One of the most painful and misguided misnomers and assumptions people make about those with Asperger's is that they have to be one way or the other.
For example, because it is literally impossible for me to distinguish between when someone is "just kidding" and being sincerely offensive, I never
know how to act. I usually remain polite and don't fly off the handle and work at being civil (although there have been times when people pushed
certain buttons that I simply could not accept and lost it, regrettably - we're all human,) but I can become defensive and am very sensitive to every
little thing people say and do. Things hurt me that would roll right off other people's backs, even if I don't always show it. Online it's even worse,
because I only have text to decipher people's intentions. And this leads people to think that I am displaying the "lack of empathy" Aspie trait, which
is not true.
It doesn't mean I lack empathy, which is often how the condition is characterized. Lacking empathy would make me a sociopath, when nothing could be
further from the truth. It would be more accurate to say that I lack the same capacity to discern people's feelings based upon social cues that
non-Aspies possess. If I know you're hurting, I care. Deeply. If I know I've offended you, I feel guilt. Intensely. And I absolutely empathize. But I
sometimes need to be told that this is the case, because unless I can hear it in your tone of voice (the one thing I seem to have little trouble with
- in fact, if anything, inflection really hits me harder than most non-Aspies even in my experience) I just can't tell.
And then there's this horrible dynamic that arises where people don't see you as a person anymore. If you find yourself in an awkward exchange, and
you have to explain, "Oh, gosh. I'm really sorry. I misinterpreted what you said. I have Asperger's and it's very, very difficult for me to determine
people's tone and intent properly. Please forgive me," then after that they may forgive you, but will forever treat you differently. You're no longer
"normal," so you are seen as being incapable of feeling or thinking anything independent of the Asperger's, and anything you say or think or feel is
viewed as, "Oh, that's just his Asperger's."
I have my own belief system, my own philosophical stance that governs how I treat other human beings. I believe in unconditional love and compassion.
And I can be a bit eccentric. Those are just parts of my personality and my worldview, but once someone knows I have Asperger's, it's as if those
beliefs become symptoms. "Oh, he's just latched on to that belief because of his Asperger's. He's just got Asperger's, don't take his eccentricities
seriously." No, that's genuinely how I feel and I'm expressing myself honestly and validly. My personality may be heavily influenced by my autism at
times, but that doesn't mean my mind isn't valid. You can still have perfectly valid feelings, beliefs, and thoughts while being autistic. But once
you've had to explain yourself because something happens that is
primarily because of it, people tend to think everything
about you is
because of it, and they become extremely dismissive or patronizing.
And, of course, since you're already prone to obsess and to feel everything in high definition, this hurts you and can at times even devastate you
emotionally. This results in you seeming extremely antisocial, even when - as in my case - in your heart you love everyone and just want everyone to
be happy, and in fact long for social connection and acceptance, even as your crippling social anxiety makes that difficult or impossible.
It's a very trying existence at times. But there are worse things, of course, and I'm thankful for what I have.
edit on 3/23/2013 by AceWombat04 because: Clarification, typos.