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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Reflections on a Dream Filled Night

Last night was an odd night for me as my dreams were even more real than usual. I've talked in the past about how real my dreams seem and that I usually remember most, if not all elements from my dreams. Last night, however, it was even more real.

Usually I have no clue as to where the topics of the dreams come from. This past night the answer was obvious as in both presentations yesterday I was asked, "How did you get from where you were to where you are today?" The questions looked to expand upon my presentation conclusion when I speak about my trip to New York City to have a meeting with a woman from Autism Speaks and then going through TouchPoint's Parent Training.

I had never been asked that question before and I gave an answer about giving two presentations at a Masters level teaching class at Lindenwood University and then starting out at TouchPoint giving presentations to police officers before coming on full time. That answer seemed to satisfy, but to me it did not. I felt as if something was missing. What that was, I didn't know, but it showed up last night in my dreams.

This is a big week for me as it is with that announcement I talked about on Monday coming this week so it is rather odd that two events (the announcement and those questions) would make me reflect on how I got to where I am today.

The first part of my dream was of when I was in school. When I dream, especially when I dream of events that have happened, the emotions are felt just as strongly as when that time era actually happened. In the dream I did everything I could to get out of school, but failed. Anyway, when I was at school, I dreamt of the day in 2nd grade when Mrs. Jendra allowed me to be the presenter of the flashcards. I was retired as champion, but instead of giving me busy work she allowed me to be the host of the game. Without a doubt this was one of the most major events of my life as I am now a presenter and without that experience long ago, well, perhaps I would be unable to do what I do now. After this thought my dream took a turn to the bizarre and a tornado hit the school and I woke up in a fright. Thankfully that part of my dream never actually happened.

After being up for about 10 minutes around 1:50AM I got back to sleep and went straight back to dreaming. This time it was the era of when I moved from Indianapolis to Saint Louis. I never have thought about that time era extensively because it was an awful period for me. In Indy people like auto racing so what my ultimate "Kansas" was everyone knew what I was talking about. In Saint Louis the Asperger in me showed more and I had minimal interaction with classmates because what I was interested in no one else had ever heard of nor cared about; after all, Saint Louis is a baseball town.

I cried in my dream, but then I dreamed about the times my family would go back to Indy and I had my moments of supreme respite. While my mom and dad would be visiting either my brother or sister I would go to the friends I had while in Indy and stay there. I do believe it was there that I crafted my art of conversation as we would play games for hours on end. Monopoly, Double Crossing, and eventually Risk were played and played and played. Games are a safe haven for me and I feel like my normal defenses are lessened within a game. Having these weekends of normality over the course of a decade kept me going. I knew that those times in Indy were relevant in my life, but until having that dream I didn't realize the contrast between the isolation in Saint Louis and the warmth and all the games in Indy was so different.

Again I was woken up, but instead of fear I was awoken by a happy sadness. I realized that all those times in Indy kept me from fully going within myself. I wasn't 100% isolated in Saint Louis, but the times of personal interaction was far between and I talked to no one at school. Having those moments of normality were critical in my development and I should state, during this era, I wasn't diagnosed which makes the miracle of all this even more spectacular. I also was sad because I remembered the final game of Monopoly that was played in 2004. Times change, people grow, and what is eventually becomes what was. What was though, in that era, was a critical time of growth.

This time I went back to sleep around 4AM and my dream went to the night I started to write. I thought, within the dream, "Wow, what is this, a miniseries tonight?" Anyway, I remember all the emotions I felt on that night. I could feel the anger, the confusion, the frustration, and the intense desire to be heard. I wanted to be heard but I could not speak it. I had so many emotions but had no way to express them. As I say in my presentations, "Before I started writing I was the least emotional person in the world."

After being diagnosed I went into a horrible 14 month depression as the first thing I read about the spectrum stated that, "Persons with Asperger Syndrome will never have a job, never have friends, will always be a burden, and will never be happy." I wish I knew which web-site I read that on so I could send them a copy of my book to prove them wrong now, but at the time it was those lines that defined me. Forgotten were the times in Indy when I was alive. Forgotten was the times in school that I spoke in front of the class like a game show host. Forgotten was my life and the only thing that was true were those lines from that web site. That is of course until I started to write.

The last things I dreamed about was putting Gran Turismo 4 in my PS2 and turning on the jukebox within the game to listen to classical music while I wrote. I went to my computer and for the first time in my entire life expressed myself.

It was a long road from that first night to get to where I am today as I started writing in February 2005, but all the events that preceded that had a hand into getting me to where I am. At the time, I'm sure, no one could have imagined that what seemed like an irrelevant event would play such a role. I mean, I'm sure my 2nd grade teacher, if she is still alive, will never know the sincere gratitude I have because of those times I stood in front of the class. Also, all the times in Indy kept me conversing and kept me interacting. It was also the oasis within the school isolation I had and those weekends spent in Indy kept me confident about myself.

It was a night of dreams that seemed real. The images, the words, and the emotions were all real. I was saddened and elated at the same time. I was saddened because of the memories, but I was elated because I was reminded that there is always hope. I am a advocate for early diagnosis and intervention, but I didn't receive any of those. While it is best, should a person be diagnosed later in life there is still hope. For those 14 months I said over and over, "There is no hope." but I was wrong. I thought my life was going to be confined within the house I lived in as that's essentially what that web site I read said. However, having the experiences I had as a child in school, and the times in Indy, the seeds were planted that has allowed me to become who I am today. As with planting, the sprouts don't sprout instantly and it may take time. For me, from that first time in 2nd grade being in front of a class it would be 18 years before I spoke in front of a group about autism. 18 years! The road may be long and hard, but the dreams last night reminded me that I didn't travel this road alone and I am thankful to everyone who helped me along the way.

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