A young author overcame his trauma through a love of writing.
By Khali Raymond
As a child, I would not start talking until I was four years old. But I was staring at newspapers and books like I was reading them when I was two. Growing up, I was socially awkward. There was no comfort that I could cling onto, trying to become outgoing. Social situations did not fare well for me. I didn’t understand why.
I didn’t feel comfortable around people. Over time, I learned I had Asperger’s. I don’t know what triggered the diagnosis. I do know I was sent to a specialist and afterward felt like I had this big letter “A” slapped on my chest that read, “ASPERGER’S SYNDROME.”
Imagine having this diagnosis, and specialists are always telling you that you are quote-unquote, sick. Could it have also been my constant repetition of specific actions and phrases that I would say? Asperger’s Syndrome is a high-functioning level of autism. It limited my interest in many things. I was sensitive to taste, touch, and sound. In grade school, my fluctuating moods would be the determining factor of making friends or losing friends. I didn’t make friends easily. This diagnosis felt like a barrier that shut me off from the world. Being picked on in school. I was called harsh names — dealt with physical harassment. I always wound up having to fight for my safety in school. The bullying got so bad at one point that I almost committed suicide when I was just ten years old.
That was my mental and physical trauma. As a kid growing up in Newark, New Jersey, my environment was conducive to the harsh realities of life that come with living in the inner city. I was the youngest of three, without a father but with a single mom who did everything she could to take care of us. My father tragically passed when I was one. Over the years, I watched my mom struggle and lose it all so that she could bring us up. There are many things my mom did; I probably cannot ever payback. Knowing the many sacrifices, she made pushed me to refuse to allow my condition to deter my goals. I wasn’t the only kid that did not have a father figure to show me the ways of being a man. I grew up, feeling blind and misguided. There were people in my life, but I just felt a significant disconnect with my environment. There was just something not right with it. The constant amount of bodies dropping. The drugs and the people strung out on them? It seemed like my life had a spot reserved in the prison yard or the graveyard. Could your life tragically end by the whisper of a bullet? Living in the Weequahic section of Newark was not an easy thing for me.
For many years, I just kept going back and forth with my social shortcomings, struggles with Asperger’s, bullying, depression, and my lack of self-esteem. There were times I sat and cried all night because I feared my life would be a constant bout of having to defend my identity. My condition didn’t help. But I found comfort saying how I felt on paper. I found writing was like a superpower for me. It was a way for me to level my emotions and to analyze the true meaning and purpose of my life. Not only has the wand of the written word helped me see greatness within my inner self, but it also changed my life for the better.
Honing my talents as a writer did not come quickly. It took many hours, days, and weeks to hone my skills. I wrote every and examined other authors writing. I researched how the publishing industry worked. My goal was to one day publish a book. No matter what I had to do on any day, I would jot something down in those notebooks I got from the 99-cent store. Putting pen to paper was my safe spot. Nobody could call me names there. I did not have to worry about my feelings of self-contempt. I felt safe. I didn’t need to talk to a counselor. Visit a doctor or take medication. The writing was my medicine.
In late 2012, I started to work on the project that would inevitably change my life for good. That endeavor was “The Ballad of Sidney Hill.” After months of writer’s block, frustration, depression, I published my first book on October 26, 2014. Three years later, I was 41 books deep and counting. I reached 100 in 2018.
I hope my story is an inspiration to others who are living with any internal trauma. Trust me, Asperger’s is a traumatic experience. Others can look to me as an example of hope. I was an eccentric kid with a dream. I dreamed of changing my world and having a better life. I did not quite know what it was that I would do to make this dream a feasible reality. But I found a way to bring my visions to fruition.
Now, I’m beginning to see the world through a different lens and what it has to offer indeed. Experiences are unfolding from within my life that is teaching me to stay disciplined. I’m learning lessons I will need to fall back upon as I get older when more doors begin to sway wide open for me. Having the ability to channel self-discipline is crucial to my success and my well-being. I am a constant reminder that you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
You can be great!