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One Peppermint Starlight

Part 3 of My Mental Breakdown

In January of 2000 I became unemployed. My anxiety and depression had taken its toll and the inevitable happened; I lost my job. I just couldn't function anymore. It was a burnout type job anyway, and I think a lot of people would have struggled under the pressure of taking 525 calls a day. Some are built for that, but in retrospect there is no way I could have handled that. Me, a person with Asperger's syndrome, a social disorder characterized in part as being socially impaired, and for some having a sensitivity to noise, having to interact with over 525 people a day, and in an environment that is very noisy, trying to deal with this situation it was safe to say it was too tall of a task for me to handle. And yet I tried. It is what I do. I take an aspect of my personality and challenge it. My first job had been as a vendor at the Oakland Coliseum. I was out there amongst 25,000 people a night in my brown uniform sticking out like a sore thumb yelling, "ice cream malts here," or soda, or hot dogs, it varied from day to day. And although this went against my nature, and it went against my strengths, there was always a part of me that could not handle being different or having a chink in the armor so to speak, so I would challenge it when I could. Some challenges I would brave and take, and some I would shrink from. But as much I shrank and ran from challenges, I have to give myself credit and admit that I often took them on as well. This time I failed miserably and was out of a job.

The lack of a job was the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. While going through all of these struggles, I, at least, had a routine to fall back on. I had work. Now, I had to start over. And that part even when I am strong mentally always has its challenges for me. But in my condition I was helpless. I made very little effort trying to look for work. To make a little money, I took on a job walking around, conducting surveys with people. This was an uncomfortable thought, because it forced me to approach people I didn't know, and take the risk that I was bothering them. I never liked that. I hated to impose on people. It is no surprise I did not do that for too long. Soon, I was relying on my parents to send me money from Fremont while I was out of work. Asking for help, and admitting I needed help was very uncomfortable for me. I would ask for the bare minimum. What I needed to cover my rent, and small amounts of money for food.

As I became more uncomfortable getting help from my parents, I began to limit how much I ate. Prior to my depression, I had weighed about 250 lbs. In the three years that I worked at NDC I had put on about 80 lbs, because I just loved going out to eat. It was happy times. I went out to fast food every morning, I went out to dinners on the weekend, I was really enjoying myself. For some people, weight gain is a symptom of depression or struggle, and for me it was just me being thrilled at having extra money. It was overindulgence, because financially I could afford it. When my mom would send me money, I would go through most of it fairly quickly, and then get very low on funds and have to stretch it. I should not say have to, because I am sure I could have asked for more. But that was not in my nature. I would have felt like I was imposing. I would have felt like I was taking advantage. It would have reinforced to me how badly I was failing as a man, failing to take care of my own needs. So I cut back on what I ate. I remember many a day where I would eat just once a day. I liked eating a heaping bowl of oatmeal from the large quaker oats barrels you can buy at the store. It was cheap, and it really did sustain you. If I felt like a treat, I may go across the street and eat a jumbo jack. One jumbo jack for the whole day. And damn was that one jumbo jack great?

I remember my lowest point however; at this time I would barely get out of the house. Everyday I would make myself get out of the house, but sometimes it was just going up to balcony on the seventh floor for 15minutes. Or it may be a 20 minute walk. And then back in the apartment listening to Friends or The Nanny on the television with the lights off. I don't even remember being sad at the situation. I just remember being stuck. One day all I ate for the whole day was one peppermint starlight mint. It is weird to me that I wasn't even sad for myself at that time, but now just thinking about it makes me very emotional. I wish I could have cried the tears then, that I cry now for myself. Tears run my down my cheek when I think of me alone in the darkness, eating one fucking peppermint starlight all day. Sometimes I carry around a twisted sense of macho-ness about my ability to suffer. A pride I should not have, and should not idealize. And I think how foolish it was for me to suffer in solitude. I am grateful about where I am today. I accept my suffering of the past, and I just wish I would have learned how to cry for help, how to cry for myself, how to love myself into thinking that I deserve better than to suffer. I think in order to move on, you have to cry the tears you never cried two decades ago.

Marc Sander
Marc Sander

I was born in 1971 and spent the first 37 years of my life with undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome. Much of my writings are about struggles with relationships. I am sometimes funny, at other times poignant and always bring a unique perspective 

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