway.

For years, my diet was extremely restricted (due to the fact that I hated food in general). I obviously ate some things, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this. But I was crazy picky, and only ate a few foods; I would sit at the table for hours not-eating, and I wasn’t healthy at all, mentally or physically.

I don’t know if you know what tics are (not ticks), but if you don’t, they are involuntary twitches, movements, and sounds, that can become very annoying (and look and sound very strange to other people). So yup, I had those too. I would literally be dancing around on the floor, trying to hide the tics from view…but I couldn’t.

I had sensory issues too. For example, helmets were extremely uncomfortable on me — they still are, but not as much. I was also very particular about what clothing I would wear - definitely no jeans (I only started wearing jeans about a year ago).

And I definitely was not good at being social. Whenever I was with other kids, I would want to do very specific things, such as wrestle, race, and show I could run, climb, and wrestle better than they could. A LONG time ago (before GAPS), I didn’t really hang out with kids at all, but eventually I started to a tiny bit - but I was still very focused on the activities I wanted to do. And I was competitive, so mostly I cared a lot about being faster and stronger than other kids. I didn’t care whether they enjoyed those activities.

Have you ever heard a little kid scream? Well I did that a LOT — I was still having screaming tantrums when I was 8 years old. There was always some unimportant trigger that set me off, but that wasn’t important. What was important was what I did about it. I would start whimpering, then, when my mom told me to go to my room, I would start howling like a psychopath, kicking the walls, banging on things, and being obnoxious (In my head, though, it felt perfectly normal). When I would have a tantrum, whatever the trigger had been, it would feel like such a horrible problem, hence the screaming. That wasn’t how everyone saw it, though. There was one time I remember in particular: I was at my grandparents house in Connecticut, and I had been given a balloon—you know, one of those mylar ones. Well, it popped on the big clock in the family room. And as my other grandpa says, “There has never been a balloon that brought more joy than aggravation”, and that was certainly true of that balloon. I remember laying on the carpet. Screaming. Trying to get my Gramma to have pity on me and buy me a new balloon. What a brat I was!

And now for a conclusion of this masterwork of creative writing, we must look at how I am now, a perfect angel who eats, is social, and can wear a helmet without screaming really loud. OK, maybe I’m exaggerating, but still, I’m a lot better than I used to be. I do eat, all by myself, almost any food that is put in front of me (with a few major exceptions, such as liver, and canned oysters. Well, I do eat them, I just hate them to hell). My tics are mostly gone. My OCD has mostly disappeared (which is great). I never scream like a banshee any more, unless I’m doing it for a movie. I’m a lot more social (I’ve found out there’s more to friends than racing, wrestling, and showing I’m better than them)…

So yeah, I went from a screaming sick kid, to a handsome, eating, non screaming, biking (with a helmet), social-ish, 15 year old boy!

Now I’ve said it now I’m done, now I am a well dressed son (in jeans). Bye!

-Ben