Columbus Day

Columbus Day Part One: The Story of How I Overcame My Depression

I often go back to my earliest childhood memories of growing up in Revere, during the early 90s. Long before I knew about, let alone come down with, mental illness or clinical depression. I often think of those years as what life was like before the illness hit.

Columbus Day, How I Overcame my Depression
H-2 Image Courtesy of Correnn Stormcrow’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

The Illness Hits

I remember seeing a person walking up to my street in Revere talking to a telephone pole. One day he was holding a giant stick and talking to it. And little did I know that I too would have come down with the illness. The illness is usually brought upon by different factors.

The person I am talking about drank too much. Mine was different. I do not think that I can blame it on traits of a mild form of Autism called PDD-nos. I was misdiagnosed with PDD-nos at age 12. However, I feel that the diagnosis does not describe me.

Small Learning Group

Columbus Day, How I Overcame my Depression
H-2 Image Courtesy of Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 57 Million views)’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

However, I know, despite what the books would say, that is not true. It was the Revere Public School system. Pure and simple. I was placed in a small learning group, (a forerunner to a Special Ed or (SPED), class), at age 7. I just remember everyone arguing with me, and I would argue back. They use to steal from me, they stole my snack, “a rice crispy treat”, first at age 8.

By age 11, a student stole my money. I could not go to anyone because my Special Ed teacher from 4th grade to 6th grade did not like me. Moreover, she would not help me. The students would also wait for me to enter a darkened coat closet to get my jacket and backpack at the end of the day, and just punch me right in the stomach. It seemed like every year things in there just became worse instead of better. In addition, I just became more aggressive and isolated as a result.

Obstructive Defiance Disorder (ODD)

Columbus Day, How I Overcame My Depression
H-2 Image Courtesy of Andrea Moore’s Featured Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

This was not for children who were mentally challenged, which Sped classes are associated with today. It was for children with Obstructive Defiance Disorder (ODD). Children who were probably abused in whatever way imaginable. Meanwhile, they were lashing out at everyone around them. People would say that they had “abandonment issues”. Regardless, this is actually not what led me to come down with my illness.

What led me to come down with my illness was when I entered the standard 5th-grade classroom. At that point, I was in general ED for much of the day. In conclusion, I went to a Special Ed class at the end of the day. I entered the general 5th-grade class in 1998. Moreover, I entered a world of peer pressure. Where the bullies would bully me. The rest of the class would then join in. I really do not remember who the bully was. Also, I do not recall who the followers were. Specifically, I just remember a new game everyone suddenly discovered that day called, tease the Sped. In conclusion, and I was it.

Two Years of Misery

Columbus Day, How I Overcame My Depression
Featured Image Courtesy of Bev Sykes’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

And it lasted for the next two years. Looking at it now, that was the exact time that I came down with a mental illness. And it had nothing to do with Asperger’s, Autism, or any other diagnosis that any doctor on top of an IV-covered tower has ever written.

I often think that I had a social phobia that could have been brought about by the illness. The social phobia prohibited me from socializing with my peers. Also, I did not do very well socializing with kids in a class that numbered either 20 or 30. Meanwhile, I would namely spend time by myself and not socialize with others.

Doubtful of My Diagnosis

The reason why I have always questioned the diagnosis of Asperger’s is that one of the main criteria is to have severe trouble reading social queues. I have no more trouble reading social queues than the average person. However, the illness can bring about a social phobia. However, until I read my diagnosis, I will not be sure if I agree or disagree with it. Another fact I would like to bring up is that even though one’s diagnosis will never change, the symptoms which their diagnosis covers often do. Moreover, symptoms can change from one year to the next, as it did for me.

The Early 1990s

I am going back to the early ’90s where my memoir begins. It began in 1991, to be exact. When I was three, long before I knew what things like special education even were. I can remember that I wore a contact lens in the eye that I had surgery done when I was a baby in 1987. The operation was three years earlier. I still remember lying on the kitchen table when my father put in my lens.

On the other hand, I would have to wear a patch, to improve the strength of my weaker eye. I tended to run away and hide behind a pretend kitchen set that I used to play in within the parlour. The word parlour is Boston area slang for the living room. I would finally be on a reward system. If I did not run away, I could play with our family Cocker Spaniel, “Tyner”, who was at the end of her life with us.

My Earliest Childhood Memory

I still remember when she died. Also, I was in the backyard playing when someone who was an older kid that my older brother Dominic knew. They sat me on a swing and tried to keep me unaware of what was going on. I realized that Tyner had died.

According to the story, Tyner’s was rather hot one day, and my brother decided to hit her with water from a hose to cool her off. She then walked over to the corner of the patio and collapsed. My father and Uncle drove her to the local vet, so they put her to sleep. My brother always felt guilty about that, but it was not his fault, it was Tyner’s time.

Flash the Fish

We also had a goldfish named Flash. My father decided to put a cover on his tank and not poke holes when we drove up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire one summer for vacation. By the time we walked into the resort, Flash was no longer amongst us.

Introduction to Special Education

Sometimes, people can remember a single incident that can change their entire life at a very young age. I do not know if there was a single incident or a string of incidents. If there was a string of incidents, then it probably began when I was put in a special needs classroom at age seven. At the time, special needs classes or small learning groups were only meant for either children with ODD (Obstructive Defiance Disorder) or Learning Disabilities.

