Statistics tell us 26.2% of the population has been diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder in a given year. Every year 9.6% of the population is diagnosed with this affliction. According to the 2004 Census that translates to 57 million people. Of course this number is much higher because it is up to each individual to be honest and how many people do you think were? I do not recall ever filling in a census report. So that number is actually 58 million.
I believe those statistics are MUCH higher. Every single person I know, except Jerry Atwood has been diagnosed with depression, OCD, ADD, ADHD, Bi-polar, (that's a biggee right now), borderline personality, Aspergers, Autism or some sort of addiction profile. Add to that sleep dysfunction, work related stress resulting in paranoia or worse, phobias like Agoraphobia, the desire to never have to step foot out of your house again. Then we have a plethora of eating disorders from bulimia to anorexia and everything in between which results in body dysmorphic disorder. My personal favorite, Münchhausen's and Münchhausen's by Proxy, which is the desire of one person to either stay sick themselves for attention, or to cause illness or worse to another for attention. I cannot recall anyone who has not at one time or another had some sort of emotional affliction. Did you know that male chauvinism stems from the early mother-child relationship, a concept called 'breast envy'? Even we writers have our demons; It is said – if you want to be a decent writer instead of an emotionally stunted dilettante’ try killing yourself. If you survive you may have something to write about.
At my apartment complex, our little community cliques meet up in the big family room we have here for just that purpose.
This room is decorated smartly with barrel chairs of different shades of a New England fall. We have round ottoman style tables to perch our drinks, crafts and newspapers. The room is kept immaculately clean, with the faux wood floors being mopped every couple of hours. We also have a huge theater style television with every channel known to man. Off to one side is a small library with encyclopedias, novels and cookbooks. It has a glass window, no door just the transom and a chair for the peruser to rest while making their decisions. There is a nice size utility kitchen with two stoves and ovens for us to use as we wish. Our apartments come furnished with a bed, desk, refrigerator and microwave. Not ideal for healthy eating. So the community kitchen is wonderful. Our mailboxes are down a small hall that branches out to the computer room, counselor and general offices.
Every one MUST pass through this community area to leave the complex. I often wonder if it is by design, and of course, you will say, but I mean, not by design for security but for the neighbors to meet each other and keep tabs.
Everyday, without fail, one of our residents, *L.T. is there to greet everyone.
L.T is a 44 year old Hispanic/American Indian,which are really one and the same. She has a head full of unruly hair that she rises every morning at exactly 7:45 am to wash, dry and make sense. She is never prone to wearing the same thing two days in a row like some of us are. She is a big girl, not fat but she is one healthy woman close to six feet tall. She has amazing features and one would be hard pressed to identify her origin without speaking to her and having her explain. She has almond shaped eyes that dance at every expression of acknowledgement.
My first conversation with L.T. was very telling.
She embroiders. The same thing only in different colors. Psalms and passages from the bible. She has her little 7x9 inch 13 mesh plastic canvasses. The psalms sometimes do not fit and she has to use several canvasses. She sells these for $7 a piece and they are a pretty popular item – I have one myself...put away someplace. I chose yellow and black...what the hell was I thinking of? In any case, I asked her why she didn't use a larger canvas. She explained that the store did not carry them. I told her to look on the INTERNET in our lab. She said a firm no and that the 7x9 was the only size. I realized then that she was very focused, unusually so. But I still didn't pick up on anything. I just found it kind of charming that she relied on her auntie for even the most simple of decisions.
She couldn't watch 'R' rated movies. I explained to her that sometimes that 'R' was for a single word or a fleeting nude scene. Which of course, that one nude scene made her cringe. I felt bad for her that she was missing so much. She COULD watch PG13 after speaking to auntie. By this point I was convinced she had a regression issue of some sort. But it wasn't until Judith W., another neighbor, complained of L.T.. A simple issue that seemed to rankle a few people.
Every day at the same time, L.T. comes to our community room, sits in the same spot and people come and sit around her. And usually it is early enough that the place is relatively empty. She takes her chair and starts her day which will pause at 11:45 for her to go to her apartment and eat lunch. She returns to her chair with her lunch. She usually entrusts her embroidery supplies to Judith whilst away. Her next stop will be for a bathroom break which is always around 3:ish. Then at 5 she returns to her apartment to eat, bathe and sleep, only to return to her activities with the same schedule the next day.
If L.T. comes into the community room and someone is sitting in her chair, she will stand next to the chair, her chair and patiently wait. She makes not a sound nor a grimace. It is just irritating enough to make the person get up. Again, very telling. But the activity that made me realize she was much more than what we see on the surface came when she was asked to play chess.
L.T. was fast and won each and every time. At one point it became a marathon and anyone who knew the game, residents, employees, visitors asked to play and left troubled and amazed at her. And irritated that in the middle of the game she had to leave to eat, or just go home.
L.T. does not go to the grocery store with us. Her auntie takes her. Every week she makes out a list. Of the very same things. Judith asked her why she didn't just use the same list and she replied that she had to make a list every week. Judith tried but failed to explain the redundancy. I was pretty certain L.T. was autistic. If nothing, at the very least Aspergers. And this was confirmed by auntie.
