To my family and friends:
I have a secret. A BIG secret.
Something I’ve known about since January, and have only shared with Rhiannon (I had to talk to someone about it!). And it’s taken me months to be ready to spill it, and, honestly, days to write this post. Because I want to get this right, to say it right. And, because I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, researching, taking tests online, and being absolutely sure. Which is hard when you have a migraine all the frelling time!
But it’s time to share. It’s changed my life, and how I look at my life, especially my past.
And it’s been a tremendous relief.
It explains a lot. Helps me understand, and perhaps truly accept, who I am. And, helps me know what I need to work on to get along better with everyone.
And I hope it will help you understand who I am, and why I am the way I am. Not to excuse anything I’ve done, or anyone I’ve hurt, whether intentionally or not, but to explain. And most certainly, not to blame anyone for not figuring this out sooner – you couldn’t have since it wasn’t well known until recently, and I just happened across it by accident. (though, it’s been in the news a lot lately, and I have to wonder if maybe someone else did figure this out fairly recently… please let me know, if you did)
All my life, we’ve been pussy-footing around about me, how I’ve been “different” from everyone else; never fit in. Not in my family; certainly not at school; not now.
People have always called me “weird.” “Eccentric” or “quirky” if they were being kind.
But also things like “anti-social,” “rude,” “cold,” “harsh,” and “unfeeling” or “uncaring.” When that wasn’t intended, or the case, at all.
I’ve always felt like everyone else knew something I didn’t. And they did.
I really am different, in a neurological way. My brain is different, it functions differently.
How sure am I? 100%. And the more I work on this post, the more sure I become, if that’s possible. Because there are lists of “symptoms” & “characteristics” as well as online tests, the same ones that are used by the MDs, and I score the same on all the tests, and have so very many of the “characteristics” I could be the poster child.
And I’m not the only one like this. Lots of other people are like this, have this “impairment”, this “difference”, and many have led wildly successful lives. Lots more, like me, have led lives of quiet isolation.
Yes, I’m getting to what this is called. But as soon as I tell you, you will likely want to deny it, because there’s a stigma involved. (no scrolling down!)
My brain is different because I have a genetically passed disorder, so it’s not my fault I have it. However, now that I know I do, I can work on the “side effects” it’s had on my life, like distancing me from family and friends, and generally pissing people off when I didn’t intend to.
See if this sounds familiar (I answer yes to all of these):
- I find social situations confusing.
- I find it hard to make small talk.
- I am good at picking up details and facts.
- I find it hard to work out what other people are thinking and feeling.
- I can focus on certain things for very long periods.
- People often say I was rude even when this was not intended.
- I have unusually strong, narrow interests.
- I do certain things in an inflexible, repetitive way.
- I have always had difficulty making friends.
People with this difference tend to be:
- Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as baseball statistics, weather or snakes…these subjects may change erratically.
- Appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others’ feelings
- Having a hard time “reading” other people or understanding humor
- Speaking in a voice that is monotonous, rigid, overly loud or unusually fast
- Engaging in one-sided, long-winded conversations, without noticing if the listener is listening or trying to change the subject
- Displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
- Moving clumsily, with poor coordination
- Having an odd posture or a rigid gait
(or how about horses, American Indians, or crystals and stones, or ancient Egypt, or…)
(boy have I heard that a lot! and the same was written into the psychologist’s report from the horrible custody hearing days)
(how many times have I been told I clearly have NO sense of humor, except I do…but other people tend not to “get it.”)
(Yeah, I can still remember the first time someone told me I talk in a monotone. I had no idea I did. And I was married at the time.)
(do you have any idea what a hard time I have making eye contact when speaking with someone? probably not…)
(this explains why I was always, without fail, either the last or next to last person picked to be on whatever team was being chosen for in school, all the way thru from elementary thru high school. Do you know how painful it is to be the last one chosen, over and over and over and over…)
(I had to have physical therapy as a child, though partly that was because I have scoliosis. I still have to remind myself not to stand sway-backed. Will someone tell me if I have a rigid gait, cause I don’t know…)
From another site:
Children and adults with this syndrome have an intellectual capacity within the normal range, but have a distinct profile of abilities that has been apparent since early childhood. The profile of abilities includes the following characteristics:
- A qualitative impairment in social interaction:
- Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.
- Impaired use of non-verbal behavior such as eye gaze, facial expression and body language to regulate a social interaction.
- Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy.
- Impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.
- A qualitative impairment in subtle communication skills:
- Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation skills and a tendency to be pedantic (Pedantic describes speech that is overly focused on the details of its topic.), have an unusual prosody (Prosody refers to the tonal and rhythmic aspects of speech) and to make a literal interpretation.
- Restrictive Interests:
- The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus.
- Preference for routine and consistency.
The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and problems with handwriting and being hypersensitive to specific auditory and tactile experiences. There can also be problems with organizational and time management skills and explaining thoughts and ideas using speech.
The more I read, the more I correlate this to my life, and the more I read how others are just like me – for instance, other people with this are also often very sensitive to clothing, and the tightness or roughness of a material. They also tend to form a strong attachment to particular items of clothing, or color of clothing, and can want to wear the same thing every day… just like me.
Rocking is also common – whether rocking back and forth in a regular chair, swinging or rocking the legs, or a preference for a rocking chair… just like me, in my swinging chair on the deck, in my mom’s rocking chair, etc.
Another example is that those like me tend to have an innate knack with computers… something I’ve displayed from a very young age. Unfortunately, this has led to a problem… people with this tend to congregate in places like Silicon Valley, and then procreate, passing the genes involved down from both sides, leading to an epidemic of this as well as the other, more impaired, side of the Spectrum… the Autism Spectrum. Because what I have is called Asperger’s Syndrome, or, alternately, HFA (High Functioning Autism).
It should be understood that Autism is a spectrum. There are no nice little boxes that people are placed in. Tony Attwood has said that if there were 100 oddities or idiosyncrasies that were defined, everyone would have 20 – 30 of them. But 20 – 30 is “normal” (ie you are an NT – neurotypical). Some people may have 35 or 40, and they are a little odd, but still normal. People with Aspergers would have 60 – 70 of these idiosyncrasies. That is the difference really, an extreme form of normal. (from In the Light)
Now I bet you don’t believe me. But you should. And before we discuss it, I want you to think about what you know about me, about my life, and do some reading. And the more you read, the more you will understand. I hope.
If you are my immediate family, I suggest you think about it a while, like, until this weekend. Which is why I’m telling you now – since Clay is coming. So we can talk about it in person. Talk it out. So I can answer your questions, cause I know you’re gonna have some.
This has rocked my world. Is still rocking my world. I’m still re-evaluating my life in view of this. The more I read of the traits of Asperger’s, the more I see that fit me… there are no words for what I feel at the moment. Or, there are, but I’m too impaired to come up with them at the moment! (smiling)
Now, you get to go read even more. There are many websites with Asperger’s info. You don’t have to read them all. Just look at a few, please, however much interests you. Here are the pages I find most useful – they will each open in their own window or tab:
At WebMD (excellent article that covers what appears at what age)
Straight Talk About Asperger’s (this one can be somewhat painful, if very enlightening, to read, to help you understand what I went through as a child/teen trying to fit in… and the bullying I experienced in school)
Asperger’s Syndrome Characteristics (a really really long list)
And, for more info on the biggest of the tests I took online, you can go to my page here, and even download my results – it will tell you my answers to every question. This is only for those who really want to know…
Now, I’m gonna start work on my next post… about how I see this has impacted my life, impacts it every day, the coping mechanisms I developed as I grew up, and what this all means to me.