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My Story: Living with Klinefelter Syndrome Part 3

After that year, my parents decided moving to Baltimore County would be a good option, and thus began my first years at a public school. I started ninth grade at Pikesville High School in Pikesville, Maryland. I knew I would not be the only “new kid” on the first day. The majority of my peers came in from middle school but came from other schools, so I wasn’t the only one! Though I still felt awkward, I knew a few students on my first day. Some I had met through various activities like driver education.  Some of my parents’ friends who had kids also went into ninth grade at Pikesville High with me.  

Public school for me was a whole lot different than private school.  On the surface, it didn’t seem as competitive, although later, during my four years here, I found a very competitive side of the class of ’89! Public school, a large class of over 250 students, allowed me to blend in somewhat, or, as I liked to call it, I disappeared.  Being quiet and shy, I could disappear and get by and pass without much fanfare or existence.  I wasn’t getting called on much in class; I just faded into the background.  However, my peers still bullied me and deemed me an easy target for upper-grade students.

In one particular Freshman year incident, after lunch, I used the boys’ bathroom near the cafeteria before going to my next class.  This bathroom had one entrance/exit.  Some older students were smoking and using the bathroom when I walked in.  I was shy and reticent and just went about my business.  They left, and when I heard them leave, I heard a click when the door shut.  Not thinking about what that was, I finished and left to go to class, and the door was locked.  

Somehow those students locked me in the bathroom, and I could not get out.  This was way before the days of cell phones, as it was the Fall of 1985, and I was stuck and getting more scared by the minute.  What was I to do to get out of here, and what did I do to deserve this?!?  I banged on the door and yelled loudly, let me out of here. I’m locked in.  

Eventually, a janitor came and unlocked the door with his keys.  He asked me what happened, and I told him some seniors locked me in when they left.  I didn’t know who they were and was scared to tell them names even if I had known.  When I was finally let out, a group of students were outside, and I felt embarrassed that I had been locked in and that someone had to come let me out.

For quite a while after that “bathroom” incident, I feared going into a bathroom with a door that could be locked.  I avoided that particular bathroom for the remainder of my time in high school.  Even when I had classes right across from it, I would find another restroom to visit. Many did not have an entry door, so there was no way I could be locked in.  I certainly believe some of the fear from this incident affected me for many years. In many ways, some of which I did not understand until my diagnosis of Klinefelter Syndrome occurred, and I realized how irrational that fear was.

By senior year I had a number of friends in the class of ‘89.  I had crushes on some of my classmates but was too shy to tell any of them.  I had not experienced a “real” kiss throughout my four years in high school.  Finally, in my senior year, I realized I had friends throughout my four years who had been with me in most of my classes.  In both my junior and senior years, I had friends and fun. I was allowed to take a weightlifting class only for seniors.  I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t build muscle or understand until I received my diagnosis of Klinefelter Syndrome.  I didn’t realize my decreased testosterone level was affecting my ability to build muscle and upper body strength.  

In my senior year, I had the opportunity to participate in a cooperative education program. With this program, I went to classes in the morning and worked in the afternoon. I worked for a specific employer that provided a program where students are mentored and learn new skills and abilities.  I worked for the Pikesville Chamber of Commerce and had an eye-opening experience.  

For the most part, I loved the job in the afternoon, and it allowed for an amicable split day and a start to jump into the working world.  I enjoyed not having to spend the whole day at school.  Got involved in something else.  I was still extremely quiet, shy, and scared to do specific tasks. Had eventually had to figure out how to do them even though I was frightened.  I didn’t want to tell my manager that I was afraid. I wanted to be an adult and do it.  I certainly took my lumps and tried not to show my fear, but deep down, I was terrified!

In regard to my shyness, I often would try to make myself disappear or become invisible or blend in with everyone else.  I was so shy in my third semester at community college I took an absence when called up to complete the morning questions on the board.  Even though I knew all of the answers to the questions, I was too terrified to get up in front of everyone in the class and write on the board.  This two-and-a-half-hour class occurred twice a week, and I took an absence.  This wasn’t a huge class, there were maybe 40 students in the class, but even after three weeks, the professor didn’t know our names and faces yet. That was undoubtedly the most prominent example, but there were many more like that throughout my life before my diagnosis.

I also had a very bad temper that would usually occur from storing too many angry events without slowly letting them go. instead, I let them build up like a volcano, eventually exploding with huge amounts of steam and lava spewing everywhere. I was usually uncontrollable while spewing angry, foul-mouthed words and things that I didn’t truly mean. I would generally apologize to those I yelled at within minutes of spewing that anger. Sometimes I would fly into rages for no apparent reason. Though I understand now that I didn’t let go of the intense pressure of events building up. One minute I would be very calm, and the next minute I would pick fights and damage property.

My anger contributed to the downfall of my marriage some years later.  In my mid-40, I voluntarily signed up for Anger Management, offered free as a part of my health insurance.  For those of you who have seen the Adam Sandler movie “Anger Management,” the six-week evening class was nothing like the movie. I was the only one in the class who wasn’t court-ordered to attend.  Nonetheless, it was an eye-opening course that allowed me to learn the principles of why I was getting so angry; and what it was doing to me and those around me. It certainly was not a cure-all for my anger issues and required a lot of work outside of the class and even more so today as I continue to work on it.

I followed it up with another class called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which followed up on similar principles. The combination of continued work on thinking before reacting, taking a deep breath, and some medication to help stabilize my moods have significantly helped me with my anger throughout my life. It is something that I will continue to have to be aware of and work not to let it take control of me.

Continued in Part 4: Living with Klinefelter Syndrome

Back to Part 2

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