Countless times, I sat staring at a blank page. The blinking cursor taunted me until I closed my laptop and walked away. I don’t think this will ever be exactly what I’d like it to be, but I think it’s time. You and I? We don’t keep secrets. I feel nervous and vulnerable, but I need to say these words. In March, C was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a form of it that was considered Asperger’s syndrome under the former diagnostic criteria. I attended an autism conference shortly after. Temple Grandin spoke about her life with Asperger’s. Adults and teens shared their own experiences. The more I researched autism and Asperger’s for my son, the more I was learning about myself through my son. I realized that I am on the autism spectrum.
I’ve Learned to Navigate Most of My Challenges
I believe that I have Asperger’s syndrome. Looking back on my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, it all makes more sense to me now. I was obsessive about counting things, clean lines, even numbers, and hundreds of other little things. I made friends whom I adore, but have always felt like an outsider…almost disconnected from the social relationships that others enjoy. Small talk is a complete mystery to me. It’s as if I’ve created a script in my mind of things that a person should say, though I sometimes do it wrong and obsess over my mistakes for days, months, or years.
I have sensory challenges. Unexpected loud noises make me want to jump out of my skin. Too many noises at once make me anxious. Social situations that are new, loud, or high-energy leave me exhausted. A slight brush against my skin will leave my skin so tingly that I need to “wipe” the touch away with my own hand.
I am easily overwhelmed. Sometimes I don’t know what to say, my mind goes blank when asked an unexpected question, or I can’t find my voice to say anything at all. Sometimes I’m too overwhelmed or overloaded to find the words to express myself. That’s when I shut down, or I write. I have always been more gifted with written communication than verbal communication.
I’m Struggling with Certain Challenges
My processing has been slow lately. In a noisy room, I may not be able to identify the voice of the person speaking to me; nor can I always process what someone is saying in a quiet room. I may ask them to repeat themselves. If I still can’t figure it out, you might hear me give an answer that doesn’t quite fit the question. I can’t fully express how inadequate this makes me feel. I’m anxious about social missteps and slowed processing just makes it harder.
Uncertainties in life bring me a great deal of anxiety. I obsessively run through, “What If,” scenarios in my mind to come up with a reasonable solution and be prepared for everything. Sometimes I lose sleep because my mind won’t stop preparing itself for every perceived threat.
I hate being late. If we might be a few minutes late to church, we just don’t go. I usually arrive early for everything because I allow myself an extra 5-10 minutes for unexpected traffic. When that 5-10 minutes isn’t enough, I get anxious, jittery and upset.
I Do Not Plan to Seek an Official Diagnosis
Asperger’s syndrome is under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders. Per the recent DSM V, it is no longer a distinctive diagnosis in the United States; however, based on the research I have done and the opinions of many people with Asperger’s syndrome, I believe that Asperger’s will return as a distinctive diagnosis. In The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome by Tony Attwood, it is said that, “the signs of Asperger’s syndrome are more conspicuous at times of stress and change,” (p. 31) and, “It is perhaps not the severity of expression that is important, but the circumstances, expectations, and coping and support mechanisms” (p. 64). I can pinpoint areas in my life where I was likely clinical and areas in which my symptoms were subclinical. I believe myself to be clinical at this point in time.
I personally feel like an official diagnosis would not serve a significant purpose for me at this point in my life. I want to learn more about coping skills for my anxieties and stresses, but I do not require government services for autism spectrum disorder.
Learning more about Asperger’s is providing me with a better understanding of my life. I always felt connected to C, knowing our brains worked the same way long before he was diagnosed with autism. I’ve always felt disconnected from the world in other ways. Now I understand why I feel different. That’s more relevant to me right now than a word in my file.
Life is a constant learning process. I am seeing my past through a new lens. Things are beginning to make sense. Other things are new and scary. I am unsure how to quiet my mind from the barrage of planning, sorting and analyzing that occupies my days and nights. I want to learn how to be more confident in new social situations. I would like to find a way to process auditory information more quickly – or coping mechanisms for when I cannot understand what is being said. I am the same person I have always been. The only thing that has changed is my self-awareness. And my husband now understands why I do weird things. 😉