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by James Kirkendall

Hello, my name is James and I want to voice my struggles and successes with others that are suffering from mental illness and developmental issues. Ever since I was little I knew something was off. I was always told throughout my life that I seemed like a calm person, however that was far from the truth. The wheels were always turning in my head. I was intrigued by the success stories on ADAA and reached out to share my story.

In school I struggled a lot with my learning disability. I always could remember in second grade when we started doing multiplication assignments. All the other kids seemed to be grasping the numbers but I just sat there with a blank stare. It wasn't that I was jealous, I just was frustrated with not getting it. I also had a specific fear of tall buildings and high ceilings. My parents sent me to a psychologist for exposure therapy but the fear remained. The phobia has always interfered with travel, leisure, and work opportunities.

Even as an adult I made the mistake of not mentioning anything to the psychiatrist, counselors, and therapists that I saw besides my phobia. I put in a lot of hours into cognitive and hypnosis therapy. I mentioned the constant worry and was usually diagnosed with Anxiety or Generalized Anxiety. I would always give medication a try but it would always upset my stomach or I felt It wasn't working. I even tried herbal remedies and acupuncture. 

In recent years I had the feeling that something was very off with me. I would have panic attacks and meltdowns lasting up to several hours. I always knew I had a learning disability, anxiety, and a specific phobia. Sensory Issues such as tastes, smells, textures, certain smells, and sights bothered me but I never mentioned it to a professional. I detested staying at someone's house or at a hotel and even had trouble feeling comfortable in my own home.

When I saw the show Atypical it gave me an idea to do a little research. I knew autism was different for everyone but I could see similarities between the main character of the show and myself. Learning more about ASD became a new obsession for me. I then decided to take the plunge and see a specialist. I was told by the doctor that performed the screening that they were pleasantly surprised at how functional I seemed compared to my test results. It was indeed a compliment but it had me thinking a lot about my life in both the past and the present. I was in tears because of the mixed feelings about my life. 

Today, I still struggle with my learning disability, phobias, anxiety, and autism. However, the autism diagnosis has changed how I approach effective treatment. I'm excited to say, with the help from Lexapro, Xanax, and CBD oil, I can live life a little more easily. These treatments have enabled me to enjoy my interests including  photography, writing, historic preservation, video games, roller skating, martial arts and acting. Most people do not understand the frustrations and the struggles someone with high functioning autism goes through on a daily basis. I’m still trying to learn more ways to cope and use my obsessive traits as a strength and not a weakness. 


James Kirkendall is a Fort Smith resident and joined the Abandoned Arkansas team in 2014. He owns two dogs, a parrot, and lives with his wife Ashleigh. Though he struggles with a learning disability, his talents and persistence have led him to an array of different achievements. Some of the greatest feats have been receiving a black belt in traditional karate and performing overseas in the Fringe Theatre Festival in Edinburgh Scotland. His education includes several computer technology certifications and he has attended the New York Film Academy in LA. His interests include video games, roller skating, and martial arts.

Co-Author of Abandoned Arkansas: An Echo From The Past

Periodically (Feb 2019) #1 New Release (Travel Photography) on Amazon
Periodically (Feb 2019) #1 New Release (Economic History) on Amazon
 

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