Few people enjoy a party or night out more than teachers do; the truth is that being a teacher these days is tough indeed so any opportunity respite from the ever-constant pressures of work is grasped with both hands. Looking back I now see examples of my then undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome creating barriers for me in social situations.
In December 2011 I was an inexperienced trainee teacher and in the staff room the head of the P.E. Department asked me “what are you doing on Friday?” I replied that I was going to visit my nephew because it was his birthday. Suddenly the three or four of us that were in the staff room fell silent and one of the other teachers laughed at me and explained that I was being asking if I wanted to go out to a Christmas party with the P.E. staff . Before I could utter anything else I was told to “forget it” and the head of P.E. briskly walked off in a manner that suggested offence. This is a trait common to people with Asperger’s Syndrome – I was being too literal because I missed the unspoken social cues in the conversation. It made me feel like a complete idiot because the teacher thought that I had publicly snubbed his invitation. I didn’t know why I had made such a stupid mistake because I should have been diagnosed when I was three years old.
I t has never been unusual for me to upset people without meaning to and wondering why they were unhappy. I would often not even know I had upset them at all until situations got worse and it had to be pointed out to me. After failing my teacher training course I would finally get to grips with the reason why I always seemed so weird and different compared to other people of my age; how I never seemed to fit in with others and why purely social situations such as loud parties made me feel sick with anxiety.
After the course I couldn’t escape my feelings of inadequacy. I turned my anger on myself through self harm and alcohol abuse because I couldn’t handle the sheer intensity of the emotions I was feeling. I was put on anti depressant drugs and had fortnightly visits to the doctor, whom also prescribed counselling, which didn’t work very well to begin with, as I now realise that my atypical brain didn’t fit in with the process. After a while my mother, whose suggestions that I may have Asperger’s Syndrome I had scoffed at, had found out through the Internet that people with the condition were very often prone to depression and being obsessive about certain things. She had long told me that my obsession with Doctor Who wasn’t normal.
With this in mind I thought there wouldn’t be any harm in asking my doctor for an Asperger’s assessment. I soon found out that, because I was an adult, my doctor would have to apply for special funding in order for me to be accessed by the NHS. This could take up to two years, at which point I may be turned down. So a decision had to be made to spend a lot of money to get a private assessment, or to wait and gamble on the NHS…