L.T. had gotten pregnant when she was just 14 by a relative. She had to give the child up. She got pregnant by the same relative, an uncle yet again! That time she gave birth to twins and again gave them up. L.T. met a young man in church and they married. He beat her mercilessly and that was how she came to be at New Hope. Yet in speaking of these instances, which she only did once with me, she is detached. I guess in some ways that is a good thing. Her aunt said she never thought of her absent children unless someone else brings them up. Once I realized this, I was able to communicate with her like any other adult in the complex.
Maybe Judith was jealous, though I do spend ample time with Judith , she doesn't seem to mind very much if I spend time with others. But one day when L.T. was not in the room, Judith complained of her little idiosyncrasies.
“I just hate it when she stands there and says nothing. There are chairs all over the room and she has to have that one.”
I asked Judith and a couple of others up to my room to talk and let them vent.
Then I explained the issues regarding Aspergers and OCD both of which L.T. has. It was like seeing a first grader learn to read. Everything became clear and they seemed to understand. After the meeting most behaved in a more patient manner with L.T., getting up out of her chair, not harassing her about 7x9 mesh, 'R' Rated movies and grocery lists. Then there was one or two that used the information as a sort of passive aggressive behavior that was more than childish. One of the women went out of her way to sit in L.T.'s chair and not get up. That changed. I made sure.
I had ordered some larger mesh for L.T. on line. I even paid for the first batch just so she could get an idea of what was available. I gingerly handed them to her and she was so happy. I was surprised, I guess I expected a level of defiance. And she handed me $5. Which was what she paid for a package of three of the 7x9. These were 14x20 and there were six. I told her they were a gift.
When she needed more, because after all she could charge more for these bigger pieces, she asked me to order them for her again. Another delightful surprise, she was bending. But they were expensive. One batch costs $9 and the shipping is almost as much. I felt that ordering a larger batch would be less expensive in the long run, but knew this was going to be a confusing elective. I ordered the next batch, three sets and gave them to her when I got them, with the invoice included. She gave the invoice to auntie and I got my money the next day. I was relieved we crossed this fork in the road. When she needed more she asked me to order them. God forbid, they were on back order and she was at my room every week, same time same day, asking for them and each time I had to explain they were out of stock. Anyone else, and I would have lost it, but I knew what I was dealing with.
Yet, in the community room, when L.T. asked me, again, Judith became impatient and when L.T. left, Judith started. Her basic question: Why do we have to treat L.T. so special?
Apparently my talk had done no good, so I need some visual aids. I can recommend a movie for movie nights (Friday and Saturday), and I wanted to recommend something a bit more involved for the others to get a better idea of who L.T. actually is.
I came across a little film on Netflix called OC87. A film by Buddy Clayman about his own journey with Aspergers, as well as other deficits.
Buddy Clayman is a funny, introspective, troubled film maker, thankfully blessed with wonderful parents who understand their son has issues but it doesn't define him. Buddy on the other hand is pretty certain it actually does define him.
When you watch the film you are drawn into how much you really like this guy. He is almost a typical Jewish boy attending Akiba Hebrew school in his teen years. He has that satirical whit, you never know if he is joking or not. But with Aspergers comes an attribute that the everyday 'normal' person does not understand.
When Buddy was a young man, he wanted to move from home and he called upon a friend and mentor to help make this transition. On the film, they show an answering machine, and a voice comes out
“Buddy, this is Jon Wolfman...it really is”.
And it continued to explain that he had been trying to contact Buddy and thankfully Buddy's mom had given Jon Buddy's number. He wanted to meet up which was quite a coincidence since Buddy had the same intention for the purpose of the film. At first I didn't connect the dots. Jon Wolfman is probably a very popular name, 58 birth records to be exact. There had been a rift between Jon and Buddy over the most innocuous short conversation. Something he called a significant and painfully emotional situation that he had been laboring over for 30 years.
Buddy had been hold up in his room for several days and once he surfaced, he was the worse for wear and Jon had greeted him with “you look like a holocaust survivor' (Jon's response now is “because the robe was striped”, a very Wolfman response). This innocent and very caring remark from Jonathan crippled poor Buddy for years because he interpreted it as an insult.
But with the Holocaust remark, I realized it was my Jon...our Jon. What is it about seeing someone you know on TV or in a feature film that suddenly makes you feel entitled? Like 'Now I am really important because I know that guy'. When in reality, anyone you tell does not give a hoot.
Jonathan is in the group of the very elite here. No one says anything personal in comments on his post, nor do they follow up with derogatory remarks when he comments on other's posts. You will never see a nasty dust-up about Jon. Even the tried and true followers of this sort of behavior remain detached when it comes to Jon. He is a sort of omni God the blog set.
He is a defender of all that is moral and true.
