Asperger's Lockout: The Things I Can Never Have Due To Having AS
Remember the scene near the end of the 2003 film adaptation of Peter Pan when Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys were back home in London joyfully reuniting with their parents?
Remember when Peter was hovering outside the window watching that reunion, with the narrator talking about how he was seeing the one joy for which he must forever be barred?
As an adult male with Asperger's Syndrome and consequentially being rendered socially and emotionally disabled, I feel that describes me whenever I see someone in my age group (early 40s) with a family and a career, living in a nice ranch house and driving an SUV.
I don't wear tights or leaves or believe in fairies - sorry, Tinker Bell - and I definitely cannot fly when thinking happy thoughts or by any other methods, but I think I know how Peter felt looking through that window.
Believe me when I say that I tried to do everything that American society said I needed to do as an adult; I earned my degree from a good college, joined the workforce in my chosen field, which was education, and worked hard to achieve my goals - or so I felt.
That was why I was devastated when I ultimately failed in my quest to become a teacher and a coach, either getting fired or being forced to resign from nearly every job that I had in the profession.
I didn't realize until it was too late that my Asperger's manifested itself in the fact that I'm not very good with most people, and that I strongly dislike - if not all-out hate - being told what to do by those who I don't see as authority figures, like colleagues.
This was especially the case during the last few years I was teaching P.E., tutoring, coaching, and working as an after school counselor.
Having obtained much experience in the field through the years and expecting to be left alone to do my job, I was extremely offended every time someone who was not my supervisor tried to correct me, give me "suggestions", or tell me how I needed to do better at something after working my tail off.
I always thought, "Who the hell are you to talk to me that way?"
It wasn't until I quit my last education job after someone half my age tried to tell how to improve when I realized once and for all that my high functioning form of autism prevented me from ever working in a mainstream employment situation, a top-down hierarchy with everyone above you being your superior.
I should have known this was the case when in a six year span, I had no less than four nervous breakdowns. I found myself bitterly snapping at people, locking myself in my bedroom for three or four days, and suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts.
Those nervous breakdowns always happened after co-workers and others would complain about me and tell me what I needed to work on after putting my heart and soul into whatever I was doing.
In their mind, they were giving me constructive criticism; I understand that.
In my mind, however, they were insulting me and letting me know that they thought I sucked.
To me, they were nothing but pompous enemies talking down to me and trying to bring me down.
Considering that I worked with young people in some form for roughly twenty years, that hurt. Particularly when the people criticizing me and trying to order me about were sometimes barely more than half my age. I couldn't help thinking that I could have coached or taught these folks at one time, and now they were trying to lord it over me?
It made me feel like they thought I was a stupid and retarded fool.
This conviction would no doubt be denied by those who I was involved in those issues with. Because of my having AS, however, my mind just could not conceive that they were trying to help.
My personal chemistry renders me as unable to interact with most individuals in a submissive manner, I totally get that now.
Because of my being an "aspie" - short for Asperger's - I realize that I am better off working independently; I'm at my best when left alone to do my work with as little interference as possible. Anything deviating from that causes anxiety, which leads to extreme unhappiness, depression, and nervous breakdowns.
I do not deserve any of that. No one does.
Interestingly enough, that still has not kept me from feeling left out of what is commonly known as the American Dream, even though I know that conforming to the image of the wife, the 2.5 kids, and going to a high rise office in a suit and tie would be like wearing a strait jacket for me.
And even though I know full well that my niche lies elsewhere and always has, that still hasn't kept me from feeling like a loser in life at times; I just can't help it.
I cannot help thinking that some people see me in my situation, living at home in my forties and being supported by my mother, and think that I'm an inept retard.
Asperger's, according to American standards, has robbed me of the social skills necessary to succeed in life. It has deprived me of the emotional capacity and ability to work with most people, especially in the area of taking criticism.
Some will say that I need to "grow up", "be a man", "take responsibility", humble myself and do whatever I need to do to be able to interact with folks in a way where I can experience success.
Unfortunately, with my disability that's impossible.
That is why I have been pursuing a career as a writer and a blogger these past couple of years; it's a profession that I have talent in - or so I've been told - and it is something where I can be left alone more than when I was in education and coaching kids.
I completely understand that God created some people to be able to take orders and scrutiny, to not mind that much someone in their face constantly telling them how they're falling short of their standards.
I also understand that I am not one of them.
And I suppose that's just the way it is.