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My Journey with Aspergers
Living with Aspergers
I have Aspergers Syndrome, and life is a little different for us, but it is the world we know. Life is different for everyone, I guess, but those of us with Aspergers can be rather eccentric and considered a little odd at times. Some of these behaviors overlap with High Functioning Autism, which is a part of the autism spectrum.
This is what my life is like with Aspergers, the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult. All in all, I wouldn't change it for anything, but I don't like change, so there you have it.
Absolutely, this is a must. I don't like change at all. I don't rearrange my furniture. I don't like clutter. I'm not spontaneous. I am driven by routine. Now, I'm not one of those people who run themselves ragged cleaning every little spot in the house. I mean, that's boring, and work. I have kids, and kids are messy, so if I want to totally stress out, I'll try to pick up every single little crumb. Not going to happen. I've learned how to deal with a little clutter, change, and when they move my favorite TV show to a different day. Why do they do that? It's so irritating, but that's probably true for everyone.
A day in my life is nearly the same from day to day. I love the routine of it. I don't have many friends, but I like it like that because they might come over, and that just irritates me. My home is my sanctuary from the chaos of the world, and if someone drops by, even family, they throw a wrench in my routine. My kids get me, and we get along really well, so when they come over, they are not offended if I stick to my routine. If I disappear at 11:00 to shower when they come over, they are okay with that, but if my siblings or parents come over, I secretly can't wait until they leave. Not because I don't like them, I do, but it is stressful. I know its kinda mean and selfish, but I'm just telling the truth here, which is something people with Asperger's Syndrome are known for, their honesty.
Yes, that is really my living room, simple, clutter free, and very relaxing. I love it!
Okay, I've since had to move, and my house is still being built, but when it is finished, it will probably look much the same.
Wow, I hope my family does not read this, odds are they won't, and I'm considering removing that part about wanting them to leave, but that's something else those of us with Aspergers sometimes do, we say what ever pops into our heads without thinking it over first, no matter how tactless it is. It isn't our intention to be mean, it just seems that way.
I hate driving, and I will not drive in the city unless it is almost a life or death situation. I can't handle the chaos of traffic and lights and sounds associated with driving in the city. It's like seeing, hearing, and focusing on everything at once. The sensory overload is excruciating. My brain just wants to shut down. I will have nightmares about city driving. I have no problem walking in the city, just driving. Needless to say, I don't go places often. I do most of my shopping in the small town where I live, or online. I hate to shop anyway. I don't ask for a ride anywhere, because I hate being on someone else's schedule, and this is my affliction, so I won't ask someone else to put up with this weakness of mine. I hate asking for a favor, and will avoid it at almost all cost. Mainly because I hate the thought of owing someone anything. Honestly, I really wish I could drive in the city, and I did celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday at a hotel for the weekend, and traffic was horrible, but it was that important to me. It's just so ridiculously hard...and my head is starting to hurt just thinking about it.
Most people with Aspergers are over-sensitive or under-sensitive to sensory input. I'm definitely in the over-sensitive category.
Hyperlinked photo courtesy of kcjc under CC license.
Speaking of driving...
Some people with Aspergers can get a bit obsessive over things, negative and positive. One of the things I obsess over is the tires on my car. Yeah, silly, I know. I have very good tires on my car, but I hate the way they sound on the road, so I have to turn up the music to drown out the sound. I also obsess over the air in the tires. I keep thinking they are too low on air, and they aren't. Every time I approach my car, I'm looking at the tires. Gosh, they look flatter than they did yesterday, and no, everything is fine. I keep imaging them falling off my car and rolling down the road. No, it's never happened, but I still imagine it. Then there's the flat tire. I've never had a flat tire while I'm driving, but the thought of it bugs the heck out of me.
There's my car, a Hyundai Sonata which has never given me any trouble.
Talking to myself
Wow, if only there was a hidden camera or microphone in my house, not that I encourage it, but you'd think I was a little nuts. I talk to myself a lot, and I mean...a lot! As a matter of fact, I'm repeating aloud much of what I'm writing at this time. Why do I do this? I have no clue, except maybe it's practicing for the real thing. I guess I like communicating, and I don't have to worry about what I'm saying being misconstrued or considered rude or boring.