For many months, really the first year or so, I assumed he was gay. His profound interest in the rights for gays, as well as other judiciously indentured classes, was one of the first things that drew me to his blog. But how did I find his blog? He was one of the first people to welcome me here and encourage me as a potential writer. When I read his work I was more than flattered he gave me even two seconds of his time. He has the most introspective way of looking at things. He has decorum, his posts never have insults to other writers laced between the lines, i.e. 'I don't write like so and so because I am far too good of a writer to emulate such posturing.' You know the sort. Nor does he mention people unless it in a positive tone.
When I first got on Salon, I did not understand the concept of Pm Blasts and wondered if they would be interpreted as annoying. His response: I cannot understand anyone being annoyed by another's writing, the hard work they take in reminding you that they have created something for you to read.
And as I said, I thought he was gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that. If you read his work you will see a man that strikes out for our community so professionally with enough emotion, I have very seldom heard or read anyone who had the ammunition he did. That includes the leaders of the gay community. Not once did he correct me. And every single person I have heard of or personally addressed as such, if they were not, they would not hesitate to say “I'm not gay”. That is what a proponent of gay rights Jonathan is. He did not feel the need to correct me any more than if I thought he had short hair instead of long...yes I said that right, long. He is a 'husband' with children and his sexuality is none of our business. I am certain he had his share of infatuations from both genders. But he always seemed to have kept his appeal to others in check as if not noticing it at all.
In the movie, during a scene where they are describing the relationship between Buddy and Jonathan, a picture flashed of this handsome dapper fellow with wild black curly hair and an Andy Capp style hat, blue jeans and hippie garb of the day with a dedication in the year book to him.
Yes, the entire year book was dedicated to Our Jon.
Buddy and Jonathan reconnected on the film and off and those 30 years, though never erased are now understood by Buddy.
I contacted Jonathan who in turn put Buddy Clayman in touch with me. Our interview was more like a chat between old friends, though I knew, in spite of his candid answers, he may never think of me again.
After addressing the here and now, I was told his father had died three years prior. The man who financed OC87 and who worked side by side with Buddy in the Clayman Foundation, an establishment that reaches out and helps many.
Buddy's mom is not doing so well, she is in failing health. She is a tiny, stylish funny women who at one time was an interior decorator. Buddy's an only child, so I worry how his life will be without her. However Buddy seems resigned to this outcome. But that is the here and now.
Buddy has made another film since OC87, about TIKVAH a Jewish Community in Florida for people with special needs. Both films have been received positively and have recently been in a showing of many films of this nature
Most people make films because it is their passion, thus, they for the most part, enjoy what they are doing and cannot wait to make the next project. Planning it even while working on the present. Buddy on the other hand, found his passion to make films brought full circle to who he is now. He made a film about it. He did not think about his future projects. He couldn't. He was crawling painfully through the here and now.
Painful. Here and now. You will feel the strain of his every step as he tries to just make it through the day. You will never take this for granted again, once you view this film and Buddy's generosity in showing himself at his most vulnerable.
His life at times seemed to mirror an Art James poem. many of us have enjoyed in comments. Frank, yet mysterious, close to the edge, yet still only in the middle of the room.
When he is in his inner child, he is not 'childish' rather, how a child actually is, excited, inquisitive, secure that we are not anything different than we appear. Sensitive, we mean what we say. Yet he is the consummate adult. The person we hope our sons will be. Serious, intelligent, nurturing, trustworthy and again, trusting. There is no room for sarcasm in his life. It doesn't matter anyhow, because he doesn't get it, not unlike most people from the beginning of time. Even the most innocuous statements can do permanent damage.
At first I thought how fortunate Buddy was to have Jon. But as I spoke with Buddy, I realized that Jonathan was the lucky one. I am certain many of Jonathan's opinions, and analogies come from this one important relationship and how he understood it. And the fact that even after thirty years and Jon's busy life, he reached out to a friend from not so long ago who would eventually come to shape many others.
This film helped me to understand L.T. and her quirks and possible fears. But it also made me understand Judith.
I explained to Judith that yes we are to treat L.T. special, because she is, she is very special, but so is Judith and every person we will meet in our little kingdom. We all have behavior that others may find difficult to understand. All we have to do is just that understand. Everything else will fall into place naturally.
I am so grateful to know Jonathan and as we all know, his daily posts are a thing of the past as he is readying for a published career. I wish him all the best. I will continue to read his work, even if I have to pay for it.
And I wish all the best for Buddy Clayman. I am so sad for Buddy because he is almost profoundly intelligent and equally as artistic. The combination of the two should be producing Epic films. But as Jonathan has said, and I am forced to believe, “I think that Buddy has come to terms with his history and issues. There's no question that he, without having been delayed as a filmmaker by those issues, would have gone further, yes.”
Take a chance to sit down and learn of this wondrous affliction that is both painful and exciting. Knowing someone with this is like knowing Doctor Who. You never know what will come but it will always promise to be exciting and new.
My Book: If It Seems too Good to be True it Probably is.
Beginning of Book
© 2013 This material is the copyright Dianne Schuch Lindsey and cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author. All rights reserved