Happy Autism Day!

I thought I’d write something for World Autism Awareness Day. I consider it a special holiday to celebrate my weirdness. That may seem irreverent given that I’m supposed to be “suffering” from it. And I have – lots.  Do you want to see my badge of honour?

NO. Today I want to talk about actually being HAPPY. Happy with being me, happy being the way I am. And I want to talk about how to make me feel happy. Sometimes it feels like being happy is something I’m not very good at. I feel as though negative emotions come easily but positive emotions are fleeting. I can’t actually name any, besides I don’t know er … happy?  Oh God, I’m out of practice! Even when things are going ever so well, I always find a way to piss on my own parade: “This must be a joke.. I don’t deserve this .. at some point it will all go wrong, what if they find out I am WEIRD. What if they don’t like me?  What if .. what if?”

Well, here is basically a cheat sheet on how to make me feel a little better.

  1. DO be honest and transparent at all times. I feel less anxious when I know what is happening and when.
  2. DO try to understand that my brain is wired for negativity. Joke about it, by all means – I think I am hilarious. Just DON’T dismiss me as a “negative person”.
  3. DON’T socially reject me for no real reason and leave me wondering what I did/said wrong. I would honestly rather you just tell me I am an arsehole rather than leave me feeling worthless and confused.
  4. DON’T interrupt me when I am concentrating on something or in my own little world. It’s like being suddenly awakened from deep sleep. No matter how much I like you, this will really make me hate you and not want to talk to you.
  5. DO NOT spring things on me. If you want me to cook something for example, you might want to tell me a few days in advance so that I know I need to dedicate my entire Saturday to this meal!
  6. DO be specific.
  7. DON’T shame me for not being good at those things I’m not good at, like basically anything practical. I have survived this long doing things my own way so don’t treat me like a child.
  8. DO try to understand that when I get stressed/overwhelmed, I feel like I am going insane. When I haven’t slept well and am feeling anxious, I feel like I am falling apart. Don’t make demands on me at times like these! PLEASE DON’T tell me to “grow up” or minimize how I feel.
  9.  Don’t put my cutlery in my food. Also, I do NOT share food!
  10.  I can’t think of a 10th unfortunately.

I am really thankful that I am on the AS spectrum. Or more specifically, that I found out that I am. It’s really helped me to actually figure out HOW to make myself happy, how to explain to others what I need.

I feel like I have some kind of frame of reference. I don’t shame myself anymore for finding certain things daunting or stressful because I know WHY now. I know I am not just this hopeless person who doesn’t know how to do stuff. I know why I am smart in certain ways, but really stupid in others.

Knowing I have high-functioning autism has really helped me to try to develop boundaries and accept myself, rather than feeling like my life is one long uphill. I understand now that I am probably not depressed. I just find it depressing that everything seems like so much effort. I often want to be alone. I often look forward to being asleep. I cherish my time alone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my partner. I just can’t be ON all the time.

I feel like being on the AS spectrum is like trying to power a small city with a single 60W light bulb. I think I am not so much weird (and yes I am reclaiming that word) BECAUSE I am on the spectrum, I think I am weird because the stress of trying to be NORMAL has been so much to bear all these years.

So let’s celebrate our diverse weirdness and more importantly, having an actual name for it.

A very HAPPY Autism Day!!

A

“Channelling” – Imagination as Coping Mechanism

One of the things that is weird about my brain is my ability to channel other people. It’s something that I am deeply embarrassed about and I can imagine it would make a psychiatrist’s eyes light up one day (when I get round to going ..)

I have had a few obsessions with famous dead people from time to time, starting as a random interest, but progressing further and further into my inner life so that eventually I would actually imagine myself as that person.

Did I believe that I literally was that person? Of course not. I am not actually insane. I have always been aware of exactly who I am! My channeling other people was/is a social mask. A sort of psychological armor. A self that I could overlay temporarily onto myself, especially in situations which I found daunting or for which I didn’t have the energy as “myself”.

Not just famous dead people by the way. I can “be” a TV character from a show I just watched and I often find myself taking on certain bits of my friends’ personalities too.

