If I Could Have Seen Me Now

“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay. That’s good. You gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day, I swear.”

(Matt Smith, Doctor Who)

It is now a year since I was diagnosed with moderate/severe Asperger Syndrome and in some ways my life has changed beyond recognition. I still vividly remember the night when I received my diagnosis. It was bitterly cold; the kind of cold that gets into your clothes.

 My parents came with me as they are best placed to answer questions about my formative years when I was too young to remember. The building was old and probably used to be an old nineteenth century mental asylum or a similar institution. It was a private mental health hospital and judging by the refined décor and very plush carpeting it showed. What was most telling about the building’s age was the ceiling’s ornate plaster cornice that ran parallel to the edges of the ceiling, as well as the highly detailed wrought iron balustrade that ran along the stairs to the waiting area. The steps were of that old type, too close together for my big feet.

 We didn’t have to wait for very long before the specialist psychiatrist beckoned us into his office. I was so surprised at the ardent certainty in his decision. My previous experience in these types of situations was my mother’s descriptions of me both as adult and child was, he told us, the most important information he needed, along with his own observations and tests of my social behaviour.

 Looking back I realize how afraid I was, which I didn’t know at the time. That night my thinking was that if I had Asperger Syndrome then something is wrong with me, or at least my brain. Although if I did not have the condition it would mean that my all of my past problems were totally caused by me and I wouldn’t know why. If I wasn’t diagnosed it meant that all the times that I’m lonely because I’m boring/annoying/too much of a smart arse etc. All of those times when I say things that seem okay to me but upsetting to others it would be because I’m stupid, or that deep down I’m a bad person.Image

 Immediately after the diagnosis I was mentally numb because of all the different things I was feeling. I felt relieved because it meant that my failure as a trainee teacher wasn’t all my fault. However, I also felt that I had let my parents down. They had just looked on as their only son was officially rubber stamped as defective, disabled, or just plain not normal. They were quite positive in their usual practical way of urging me to seek the help and support that having an official diagnosis can afford me.

 What has changed since then?

I am a lot more positive about having Asperger Syndrome. I try to strike a balance between emotional self flagellation and totally unabashed Aspie pride, as I find either counterproductive in interacting with the other 99% of the population.  Having the diagnosis has put me into contact with some wonderfully kind, interesting and supportive people, such as the people at my local NHS Autism Service and my job coach, all of whom I greatly enjoy spending time with.

Another way that the diagnosis has helped me is that it helped me to understand myself. Now I know that a lot better it has allowed me to be myself more readily, which has done wonders for confidence problems that I have been trying to tackle for several years.

Since 4th March 2013 I:

  • Go to the cinema more often (sometimes by myself, but that’s OK too!)
  • Visit a local chess club to play with others
  • Go to parties more often
  • Regularly socialize with my university peers
  • Play the ukulele
  • Can Deal with my anxieties better
  • Tailor most things to suit my Asperger brain
  • Know my hobbies make me less, not more boring
  • Am studying a course I can do and enjoy

I wonder how different I will be in another year’s time…

 

‘Life may change, but it may fly not;

Hope may vanish, but can die not;

Truth be veiled, but still it burneth;

Love repulsed, – but it returneth’

 (Percy Bysshe Shelly)

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On what should have happened in ’92 (pt. IV)

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…

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