‘Let the great world spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.’
Alfred Tennyson (1835)
I got some really good advice last Friday. People probably won’t make my Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) a big deal as long as I don’t either. I haven’t managed to tell any more of my family about my AS, as I haven’t had the opportunity. This made me feel disappointed, but I think that it’s for the best because I have learned from my local Autism advice service that telling people is best slipped into everyday conversation, and not to make an event of it. This is because the news is more likely to be well received as Asperger’s won’t be the whole point of the conversation; this takes away a lot of pressure from me too, which can only be good. So, at least I can use this strategy when I do eventually share my diagnosis, as I am determined to.
However, I refuse to let this week’s instalment be uneventful. Today I had my subject induction for my master’s degree, where I would meet my peers on the course for the first time. I have to admit, and this is probably true for those without AS, the sheer amount of information; going to new places and meeting new people has made me feel a bit sick. Meeting strangers is so hard for me because I don’t know how to act as don’t pick up on any vibes they may send me. I can’t tell if they’re just being polite and don’t really want to talk to me, and I can be too formal because that is my default mode when meeting new people because it’s the only way I can be sure I don’t unwittingly offend anyone – although, it’s not 100% effective as it might make me seem unapproachable or cold.
Starting with the bad news first: the opportunities for socialising were very sparse at best. And lots of people already seemed to know each other and had formed groups, which made me feel a bit of an outcast. What gets me through it is to remind myself that there were several other people who were on their own too, so, to paraphrase Tom Jones said: it’s not as unusual as I initially thought.
However, more positively, the few short conversations I did have with some new people went quite well. I didn’t waffle on about myself and my interests, and I didn’t make any obvious social mistakes (I hope!) and things can only get better from there, even as I hate big life changes.
I have that typical Asperger’s problem with change. I have set ways of doing things, including what order I eat food in, and when they are disrupted or changed it is a source of great stress until I can get used to a new paradigm. Also, there is one change that is most disquieting for me – that is doubt. Before I failed my teacher training course I never doubted myself academically and I always knew very well what I could and couldn’t do in everyday life too. I was told by many teaching professionals that I would make a fantastic teacher, and I thought wasn’t a single reason why I couldn’t do it – until I found out that I cannot successfully communicate a good lesson plan to a group of thirty teenagers. How do I know that I won‘t be wrong again? That I’m not as clever as I thought? All I’m clinging to at the moment is that the university read a few thousand words of my previous work before they decided to give me my spot on the course. I should probably trust their judgement.
Thinking of last week’s entry again: your first response to my not following through with my bold claim to tell someone in my extended family that I have AS is that I wimped out. However, it is because I didn’t do this which makes me feel very proud, even though I didn’t reach my goal this week. Ghandi once said that ‘glory lies in the attempt to reach one’s goal and not in reaching it’, which best describes how I feel. It was a shame I didn’t have an opportunity to share with someone that I have AS, but I am so pleased at how far I’ve come that I would be willing nonetheless.
This goes to show that not all change is bad. This time last year I was getting drunk on my own and slashing myself with a kitchen knife to cope with such intense feelings of failure and worthlessness. Eventually, so that my parents wouldn’t notice any scars, I used to staple my arm with an office stapler, how pathetic was that?! Now I’m finally getting on top of things, so I can’t let doubt creep in and poison my new start. My mum summed it all up for me tonight. She told me that when you ride a horse if you look at the ground, that’s where you’ll end up.