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MORE REFLECTIONS OF AN ASPIE
"You're being such a baby!"
"Stop being so lazy!"
"Other people with disabilities have overcome them, why can't you?!"
"Put it behind you and move on!"
"You're just gonna have to tough it out!"
"Just grow up!"
These are just some of the things that people say to those with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that negatively affects social interaction. It is a condition that robs the person who has it of the social skills necessary to function in a community and in society.
Among the aspects of this disability include difficulty making friends, bad reactions to sudden, unexpected changes in routine, and obsession with different subjects and topics.
Since I am one of the estimated 20 million "Aspies" worldwide, I can give a firsthand account of the struggles and frustrations I've had - and still have - fitting in and functioning effectively in the world. This is due to people seeeing me over the years as "weird", "rude', "too honest", "unaware", and "like a bull in a china shop".
One of the traits of AS (short for Asperger's) is a mind-set that everyone is more or less equal, which leads to an aversion to being ordered around and consistently told what to do. In other words, people with AS tend to feel animosity toward employers and supervisors in the workplace who micromanage, looking over one's shoulders and criticizing every little mistake, trying to find faults.In short,difficulty in coping with criticism has been found to be prevalent in Aspies.
This trait has particularly pertained to me. In several of the jobs I have had, there have been people who did nothing but look over my shoulder, criticizing me and the way I did my work, despite my working hard and being extremely dependable and responsible.
In hindsight, I understand that in their mind they were just doing their job and making sure I was doing mine.
In my mind, however, these people were oppressing and bullying me. In my mind, through their micromanaging, they were telling me, "I don't trust you to do your job." In my mind, they were saying, "You are not as good a person as I am. You are not equal to me in any way. You are inferior, so that gives me a license to push you around and treat you any way I please." In short, they seemed to me more like slavery-era overseers than supervisors or employers.
Two instances come to mind of people micromanaging me and ordering me around in a way that made me feel that they thought I was an inferior being to them.
The first instance of this was at a non-public school that catered to children with special needs, where I taught Physical Education for a time.
There was a guy there that I worked with who I felt was so negative towards me in how I did my work, that after a few months I had a nervous breakdown, He would criticize nearly everything I did, including a letter I was sending to the parents of a belligerent student letting them know about his misdeeds.
He treated me, I felt, like I was a stupid inferior, trying to tell me how to be a teacher when I had been in the profession for twelve years to date. He would make a long list of so-called "suggestions" that really were insulting to my intelligence; I felt as if I was being insulted on a nearly daily basis.
It was after he read one of these negative manifestos to me that my nervous breakdown occured, particularly after I told him I would try to adhere to said "suggestions" and he replied, in a harsh, bullying kind of way, "Don't try, do it!"
I stayed in my bedroom for three days, then I wrote a letter stating that I was considering suicide; the way this guy made me feel made me want to hurt either me or him. Snce i couldn't hurt him without getting arrested for assault and going to jail, that left hurting myself as the only other option.
After I showed one of the school's administrators the letter I wrote, we had a clear-the-air meeting with the guy who I felt was oppressing me. It was explained to me that in a workplace hierarchy, it was the supervisor's job to critique those under them, and since this co-worker was technically my superior, I needed to understand and accept that.
My AS condition would not allow me to consider this. I simply could not accept the mind-set that I was being told to embrace. In my mind, I was being offended, insulted, bullied, talked down to, and not seen as an equal.
As a result, I was miserable for the bulk of the time I was at that school. I managed to stick it out for the remainder of that school year before I was told that wouldn't be rehired for the following year.
In retrospect, it was just as well that I didn't come back to that school. Over the course of that year, I found that working with special needs children, including those with Asperger's, was not for me.
I found myself being annoyed by quite a few of them and their traits, including one young "Aspie" who was so severe that for several weeks he would harass me every day, saying and doing various silly things. They would remind me, on a regular basis, of my own social inadequacies, and I ended up dreading to go to work and nearly hating some of those kids. This was certainly a "difficult population", as the school's principal described it. Their social difficulties, combined with my social difficulties, made working there too hard for me. It was the blind leading the blind.
The other big instance of me feeling oppressed by others in the workplace was in this after school program where I worked.
As with the non-public school, there was a co-worker who, while he was merely making sure I was doing my job, was ordering me about in a way that made me feel like he was the overseer and didn't see me as an equal being. My resentment built and built until finally, toward the end of the year, I told him to "...stay out of my business!" after he told me to do something in a way that I felt was condescending and offending.
I nearly had another nervous breakdown because of this and the way I felt I was being treated by this guy. I would, at times, go home after work and almost scream in my room over the unhappiness that these guys, and people previous to him, were seemingly causing me.
Neither of these people that I have described intended to insult me or make me feel like a lesser being - I want to make that clear. Looking back, I completely understand that they were just trying to do their jobs. But that still did not change my feelings of being mistreated, offended, and insulted, leading to anxiety and thoughts of suicide.
This Asperger's trait that I have has wreacked havoc in my professional life, on a par with the sinking of the Titanic. As a result, I have found myself periodically unemployed and broke with next to nothing in the bank. Quite pathetic when compared with the majority of people in my age group, especially the people I grew up and went to school with in my youth.
This has led to bouts of depression, a feeling of hoplessness. It has led me to feeling that I will never have what is considered "normal" in American life: my own home, a family, a fufilling career, love.
It has led me to feeling that I may as well chuck it all, that I'm one of the biggest losers in American history, if not the ultimate loser. That I'm a waste of space. All because I have a condition that is socially crippling and incurable.
The fact that some people will see this and think that need to just "toughen up" and "do something about it", that I am using this as an excuse to slack off and be lazy, just goes to show that such people are unsympathetic, cruel, and just plain mean with no heart.
It may look as if I'm merely seeking sympathy, that I'm trying to play the poor, helpless victim card, but that is not the case. All I am hoping to obtain is understanding, acceptance, and perhaps a friendly, helping hand.
As one can see, having Asperger's Syndrome has been an Asperger's hell for me. In many ways, it continues to be so. Will I be able to survive this Hades? Will I ever come out of this forty-year nightmare? Will there be someone out there who will offer their hand in understanding and give me the opportunity to take part in society in a way that I will be happy, comfortable, and content with?
I honestly don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know one thing: I'm still here. That has to count for something, doesn't it?