Carpets And Drapes
Amanda Flick, United States Army
I took a deep breath as I entered the coffee shop. The line was short; Autumn, Nicole, and I slipped in behind a heavyset woman and a young man in a leather jacket, chatting while we waited.
“Oh!” Autumn said suddenly. I turned my head to glance at whatever had caught my friend’s attention. The barista was a handsome man. His plaid button-down did little to hide how fit he was, but what made me take a second look was his facial hair. He had a full beard, deep red in color that seemed incongruous with the dark curls atop his head.
Autumn made an appreciative noise. “I would take a cup of him every morning,” she murmured with a lascivious smile.
“I wonder if the carpets match the drapes?” Nicole’s head was tilted to one side like a curious bird’s, but her voice was nearly monotone. I felt my face grow hot in response to my sister’s words. While comments like that weren’t uncommon for her, it was unusual for me to be surprised by them. I’d known her my entire life.
Despite her brilliance, Nicole finds it difficult when to read between the lines and has trouble with social etiquette. Growing up, people frequently described us as being polar opposites. My hair is brown, thick, and unruly; Nicole’s is blonde and mostly straight. I’m taller and more tanned than she is, but I think her icy blue eyes are much more beautiful than my own boring dark ones. She’s not as social as I am, preferring to sit on the sidelines with her favorite book of the week. It didn’t bother me that my sister was different than me. However, what did bother me were the pointed comments others would sometimes make about her.
“Maybe something is wrong with that girl.”
“Have you ever thought about getting Nicole tested?”
“Momma, I don’t like her. She’s weird and doesn’t talk.”
It wasn’t just strangers, either. Even our own family members liked to say things—things that would always make my mom seethe with anger. “There is nothing wrong with my daughter!” she insisted. I never thought there was anything wrong with Nicole, but it was clear that she wasn’t like all the other kids.
It is memories like these that prompted me and Nicole to pursue degrees in psychology. All the years of what people did and said about her only made our bond stronger. We took almost every single psychology class there was, studying diligently with one another. We excelled. Not only did we seek to better understand each other, we also wanted to understand everyone else. I bought a copy of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, better known as DSM-5, to learn even more about how certain disorders were diagnosed.
I was especially grateful for this knowledge after being diagnosed with severe PTSD, short for posttraumatic stress disorder, from years of sexual abuse. I had hoped to find a way to help with the many symptoms I had; depression, suicidal thoughts, nightmares/night terrors, anxiety, agitation, etc. I displayed almost every single symptom. I have been able to use this knowledge to help myself with the depression and the agitation, but not much more. It has instead helped me to understand others on a different level. I become much more empathic. Another valuable thing I learned was how to hide my true feelings because I feel that I must put on a strong happy front for the sake of my family. I learned how to portray myself to everyone as confident, happy, and nonchalant.
These skills have also helped being that my sister recently got officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This was formerly known as Asperger’s. Since the recent edition, it has simply become a spectrum of high and low functioning. Nicole, during her testing, scored above genius level IQ. As I said previously, she is brilliant but she just doesn’t get social aspects of life. I also find it funny how her autism mixes perfectly with my PTSD in the sense that we can function more neurotically while in public. We have achieved some of our goals by learning so much about mental processing and how the brain works while we are still in the progress of meeting other goals. Nicole is not different; she is my best friend.