Cory Andrews Feature

Philosopher Francis Bacon is credited with developing the scientific method. The method where theories are either proven or debunked. He said, “age appears to be best in four things; old wood best burn, old wine to drink, old friends trust, and old authors to read.”

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I begin my story with these words because it was the philosopher, Aristotle, who brought me to much of my understanding of the world that I have today. In 2006, I was drawn to Freemasonry for the simple reason that I knew that I could find friends. I figured that it was the perfect opportunity to find like-minded people. I can also remember saying to myself that if this didn’t work - nothing would. Fast forward to 2011 and my only relationships were with my large suffering but also the church where I had been for many years. I perceived at the time it was obviously me that was doing something wrong, because the same pattern reared its head over the previous 20 years of my life. I didn’t understand it and when I had a falling out with brothers in my Lodge, they came to my house and try to reason with me. At the time I felt like I was really losing my mind, I’ve never been so low in my life and never been so close to death. Nothing has worked. That’s all I could think of.

Shortly after that I had an attraction to Hillsdale College, rather the president of Hillsdale College, Larry Arnn. Specifically, I had an attraction to the way he spoke and more importantly what he spoke of. Aristotle was one of those he taught me something about. The next thing I did was find a copy of “ Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics” translation, glossary and introductory essay, by Joe Sachs of St. John’s College, Annapolis.

Aristotle on friendship is something that I studied for a long time and still refer to it today. Hopefully on the other side of this study I would be better, and understand people better enough so that I can manage a friendship. It never worked, although I learned a lot about people. That is a double-edged sword but I digress. The fact was that I was nowhere closer to maintaining a friendship that I was before I started all of this.

Fast forward to 2015 and still oblivious. I quit my job where I had cleared $44,000 a year. I said to myself, that I was able to find myself being a Master Mason, and a Director of the Corporation at my Lodge, in addition to the Chaplain of the Lodge. At this point someone from the LDS Church might say, I was at 12 O’Clock in the pride cycle. I registered for The city college and I was going to be a mortician. From my first day I hit head winds, and they just happened to be in Math. I was not doing well at all and was very overwhelmed with the light load that I was taking. I had to figure this out, but at the same time my thought of being in special ed classes through jr. High and High School revealed itself. I was ready to fight but at the same time I had enough frustration that given the chance, I was going to let a truck run over me!

I sought out, and made my way through cognitive testing by way of the therapist on campus to find out what was wrong with me. One of the first things that I was told in the results was that I have very poor coordination. I thought to myself, that’s funny, when I was in high school I had a coordination test and it turned out the same way. I was told that I have very slow visual processing. I demonstrated very poor ability of being able to look at a bit of information and copy it to a different page. I can still remember doing the test and thinking that I did really well. When the tester revealed to me that most people get through what I had done plus a whole lot more, it broke me. “I had slow processing.” That comment really stuck with me. I had all of these other problems, but I had a super strength too. I asked the tester what can I do with this. He replied after thinking about it for a moment, and said ‘have a good conversation.’ I’ll never forget that. I can honestly say that my testing results turned my world upside down and it was about to get worse!

The very next thing I did was look up slow processing, I found the acronym ‘FASD’ and I wondered what that was. This was my journey to understand what was really wrong. In those moments, understanding she is a recovered alcoholic, I made a phone call and asked if she had consumed alcohol while being pregnant with me. The unfortunate truth was she was at her worst drinking when she was pregnant with me. I learned about stories of how she could drink with men under the table at the bar. Her drinking stemmed from an abusive relationship from her first husband and then my father as well. She said, when she drank she suddenly felt like a normal person again. So when she wasn’t working, she was drinking. Later I learned about miscarriages.

That was about four years ago. Was it really that long ago? Peter, my husband, is always reminding me that I have no concept of time. Turns out after learning about FASD, that I must suffer from that. It all makes sense to him. I don’t how many times he had said it to me before I even knew about all of this. It also explains a lot of my problems throughout my life in the past.