I have this fundamental identity fluidity. I am a chameleon. When I was a teenager, I first had this terrible realization that if you scratched my surface, there would be nothing there. I couldn’t identify who I really was inside. I have this ability to take on little bits of other people. Not like I don’t have a soul, but more like I have an ever-changing fluid one. It’s not often conscious, I just find it happening.

A friend who was into hand-writing analysis looked at my handwriting and told me that I “don’t have a personality”. That was years ago now, but it still hurts. There are, after all, bits of my personality that I wish I could change. Its not exactly as simple as just saying: “I’ll be someone else today”. That’s not how it works! For example, I am always nervous when I am performing (singing is one of my hobbies – strange one for an aspie, but I think it’s helped me to grow a lot, and face my demons). I can’t just visualize myself as a person who doesn’t get nervous.  It would be great if it did work like that, but sadly not!

This channeling always happens more when I am in some sort of state of stress or flux, where something is going on in my life that I perhaps don’t have full confidence that I can deal with it as myself.

Maybe that’s why I also have trouble identifying with being a woman. How can I be a woman when I have zero trouble “being”a man (without even changing my appearance). I guess I feel like a drag queen or a man who transitioned to be a woman. Autogynephilia is probably my middle name. I like myself en femme. I think underneath, I am fundamentally not a woman though. It’s just another role.

Perhaps this fundamental fluidity is why I feel so confused and betrayed when someone dislikes me.  For example, there is a girl at work who literally has never liked me and I was never able to work out why. I also didn’t work it out for, like, two years so it hurt even more. I feel like I obeyed the social rules. I showed interest in her, asked her questions, tried to be friendly. But it didn’t work. That means there is actually a me to dislike, and that there is evidently something wrong with that me. I guess I should be relieved that I have enough of a personality to invoke actual dislike. But it really hurts and I don’t even know why it hurts so much, since I don’t like her either!

I guess I feel like social interactions are transactional as in, if I am nice to you, you should be nice to me.  Of course that isn’t how it works, not in the playground, not at school, not at work – nowhere.  Because people are shit, unfortunately.

Recently I have started to experiment with going “full robot mode”. Just allowing myself to be myself. Not smiling or laughing if I don’t feel it. Allowing myself to feel the emptiness inside without judging. It is so fucking liberating. But it’s also lonely and a bit depressing. What’s the point if everything and everyone is just fake?

There is a chance that I have adopted a kind of narcissism as a defense mechanism.  I feel like underneath I am still this feral little kid – not a bad kid as such, just a kid who didn’t give a shit, or take any.

 

Aspie girl : neurotic grumpy loner!

Try the personality test here

I am currently studying for a “diploma” in psychology just for personal interest and I found the results of this test most interesting!

So turns out I’m a neurotic grumpy loner! Quel surprise! 😀

 

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At the moment, I’m reading a rather interesting book by Kevin Dutton called “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” and he talks about the “big five” elements of personality. To which he added a sixth, being “persuasiveness”.

Naturally, I wanted to see how my personality would fit within this matrix and how I compare! Well, the one single point in common between me & a psychopath seems to be low agreeableness.

You see, I have a new “Aspie Obsession”, being psychopathy. How I came to be interested – well let’s just say experiences with certain people! And naturally, being exceptionally neurotic and anxiety-ridden, I have started to second-guess myself and question my own humanity (as you do). The awful thing is that once you see the dark side of human nature, you suffer a permanent loss of innocence. You can never “unsee” it. Furthermore, you become acquainted with the dark cupboards of your own mind and all those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that really do make you wonder …

From my reading so far, I think we need to get one thing clear :  AGREEABLENESS should in no way be confused with CONSCIENCE and neither should EGOCENTRICITY be confused with a desire to interfere negatively with other people.

I admit to being profoundly selfish. My husband has ulcerative colitis and I once blithely remarked that it “turned out quite well for me”, since we both eat more healthily now and he doesn’t make me eat spicy food anymore. (And some people think I’m a “negative” person!!)

However, my introversion and neuroticism stand out as very salient differences between me and a psychopath, especially the neuroticism! My tendency to be anxious and to drive myself mad with repetitive negative thoughts is a far cry from the expansive, self-assured (and deeply irritating) confidence exuded by those extroverted types. In fact, I cannot stand extroverted people sometimes. I find that they cannot get anything done for all the pointless banter, small-talk and general messing about!

