I have been diagnosed with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Of course, this poses major challenges in school. I want to share a story about an unfortunate incident in community college.
On November 1, 2010, I was called into the dean’s office because others had put in complaints about my behavior. When confronted with this information, I started panicking and crying. It got worse when she told me I wasn’t taking responsibility for my learning. The dean mentioned that she would suspend me if I didn’t calm down. Keep in mind, I have prior trauma triggers surrounding authority and disciplinary action - can’t even stand to watch it on TV. So, my panic kicked into overdrive.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way”. More panic. Then, I was suspended.
I was incredibly humiliated. I drew these pictures in my notebook (see photo).
I received a letter at home with details about my suspension. Reading it felt like being stabbed. It’s like the letter was meant for someone else entirely. But, no - it was for me. To return to my classes, I had to write a letter of apology. I did so, and caught up on work for two classes while dropping a third. I got an A in one and a B in the other.
Then I left college for more than six years.
I couldn’t set foot on the campus without feeling embarrassed and going into a panic attack. During my few excursions to campus during those six years, I did everything I could to be silent. Not just quiet. Silent. I finally returned to classes in spring 2017, about ready to have a full panic attack going into class on the first day. I had an episode one time where I hid under a staircase to cry. If no one could see me, no one could report me to the dean.
I finally confronted her in June 2017. Tearfully, I told her everything I’d been feeling over the years. She was noticeably remorseful for the impact her actions had on me. She also explained that there was some administrative rule that hindered a student’s ability to tell their side of a story, and that she opposed it.
I graduated on June 13, 2019. I could not be present at my graduation ceremony, because something even better was happening. I was a summer intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and I was operating a particle accelerator that day! (I LOVE particle accelerators!)
Headache and heart palpitations set in as I typed out the most difficult details to this story, but I feel like others can stand to learn from it.