“If you want my help, then stop rejecting it!”

If you’ve already read my post, “It’s not good enough. I’m not good enough,” then you should know that I tend to be somewhat perfectionist when it comes to my schoolwork, or just about anything. This has been the case since middle school, I believe, and it gradually got worse from then onward. I think it probably hit its peak when I was in my later high school years, and did not get any better afterwards. My academic fastidiousness was particularly noticeable in how I handled many of my homework assignments, and it would sometimes cause me to have nervous meltdowns.

To clarify, however, I actually did pretty well in terms of my schoolwork throughout most of high school and college. Although I struggled quite a bit with the workload and would habitually complain of having too much to worry about at once, I usually completed my assignments with commendable results and performed very nicely on exams for the most part. So I wasn’t exactly having troubles with learning the material or studying it.

Instead, I believe much of the ongoing anxiety came from my desire to do as well as I possibly could with each assignment for every class, combined with my constant lack of confidence in my ability to do so. I typically approached each piece of homework I was given, from minor daily assignments to big, long-term projects, with an intention to do a really good job and impress the instructor, as well as myself. In the majority of cases, I was able to complete my homework without getting too worked up about the outcome or how I was going to be graded. Naturally, it was the larger, more complex assignments that tended to bring me a lot of stress and make me worry that I wouldn’t be able to do well. Smaller projects could also make me anxious if I didn’t fully understand what I was supposed do.

Anyway, as I’m sure most kids would, I often asked my parents for help with my homework whenever I was having trouble. At least half of the time, my mom or dad (sometimes both of them) was successfully able to assist me with whatever I was struggling with, without a whole lot of drama. I must admit that in several cases, they may have done some of the work for me, particularly when it came to long-term writing assignments. I can’t blame them for doing this as I actually used to have some difficulties with writing, believe it or not; specifically with trying not to sound too awkward or vague.

Unfortunately, there were far too many instances where my anxiety and perfectionism got the better of me and led to usually brief, yet unpleasant conflicts with my parents. What I mean by this is that I would sometimes become a little fussy or upset when the help that they were giving me didn’t meet my expectations or went against what I wanted to do. This more often occurred with writing assignments, and nearly always involved my parents wanting to do something with the assignment that was very different from what I had in mind. The idea of completely abandoning my ideas or going with something that I didn’t think could work filled me with severe apprehension, and thus usually resulted in me having some kind of emotional outburst or temper tantrum. On occasion, the same thing could also happen if I simply didn’t think that what my parents were suggesting was “good enough” or wasn’t helping all that much.

Whatever the case, I would make quite a scene while my parents tried to give me the best help they could with the assignment. Being so overwhelmingly stressed out and confused, I would stubbornly reject their suggestions and shout at them angrily. I would moan or yell things like “This won’t work,” or “This isn’t what I’m supposed to do,” or “I still don’t know what to do,” or “No, that’s not how I wanna do it!” Eventually, seeing that I wasn’t listening to reason or willing to give their proposals a chance, my parents would throw up their arms and say, “Ok Tim, I give up! You’re on your own! We’re trying to help you, and you just aren’t letting us!” At this point, I would implore them to continue helping me and try my best to explain why I couldn’t go with their recommendations. Afterwards, I would usually either calm down gradually and let my parents assist me in the way they were suggesting, or I would stick with what I thought was best for the assignment, with or without my parents’ help. Most of the time, I believe the former was the ultimate outcome.

Looking back on these nervous meltdowns, although I definitely regret being so rude and stubborn with my parents when they were trying to help, I honestly do understand why I behaved the way I did. As I mentioned earlier, my perfectionist way of doing things was really problematic at this point in my life, and so I was very easily stressed out by my schoolwork. I cared a great deal about my academics and wanted to do as well as I could on all of my assignments. At same time, I didn’t like taking risks or trying things I wasn’t confident I could do successfully. I wanted to feel completely safe in what I was doing with my homework, to know that I was “doing what I should be doing.” Meanwhile, I always looked up to my parents and believed that they could give me the solution to any problem I was having, especially it if was school-related. So when my parents tried to help by suggesting something that I thought was risky or pushed me out of my comfort zone, I understandably became very nervous and conflicted. On one hand, I wanted them to help me and I knew that I couldn’t proceed confidently without them, but on the other hand, what they wanted me to do was at odds with what I thought I needed to do with the assignment. So I think you can see why this would lead me to get into intense arguments with my parents.

