Aspergers unmasked

 

Masquerade

My posts to date have described my somewhat traumatic childhood.

They have also discussed my ongoing development of gratitude, my continuing journey towards full acceptance and my growing relationship with and love of poetry.

While my posts and tweets remain faithful to the truth, there is an important aspect of my life on which I have thus far remained silent.

My current daily walk/struggle with Aspergers.

The comfort of intellect

I have had a love of books from a very early age.

  • Initially Science and atlases.

I then developed a limited interest in literature, particularly books of intrigue.

  • I was reading Frederick Forsyth in 3rd grade.

Although I was intellectually hardwired for this kind of reading material, my obsession was clearly in part a response to my social isolation.

At school, withdrawing into the comfort and safety of my intellect and being a champion swimmer were my survival skills.

  • They reminded me that I existed!

But 30 years after graduating High school, intellect and exercise are still my security blankets.

  • They are what I have instead of ‘in real life’ friends because

Outside of my family, my friends are to be found exclusively in my social media networks and I am grateful beyond words for these friends.

  • Most of whom I have never met!

But I still cling, often quite desperately, to the intellectual rock that has always, in large part, defined me

But the fact is that despite all my love of linguistics, statements of gratitude and exaltation of Beauty I am a clinically disabled individual.

  • I am Autistic which places my social intuition abilities in the bottom percentile!
  • Against which, tragically, my top percentile IQ is often of little help!

Living with Aspergers

My life with Aspergers is quite different to my private intellectual life and my business life.

  • It is often also quite different to how I present myself here on social media

I find people, in real life, very confusing and experience them as jigsaw puzzles, with missing pieces and no puzzle picture.

I’d like to share with you what it feels like when I try to understand and participate in social communication.

Pick 2 Nursery rhymes, any 2 will do.

  • Now recite them alternately, from memory
  • Nursery rhyme 1, word 1 – followed by – Nursery rhyme 2 word 1
  • Nursery rhyme 1, word 2 – followed by – Nursery rhyme 2 word 2 etc
  • See how far you get!

That is pretty much how I feel most of the time when interacting ‘socially’ UNLESS there is a very strong intellectual element to the discussion.

  • It causes me considerable anxiety at a social gathering, having to adopt the persona of a Zoologist, knowing that everyone else is managing to interact socially in a way that requires no more effort than that needed to breathe!
  • So since discovering I have Aspergers, I now mostly avoid social gatherings
  • When I was still trying to ‘fit in’, I would ‘self medicate’ with alcohol; common behavior for many undiagnosed Autistic people
  • I would have just enough alcohol at the social gathering to numb my anxiety
  • Eventually I needed a few drinks at home, before going out and facing the horror of another ‘social’ evening!

I stopped drinking alcohol after I discovered I have Aspergers.

  • It seems that the Autistic mind is usually better off without alcohol
  • This is certainly true in my case and is something with which my Doctor concurs

I stopped drinking alcohol overnight, with no unpleasant effects.

  • By the Grace of God, I seem to have been blessed with an immunity to physical substance addiction
  • Or as one friend recently described it, we have undeveloped or missing addiction receptors πŸ™‚

But the social anxiety remains and not just with ‘outsiders’

  • I can and do experience the same level of anxiety when misunderstandings occur with my wife or my children

Since being clinically assessed with Aspergers and ADHD I have been prescribed a number of different medications.

  • The Aspergers medications of course treat only the effect/symptoms, without treating the root cause

In consultation with my Doctor I am now relieved to be taking just the minimum number of medications, being

  • Antidepressants
  • Medication for acute anxiety – taken only when needed – but more often than I would like and more often than you might guess

Epilogue

Some of the kindest and most generous people in the social media Autism community, who appear to suffer the least, may suffer tremendously.

  • I have learned this first hand from those who have been open and brave enough to share with me
  • In the context of the Autism spectrum I am probably one of the luckier ones!
  • Those with Classical Autism and many, many with Aspergers suffer in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine

Please also remember that some of my most inspired tweets and blog posts may very well have been penned on a day that I was hanging on by a finger nail, in despair – even if I make no mention of it, which I usually won’t πŸ™‚

Masquerade

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ictus75
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 15:59:15

    I hear you. My life is much the same. While I like people, I shy away from group social activities because they are too chaotic for me. I have a difficult time conversing, because I can’t filter out the background noise. I much prefer 1-on-1 or 2 people at the most.

