That’s a clip from a recent episode of my favorite show. It’s so incredibly relateable to me because that’s pretty much how I came to realize I had Aspergers. I was on a website reading about the syndrome because a dear friend of mine and her husband both have it and I was wanting to learn more and understand it better. It’s what I do. I try to educate myself so I can empathize better. Facts matter a lot to me. I obsessivly research stuff. While reading through the symptom criteria checklist I realized how many of them really described me. It was eerie. And a sense of relief came with it as well. Maybe just maybe I wasnt difficult or over dramatic or a bitch…..maybe this was a real THING.
So I found a more detailed list describing specifically women with aspergers. And there I was. In black and white. It blew me away. It’s a long list but if you scan it you get a general idea of what Aspergers is.
Most people would never know it. I can chat online with folks with ease. I even own a page with around 1,500 followers on FaceBook. A social media site. Oh the irony.
It’s real life that trips me up, stresses me out and makes me want to seclude myself like a hermit in the woods. a simple trip to the grocery store can unravel me. Ask my kids. I get all army-mode on it, with my elaborate, detailed list and my calculator and I go at it alone, head down, focus on prices, make no eye contact, pretend I’m alone in the store. I hate it when I end up in the line with a cashier who wants to chat. I hate trying to keep an upbeat swing on casual small talk with people I don’t know. Its always so awkward. Hell, even with people I DO know. I’m talking friends I’ve known for years. I can only last so long before I feel so incredibly awkward and pressured inside of my own mind to carry on a conversation. I know eye contact is expected but eye contact is not a strong point of mine. It feels wrong. And then I’m always questioning myself. Is it too much? Have I even BLINKED in the past 5 minutes? Are they noticing I keep looking away? Does that make me look shifty or dishonest? How much is too much or not enough? Social cues others seem to just GET are so confusing to me.
People read me wrong all of the time. I tend to internalize stuff a lot. I remember when I was 9 years old my beloved cat died of leukemia. My mom came to me and woke me up after it happened. She was crying and she asked me why wasn’t I crying? wasn’t i sad? I had zero external reaction. I’m sure she thought I was a cold child with no heart in that moment. I WAS sad. I just didnt know how to SHOW it. The death of that cat affected me so hard that for years after I would dream about her, would dream about going back into the woods where we buried her and digging her up and finding her alive and well. I missed her. But that was all internal. My mom reminds me often how I was a very hard child to love. Not because of HER but because of ME. I didn’t do hugs. I wouldn’t hug back if she hugged me. I’m still like that. I LIKE hugs and snuggles now. partly because I have a very hippie-esque extended “family” and they all hug a lot so Im getting used to it. But the general rule for me is not to hug or show physical affection unless I am the one who initiates it.
I prefer the company of children. They are far more honest and easier to read. They don’t do sarcasm. They’re more honest in their social interactions.
Meeting new people sends me into a tailspin. The stress of remembering all of the rules of social etiquette triggers my anxiety. My way of dealing with this used to be to default to hermit-status. Agoraphobia is a bitch, but she provides security and comfort in her seclusion. When I became a single parent though, Agoraphobia was not an option. SOMEONE had to do the shopping and talk to the landlord and make the phone calls.So I learned to do it all. But it never really got an easier. I amp myself up to make a phone call the way a football player amps himself up before a big game. It takes a whole lot of inner pep talk.
Aspergers often ties in with other disorders. Which explains my ADHD and OCD and SPD. I’m a hodge podge of dysfunction that I have managed to create into a surprisingly functional person with coping mechanisms mostly brought into play through my OCD. A lot of making our way in this world as Aspies is learning the rules and following them, even though they might feel forced or awkward.
Which often leads to meltdowns.
Oh the meltdowns.
All that sense of not feeling comfortable in my own skin, combined with an intruding outside world that insists on pushing its way IN, combined with sensory issues and OCD stressors and ADHD distractions, and eventually I snap. I’ve done it often enough my kids don’t even react so much anymore. I yell. I cover my ears and sing. Somtimes it’s just “la la la la la” loudly. Just like I did as a kid. I throw things. Not AT people. At walls. I slam doors. I cry. I literally melt down. dissolve. Lose hold of all I have clung so tightly to. I have heard it explained to people that a child with Aspergers has a melt down not a tantrum. Tantrums are far more controlled. A melt down is beyond their control. Same goes for adults. Am I proud of myself for this? Hell no. Its my biggest shame. It doesn’t happen often. Major transitions usually trigger it. And often, if I can get alone and breathe through it I can keep one from happening. But life is inconvenient at times and I don’t always have that option.
There are pluses to being an Aspie. My obsession is research. Specifically anything parenting and alternative living related. I can spend hours on end on line scouring websites, memorizing data and statistics, comparing facts, taking notes on cross references. I’d like to think my seeking of knowledge and information is a positive. Its why i am thankful for the internet. I can find pages to chat on with other people who are just as interested in what ever I am researching that day. I’ve learned that that glossy-glazed-over look in most folks eyes when I ramble on and on about whatever new information has me all excited is not neccesarily a good thing. So, I try to avoid that.
There is a misperception that all folks with Aspergers have no emotion, no empathy. Some struggle with it, but others of us are HIGHLY emotional, sensitive, and empathetic. So much so that I make it a rule not to watch the news. I can’t. i’ll cry for days over a story I see about a child dying. Those god awful posts on FaceBook of the abused animals slam through me like a knife. I google images of a fetus at whatever eek pregnant I am at that point and photos of aborted fetus’s are mixed in and they become seared into my brain for weeks after and I have nightmares about them. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so damn sensitive. That I could be as desensitized as most folks seem to be. That life was a little easier to manuever and figure out. That I didn’t have to question myself so much. That I could be just as comfortable in the real world around people as I am on line.
But then again, I LIKE who I am. Struggles, awkwardness and all. I’d rather be me than anyone else. Insecurities, awkwardness, melt downs, coping mechanisms and all.
I’m a wonderful, glorious, beautiful, perfect awkward mess.
And I think that’s okay.