Plato’s cave analogy is a good explanation for how I feel what has happened. Except, like a vampire the sun burns me, so I find myself running in and out of the cave. And when I want to isolate myself from the truth the sun has a way of finding its way through the cracks. Ignorance is bliss or is it? I was miserable before I knew all of this, and maybe I’m more miserable with the knowledge of this. I still have a goal of becoming a mortician, I am still fighting intermediate algebra. I have attended the workshops for the mortuary science program. I know the warnings. I have made my way from basic math to intermediate Algebra and I am very proud of that. Through thousands of hours of working, I passed biology. I passed Anatomy and Physiology. I passed Psychology. I passed all my requirements for English all the way to English literature. I managed my way through an art class. Ironically, I love taking photographs, even though visual processing is my weakest link. If I could only get through this math I can get to the mortuary science program to discover that I’m too late and that my Anatomy and Physiology class is too old. At least that’s what I’m expecting!

Reggie in all of his glory.

Reggie in all of his glory.

When I started writing this wasn’t my intention to end on a sour note. I also understand that some of this is rambling on, but I don’t have the energy to fix it right and I figure that I’ve wanted to submit my story now for weeks. School is starting tomorrow, so if I don’t get it out now I never will. I have all of this knowledge in my head about different subjects of science and English and on and on, and I can’t seem to figure out how to make it work for me. I think this the other IQ that nobody talks about. The schools don’t understand, the pastor doesn’t understand, the mother doesn’t understand. The emotions that blow me over. The persecution that sticks with me. The anxiety, the hands that go out of control and I get nervous or anxious. The pain in my body. My kidneys that are starting to fail. The heart damage that I have that was revealed in a recent test. Looks like I’ve had a heart attack. Was that damage from when I was in utero? My regulation problems, the kind that put me in the hospital from lactic acid poisoning because I exercised too hard and nobody stopped me, and the conversations that I have with so many young people going to college and succeeding at their dreams. I have dreams, too.

I do have a very big blessing in my life, my husband loves me very much and my Reggie dog.



Neil from Victoria, BC Feature

For over half a century I’ve been on a quest to discover the reason for my life turning out as it has. From the age of sixteen I was always in therapy (self-motivated) and participated in many self development workshops constantly hoping I could learn what happened in my life that made it go sideways so badly, hopefully finding the remedy, and believing that if I just knew what was wrong I could then seek its solution. I spent 20 years enrolled in austere, demanding Buddhist meditation retreats to gain a deeper understanding of self, and believed that through this kind of suffering I would find peace. I participated in a few ‘new thought’ churches along the way, hoping to find a spiritual peace while along the way also becoming a scholar in A Course In Miracles (a remarkable achievement in its self considering my learning and comprehension difficulties).

During one Vipassana meditation retreat I did, however, have a full-blown white Light experience, which I found glorious but it never happened again. But it did keep me returning to meditation retreats for another 2 decades hoping to have another encounter with the Loving Light. I’ll never forget that experience...being held in cosmic Wholeness.

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I wondered why my life had turned out so differently than my siblings. Why I was the black sheep (scapegoated) child and had become the buffer in a less than perfect family?

I came to understand what my learning disabilities, ADHD, depression, and PTSD were about, but these were just symptoms and not the cause.

I learned family systems theory and gained an understanding (and compassion) of the world and times my parents were raised in.

But still no answers!

I started considering FASD as the possible cause 5 years ago. But I didn’t have any of the physical disfigurement I thought was required (back then) nor did I come from a disadvantaged socio-economic group (another belief). Although I had run-ins with the law since age 12, and am fortunate today not to have a criminal record today, it was chalked up to a wild, misspent youth.

I didn’t have to look very hard to find evidence of my mother drinking during her pregnancy. She freely admitted to drinking through all of her pregnancies. This was also the justification that it must be my problem because the other siblings didn’t turn out as bad (by comparison).