And now I have another anxiety in my life .. that people think I’m a psychopath. Which is absolutely ridiculous!   Anyway ..

As for conscientiousness, It depends on the situation really. In my academic work and in the workplace, I have a good work ethic and a certain dogged insistence on doing things “properly”. It irritates me no end that many people seem unable to read and follow simple instructions!

I can seem arrogant and condescending in that sense, simply because so many people are idiots! I don’t profess to be a genius. My IQ is technically above average at 108 but hardly anything special. And yet, I can read, fancy that! I like to do things in a standardized way as this limits the likelihood of mistakes and I do rarely make any! This is not a big-headed statement, it’s just true.

However, you should see my bedroom! And when I cook, the kitchen looks like a war zone afterwards. And moreover, I don’t care. Not about these things. My car is fucked up and I don’t care. I am incapable of keeping anything I own presentable for very long.

At university, I must say that I didn’t sit in the library all day. I didn’t party that much either and spent most of my time with my then boyfriend. I mainly drank lots of coffee and sat in bed reading. In true Oxbridge style, I’d stay up until 4am writing my essay for the next morning. I tend to procrastinate. I need the adrenaline rush of an approaching deadline, which isn’t that unusual to be fair.

So am I really conscientious or am I just rigid and inflexible? Is it that I actually care, or is it merely a tiny little devil with OCD sat on my shoulder?  Is it a function of neuroticism and fear of bad karma, rather than my being some kind of model worker? I am descended from protestant German people so that would definitely explain the work ethic. There is a certain comfort in believing that if only I try my best, things will turn out OK.

I think basically the issue is that I haven’t been quite .. socialized.  Maybe this is a similarity between those on the AS spectrum and sociopathic individuals.  I think the key divergence is predatory aggression. Aspies just want to be left alone.  Psychopaths on the other hand actively seek to exploit, use and manipulate.    They wear a “mask of sanity”. Aspies wear a “mask of sociability”.  Other people are not “prey” (what a strange thought). Other people are just rather .. tiresome.

I am in many ways basically a child. My husband tells me that I need “parenting”. Sometimes, he makes me angry on purpose because apparently the way I get angry is amusing. “Like a cat”.   I find my behaviour around him to actually be my most authentic. I can be completely myself, exactly the same as if I were by myself. I still do need time alone, but I find his presence relaxing.  I think this is the only kind of relationship or friendship that an Aspie will find truly rewarding.  I think that’s why we go in for deep, intense relationships and friendships and why we find shallower, more superficial relationships tiring and somehow soulless.

It’s not that we are shallower than those around us. On the contrary – we’re deeper.We don’t do half-arsed. Either we care a lot, or we don’t. Either we really, really like you, or we don’t. Either we find something fascinating or we have literally zero interest.

And I think the more I learn about myself – and more importantly accept myself – the more I think

FUCK IT, I THINK I’LL JUST BE ME.

 

 

 

List of Female Asperger Syndrome Traits

Courtesy of this site :  http://www.help4aspergers.com/pb/wp_a58d4f6a/wp_a58d4f6a.html

Amazingly, this is the only really comprehensive “diagnostic” list I have managed to find. As an Aspie, I do like a good list!  I think this is incredibly useful and should be shared whenever possible quite frankly.

I identify with the vast majority of these to varying degrees.  Even the points that do not apply to me so much still kind of apply.  I am very high-functioning, but in a way that’s a curse as even my husband doesn’t believe that I really have AS.  He said that I just “want something to be wrong with me” and that I am just “angry, a bit weird and kind of an arse”.  Thanks.

I don’t know why it is so hard to understand that sometimes I just want to be left alone. That’s basically it – I need a lot of time to myself, to be in my own world.  I think when it all gets too much for me and I go batshit crazy mental (especially if I am hungry, stressed or tired), then people assume that I am just an angry person.  They see that I can be so “normal” most of the time, so they don’t appreciate how much fucking EFFORT it is to even talk to people most of the time!!

Sometimes I really feel like just giving up and not even trying anymore.  Sometimes I feel like a just want to be alone and be left alone.

