Q. What are you doing here?
A. Getting my bearings.
Q. What happened??
A. I stressed out at the church service, and my heart started beating out of my chest. They kept making me do things that are really really hard for me, but that are really easy for most people, and it stressed me out.
Q. What kinds of things?
A. Oh, uh – page turns. Fumbling with bulletin inserts. Trying to get to the right hymn in the right hymnal at the right time. And worst of all, we had to put these ornaments on a Christmas tree, and the hook of my ornament fell out.
Q. What happened then?
A. I went and showed the guy with the ornaments, assuming he would give me a new ornament with a more secure hook.
Q. What did he give you instead?
A. Another hook.
Q. And you weren’t able to put the new hook on the old ornament?
A. Well, I fumbled with it for long enough, and I know myself well enough, that I determined fairly quickly it would be impossible.
Q. And what did you do then?
A. I gave both ornament and unhooked hook to Amanda.
Q. Who is Amanda?
A. The person standing next to me. She’s a speech therapist and works at a hospital, so I figured I might luck out and she might understand why it is actually impossible for me to put a hook on an ornament. I mean, done deal. It’s a disease. It’s called ADHD / Dyslexia and High-Functioning Autism.
Q. What did you say to Amanda?
A. I told her it would be impossible for me to put the hook on the ornament in order to hang it on the tree.
Q. How did Amanda respond?
A. She nodded her head in compassionate understanding, then deftly placed the ornament on the tree in my stead.
Q. Were you thankful?
A. Uh — more relieved than anything else. But now that you mention it, gratitude is certainly an appropriate response. It’s rare that somebody believes me, in such situations.
Q. Then what did you do?
A. I sneaked out of the church, placing myself in the middle of a long line, so that no one would notice my swift departure.
Q. Why did you depart swiftly?
A. Because by that time, my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was having a major panic attack. I mean, it was like — I was under pressure, in a line, with people waiting on me – and everybody could see that I was fumbling with the logistics of trying to get the hook on the ornament and the ornament on the tree — it was like — Mainstream Stress – the kind of stuff that made me homeless in the first place back in 2004 —
Q. Mainstream Stress?
A. Yeah. The kind of stress you get when you’re pressured to perform under time constraints, with people observing you, and people to answer to, under deadlines —
Q. What other kind of stress is there?
A. Street Stress. It’s a horse of a different color. It’s the kind where you’re not under time constraints, but at the same time, you never have time to check in with yourself and feel what your actual feelings are. You’re in a state of shock at all times, as though in a battle zone, ready for anything, at any time. No time to feel. Anything.
Q. Where are you now?
A. At the local cafe.
Q. Do you plan on returning to the church?
A. Yes. After I’m through getting my bearings. I can make it there for the Fellowship, where my mental health condition will not be so severely challenged.
Q. May I ask two more questions?
A. One will do. I’m running out of time.
Q. What does all this have to do with the birth of Jesus?
A. Don’t ask me, man.
Q. May I please ask the second question?
Q. Why was the church service being held on Tuesday?
A. It wasn’t. Today is Sunday.
Q. It is?
A. I told you I was neurodivergent! Now get outta here!
The Questioner is silent.
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