What the Fuck’s Wrong With You? Part Two: Shots in the Dark
So my parents were understandably a little concerned that I’d experienced a major depressive episode, and that it was probably due to the inadequacy of my educational environment. My school was a little concerned because I was probably retarded, and retards need fixin’.
My parents set out to find out what the fuck was wrong with me, and my school encouraged this endeavor by… honestly, I still don’t know what my school was trying to accomplish. The leopard print woman kept visiting me for reasons I couldn’t fathom- sometimes in the company of an honest-to-god psychologist- my teachers mostly did whatever my parents told them to do, and the head of my school’s special education department lingered in the background because she just wanted to fill out paperwork and god, why did she have to deal with people anyway.
The psychologist who occasionally visited me was actually a pretty big deal. I discovered years later that he was the head psychologist in the whole goddamn school board. He was also friends with my mother, who worked as a high school youth counsellor. The psychologist appeared laid-back and casual- he always wore one earring- but he was quick and cunning and nothing slipped past him. I suppose this is why he liked to check up on some of the retards in his jurisdiction: just to make sure everything was operating in a way he deemed suitable.
The first specialist my parents and I went to was a senile 105-year-old German doctor (probably a war criminal). He was under the impression that my parents were divorced, seemed unclear as to what my name was, and definitely believed I had ADHD. For some reason that diagnosis didn’t stick; maybe the hospital discovered that he was still showing up to work despite retiring in 1969. In any case, we were shuffled along to the next specialist. He was an ass clown.
The ass clown had a room full of very interesting toys, and I got to miss school for the afternoon. My parents even took me out to McDonald’s afterward. That was good at least, but the ass clown was spectacularly unhelpful. He didn’t believe I had ADHD or any learning disability at all. He just thought I was nuts. Well, the term he used was “generalized anxiety disorder”. So we were referred to someone else. I don’t remember much about them at all, except that they knew this terrific specialist who’d be able to solve all my problems for sure.
I don’t know exactly when I got tired of this goddamn song and dance routine. It grew monotonous after awhile. And I hated the way the specialists treated me. They were so careful, so polished, so fake. Perfect smiles and carefully arranged offices and a mild tone of voice and so many questions, all of which meant something, all of which could potentially trap me or define me in some way. The specialists were calculating. They were condescending. The worst part is that they believed they were doing good. These people didn’t have bad intentions. They thought that if they smiled and spoke in a friendly manner, that made everything all right.
This wore on me.
I started to fuck with them.
One very bubbly woman sat down with me and my mom to have a conversation about my life. What were my interests? What subjects were hard for me at school? Did I have friends?
I was skeptical and cagey at first, then bored. I’d answered these questions before, and all that had accomplished was leading me to this bubbly woman.
“Do you get along with your parents?” she asked.
“Well, I like to call my mom Joan, you know.”
“Why is that?”
“After Joan Crawford. Because she likes to beat me with wire hangers.”
My mom’s face went chalk white.
“David has a very unusual sense of humour,” my mom said. “And doesn’t fully realize that some people might not appreciate it.”
Fortunately for her, the Children’s Aid was not summoned.
We were simply referred to another specialist.
In this period of time, I wasn’t only seeing people who were supposed to be diagnosing me. We went to therapy as a family. I was enrolled in a group for spastic retards. I saw a psychologist who had never treated a child before. I was enrolled in a group for neurotic retards.
So much fun!
The school got in on the act, too. It was determined that in order to help me, I would have to be made as conspicuous as possible. I was exempted from French class, given a word processor to use in class, and given a calculator to use in class. Every now and then I was called down to the special-ed room to meet with the special guest of the day. Sometimes that was the leopard-print woman, sometimes that was her psychologist friend, sometimes it was the head of the department, or somebody else entirely.
All this stuff was great, except that it made me stick out. And I really didn’t want to stick out. I didn’t want people to think I was retarded, even though I knew it was probably true. I didn’t explain anything to anyone, and I let them make their own assumptions. For the most part, the kids in my class were perfectly civil to me. There was a little bit of grousing about how it wasn’t fair that I got to do this or that, but none of it was personal. Since I refused to explain the reason for this special treatment, my classmates shrugged it off as being an unhappy quirk of the universe.
And every couple of months, I got to see a new specialist. Every time I was assured that this next meeting would be the one that finally clears everything up. Pretty soon I wouldn’t be bribed with McDonald’s lunches anymore. Pretty soon I wouldn’t have to make up feeble excuses for my friends about why I was habitually disappearing for large portions of the school day.
But not yet.
Because my parents had heard about a man named Rourke in Toronto, who was the only person who specialized in a rare disability called Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. There was some controversy over whether or not it existed.
And so of course we booked an appointment.