Introduction of Valium: Compounding my early years of development, and apparently in an effort to ameliorate my ADHD-like behaviours, my mother put me on Valium at times (long car trip). However, it would be twenty years later when it was determined I am allergic to this tranquilizer and have a reverse reaction to it. The anxiety of this medication pushes me up, not down.

Nothing made sense. I looked normal, often sounded normal — my life should be normal! Perhaps I just needed to try harder. Of course, every attempt to try harder usually ended with even worse results, eg. cramming for school exams.

Employers and social groups never seemed to last long. At times I wished I had the features of a down syndrome person. Then at least people would have an obvious context to explain the complicated, and extreme range of behaviour I could display.

The conundrum was either to swallow all the low self esteem I’d acquired, or fight for something better...as solution, that lay just around the next corner. Maybe. I began living my life for the purpose of finding ‘my’ solution somewhere just around the next corner...the next workshop, the next retreat. All to no avail.

I’m exhausted.

I always thought it would be a great relief to finally have the answer, never realizing it may come without the solution. I never thought my life could get any more depressing but, now, knowing I have FASD (ARND?) and there is no cure brings on a whole new level of depression. Perhaps my psycho-spiritual pursuits all this time were preparing me for acceptance of this incurable fate. I have nothing else to guide me now.

So finally, as a hail Mary pass, I enlisted two therapists for guided, supervised psychedelic remedies, hopefully. It was in one of these experiences I came to acknowledge — say out loud to myself and others, that I suffer with an FASD. And it was also these experiences which released me to a cosmic Love I never thought possible, that I cherish and hold on to today. In another experience a voice, not from myself, but from the universe “thanked” me for my life. Huh? (I’ll take the support wherever I can find it)

My ‘expected’ reality is currently something that is changing rapidly. My hope today is to find a trusting partner who can Love and accept me as I am, and in spite of my plight is willing to live with me until my time is up here.

Thank you for listening.

Neil from Victoria, BC

Gina Schumaker Feature Part 2

My name is Gina Schumaker and I am way more than my FASD.

I was diagnosed at 50 years old. I am a mother to a 29-year-old beautiful, talented, independent daughter and a 13-year-old sweet, funny, sensitive, thoughtful and active boy! My grand boys are 7 & 10. I love the time I get to spend with them.

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I have done nails for 25 years and and am phasing out as I grow my Home Staging business . Yes, I struggle. Money and time are not my friends. Managing them is a chore. Getting diagnosed was incredibly beneficial for me . I have given myself more credit and am much more gentle and accepting of myself. My motto is “I may not be smart ... but I’m definitely not stupid.”

I like to give hope to others . Find what you are passionate about and use your gifts! My goal is to raise awareness and help others get services and tools to be successful at being the best them they can be!

Monica Gaseor Feature

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My name is Monica. I am 26 years old. I was born at LBJ Hospital in Houston, TX. My birth mom had me. She was an alcoholic and drug addict. She was so sick and she couldn't take care of me. I was 3 pounds and 8 ounces when they found out I had cocaine in my system. They immediately called Child Protective Services and put me into a foster home. I stayed in the foster home until I was about a couple months old. I then met my adopted parents and took me into their life. They took good care of me and I was now their child.

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I have lived with FASD all of my life. I was very impulsive and happy. My parents told me that I have FASD when I was older, so I understood what it was. I have a wonderful life and I'm so glad I got adopted. I wished my mom had made good choices in her life. Inside I am thankful for everything. I now have a job as a teacher’s assistant at the Rise School of Houston. I work with kids with disabilities and without.

I love traveling and hanging out with friends and family. I enjoy watching movies. I love comedy. I've been in different schools and a community college that has helped me a lot with a career. I wanted to go and I had the help of different people to get me in this career. I was an intern at first, and then a volunteer. They hired me after I went through training and got the job.

I am telling my story because I want people to know what FASD is and why we have it. I am here with purpose and to help others!