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 all alone, watching everyone make nice with each other. No one even acknowledges 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 you up. You’re terrified of being inadequate. Others around you can’t understand your pain.
I often feel glum and angry with this condition. It feels like I’ve been dragged into an abyss that I can’t get out of.
Growing up, I could never fit in with others. 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 would get nervous. I would always be left out because I couldn’t relate to the other children.
Being bullied at school made my condition worse. Every day I would walk around and get laughed at. 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 just rejected me. Nobody listened. This only made me feel even more depressed. The bullying in school got so bad that I nearly tried to kill myself at the age of eleven. I was going to leap from 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’ve written with the class. I 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 went away. The kids would call me all sorts of demeaning names, such as ‘retard’, ‘stupid’, and many more.
I lost my father when I was just a year old, and this had a grave 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 not as outgoing as he was. I’m reclusive and shy. I don’t open up too much. These issues with bullying and my Asperger’s were ongoing. At the age of fourteen, I was booked into a mental hospital. They had me on medications for a while. But they didn’t help, so I stopped taking them in 2013.
Once I got to high school, I began to give up hope. I felt like there was no haven for a guy like me. I carried all this baggage, suffered a lot of emotional wounds. It felt like nobody 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 be judged or harassed.
This escape pushed 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.
That 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. 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