Hunter Sargeant testifies against bullying and persons with hidden differences

It is too easy to be taken advantage of

My supervisor called me and said, “I’m sorry for the way I communicated with you today. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. If there is something wrong? Will you tell me so I understand.”

Hunter Sargeant, age 36, is now playing tug of war between—Do I cry? Do I scream? Instead, he calls a cognitive translator to support, but not necessarily influence his processing, "I cannot be somebody's puppet. I need to be safe, but there is a balance. When you have tons of supervisors staring you down like a newspaper. I have to keep my focus on what I am doing. Have fun doing it. And do one thing at a time well. I still need my own opportunity to make decisions in small steps, I still need to grow. I have a right to state my needs, but it is exhausting to decide what kind of communication to have."

My native grandmother told me as a child, “If you know your mouth is going to get you into trouble. Learn to communicate with your eyes before your mouth. Trust your eyes to communicate for you."

My eyes are like sub-communication before I blow it and say the wrong thing. What that means is when I am ready to process it verbally, I need to be in a calm place.

Awhile ago, I recorded myself to listen to how I sound when I am sad, confused, hurt, frustrated or overwhelmed and I realized I couldn’t even understand myself through my reaction and I even knew how I felt. Figuring out myself, as I get older is not as easy as it looks, although on the outside I look put together.

Gabby is Hunter and Holly Sargeant's ESA and Audio Alert Service DogGabby, my ESA (emotional support animal) and service dog, reaches out to me in my emotional blindness. I know what I am crying about. But trying to manage my responses in an honorable way can be really hard. Gabby continues to be very aware of my body language. If I am crying, she comes to me and soothes me. I used to get angry and lash out, and then as I got older I learned that crying was safer.

Knowing how I feel and communicating with my eyes gives me opportunity to get out of a situation without making it worse.
I am impulsive and I have learned that it is ok to lean on my vulnerability because my vulnerability protects me.

Something “NEW” used to blow me away.

When I am learning a new thing, I feel like a vulnerable little kid who got stomped on by a bully. Change used to make my mind spin out because I do not have any of the next pieces to connect the puzzle. I live in NOW time and sometimes NEXT time, but not later, maybe or other non-concrete times. I will always have to be retaught and learning something new takes repetitive training in many areas without different things happening around me.

Please don’t overwhelm me. My brain walks, it doesn’t do jogging.

I can think, I can figure things out and I can do many things people never expected me to do.

Believe me I have years of being the person who was bullied practice.

So, before, to protect myself, I used to be verbally aggressive, scream and swear and shred the person apart. The bad part was that even though I had a reason to have that feeling, I felt dirty and my words after they left my mouth stuck on the other person like the dirty words a bully had stuck on me. It was a very bad circle and it didn't make anyone do better or create positive or kind energy. When I communicate with my eyes and don't open my mouth with feelings I should not or am not ready to share, without saying anything, I wait, I watch and I show them I have belief in their ability to finally get it and understand me.

Don’t put ideas on top of my ideas until we have tried the first thing.

If you ask me, please let me try it my way first. I need to be safe to try new things and accomplish them. It is too easy to fill my brain with your ideas and then they all combine into a muddy, slippery, can’t separate mess.

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter Sargeant

My FASD challenges are not going to go away.

I have been able to gradually add things to my life. Sometimes having FASD is just too loud and I am glad I have Gabby and my wife. We have our own life together; we have our own home, and our dog, Gabby. Holly and I are so perfect for each other because we can take turns being vulnerable. I enjoy taking care of her; taking care of her is half as exhausting as taking care of me.

Holly’s file drawer in her mind is organized, but I have a habit of taking my thoughts out and leaving it all over the place and mixing it up. Holly just puts my emotional paper back together. It is like constantly having an inner child that constantly wants attention and argues with my outer person. When I am busy and life is scheduled my FASD is quieter. If you call me at the night and change my schedule, I have to reprogram my body and my slower walking mind.

What’s going to help you not have aggression toward FASD?

I will always have aggression towards my challenges, but I have learned to use that energy from negative out of control into success. I scratch and claw for everything I want. Everything is hard and takes extreme effort. So it can be easy to be rude or disrespectful and not gentle. Holly and Hunter Sargeant complement each other with their differencesBut, my wife has taught me to be gentle.

Don’t be afraid to try something.
Don’t be afraid to take the first steps.
Don’t be afraid to fall on your face.

I have learned to get back up and try something new. Today, I set boundaries, goals and obstacles for myself. I can now not set myself up for failure by my thoughts that spin in my mind. I can live in the moment and enjoy the moment. I am not alone, I have people who really love me. I have a wife. We have Gabby. Our family, our home. I realize I don’t need to continue the environment I was raised in.

What do I get from my wife? Freedom.

Freedom to be me without judgment, how can I top that? And sweet, Gabby provides the same thing - no expectations except for play, food, love, caring for her health, exercise and positive leadership.

I'd love to work, and so would my wife! It gives us purpose and a healthy schedule.

During the winter holiday sales rush, I had a job and so did Holly. We were so excited and happy. For me, it takes a lot of work to learn something new, to get in the groove and it is so much work when you've been hurt or misrepresented by so many people to trust and become attached to another person. Then they or I have to leave. Start over. Guess what? As soon as the holiday rush was over—once again just as I got started, had systems in place and knew what I was doing and who I was doing the job for and what the person wanted—I once am jobless. I can and do work hard. I am a trustworthy employee and I am able to do many things—but I need more time to get into the routine, groove and schedule, Ineed experiences where I can succeed.

Welcome to my world.

"I had more labels than a pickle jar.”
This is what Hunter Sargent said when being asked about his disease. Sargent has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. His mother drank while pregnant and then left him to fend for himself unless his grandmother wanted to take care of him. So, his native grandmother did and she encouraged him for the rest of her life.

Hunter was diagnosed at the age of 15 with FASD.

His journey is an incredible one – this video gives a brief glimpse into his life and how he has “turned something that could have been a weakness, into a strength”. Hunter inspires us all!