Intoxication and a Strained Relation

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I’ve had ups and downs this week. The good thing is that after turning down the opportunity several times I went for a drink with some of my peers and staff from the university after a department research seminar. This, in itself, had ups and downs because after finally putting myself into a situation where I can have a nice social chat with interesting and like-minded people I could hardly hold a conversation because everyone else was so loud and drunk. I was drinking too but I could only manage a couple because the beer was awful.

I came away with mixed emotions about the experience because I was pleased to have challenged myself, but annoyed because it was useless to try to talk to anyone as I either couldn’t hear them, or they were talking complete gibberish in their booze addled state. Part of me was also guilty because I felt a bit like I should have enjoyed it because everyone else seemed to. The best thing about it was that if I never go again it won’t be because I feel I cannot because of my Asperger’s, but because it’s just not my kind of scene. I think that is an important thing to consider when you have the condition. There has to be a balance between taking yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things, but not in order to change who you are as a person. I’ll never be the life and soul of a party, but so are lots of people who don’t have Asperger’s. It depends on your personality, and Asperger’s isn’t a personality type any more than dyslexia or having blue eyes.

What’s brought me down was a conversation with my Dad where he asked me a very open question (some open questions I’m OK with) so I didn’t answer in the way he wanted, as I wasn’t quite sure what he was asking. I won’t bore you with the domestic details but in short he decided to abandon the conversation after talking to me like I’m mentally disabled. It all culminated with a rather vehement rhetorical question: “You’ve got a really serious problem, do you know that?!”. 

I said nothing after that. I was feeling such intense emotions so I just couldn’t react. I was hurt. I was being derided because of a mental difficulty I was born with. I was angry too – incensed – because it was like an insult because I was treated like a mental inferior. I’m much more intelligent than my dad. If he went to school for fifty years I would still be smarter than him, and there I was, being spoken to like an idiot. The most annoying thing is that he was at my diagnosis and was told that I need a small amount of clarification to answer big open questions because I don’t always get the gist. He was also told that even if I improve my social skills I won’t get it right 100% of the time. So he knows what my ‘serious problem’ is and how to get around it, so why didn’t he have more patience? It just goes to show that even when regular people are clued into what the condition is and how to deal with it they still just forget or don’t bother.

Feeling like trading with the other 99% of the population at the moment.

Sorry to vent a bit. 😉

 

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The Ringing Grooves of Change

‘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.

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Pitchforks (pt. I)

ImageEver since I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) I have kept it a secret from the majority of my family.  For a while I was a little ashamed to have AS as it did initially make me feel like a broken toy, and lesser than regular people.

When I was at school I was the typical social outcast. Whilst I did hang around with other misfits, it was often a lonely experience. I was afraid of girls, especially the pretty, popular girls, as they frequently taunted me and tried to humiliate me in front of their friends. I hated this more than being bullied by the other boys, because I could fight them if they refused to leave me alone. I now realise that what these girls were subjecting me to was social bullying, I could throw a punch in a fight but, because of my AS, I felt powerless to respond to their taunts. I think that if they knew that I had AS they wouldn’t have been as bad to me as I think that most of them wouldn’t bully someone with a disability. To them it was all about having their fun – I don’t think that they genuinely knew how it made me feel.

My reasoning behind my decision to keep my AS a secret was partially based on these experiences. I thought that if people thought I was lesser than them because I’m a bit weird, they would have a definite reason to think so if they knew that I have an abnormal brain. You might be thinking that my family wouldn’t bully me, and you’d be right, however I worry that they would treat me differently. There are quite few old-fashioned types in my family whom would think that having AS means that I’m mentally retarded and may start patronising me like a victim of some unfortunate accident. I’m reasonably sure that they would gossip about it, along the lines of “I always knew there was something not right about him”, or “I’m not surprised, he’s always been an oddball”.

I’m sure that my worries are unfounded, but I find it hard to imagine how other people would react if I did tell them. I recently applied for a job in a corner shop that was less than sixteen hours a week and I was basically told by the manageress that they wouldn’t hire me because I had Asperger’s Syndrome. Luckily I didn’t feel too offended because if she was ignorant and prejudiced as her decision made her seem, I wouldn’t enjoy working for her anyway.

There’s a fine line to tread. Being treated differently is good when it means that those around you are trying to be inclusive, but I hope that they don’t take it too far. I always remember how Asperger’s Syndrome expert Tony Attwood puts it that with AS the brain is wired to be different, not defective, which is something that I will stress to anyone who takes too much pity on me.

I find it difficult to picture social situations, especially what will happen and what I should say. So because telling people I have AS is such a new experience for me I have no protocol or script that can guide me, which makes me feel a bit anxious and quite hesitant. Luckily, in my local town there is an NHS advice service for people with AS, whom I will be seeing tomorrow. It is so good to speak to someone who totally understands the problems that those with AS go through and I always come away with a better perspective on things afterwards.

In the next seven days I will aim to tell at least one person in my family that I have AS. Wish me luck…

 

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