I also comment aloud about what's happening on the TV, even when there's no one to hear it. To be honest, and you'll think I'm teetering on the edge of insanity, but I'll also hold imaginary conversations when no one is around. I'll imagine scerarios and hold the conversations aloud. No, I don't speak for everyone in this imaginary scenario, I only speak for myself, and imagine the answers of the others. What would you think if you heard me going on and on to someone who wasn't there? She's nuts! But what's wrong with having an active imagination? It can be a lot of fun! I'm not the only one with Aspergers Disorder/Syndrome who does this. I found that living a fantasy life is a common thing among Aspies when I was on the Wrong Planet forum.
Actually, I rarely talk to myself when someone else is around to hear it. I don't want to be committed and drowned like poor King Ludwig II,( many think he was actually suffereing from Aspergers Syndrome). Now, I don't think we can blame Aspergers for that rumor about his penchant for midnight campfires around which danced naked men, but really, who can blame him? That sounds like my kind of campfire.
Many people with Aspergers frequently talk to themselves.
Oh my, I would spin for hours up until I was about 20 years old, and even now, my favorite carnival rides are the ones that spin. I was also a rocker, not the musical kind, but I would sit and rock back and forth almost every time I sat down. These motions were so comforting to me. It was almost a compulsion. I love rocking chairs, although I don't own one. My son is a spinner and rocker, and I notice that he does it when it gets too loud somewhere, or when there is someone he doesn't know well around. He also does it to music, and just zones out for a while. I totally get that! Today, As I got older, I've switched from rocking to bouncing or shaking my legs. I can't just sit, I have to move something. I don't know if it is the Asperger's, or just something I just have a compulsion to do for no real reason. I also have a hammock in my front yard, and I don't lie down in it, I sit up and swing in it almost every day, unless it is too cold outside. It is so calming.
Spinning, rocking, repitive hand movements and the like, are classic for those with Aspergers.
Hyperlinked photo courtesy of izoom under CC license.
Extreme interests in selective subjects
I like medieval history and certain sciences, but I am not obsessed with them, they are just too broad as subjects. My obsessions are that I can sit and play solitaire for 6 hours straight, no joke. I can also fix a jigsaw puzzle from morning to night, without even remembering to eat. Don't dare come and try to help me though, because I didn't ask you to, and it will just irritate me unless I invite you (which I do only to be nice, not because I want your help). I play the exact same scenario in Heroes of Might and Magic over and over. I use the same characters, get the same abilities, and play the same map. I've played the same one hundreds of times, easily. I don't understand why. I just do.
Yeah, we get quite involved with our interests.
Now, I'll talk about medieval history because that's an interesting subject to me, I'll talk about astronomy, geography, the paranormal, or just about anything that is educational. I like having deep conversations, even when I don't know much about the topic I'll be an enthralled listener, but the idle chatter? Why? I can do the chatter thing long enough to be polite, and if there's humor, I'm totally thrilled, but I just get bored with hearing about your bridal shower, and I'm just pretending I want to see a picture of your latest boyfriend. I guess it sounds like I'm a total -----, but I'm not, I'm actually really nice, and I understand you are proud of your wedding and your boyfriend, but I need you to understand that I just don't get why you are telling me these things..
Many people with Aspergers are seen as aloof and arrogant. We just don't always need the kind of social network other people do. There are those with Aspergers who really do want to make friends and belong, they just haven't learned the accepted social norms, so they are teased, or called rude. They have a lot of trouble with social interactions. I did at one time, but I've learned how to interact within the norm, my problem is that I get easily bored with them.
People with Aspergers have a peculiar relationship with language. Some have a highly developed language, but can't use it adequately. Some have a problem with metaphors and take things literally. Some stutter, or did as a child. Some have a problem understanding sarcasm or humor.
Me? I can be quite sarcastic, understand metaphors, (although my first thought is the literal meaning), and have no problem with humor whatsoever, dry humor being my favorite type. What I have a lot of trouble with is putting my thoughts into words. I have trouble describing anything. I think in pictures and images, and the words don't come to me easily. I wish I could just transfer images to you, and not have to find a way to describe to you how I'm feeling or seeing your question. Most people just want a quick answer, so I've learned all the accepted responses.