    Anxiety is such a weird thing and can spring from out of nowhere. I try to avoid situations that may trigger a response.

    I’m a voracious reader, mostly Sci-Fi, and was reading Robert Heinlein in grade school. ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ changed my world. While I love learning, school/university was difficult socially, so I have learned on my own just by reading any & everything.

    Since being diagnosed with Aspergers I’ve been better able to understand my behavior, and make adjustments/changes that have improved my life. But things still sneak up on me and have me at their mercy once in a while.

    Reply

    • spectrumscribe
      Jul 20, 2012 @ 00:14:11

      Thanks for sharing. Heinlein was popular when I was at school but I never got into his work. Will pick up a copy of ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. Thanks

      Reply

  2. Louise
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 11:51:59

    I can understand a little of how you feel, having suffered with mental illness, depression & anxiety. I felt very alienated from the world, & like you, I socially excluded myself. But I finally found an outlet through writing…it helps me to express how I feel & I’ve found some wonderful people here in the blogsphere & twitterverse. I’ve learnt never to apologise for how I was feeling & I found people much more understanding than I ever thought they would be. I wish you all the best with your journey & your enlightening blog πŸ™‚

    Reply

    • spectrumscribe
      Jul 18, 2012 @ 12:18:54

      Thanks Louise,

      I too am finding writing to be a wonderful outlet, although some of the memories can be uncomfortable.

      I was able to relate to your blog posts very well.

      I appreciate your words of encouragement, particularly from an Author.

      πŸ™‚

      Reply

  3. Nils Geylen
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 00:05:47

    Makes me cry, so many similarities (near mirror image, even the brief interest in intrigue fiction, the social alcohol, the disconnect).

    Reply

    • spectrumscribe
      Aug 14, 2012 @ 00:55:49

      Hello Nils,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      It is good to connect with kindred spirits through my writing.

      I want to maintain a balanced perspective on my blog.

      I do have stories of success, joy and about my gifts.

      But I think it’s also important to share some of my struggles, the sadness and the pain.

      Reply

  4. Ictus75
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 11:41:35

    Thank you for this post. I have a very similar life experience. I could’ve written this. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this struggle.

    Reply

  5. Lynda Young
    Oct 18, 2012 @ 09:30:31

    You have such a gift of words and you connect to hearts of others. You open the door to understanding for those of us wanting to encourage others in our family on the Spectrum. Empathy is hard for them, but hard for us too. The more we understand each other- the better. I have a book, Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum- to come alongside families and bring hope. Thanks for your tweets and blogs. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

  6. Steve Borgman (@SteveBorgman)
    May 27, 2013 @ 15:38:09

    I am so blessed by your perspective and willingness to share your experience. I also am so grateful that you, like many others, have found community in the form of social media and writing. Thank you for becoming another one of my autism spectrum teachers.

    Reply

  7. andybfair2013
    May 28, 2013 @ 03:17:39

    Hi Speccy, (That’s short for spectacular)
    I don’t know where to start. The more I delve into reading the blogs of others with whom I resonate the more I understand myself. But I’ve got to say mate your blog really tugs on the heart strings. You sound so much like me it’s not funny. The difference is though my written org skills are up the creek. I’m still undiagnosed but I’m learning how to recognise sympt’s from different areas. I wish I had your talent for a beautifully put together blog.
    Thank god you gave up the drink. I found out the hard way Drugs & Disorders & Booze Don’t Mix.

    Reply

  8. Caroline
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 00:04:51

    Reading your posts is helping me understand my boyfriend, who has Aspergers. I appreciate your honesty, it really is helping others.

    Reply

  9. Shae
    Oct 17, 2013 @ 19:36:33

    I resonate deeply with this, and your follow-up post. It is very hard. People who know me (whether online or off, which is the minority by far) think I must be off when I mention being autistic/aspie. They surely think I must have the mildest version ever, or that I am mislabeled, or something along those lines. They don’t see the struggle. They don’t see me; they see a version of me comprised of hard-won coping skills and strategies. Double edged sword…the coping is necessary, but it also further isolates me in many ways, even though it allows me to have somewhat better social exchanges (on the limited basis that I have any, between being a recluse and also disabled is physical ways that limit my activities and keep me mostly housebound).
    I digress. It’s a hobby of mine, digression. I suspect I have no need to explain this to you πŸ™‚

    Thank you for your bravery. It matters.

    Reply

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