Over the past year of absence from this site a lot has changed! As time goes on, I'm growing and learning more. But one thing I've learned is that the past is a very important—and revealing—thing. In fact, you can only learn from the past; your mistakes, your triumphs and your experiences—everything that makes you you—is your history and your past. Not only does that show the importance of what has transpired, it also allows you to have great power to control what is and what will happen. Another thing about the past is implied in what I first said. In order for you to understand me better, I've chosen to share the most important and relevant parts of my life. I hope that by revealing, sharing, these experiences and struggles you will also be able to help yourself and others. Communication and understanding are the first two steps in the process of helping and, afterall, that's what the goal of this web site is.
Timeline The following is a written recollection of the events and experiences I have had during the school year of 1996-97 (which was largely before I was diagnosed).
School Year of 1996-97 (Pre-diagnosis)
Changing School
I am no longer in middle school. I got out of it at the end of my 7th grade year. Though I didn't go to school for most of the year I was allowed to skip 7th grade, and then skip 8th, and go directly into 9th grade in a special education High School in Queens, New York. I think I was allowed to do this because I scored exceptionally high on CSE (Committee for Special Education) tests while in 7th grade. So I moved directly into high school after skipping, essentially, two grades. The doses that I was taking of zyprexa and depakote were 2.5 mg of zyprexa, and 1,000 mg of depakote--very low doses. Everything in school was going pretty well, and I actually felt rather comfortable for a few weeks. Homework wasn't an issue and I was all right for the first month or so.

Side Effects
The medicine started giving me problems. Not so much emotional as physical. Zyprexa's main heavy drawback is weight gain, and it finally hit me too. I had started eating more and more since I started using it, but since I wasn't used to exercising (I was way too skinny to need to get any thinner) I finally started gaining weight--extremely fast. I don't remember the exact dates, but I remember that in less than a year I had gained about 50 pounds. Too much. So my doctor decided to lower the zyprexa dose.

Looking from the outside, nothing seemed wrong, but beginning around then I started having some trouble with school. I had only one friend, who I wasn't so close with, and I was pretty much left alone. It was actually what I wanted, but it wasn't much fun. Social activity in school was no fun either.

In fact, every time there was a school party all I'd do is sit in a corner for the hour and a half all the parties were and just think by myself. So I dreaded those events. The same thing happened with "lunch-ins" and "special rewards" like free computer periods.

My class was the worst behaved class in the school. My teachers even said so. It was mostly because of a select few children, who I didn't get along with so well either. I didn't hate them, but I wasn't close to them. I preferred to stay neutral. Sometimes the school seems like a battleground of sorts. If you make friends, you're automatically sided with so-and-so team, the same team which your new friends are on. Preferring to stay out of battles, I didn't make any friends.

For two weeks things didn't change much. Except then, I had a relapse of panic attacks and old depressing moods coming back. I refused to do homework, didn't want to go to school, and wouldn't do almost any sort of work. I was getting headaches and migraines all the time, and I found it hard to concentrate on most things. I slipped back into a depression for a while, and even the things I liked a lot didn't seem like as much fun to do.

Then one night when I was talking to some of my friends on AOL, who home schooled introduced me to one of her friends. She also home schooled, and lived not that far away from me. I think it was then that it hit me like a ton of bricks: "Why can't I home school?" I wasn't thinking of a way to get out of school, I was thinking of a way to get out of the misery of what school brought. The school I went to wasn't a horrible school though. In fact, in most ways, it was pretty good. The teachers were very nice and very good at what they taught, and the methods they used. I liked the counseling sessions I went to with my counselor in the school, and the directors of the school were very understanding. But even with the school being as good as it was, I didn't feel comfortable there. I didn't fit in, and I doubted I would. For a few weeks I was being forced to go to school, so I was inclined to seclude myself as much as possible, while at the same time trying to keep everything appear normal from the outside. I realize that consciously now, and it would have helped if I let my teachers in on my feelings, but I just couldn't, and still can't. I felt much more open with my counselor, though, and I told him about most of my feelings. He could tell when something was wrong.

