I’ve lived an odd life. But I guess that probably isn’t too unexpected for an Aspergian (I don’t like the term Aspie). In fact, people often refuse to believe the stories I have of my life. But this post isn’t really about my stories so much as it about things I’ve learned about myself. I hope that someone can learn something from what I have to say.
I first heard mention of an Asperger’s diagnosis, just a few weeks shy of being 18 years, 6 months old. I was officially diagnosed with the gift (I do believe it a gift) around my 19th birthday. We’d always known that I was not normal and as a result, I’ve been to various professionals for help for most of my life, including speech therapy from before I can remember all the way through high school and psychiatrists and psychologists from at least the age of 7. I guess the speech therapy worked but I’ve never been to a shrink who really helped anything. As a result of the psych-profession troubles and the late diagnosis, I’ve really had to teach myself most of what I know about social interaction and had to figure out my own ways around my sensitivities. I still have to focus on things and have a lot of work still ahead of me, but I have managed to get to the point where I can interact successfully with people in most circumstances and can sometimes fool people into thinking that I am normal. Most of that self teaching has come in just the last few years though.
As a kid, it seemed that I was always in trouble. At the time, I almost never knew what I’d done wrong though I’ve since learned that most of it was the result of my Aspergian traits. I was in trouble so regularly as a kid that I grew to accept that I would always be in trouble. That acceptance and expectation combined with my desires to have control and understand everything led to a further reduction of my already limited fears of punishment. Thus, I had no reason to follow rules at home or at school and my behavior reflected that much to the consternation of other people. It also really frustrated me, because of the extreme futility of it all, which only made me more likely to break a rule. Truthfully, I have no idea what could have been done to stop this cycle, though rewarding me on those occasions that I didn’t screw up might have done some good.
I’m sure you all know that Aspergians tend to have a real intense interest in something and I was certainly no exception. I’m sure they were trying to help me somehow but my parents really didn’t handle my interest very well, they always seemed to be trying to squash my interest. There were times that they would actually try to directly stop my interest. Sometimes, they would set some unattainable goal (at least I viewed them as unattainable) as a prerequisite for my doing something I wanted with my interest. Many more times though, they would dangle my interest out in front of me like a carrot and then when I finished or neared finishing the necessary task, they would move that carrot and give me a new task. It wasn’t long before I just got really aggressive in my attempts to sneak around to advance my interest as much as I could and the “reward” that my parents attempted to use was no longer a reward at all and actually became a deterrent in some instances.
The biggest and worst problem had to do with the meds that psychiatrists always had me on to make me more “normal” and acceptable. There was a strong indirect correlation between how other people perceived me to be doing on meds and how I was actually doing. When I was in fourth grade I was prescribed a medicine (I don’t recall exactly which one) that induced headaches and sapped my energy to the point that I could barely move and couldn’t think at all but due to those things, my behavior improved to the point that my teacher and my parents loved it. There were other similar experiences on other medicines over the years as well. The worst case though began at about the same time as Asperger’s was first mentioned as a diagnosis for me and continued for just short of five years after that. This was a period in which I was on a number of different medications in one class (I won’t be saying which meds even though I could.). Each of those medicines affected me in the same manner, on them I became extremely depressed (suicidally so), paranoid, tired (I needed at least 14 hours a day and 21-22 hours on one of the meds) and an inability to think for myself in any kind of a meaningful way. That says nothing of the physically quantifiable effects like weight gain that I suffered. My psychiatrist, family and some of my “friends” had a completely different take on it all, they saw a mild-mannered, jovial and highly intelligent guy who was always well behaved. I can understand some of it as, I was basically a puppet for people almost always doing what told me to do and saying back to them while always keeping everything about myself underwraps due to the paranoia. After I finally got off those meds, I was subjected to constant attempts by people in my life to get me back on the meds for two years and then gradually decreasing attempts over the last year since then as no one is willing to believe that their perfectly rosy memories of me during that time (which I know were wrong in terms of my behavior at least at times) might be flawed.
This didn’t end up being what I had expected it to become when I began writing it but that’s okay. If someone can get a better understanding of how they might deal with an Aspergian or a better understanding of me then it has been worth my time in writing it.