I found out that I had Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 47 years old. The only reason why is because I had a job as an intake worker for MHMR in
Texas (Mental Health Mental Retardation…..never let it be said that Texas is concerned with politically correct terms for certain conditions). It
seemed that I had an uncommon ease with these individuals, both MR and on the autistic spectrum. Me, who was always so incredibly awkward in
situations meeting strangers, had found my calling with these people and their stressed, confused families.
I had a particular connection with the Asperger’s crowd. All I had to do was sit in a room with them and I could diagnose them on the spot. Seeing
little Johnny or Jane sit on the floor lining up blocks or plastic dinosaurs was all it took for me to know.
As a part of my job, I was required to get their medical history. By the time these kids (or adults) came to me, they had been through a battery of
tests and many doctors, so their medical histories were usually written up quite thoroughly. As I read the history of the clients with Asperger’s,
I began to get the uncomfortable feeling that I was reading my own history. Memories of my childhood would come flooding back to me: Walking on
tip-toes, flapping my hands, refusing to talk, being overly-sensitive to stimuli, talking like a little professor at a very early age, jumping out of
my crib and wandering far away in the middle of the night, and not wanting to smile unless I had a darned good reason. Remembering the struggle of
something like learning to tie my shoelaces while learning to read happened overnight.
Back when I was a kid, nobody knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was. If you were a boy, you were just considered a bookish, awkward nerd. To be a
female with Asperger’s was a much harder proposition. It seemed that all the girlish traits so desired in little girls in the early 60s were
missing with me. Dolls scared the hell out of me. Their plastic faces were extremely frightening. Given a doll on my second birthday, reportedly I
screamed, threw the doll, and had a meltdown. Don’t even mention clowns. I couldn’t even look at a picture of them or see them on TV. Scariest
dudes on the planet. Jewelry to me seemed silly. What was the purpose of a chain around the neck or wrist? Stick shiny things on your ears…why?
I wanted to play with the toys my brothers had; tinker toys, erector sets, hot wheels, rubber balls. Instead, my parents, like most parents back
then, tried to force me into the straight-jacket that was the feminine ideal. Dolls, frilly dresses, Susie Homemaker pretend kitchens and
housekeeping items. Here’s a plastic shopping cart and plastic groceries, along with your plastic pots and pans….have fun with ‘em, that’s
going to be your life.
Oh, and my favorite by far: The Mystery Date game. The game for little girls in which the winner gets a handsome, suave doctor or lawyer in a white
sport coat, and the loser gets a raggedy bum or a mentally-challenged surfer. Because it’s never about who you are as a person, it’s about how
beautiful you can make yourself in order to get a rich guy to support you.
At least I could have books and stuffed animals. I wouldn’t have had much of a childhood without them.
As an adult, relationships were a challenge. I kept watching women that I admired, and then emulated their actions and what they said, because if I
let the real me out, all hell would break loose and I would be socially punished for behavior that seemed natural to me, but offensive to everybody
else. I understand how dogs feel, when they do what comes natural and then get smacked with a newspaper and chained up outside, never fully knowing
Anyway, I decided to take an online quiz that I found that was extremely effective at diagnosing Asperger’s traits. Here is the link, for those of
you who wonder if you could possibly be an Aspie:
After scoring in the range of “you’re definitely an Aspie, no doubt about it”, I decided to get a formal diagnosis. I got it, of course,
although the doctor said that I was a high-functioning Aspie. Most older female Aspies are. If I weren’t high-functioning, I would be sitting in a
mental ward with a cocktail of medications keeping me sedated, or I would have killed myself from the frustration of it all.
For those of you who are neurotypical, here is what it’s like to have Asperger’s: It’s like being born without skin, and you feel 100 times
more than the average person does, not only on the outside, but on the inside. When you feel happy, you feel hysterically happy. When you feel sad,
it is overwhelming, like drowning in molasses. When you feel angry, it is black and absolute. There are no shades of grey in your life. You either
like something, or you hate it. When you have an interest, it is all-consuming and you pursue it to the exclusion of everything else. When you learn
about something that interests you, you will keep chasing every last bit of information on it and ruminate over it until you are an expert. We are
like terriers, once we grab hold of something, we refuse to let it go.
Social situations are frightening, confusing affairs. Not only is it too much noisy stimulation with words flying all over the place, but chances are
you’re going to screw it up. Somebody’s going to go home from that event and think that you’re quite the oddball, and they would be right, of
course. Either you will be mute, or you will run your mouth about subjects only you care about and bore everybody within earshot to tears.
Some Aspies, including myself, have a hard time not only reading people’s faces, but remembering them. A face really has to stand out for me to
remember it, otherwise you could meet me one day, then see me the next and I will treat you like a stranger. Likewise with names, I can never
remember them. If you introduce yourself and tell me your name and your birth date, I will remember the date but not the name.
I get lost easily in places I have been to many times before. That part of my brain has faulty wiring, and it gets worse when I’m fatigued or have
low blood sugar. I have trouble with the concept of right and left and often confuse the two. I almost didn’t pass my driver’s exam as a
teenager because when the instructor said turn left, I turned right, and vice versa.
Thinking rapidly and on the fly is not easy. You have to go somewhere quiet where you feel safe and think it through. When something happens that
makes you angry or sad, you have to go somewhere and process it. Sometimes your brain will stop working properly and leave you stranded when you need
it most. Say you are with another person, and suddenly they act out of the ordinary, or attack you verbally without warning. You will sit there,
unable to comprehend what is happening, unable to make a move or say anything, and all you know is that something bad is occurring and you have no
idea how to react, so either you freeze or you run away.
People who are touchy-feely around you make you most uncomfortable. Strangers who come into your home and start poking around feel like a violation.
Don’t touch me, I have no skin! My home is my shell and when you are in it, you are inside my safety zone.