New Hope
In an effort to know as much as I could about homeschooling, I went to my home schooled friends and started asking them a multitude of questions. Most couldn't be answered very well, because home schooling is such a wide topic and there are as many ways to do it as there are families doing it. One of my friends gave me some good advice, though. She showed me how to subscribe to a home schooling e-mailing list and told me to ask the questions there. I did as she showed me and joined the list, and asked most of the same questions, and some new ones I had come up with (which were better worded) to the list. The people on the list, now all friends of mine, pointed me to thousands of resources about home schooling and unschooling, a form of home schooling. After some research, I also found the state laws for home schooling in New York City, a lot of FAQ documents, a logged chat on AOL about the subject, and a myriad of other papers. I read them all, but didn't understand some of them. Home schooling was still a mystery. At the same time, I asked some of my teachers and my counselor about it. Their reactions were pretty clear: they were against the idea that I should start home schooling. My parents and even my doctor expressed their opposition to the idea that I will be home schooled. As I found out from all the reading I have done about the subject, most people tend to reject this concept of education, because it is too radical a change from their up bringing in the traditional education system. They said that, mainly, they were concerned with my social navigational skills--that I wouldn't get any from home schooling, and that I would receive tons of it in school. Well, as I said before, my chances to learn social navigational skills at this specific school, were at best poor. Meanwhile I continued to research the subject of homeschooling, and got to like it more and more. I still didn't succeeded in convincing my parents, my teachers, or my doctor that homeschooling would be the right way for me to get my education.

I Wish...
I truly believe that I will not only learn more, faster and actually enjoy the process of learning by homeschooling, but by allowing myself to choose my subjects of interests, which are wide and useful by any standards, I will find myself in a lot of different social situations, which will develop my social navigational skills better than in this or any other school I may go to. I wish that my parents and my teachers could see that, and support me. I guess I will have to do better in making them understand.

After another two weeks or so, I had a meeting with the school board, my teachers, and my counselor and parents, about my situation in school.

The school expressed their surprise that something was wrong with me, since I had apparently done a very good job disguising my loneliness and solitude. The meeting took two hours, and had concluded with the decision that I would remain in school for at least another three weeks before we made any decision to change schools or start home schooling. This was based largely on the logical assumption that with all the change in dose of the medications I was taking, that it was unwise to make a drastic decision concerning my education until the medication steadied.
It was quite hard for me to agree to this temporary arrangement. In a way I felt that everyone was against me, and I was clearly upset. I had so many sad days and irritable nights, and I was so tired just thinking about the need to wake up every morning, spend long hours commuting on a school bus to school, spending longer dreary hours at school, returning home on that long bus ride, all for what seemed like an endless struggle with homework, then being so resistant all evening, unable to go to sleep until the wee hours of morning, and top it all with the inability to wake up again. "What for?" I kept asking myself. I was desperately searching for some comfort, and damn it, fun would be nice.

Well, by then I had completed a bit more than a week of those three weeks. It was very hard. I was torn between the knowledge that everyone--especially at school--was trying hard to help, and the dreaded feeling of having to stay in school.

I was incredibly frustrated, knowing that I might seem to everyone as an ungrateful brat, but I could not ignore my gut feelings. I simply could not suffer any more. I wished I was older already, and had more control over my life. I wished I did not need help, but I did. I know that asking for help is an important part of healing, but when those who are supposed to help you don't understand you, then asking for help becomes so much harder. I planned to ask to be homeschooled right after I was done with the three weeks, I knew it would work out for the better. I had so many ideas, and just thinking about them I got a rush of positive feelings about the future every time. It was the complete opposite of what I felt when I thought about school.

Finally... I did ask to be homeschooled. I dropped out of that school and was placed in a "home instruction" program by the Board of Ed. Although home instruction is not exactly homeschooling, it felt like a definite improvement over going to school each somber morning, knowing ahead of time that I would simply be unable to enjoy the day.
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