The weird thing is, I know a lot of vocabulary, and can understand a lot, but I tend to use the same adjectives over and over, like: cool, awesome, amazing, weird, a lot, (which I noticed after reading through this). It takes a lot for me to talk to a person and express what I'm thinking, the vocabulary just doesn't come to me. Writing is easier because I can go back and re-write something so that it is better understood, or pause while trying to come up with the right word, but talking to someone on the spot...I usually have to really think about what I'm going to say.
Hyperlinked photo courtesy of nofrills under CC license.
Where I put my furniture is where it will stay for the rest of my life, unless I have to rearrange it out of necessity. My dishes will stay in their place, not moved to a different cabinet. I will park in the same spot unless it is taken. I really hate change, and you can imagine how being a foster child was so incredibly difficult for me, not that it is easy for anyone, mind you. Actually, I think being in foster care exacerbated some of the Aspergers behavior, but it also forced me to keep a lot of it hidden. Now, I don't completely freak out over change, but I have to allow myself some time to absorb it. I was a military wife for 16 years, and things were changing all the time, but there was notice beforehand, so I was able to put myself in a certain mindset. I actually looked forward to seeing new places and experiencing new cultures, but the move was crazy stressful. Once settled, I drank in the beauty of these new places and did not want to leave.
My ex used to invite people over for dinner and surprise me with only a couple hours notice, or allow our kids friends to spend the night nearly EVERY WEEKEND! That would drive me nuts!
Hyperlinked photo courtesy of danshouse under a CC license.
It has been said that some people with Aspergers have problems with empathy, and sometimes it has to be learned. They say if your child has Aspergers, you may have to teach them empathy and compassion. I'm not exactly sure what the criteria for my empathy and compassion is, but I have to be careful not to let it consume me. Sometimes, I believe I am cursed with compassion, and it takes a lot for me to let go of it. I can walk a thousand miles in another man's shoes if I choose, but I have to be so careful, because I have trouble taking them off, and that can be damaging to the soul. I try not to watch the news or read the newspaper for this reason. I still think about things that happened years ago.
I have just come to the realization that I show no empathy or sympathy when I am around people. I become detached, and I believe it is because I cannot handle the out-pouring of emotion of others. I think this is why many believe those with Aspergers are incapable of empathy/sympathy. When I am alone, I can cry over a silly commercial! I actually cried once because of how they were treating the caveman in a Geico commercial. Yeah, I realize that's kind of weird, but welcome to my life.
My son has Asperger's and I've seen the same thing in him. I've seen him struggle to control emotion when around other people, especially negative emotion, and then he'll shut down and show no emotion, and go about his day. It doesn't mean he has no capacity for the emotion, but that it becomes overwhelming.
Many people with Aspergers don't understand body language, voice inflections, and other social cues. They have trouble looking someone in the eye, or just the opposite, they practically stare you down. I probably had trouble with understanding the body language, but being a foster child taught me how to read people. Becoming withdrawn and watching people like a hawk taught me a few things about body language. I'm not sure if it is exactly the body language or if it is that I feel what they are thinking or how they are receiving me. Perhaps it is a combination of several things, but a man in Panama came up to me out of the blue and said he felt that I had the gift of discernment, so maybe it's that. I do feel things about people.
I think those of us on the autism spectrum may be more intuitive than we are given credit for. Perhaps that is nature's way of making up for the lack of abilities in other things, like understanding social cues, or maybe it is something we develop out of necessity. Of course, that doesn't mean we know how to react to those intuitive feelings, or what to do with them!
Some of us with Aspergers have trouble focusing on just one sound. If you are talking to me while two people beside me are holding their own conversation, you need to really speak up, because I am unable to tune them out, or any other sounds that may be around. You have to speak loudly enough to drown out the other sounds. Don't mumble, because I won't be able to understand you. I hear the wind blowing through the trees, the leaves rustling, the birds singing, the sound of my own breathing (at times), and I have no idea what you are saying. It's worse in the restaurant. I have to focus so much on what someone is saying while the microwave is beeping, the fries are sizzling, the cooler is running, the cacophony of yakking voices, the sound of people walking on the tile floor, the dishes rattling, and a slew of noises I can't distinguish. Believe me, I'm not trying to lay my head on your shoulder, so quit grinning, I just can't hear you.
Some people with Aspergers can focus so intently on a sight or sound that all else completely fades away. I can't do this.
Hyperlinked photo courtesy of surfzone under a CC license.
