If you’ve stumbled across this blog entry, it will be because you were searching for advice and support for aspergers/autism and your search engine enquiry guided you to me. So first of all I would like to welcome you, and I hope that what I have to say will assuage some of your concerns and the feelings of “differentness” and isolation that I am all too familiar with.
I am a woman in my late thirties, and I am autistic. High-functioning perhaps, but autistic all the same. My teenage son is low-functioning autistic and lives away from me because I also have epilepsy and cannot possibly meet his very specific personal needs. This hurts me, but it was a decision I had to make for both his sake and mine and we see each other regularly.
It was around the time that my son was diagnosed (twelve years ago) that people began to notice that I, too, display a lot of autistic traits. I stim when anxious; I daydream; I dare not speak in a large group until I’ve listened to the conversation for a while; I take everything literally. Certainly my brain absorbs information in a completely different way to the brain of a neurotypical person.
As a child there was no name for my symptoms and I was just “that weird kid” who most people avoided. I, of course, only wanted to be liked – but it’s difficult to get anybody to like you when you take gentle and harmless teasing as an insult, have a horrible temper and will go into aggressive meltdown mode at the drop of a pin. I was sent to a child psychologist, where my symptoms were blamed on a variety of factors in my life (my parent’s divorce, bullying, hating my Dad’s stepfather and hating my Mum’s boyfriend). To the psychologist this ticked all of the boxes and made her life easier. I was fifteen years old, but even then I knew that none of what the psychologist was saying fitted with anything I was feeling. My thoughts, feelings and emotions were a Medusa-like tangle of hissing snakes in my head and I couldn’t untangle them from each other for long enough to examine and understand them.
All the same, I had to continue pretending to be normal. I was delighted when I left school, because it meant that I could just be myself.
I was fully capable of working until just a few years ago, when my epilepsy caused me to be counted amongst the ranks of the disabled. It took a long time – and a break to give birth to and raise my son – to find my niche, but there is always the perfect job out there for those living with aspergers and autism. I found my niche as a care assistant; beneath my intelligence level according to my family, but it was a job I loved and the people I cared for loved me. My “differentness” amused them, because I wasn’t afraid to be myself around them and so I could be downright silly to make them laugh. Because I am autistic I often lack empathy, but on the plus side I also lack the ability to feel foolish when I’m not being a “grown-up”. To me the happiness of others is paramount, and I will do whatever it takes to get just one small smile from someone who may not have smiled for days.
There are some true positives to being autistic, and I know now that I would never not want to be autistic. I am older now, and I am balanced and happy with a wonderful (third) husband who has grounded me over the last five years. Being autistic I made two terrible mistakes in marriage as you can see, but I have never let my past – or being autistic – prevent me from finding love. I’ve always known that I am worthy of love, and that I can still be likeable, and I now have a husband who loves me for who I am and not for what I might have been, had I not been autistic and epileptic.
If anything, being autistic just makes me work harder, fight harder and love harder. I have always believed that the harder you have to work makes the reward that much sweeter. I am a tryer and I never give up on anything.
I would like you to know that, for every one thing that you cannot cope or deal with (for me it’s money and numbers – I need my husband to keep a handle on those two things for me) there are at least three things that you excel at. You may not even have discovered some of your hidden talents yet. And those things you think of as “obsessions”? They can lead on to some truly amazing things.
For instance, I am a well-known singer in my home town. I can play several string instruments thanks to my mild obsession with them. In pub quizzes you want me on your team for the English, history, music and general knowledge questions. I can name a bird without seeing it, just from its song – thanks to a lifelong fascination with our feathered friends. I’m a keen and talented gardener, can nurse houseplants back from the brink of death and propagate cuttings as if by magic. I make the best piccalilli my mother has ever tasted (and a few other things too) and I could cross-stitch like a pro from the moment I picked up my first kit and was shown how.
There is also my undying love for sci-fi (especially Doctor Who). This particular “obsession” has gained me a lot of friends and I would not be without this sci-fi love of mine. It is my comfort blanket, as well as the very thing that has led to some incredibly strong friendships. Naturally this fandom draws many autistic people to it (I never met a fellow autist who wasn’t geeky about something I’m passionate about) and so I don’t feel alone in the crowd any more – I’m just one of a large group of pleasant people who aren’t quite the “norm”. I don’t know who “Norm” is actually, and I’m glad I’m me and not him because he sounds crushingly dull.
I have almost no barriers and will talk to anybody, which makes me quite popular in my local neighbourhood because I am approachable and friendly. Manners are extremely important to me and I am almost pedantic about being polite to others. In a pub one New Year’s Eve I invited myself to somebody else’s balloon fight and ended up laughing and dancing with a whole new group of friends. They may only have been friends for that one night, but they liked my quirkiness and my lack of embarrassment. If I want to get up and dance I will get up and dance and as long as it’s making me smile I don’t care who is watching. People, I find, are drawn to a naturally friendly person who seemingly has no inhibitions and always has a smile and a “Thank you” to hand.
I am autistic. I am loved. Most importantly, I am proud of who I am. I wouldn’t be the person I am now if not for being born with a differently wired brain to others.
To you who is reading this, please know that I understand your current frustration and that I am speaking to you as a friend. I am not simply writing about me, but I am writing for you. Please know that you can reach out and talk to me. You can either follow my blog or follow me on Twitter. Touch me with your words and I will not run away. I will be there, guiding and comforting you, for as long as you need me to be.
Be yourself. Love yourself. Embrace the amazingly complex, intelligent, wonderfully eccentric character that you are – because you are autistic and you are incredible.
Much love to you my internet reader and friend. You don’t need to find me, for I am already here, listening.