A Self-Advocacy Column
by Eric Gmeinder
I very recently accepted an invitation from The Arc to talk about having a Dual Diagnosis, or autism along with a mental illness. But I don’t technically have one other diagnosis besides autism. I struggle with three: depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (which I think has become agoraphobia), and anger.
I don’t really know why I developed anger issues, but I learned that people commonly develop them from having angry parents. When I was a little kid, my dad would rage when he got angry or stressed out (he hardly ever does that now, thank goodness). When I was twelve or so, I would slam doors and yell at people when they made me angry. This only happened occasionally, but just before I turned fifteen, it became my default reaction.
I have written before about my problems with vehicles and their loud engines, and how they make me angry. The writing was on the wall in the first half of 2007, but beginning in late June, they are what caused me to start screaming, hitting myself and objects, and carrying on for several minutes. For that and other reasons, I consider that Summer to be the worst time of my life. I’ve struggled with the same issues since then with ups and downs, but after that Summer, there was nowhere to go but up.
I’ve noticed not only these vehicles to be more common in Sacramento, but my other current triggers. These triggers include smokers and people riding bicycles on the sidewalk, and I become angry because of them too. I would move out of Sacramento today if I had my way, and I’ve wanted to since 2012.
But surely I must have a way to deal with these outbursts if I want to be a member of society? I didn’t really until June 2015. For not reacting to things 100 times, I could get a reward. 200 times, another reward. 500 times, another reward. And so forth. I abandoned that practice in September that year because I was having too much trouble keeping track of all the times I reacted and didn’t react. I may very well start this again, because as much as I hate dealing with the things I deal with, I have to choose between dealing with them properly and not being a member of society.