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List of Female Asperger Syndrome Traits

Asperger’s & Empathy

I wanted to write a post specifically about Asperger’s and empathy, from my specific experience, as I feel there is a certain misunderstanding that “people with Asperger’s don’t have empathy”.  This is so wrong – in fact nothing could be further from the truth!

For me personally, I seem to EITHER feel a certain lack of empathy (which I am ashamed of) OR a sudden, overwhelming flood of empathy (which I am embarrassed by!)  I should add that I was brought up in a family whose members rarely ever demonstrate any feelings at all.  I cry very easily at books, films etc. In my family, I actually count as emotional.  However, the display of feelings (either my own or other people’s) is something that makes me deeply uncomfortable.  So uncomfortable, that I sometimes say something completely inappropriate or insensitive just because I CAN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE.  I have a very black humour.  It is definitely a defense mechanism for me.

I feel like I cannot choose what affects me and what doesn’t. I am unmoved by mere facts. I need something that connects with my soul somehow. For example, when I saw the planes flying into the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the news seemed to go on for EVER that afternoon, I honestly just wanted to watch my post-lunch soap. I could not understand why they had to play the same thing over and over again. Yes this has happened and it’s a “bad thing” but we’ve seen it now and I just want to watch my programme!

However, later on, when I heard stories from real people whose loved ones had gone to work that day and never come back, I was extremely moved. Equally stories of those who survived simply because they were “lucky” enough to have a cold that day and stayed home.  I found it excruciating to watch Renee Fleming trying to sing through her own tears, especially since music connects with me on a deep level.

Speaking of music, certain pieces just make me cry. Mozart’s clarinet concerto for example. It doesn’t have words, I don’t associate it with anything in particular in my life. And yet I only have to hear it and .. just thinking about it actually makes me feel sad.  Why, I have no idea! This has been the case ever since childhood.

I think that it depends on whether I can actually PERCEIVE someone else’s pain. I think that is it exactly.  I need to have it actually demonstrated to me.  If you were to tell me that you are depressed, or tell me you have a headache, or tell me that you are angry – it just doesn’t mean anything to me.

On the other hand, if I see someone who is crying, screaming, writhing in pain, visibly injured in some way, then I would react just like anyone else would.  I also react very strongly to situations that I myself am terrified of, or would hate to happen to me, or situations I have actually been in.

Also, being unable to react in the best way isn’t necessarily a sign of not caring. One time, my colleague started crying in the middle of the office. It made me feel sad and subdued for the rest of the day. However, I wasn’t very comforting .. I seem to remember that I got up and waved my hand at her, saying “if you need to go outside, just go, just go, get some fresh air”.  Like, basically, get away from me!!  It wasn’t that I didn’t care per se.  I was just embarrassed and ill-at-ease. I knew what to do of course. I just couldn’t.  I was one of the people in the office who probably cared the most, but I acted like I totally didn’t!  And I am still beating myself up about it too!

Like a psychopath (lack of empathy is supposedly one of our lovely traits in common), I have a limited appreciation of what they call the “reality of other people.”  I really genuinely cannot imagine anyone else having an inner life.  I have no idea what anyone else is thinking or feeling and that scares me a bit.

I feel sometimes like I am living on a planet with a load of unpredictable, scary, talking animals.  I hate the fact that people can smile and be polite to your face and then talk bad about you, for example.  I hate the hypocrisy and duplicitous nature of human beings.  It sucks.  I suffer from this, I am hurt by this.  It makes me start to feel contempt for people.  People. UGH.  You get the picture.

Anyway, in conclusion, I would like to point out that people with Asperger’s are actually the opposite of psychopaths and the two cannot be confused. AS people act cold, but we are sensitive inside. We don’t pretend to care. We do care, but have trouble expressing it.   We don’t fake our emotional reactions as, since we have nothing to hide, we don’t need to make a big show of “feeling”.  We don’t give a shit about the majority of humans, it is true.  But for those humans who are special to us, we are loyal, trusting (and trust-worthy), affectionate and devoted.

When I say “we” it is because it makes sense rhetorically, but I cannot claim to speak for all women with Asperger’s.  But what I can say is that we definitely do possess empathy!  It’s something that is kind of hard to describe and quantify so I would be interested to read anyone else’s thoughts on this.