Communication disorders, and how I entered (and am leaving) the darkness

Andy Stitt
Oct 15, 2017 · 5 min read

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this, so I’ll start from the beginning (great place to start from, right???).

I was born broken.

Nobody noticed I was born broken until I started talking. I had all ten fingers and toes. I was a good-natured kid with a great sense of humor.

There was nothing to notice until I started talking.

The words coming out of my mouth were in English. They may have even had good sentence structure in some cases.

However, they weren’t appropriate for the context of a particular conversation.

If someone said hello to me, I would repeat the names of family members. Or, I would repeat back to them what they just said.

It wasn’t an actual conversation, where you understand context and cues and everything else that allows us to communicate and connect with each other.

There’s a name for it

It’s called Semantic Pragmatic Disorder. Now they’re calling it pragmatic language impairment.

When I was being tested for where they would put me in school, I failed the test they gave me. They wanted to put me in classes for people with intellectual disabilities.

Thankfully, my mother realized that I couldn’t answer the questions because I didn’t understand them. She fought for me until they gave me a non-verbal test, which I passed.

They put me in special ed and speech therapy, which is exactly what I needed.

Had I not received the speech-related early intervention, and if I had instead been put into classes for kids with intellectual disabilities, you may have never even met me. I could be living in a group home or facility of some sort, unable to live independently.

I would not have been able to graduate high school, or college, or get my MBA, or get married, or run my own business for a time, or have my dream job.

I have been able to do all of the above because of two parents who fought for me.

So all went swimmingly….right?

Well, not exactly.

When no one understands you, it is absolutely terrifying.

My mother was the only person in the world who understood me during those early days.

Because she was the only one who did, I became overly attached to her and never wanted her out of my sight. She was the only person who could help me get my needs met in a world of people with whom I could not communicate.

Even as my speech improved, and as my relationships with others improved, that terror in those early days stuck with me.

The terror morphed into anxiety and depression, which would affect me for years.

This all took on many forms, including:

  • The expectation of a negative response every time I would ask someone for something.
  • Low self-esteem and feeling like nothing I could do was ever good enough.
  • Becoming attached to certain figures, and a fear of abandonment that would cause me anxiety as if my life were in danger when it wasn’t.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Being afraid of connecting with others while desperately wanting to connect with others.

I have led an incredibly good life, full of family, friends, and laughs. I am incredibly lucky.

I am also sad that so much of my life, including during the good times, was consumed by the darkness.

The darkness that caused me to start smoking. The darkness that caused me to drink way too much every single weekend. The darkness that caused me to eat mass quantities of junk and become overweight.

The darkness that caused me to lash out at those who loved me the most, especially my mother, who never ever gave up on me.

Communication, connection, and a sense of security

We learn how to communicate and connect with others in our youngest years. You might not think of communication disorders being such a huge deal. You might think of them as ailments with treatments.

I can tell you that if your ability to connect with others is broken, the consequences of that are incredibly far-reaching.

I have spent years holding back and not being my full self. Though I’ve certainly had great times with family and throughout my marriage, I’ve always been held back by the darkness that formed in my earliest years.

Where I am now

My whole world was rocked when my ex-wife left me and my father died 1.5 months later.

Since then, I have taken up meditation. I did it because I was trying to become an entrepreneur, and I saw other entrepreneurs doing it.

I didn’t know that it would become the biggest tool in my box to leave the darkness.

The amount of self-awareness that it has instilled in me is astounding. I have used meditation in concert with running, boxing, nutrition, and therapy to get rid of all of the garbage layers that I had built up over the course of 30 years.

I have completely rebuilt my life where I work my dream job, have wonderful friends, do meaningful volunteer work, and otherwise give love and inspire others in my everyday travels.

Instead of forever walking around in the darkness, repeating my old habits and routines that came because my sense of security was completely broken from the start….I have been able to become aware of what happened and why it happened.

This has allowed me to rewrite my story and become the authentic version of me. Free from the garbage layers.

What’s next

I am becoming more aware of how Semantic Pragmatic Disorder really affected me. I still have insecurities and anxieties that pop up from time to time. Sometimes it’s minor. Other times it feels like it chokes the life out of me.

So, I am still processing everything that happened. I am grieving time lost in the darkness that I can’t get back. I am coming to acceptance that what happened happened and I can’t change it.

Most of all, I am working towards feeling like I am completely safe and secure. Intellectually, I know I am. The majority of my actions show that I am.

I just haven’t yet completely internalized it in all situations. I’m working on it.

In the meantime, maybe I can spread some awareness about communication disorders and how deeply they can affect your psyche.

If you are suffering, or if you know someone who is, I know how you feel.

Andy Stitt

Written by

Passionate about nonprofits and serving their technology needs through WordPress consulting. You’ll find a mix of professional and personal essays here.

Andy Stitt

Written by

Passionate about nonprofits and serving their technology needs through WordPress consulting. You’ll find a mix of professional and personal essays here.

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