Imagine yourself in a room full of people. All of those people are laughing and mingling. Everyone except for you. You’re sitting there in the corner by yourself, watching everyone have fun with each other. No one even seems to see that you’re there. You just sit there, feeling crushed. You have trouble expressing yourself because you don’t know how. Your fear of being rejected eats away at you. You’re terrified of being inadequate, not good enough. Others around you can’t understand your pain.
I often feel down and angry with this condition. It feels like I’ve been dragged into a hole that I can’t get out of.
Growing up, I never fit in with others. As a child, I couldn’t look an adult in the eye. I never had the capacity to. There was just something about looking at someone else that made me feel very uncomfortable. In social situations, my heart would beat very fast. I would get nervous easily. I would always be left out because I couldn’t relate to the other kids.
Being bullied at school only made my condition worse. Every day I would get laughed at as I walked around. It was humiliating. People would make fun of the way I talked, walked, and looked. Imagine trying to answer a question in class and having all the other kids mock you.
My family couldn’t relate to my condition either. I constantly asked them for help and they rejected me. It felt like nobody listened, which only made me feel even more depressed. The bullying in school got so bad that I contemplated suicide at the age of eleven. I had planned to jump out of my bedroom window, but my mom stopped me in the process.
I would use writing as my means to communicate. I loved to write. Whenever I was in class, I would be the first person to get up and share what I’d written. I even impressed my teachers with my impeccable writing abilities. My creativity was amplified and it had no limits.
But that didn’t mean my issues with my low self-esteem, and my inability to become proactive in social situations, disappeared. The kids would call me all sorts of nasty names, such as ‘retard’, ‘stupid’, and many more.
I lost my father when I was just one year old, and this had a huge impact on my childhood. It’s not easy growing up as a black man without a father.
My father was a very outgoing guy. Everyone loved him. You could never tell if he was sad, he seemed so resilient. Everyone tells me I look like him so much, but I’m his complete opposite. I’m nowhere near as outgoing as he was. I’m reclusive and shy. I don’t open up. These issues with bullying and my Asperger’s were ongoing. At the age of fourteen, I was placed into a mental hospital. They had me on medications for a while. But they didn’t help, so in 2013, I stopped taking them.
Once I got to high school, I began to give up hope. I felt like there was no safe haven for a guy like me. I carried all this baggage, suffered a lot of emotional wounds. It felt like there was no one who could understand what I was going through.
But I didn’t stop writing. I let my talent weather the storm. I let the arts influence me. Writing was my only escape. It was the only place I could go and not fear being judged or harassed.
This escape drove me to write my first book at the age of fifteen. On October 26th 2014, I published The Ballad of Sidney Hill. That book marked my coming of age and how much I’ve matured.
This was living proof that I wasn’t going to let a mental disorder define me. I was told I wouldn’t be able to function once I got to high school. I proved wrong all those specialists who remained doubtful of my growth because of my condition.
I have now written forty books and I am attending Berkeley College in Newark, New Jersey. I have a message for you all. Never let your circumstances define who you are. You can be anything!
By Khali Raymond