I was never taught how to write in handwriting. Also, I never learned the timetable. We were still learning 1+1=2, and 1 times 1 equals 1 by sixth grade. However, I did learn to hide my money, so nobody would steal it. Additionally, I learned not to walk into a dark closet room alone to get my jacket. In essence, I would be sucker-punched right in the stomach.

My Transformation, or Regression

I entered special needs as a normal and healthy seven-year-old little kid. I then left as a very depressed, isolated, and suicidal preteen. Looking back on it now, it was probably not Asperger’s (internal) that caused me to become anti-social by age eleven. It was the fact that I was dealing with other kids who were doing everything in their power to make me as miserable as them. However, I will get to that part later.

Governor Michael Dukakis and the Integration of Revere

I am going to start with my childhood, growing up in the early 1990s in Revere, Massachusetts. At the time, it was a suburban Italian American enclave north of Boston proper. Especially in the different neighbourhoods west of the beach. This is before virtually all of the old World War 2 suburbs surrounding Boston were vastly integrated. Much of this integration started in the late 1980s under Governor Michael Dukakis.

In the mid-seventies, we would see the integration of Boston neighbourhoods like South Boston, East Boston, and Charlestown. After busing in the mid-’70s, and housing in the late 80s. People would be fleeing from all of those Boston proper neighbourhoods. East Boston was an old Italian American neighbourhood in Boston. The neighbourhood would first see an influx of Cambodian, and then South and Central American immigrants. The immigration started in the late seventies and early eighties, after busing. Then, again from 2000 to 2001, which was after 9/11. Moreover, many areas of the country were in an economic crisis.

Columbus Day Parade in East Boston, and Revere

I clearly remember before that era, going to the Columbus Day Parade right on Bennington Street in East Boston. We then watched it on Broadway, Revere, and I wondered why the East Boston parade was so much larger than the Revere parade. At the time, I did not know that it was because East Boston was a neighbourhood of Boston. Moreso, with Boston being so much bigger than Revere, it had a much bigger budget.

The Early Days of Neighbourhood Integration

But I now realize that the integration of Revere started long before the late ’90s or even the late ’80s. It probably started around the beach in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The time is when everyone from the urban and African American neighbourhoods around Roxbury and Dorchester began taking the T to the beach to visit the amusements.

The African American gangs would fight the Italian American gangs that still dominated the area. At the same time, there was a large influx of biker gangs coming into the area. Plus, New England Mob figures owned most of the nightclubs and strip clubs across the beach. In extension, the organized crime figures owned the rest of the city.

The Majestic City by the Sea

I remember my dad driving me and my brother down the beach in 1990 and telling us about the Cyclone, which was now replaced by mostly vacant high rises after the real-estate crash in the late 80s. No one was buying condos, especially in Revere, which at the time still had a bad reputation for a high crime rate and corruption. Moreso, I remember looking at the high rises, imagining what the Amusements had to be like in their day. I then would wish that somehow our generation knew the Revere Beach that our parents knew. The city was once known as, “The Majestic City by the Sea.” That was before it was burned down because of corruption and urban blight.

The Mafia’s Day in Our City

Everything around the Airport in East Boston, and The Beach in Revere was owned by the New England Mafia back then. By the time Boston hit the late 90’s and early 00’s, the region would be seeing the tail end of the mafia’s reign over Revere. The last major act of mob-related violence that I remember in Revere was at a local strip club in the year 2002. It was a mob shooting. The local media only covered it for two moments. If it was 1979 or 1989 during the raids, it would have been headline news. However, the mob was coming to an end in Revere and everyone knew it. Yet that old Italian American gangster stigma in Revere remained once one went to the north of the city limits.

I still remember my dad driving me to a gym behind a failing shopping centre in my neighbourhood.  Additionally, there was a mob shooting in the gym a little bit earlier. Allegedly it had to do with a mob war earlier on in the ’90s between two local renegade factions of the New England Core Noire.

Mob-related Violence

The locale was around Boston. Gunmen walked into the gym and began opening fire. Someone told my dad this while he was waiting for me at my elementary school. We drove down to the parking lot in front of the gym, and a car stopped behind us, and two men walked out and started talking to each other in front of our car.

My dad said that they were probably either two cops or two gangsters. In conclusion, we quickly left. The next day at school, I was the only kid in either the Regular ED or Special ED classes that knew that story from the day before.

My Battle with Depression

I was showing the typical symptoms of a depressed preteen. In essence, I would be isolated, not want to leave the house at night anymore. Additionally, I would no longer have the urge to go to the movies, or watch TV. Then, I would come home, put on the cable access channel to listen to music, and read a child detective book. Such as a 1970’s copy of “The Hardy Boy’s”. By the end of this time period, I had read “Harry Potter and The Sorceress Stone.“ I would just come home, put on music, and read books when I was not doing homework. Nor being harassed at school because I was a “Sped.“ Moreover, when I was not being an emotional punching bag for frustrated children. In short, it was my way to escape my misery.

Write From the Heart

As I stated earlier, I have a strong passion for the history of many different places. Especially the larger U.S. cities, and their suburbs. Especially my hometown of Revere. I decided to write my memoirs that will be Revere-centric. It will write about the city, my family, childhood. As the bard of Stratton Upon Avon said, “write from your heart.”

By John A. Federico

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