All the same, I still realize that I should have been much more appreciative of my parents’ assistance, and I wish I didn’t give them such a hard time when they were just trying to be helpful. Believe me when I say that my mom and dad had to put up with quite a lot on my part; they showed a remarkable amount of patience, tolerance, and understanding when most people would probably lose their cool and give up on me completely. For that, I am forever grateful to them! I still go to them for help with my schoolwork every now and then, and they never fail to make me feel much more confident in my ability to get it done successfully. I try to express my gratitude for their assistance by achieving the best academic results that I possibly can, letting them know that it is only thanks to them that I have been able to succeed so well. If it weren’t for their ongoing, unconditional support as well as their patience, I wouldn’t have come even close to accomplishing what I did in high school as well as in college.

“Tim, please settle down and see me after class!”

Today I’m going to share something that I’m REALLY embarrassed about, and took a bit of courage on my part to post. I say this because it earned me a fairly negative reputation in middle and high school, and probably contributed to why I didn’t make a whole lot of friends back then. Looking back on this topic isn’t easy for me at all because it brings back some rather painful memories.

However, I strongly believe that it needs to be shared in order to give my readers good idea of what Asperger Syndrome can look like in several cases. From what I understand, the kind of behavior that I shall describe in this post is somewhat common among many individuals who are on the autism spectrum. So perhaps there are some of you who can relate to this issue a little bit, and it is my hope that I can help some of those without Aspergers or similar disorders understand it slightly better.

Ok so starting in middle school, up to my late high school years, there were numerous instances where I would completely lose my cool and have an emotional outburst during class. The exact specifics of my outburst would, of course, vary, but most of the time it would generally look something like this:

  1. To start with, I am probably in a bad mood or particularly stressed from schoolwork.
  2. One of two things will occur at some point during class:
    o The teacher will talk to the class about a challenging assignment or exam that is due in the near future, which makes me feel extremely worried
    o OR a couple of other students in the class will engage in what I find to be particularly mean, obnoxious, disrespectful, or disruptive behavior – which is either targeted toward me or toward the teacher.
  3. After one of those two things occur, I will start speaking to the teacher without being called upon, gradually raising my voice and becoming aggressive
  4. The teacher will try their best to quiet me down and maintain control, clearly getting more and more impatient with me
  5. Not obtaining what I want, I become even more emotional and will not stop shouting either till the teacher somehow convinces me to sit down and talk to them after class, or till they dismiss me from the classroom and send me to the principal’s office.

Like I said, not all instances of my outbursts happened exactly like this, but I believe the vast majority of them followed this basic formula. Anyway, these classroom temper tantrums didn’t occur until I was in middle school, and kept happening all throughout high school. In fact, I think that they got much worse in high school. Further, there may have even been one or two instances during my freshman year at Marist when I let my stress or frustration get the best of me and had to remove myself from the class. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure these outbursts went away quickly by the time I was done with my freshman year, and have not been much of an issue since.

Nevertheless, I think you can see why I feel so ashamed when looking back at these classroom temper tantrums. The thing that makes it most humiliating for me is that I wasn’t exactly a young child at the time. I was in my early and late teens! Consequently, not only did I look incredibly childish to the other students, but I also think it secured an image for myself at school as the kid who goes ballistic at the drop of a hat. Even worse, I must have caused some of my teachers a massive deal of anxiety, causing them to often worry that I may soon have another outburst. In fact, I remember someone coming up to me when I was a senior in high school, asking if I was ok with being the male “Teacher’s Torment” for the yearbook. Let me tell you, I was immensely hurt when this was suggested to me, because it was never my intention to torment my teachers in the least.

On one plus side, my parents as well as many faculty members at school did their best to help me understand why this sort of behavior wasn’t acceptable. They usually never got upset with me, and actually tried to calmly explain to me how I should maintain composure during class when I’m experiencing serious anxiety or being bothered by other students. Plus, many of the teachers that had to deal with my tantrums in their classes showed me a generous amount of forgiveness and sympathy. They probably knew that I wasn’t trying to give anyone a hard time, but simply had difficulty properly handling my stress with schoolwork and my frustrations caused by other students.

Despite all that, it’s hard to avoid the embarrassment that this past behavior has caused me. I now fully realize how rude, irritating, and inappropriate it was for me to interrupt classes the way that I did, yelling at the teacher and other students in the middle of a lesson. I sincerely apologize to all of my teachers and fellow students from middle and high school having to suffer through all of it. I wish I could offer a sufficient explanation for why I behaved like this, but unfortunately, I don’t remember the experiences well enough to do so. All I can say is that I’m deeply sorry and that I hope I didn’t cause my teachers and classmates too much pain.

In addition, I would like to say that I fully sympathize with young students who exhibit similar tendencies during their classes at school. Although I don’t have a very clear memory of my own emotional outbursts, I do somewhat understand why many children on the autism spectrum do it so frequently. I imagine that they must find it extremely difficult to handle their stress, anger, insecurity, and other emotions without being able to openly express it. I hope that they receive all of the support and understanding that they need, just as I did, and that more people can realize that these students are not just “annoying little brats who need to shut the f#$% up.”