First things first, I suppose a little introduction is in order. They usually make me uncomfortable but since we don’t have to guess who is going to go first this should be a little easier. Besides, there is nothing in this world I know more about than myself, the hard part will be keeping this short and sweet. I am 30 years old, and I just discovered a few weeks ago that I have Asperger's Syndrome. In the grand scheme of things this doesn’t change anything, I’m still exactly the same person I was before I figured out why I am so different, and yet at the microscopic level at which I examine myself it’s monumental. This has given me something I have searched my whole life for, perspective. I have found my voice. I hope to help others find theirs. Welcome to my world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The proverbial light bulb

*takes a deep breath*

It starts here, or at least it feels like it does. I’m calling this the proverbial light bulb because that’s what happening in my life. Somehow it all makes a lot more sense, and yet I still can’t seem to come to terms with it all. There is a part of me that wants to scream, that feels that being defined in this way will somehow discredit all of the unique quirks and eccentricities that make me who I am. I’ve never felt the need for a cure, I’ve never wanted to be anyone other than who I am, and although I know that having Aspergers is a part of me, not the sum of my whole, it almost feels too comfortable to fit in a category that way. It’s never happened before.

I’m angry, I cant help but think that this was overlooked, that I was overlooked. I’m grieving for the years I have lost to trying to be normal when that was never going to happen. I’m elated to have found some of the answers that I have looked for for so long, but I’m confused by the volume of information that I have to work my way through, and where I fit into the spectrum. I can’t help but pick apart my life to find the pieces to the puzzle, but I find it overwhelming that so many of them fit. The “Neurotypical” box has very few pieces left.

All my life I’ve been different. Sure, everyone is different, but this is on a much deeper level. There have always been things I couldn’t do that most could accomplish with ease; I’ve always seen things differently. I just don’t feel things the same way as others do and without a point of comparison I have no way to describe the way I am feeling or how it differs.

I’ve never understood jealousy or grief as explained to me, my emotions at the time people tell me I should be experiencing them do not match the description provided by others feeling the same way. I have a difficult time in situations where I am expected to “feel for” someone, and although I can sympathize by rote it tends to come across as cold, it is after all scripted in my head based on the situation and what others around me are saying. Its hard to express feeling in a sentiment when you aren’t feeling anything at all.

Apart from the few people I form intense connections with I have difficulty socializing. I don’t understand the apparent enjoyment others get from this activity. Its not that I don’t want to feel this way, I simply don’t, and that makes the experience stressful. I spend the entire time worrying about what I can say, and can’t say, and how far away I should stand, and if I should shake hands, and how long its ok to talk. I’m confused easily by groups of people, especially those with an expectation that I will take part and contribute to the banter.

This doesn’t mean that I am disabled in any way it simply means that I do actually view the world differently, just as I have always suspected. I don’t experience things the same way as someone who is Neurotypical would, I simply don’t “feel” the same things.

There is a disappointing lack of information available to adults with Aspergers. It’s getting better, but the focus is still on diagnosing children with the syndrome, and less care is being taken to explain the way an adult would present the symptoms. The fact of the matter is that adults with Aspergers are highly overlooked in the medical community due to their high functionality and lack of extreme symptoms. After 30 years I was content to stand back and let the world affix the labels they wanted, knowing they would never understand and I would never be able to explain it to them. Despite the years of trying to be “normal”, I really had no desire to be that way. I was simply forcing myself into the mold, trying to make ends meet so that I would know how to relate to everyone else around me. As it dawned on me that no matter how hard I tried there was no way to change who I was, that I was definitely working at a disadvantage in social situations that no amount of study about psychology and social clues was going to fix, I retreated. I started resisting the urge to reach out and touch people because I knew that eventually I would let them down, they would see me as cold hearted no matter how much I wanted to connect, and my inability to make small talk or initiate any kind of social activity would drive them away thinking that I didn’t want a connection at all. I’m good at making friends, but I suck at keeping them.

That’s been the hardest part of my life I think, that people assume that because I cant I don’t want to. They take it personally when I don’t just drop in to say hi, or I can’t empathize when they need a shoulder to cry on. I can give advice, but I can’t empathize, and that’s a harsh reality for some people to face. I correct people when they are wrong and they assume I think they are stupid, when in fact I just sometimes get so fixated on the details that I cant see the bigger picture. I can’t do drop ins, people have to call before they come by. I often use the wrong tone of voice, facial expression, or body language when I am communicating giving the impression that I am upset or hostile and by the time I realize it I have no idea how to fix it. I tend to be so honest I can offend people without realizing it, I’m not the girl to ask if your ass looks fat in those jeans if you want platitudes. Most people expect more from their friends.

Even masochism is suspect in my eyes right now. I was never fully comfortable with the textbook definition of this word as it applies to me. It’s another example of standing back and letting the world choose how it wants to see me, it was a word that people understood and accepted. It saved me from having to explain the way I felt about it. This doesn’t change the way I see myself, but it may change the way the world sees me drastically. Pain at very mild levels gives me some element of sexual satisfaction, but leaves me totally unsatisfied. Pain at the level Cherry and I play gives me no sexual satisfaction at all, yet leaves me with a temporary satisfaction I can get no other way. See, here I am trying to explain it. I can’t. There is no point of reference. Needless to say, many people with Aspergers often enjoy pain and discomfort, both emotional and physical, because we seek those intense feelings what we don’t experience in thier natural setting.

This is by no means all the information I have, or all the clues that have come together. This is just me trying to get this all straight in my head. I’m working on making an appointment with a psychologist and by then I hope I will have this all in order to present to him on paper. This just fits, I feel like these people are in my head, right down to the fact that I walk on my tiptoes. I’m actually quite frightened.

This is just the beginning.

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