I have quite the talent for this. I am kind (unless you REALLY irritate me), intelligent, and confident, but I probably will not talk to you unless I have something I need to say. I usually don't want to meet new people in person, however, it doesn't bother me online, because I know you won't surprise me by showing up at my door, uninvited. Hosting is something I'm terrible at, and it is so incredibly stressful for me!
So back to the alienation. I am not much of a chit-chatter, so I will just sit quietly and listen...maybe. If there are more than two of you, then I will probably leave and stand somewhere alone. Many people think this is arrogance or shyness. It is neither, since the more people there are, the more talking and over-talking and chaos. I just don't like it, unless it is a truly engaging conversation. I used to work in a restaurant in small-town Alabama, where there weren't very many in-depth conversations. By the way, I hated working in the service industry. It chipped away at my soul. So loud and chaotic...
I am sensitive to touch. I don't like shaking hands and I don't like hugs at all. I do it because of social convention, but it is very uncomfortable. Touch is just so personal. It is like being touched by someone's entire being. It is like the buffer between us is gone and our personalities have touched and something is exchanged. I can't explain it well, I just know that it feels very uncomfortable. I would never be able to go to a spa. The idea of a massage is horrendous. There have been a few times when a hug was perfectly okay. Like when my son is sick, he will sit in my lap and I will put my arms around him. (He has Asperger's and also hates hugs. That is him in the picture getting a hug from his sister.) I have even had a few hugs from my friends that has been acceptable, but it was at a time of fun and sharing in one's excitement. Perhaps it was the sharing of an equal emotion with someone I was comfortable with, so there wasn't an awkwardness or disorder in it.
I remember as a child when I would have to sit next to my siblings, there were 5 of them so it happened a lot, I would smash myself up against the car door, or arm of the couch, or whatever, so they wouldn't be touching me. God forbid I would have to sit in the middle....what horror.
Other things I contribute to Aspergers
There are a few other oddities that I attribute to Aspergers, like how I have to eat one thing at a time. Put three items on my plate, and I cannot take a bite of this, and then that, and go back and forth. I don't like the tastes changing from one to the other so quickly. I eat all of one, and then move on to the next.
Many of us with Aspergers are ruled by music. OMG! I am all about the music. It just moves through me, around me, over me, it can give me chills. It's as if I feel it on my skin. I get lost in it. On the other hand, if I really don't like the song, it grates against my skin.
Don't tickle me or I will hurt you, and laugh in your face while you bleed. Really. I HATE to be tickled. My senses are over-sensitive, and that includes touch. If you really want to piss me off, tickle me. Now, if it's accidentally, okay, you're forgiven, but don't you dare do it purposely after I've told you not to.
The beauty of nature is enchanting. We see, hear, and feel it all at once. Not that other people don't, but when there's a colorful sunset, I'll be the only one at work who will stop and stare at it. Do they not see this? It doesn't matter that it was just as beautiful for the past 1,000 days in a row, I am still enthralled by it.
I used to work in a restaurant and could finally quit after 7 years. I had always hated it. The constant chaos was exhausting. This was the only thing I could do that would allow me a flexible schedule, but I dreaded going to work. Dealing with some of these ridiculous people was enough to make me wonder if the restaurant emitted a beacon for those who sit at the bottom of the gene pool. I did have a few co-workers who made my day easier. I had built up a working relationship with them over time, and actually have a few I call friends. If it weren't for them, I don't think I could have stayed as long as I did.
I don't like extreme tastes. Nothing too sweet, bitter, sour or salty. I rarely use salt. Honestly, do they have to put so much salt on french fries and potato chips? I'm not a cow, I don't sweat like a horse, so I don't need a salt lick.
Hyperlinked photos courtesy of cutiegonebad, Page Dooley, and parl under a CC license.
Learn more about Asperger's Syndrome
Drawing from his own experiences and gaining information from his teenage brother and sisters, he wrote this enlightening, honest and witty book in an attempt to address difficult topics such as bullying, friendships, when and how to tell others about AS, school problems, dating, relationships and morality.
Do you share some of these traits, and how do you deal with them? Now, I'm sure most people share some of these to an extent, and some of them overlap with other disorders, or no disorders at all, some may just be a person's particular personality trait, but if you share most of these, then maybe you are one of us!