Brendan Connelly, Contributing Writer

Here I am at 27 years old, and already both my parents are gone. My challenges only begin there. I have no friends, no one ever acknowledges me, and I usually eat alone at work. I have been scared to express my feelings because I have autism.

I live in a small apartment. I have always loved reading, listening to music and walking around town. However, lately, I have not been doing that much, because I have felt depressed, lost and hopeless.

I have decided to make a difficult decision and drop out of the part time courses I was taking at the Community College. I have no one left in the world. I miss my parents dearly. I wish someone would care about me. I am starting to feel helpless. Thank goodness I still have my job as a checkout clerk for a big drug store chain.

The next day, while I was at work, this woman walked into the store and saw me crying.

“Hi, my name is Gail. You look like you need some help.” I wipe off the tears from my eyes and I tell her, “hi my name is Shelia Patterson. No one cares about me and I feel lost and hopeless.”

I explained to Gail that I have been going through a rough time. She seemed very understanding. Gail offered to meet me after work and talk in private. I agreed and so Gail picked me up. She suggested we go to her house which was not far from my apartment. Gail offered to make dinner and I jumped at the idea. I hadn’t had a good meal for a long time. “Would you mind if we have grilled cheese? I am kind of a picky eater,” I told Gail. She was very understanding. Before I knew it, she had a grilled cheese sandwich and potato chips on the table for my eating pleasure.

There was something about Gail that made me feel relaxed. The more we talked; it became easier for me to talk about my feelings. I talked about being scared to interact with people because of my disability. “I am scared people will judge me differently than a normal person because I’m different. I have stopped going to Community College because I’ve just had enough. I don’t feel comfortable there anymore.”

“Oh, Shelia, I am so sorry about your losses and I’m sorry about your problems at Community College. However, Shelia, you have come to the right place.” Gail shared that she was a teacher at the same Community College I had been going to. However, her class deals with leadership and social skills among other things like, reading, spelling, math, and making friends. “We share a quote of the day; a joke of the day and I have my students write in their own personal journals every day to share with their classmates. I would love it for you to come join our class. Let me give you some advice: don’t be afraid to share your true emotions and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Gail said.