Thursday, December 30, 2010

That's Claritin Clear!

You know the Claritin commercial where everything is all fuzzy and then that layer is peeled away and the colors are bright and the picture is clear and everything suddenly makes sense? That’s what my Asperger’s diagnosis feels like. I have learned that, while listening to another person talk, I must put on my interested face and nod at what I think are appropriate times and occasionally say things like “Yeah, I know” or “You’re right” or “What a jerk, I can’t believe he did that to you”. This is what “normal” people do. While I’m doing all this, my brain is screaming, “I don’t care about this. It has no affect on me. Please stop talking. Seriously. Stop now. Shut up. Shut up. I’m begging you, please stop talking! SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!  JESUS H. CHRIST, WILL YOU JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP???”

I have never understood why other people don’t seem to have this inner voice begging to get away from small talk or boring conversations. Before, I would get overloaded and have a meltdown and not know why. I would feel the need to go straight to my bedroom when I got home from work so I could be alone for awhile and I wouldn’t know how to make my roommate understand that my need to be alone did not mean she had done something to make me angry. I would feel endlessly guilty about not missing my mother when she moved overseas or the fact that I don’t notice if I go long periods of time without talking to my sister. I would force myself into social situations that I knew would upset and exhaust me because I didn’t know why they upset and exhausted me.

It makes sense now. No more fuzzy picture.

Now I know the causes of what I have always considered my “weirdness” and I am learning to take care of myself. I was able to say to my roommate, “Look, my senses get overwhelmed and I need time to recover from the day. I need to go to be alone for a little while and I need you to know it’s not about you or anything you’ve done. When I feel better, I’ll come back downstairs.” I was able to tell my boss, “I can’t deal with all the crazy noise here. I’m going to close the door to my office and play a white noise track through my ear buds. I can still hear if I get a phone call, so it won’t have any negative affect on my work.”  So much better than flipping my shit and screaming when things got to be too much.

This new world of mine is an amazing place.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Looking Through a New Lens

When I look at things that I have always tried to shove down because they weren’t normal through this new Aspie lens, I realize more and more how much of myself I have suppressed in an effort to fit in. I’m a list maker. I’m terribly disorganized, so I make lists to try and organize my brain. Naturally, I’m making lists to sort through what I can do to make my life easier now that I know what it is that’s causing the endless freak outs. This first list I’ll call, “Shit I Thought Was Wrong With Me.”

  • “Can you see where I’m coming from?” No, I can’t. If you are reacting to an issue in a way that makes no sense to me, I can’t force myself to see it your way. You can try and try to explain how you feel, but I just don’t get it. No amount of explaining is going to make me understand why you want to take the action you’ve chosen to take. I don't want to talk it out, either.  Say what you need to say, I'll say what I need to say and then let's move on.  I've never understood the need to talk a topic to death.  For most of my life I have thought this meant I was insensitive.

  • “You don’t call, you don’t write…” Sorry, I just don’t notice if long stretches of time go by when I don’t talk to you. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. I don’t need the constant contact that so many people need. I’m good on my own. I used to think this meant I was selfish and I forced myself to put on my neurotypical costume and endure so much face time when what I wanted was solitude.  I beat myself up for years because I thought I wasn't supposed to want to be left the hell alone.
  • “You’ll change your mind about wanting kids when you meet the right man.” No, I will not. I have never wanted kids. I can be very maternal with my friends, but I am not meant to be a mother. Kids are messy and noisy and refuse to do things in an orderly, scheduled manner. I need a routine and lots of quiet time.  I do not need a house full of legos and unidentifiable odors.
  • “It’s not THAT crowded.” To you, maybe. To me, being around too many people at once is sheer hell. At the same time, there are certain times when I can deal with crowds. At a theme park, when I’m alone or with one or two friends, I’m okay. Yes, there are a lot of people, but everyone is going in a different direction and I’m in a small group. I can cope with that a lot better than I can deal with a general admission concert. No assigned seats, everyone pushing to get closer to the stage, everyone with the same destination – too much. The last one of those I went to, I ended up at the back of the venue alone while my friends were in the middle of all the chaos.  Guess what?  Going out with your friends and ending up by yourself sucks balls.

  • “But you’re a performer, so you can talk to anyone.” True, I was in show choir and drama in school and I was a tour guide at a local theme park when I graduated high school. I loved being on stage and it was easy for me. For a little while, I could interact with people without really interacting. I was just playing a part. When first I got my tour guide job, I delivered fifteen minute tours from the back of a tram – zero human interaction. Later, I was trained as a VIP guide, which meant that I had to take groups of up to fifteen people into the park and interact with them for four to eight hours. I hated it. I also spent some time working as a leasing agent at an apartment complex and as a concierge at a convention hotel. I despised both jobs. Where I am now, I can keep human interaction to a minimum and it’s the best job I’ve ever had. It would be even better if I could telecommute and cut down the interaction even more.
  • “You’re overreacting.” You might think so, but I’m reacting the only way I can. I can’t help but get riled up over what you see as “little things”. I can become intensely aggravated by a shirt tag or the sound of dripping water. I can totally lose it when my routine is disrupted. I will freak out because I can become overwhelmed by things most people don’t even notice.
There are plenty of other things I can add to this list and will as I explore and examine my life so far. This is a whole new world for me. I never thought learning I was different would be the thing that finally made me feel normal.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A 34 Year Old Baby

That's how I feel these days. As if I have been someone else my whole life and I have finally been reborn as the person I really am. I was the weird kid. Smart, socially awkward, immature, obsessed with one thing or another for long periods of time -- I just always figured I was everything my peers called me. I was a nerd, a dork, a geek, a freak and any other thing they could think of to call me. Add to that the fact that I was hyper-religious and it was a recipe for lonliness. I had two friends throughout elementary school, one of whom confessed to me years later that she had told all the other kids that she was only pretending to be my friend.  I can hardly blame her.  I was weird as hell.

My social detachment, my difficulties with noise and crowds, my tendency to meltdown after trying to force myself for too long to be like everyone else -- these things have always made me feel abnormal. I'm supposed to want to be around people, but I crave time spent alone. I love music, but noise drives me up a wall. I don't miss friends with whom I've lost touch, but I feel like I should. I love my mother and I love spending time with her, but I didn't even shed a tear when she moved to another country after marrying my stepfather. I loathe talking on the phone. I'd much rather communicate via e-mail. Facebook is my main method of socialization.

So now I'm learning who I am. I am embracing my weirdness.  Anyone who has a problem with who I am can eat me.  I'm a FemmeBurger, people.  Go ahead.  Take a bite.  I'm delicious!