I sat there in the office, looking at my doctor, who was just looking at me.
Moments ago he had told me that yes, I do appear to have it, but since I already know and am very self aware, why am I asking him to confirm it?
I didn't have an answer. Why was I seeking the answer from him? I knew the answer, sure. But hearing it is validation right? Or so I thought. It was the other words that hit me: you are self aware, you already know, you seem to have adjusted and coped just fine with it. Oh, and I should seek counseling as it is something that helps everyone.
I wanted to laugh hysterically. Coped well? Adjusted? Managed just fine? Did this guy even know me? I felt a little insulted by his assumptions. Oh, if he only knew....
Yes. I knew it already. I didn't expect to hear it, that wasn't the main reason I was there, but deep down I knew. I didn't really need him to tell me that I was on the spectrum, that I was likely an Aspie.
To me there is a genetic component. My son got it from me. Well that explains that then.
I guess if you can call a Bachelor's degree, teaching certification and being 2 classes away from a Master's degree "adjusted."
More like "damn lucky to have somehow navigated so blindly through the universe that never understood me or feeling like I ever fit in."
But sure. I adjusted well. (/snark)
I've actually sat on this for about 6 months now. Six months this has been swirling in my brain. I had no idea how to write this. How to put it into words. Until now, I haven't told anyone.
Not my mom. Not my sisters. Not my best friend. Not even Strike. No one.
I was talking to my dear friend over at Mutha Lovin Autism not too long ago about this. She had written an amazing post that really struck a chord with me. You can read it here. She told me that only I can make the decision on where to go with this information. I honestly still don't know. But right now I feel that it needs to be out there. I've sat on it long enough.
Will it bring more understanding? Probably not. Will people look at me differently. Probably. But I have always held to the belief that I will be true to who I am and embrace it.
Over the last 6 months I have thought about many things. Growing up, school, my degrees, relationships... I've had so many struggles that I think would have been less had I known then what I know now. I was fighting against who I was not understanding myself, my emotions, my thoughts. I'm a pretty intense person. On every level... O.o
One relationship stands out when I think back. It was just a few years ago. He was a really great guy, said and did the right things, and things were great. Until they weren't. How much of that was him and how much was me is debatable and not relevant. (It was really about 50/50 anyway.) What is relevant is my own over-reactions to rather simple and insignificant things. I perseverated needlessly on so many things. It became harmful. My own reactions being so strong and sudden and him not possibly able to know where it was coming from, was a huge issue. I still struggle with this today. But not just in general, specific to this relationship. Had I been more self aware at the time to my own thoughts and emotions, I think things would have gone very differently. He will never see this post, as I'm sure he has no idea I write or even have this blog, but to him, I apologize. I was pretty intense, wasn't I? ")
Does it matter? In the long run no. We are both very happy with our current situations, I'm sure. I know I am. What does matter is the ability to have self awareness.
Where am I going with this? Over the last 3 years I've developed this self-awareness. This has helped me tremendously and has trickled down to the kiddo. How? Knowing my own struggle helps me understand and help him through his.
I heard not too long ago that I am a different person that I was a couple years ago. I have made a point of changing how I was in an attempt to make my relationships healthier and stronger. I like this new me. I feel stronger. I feel better. I finally feel like "me." I am conscious of where my limits are and managing myself. I didn't have a name for it, it was just something I knew I had to deal with and work on. It's something I work with the kiddo daily on. He needs to know his and how to work with them. What I haven't figured out yet is my temper and level of intensity... Someday I hope to get there. It's work in progress and I am improving.
Knowing what I do now, so much makes sense. I even sat down to compile a list of things (a running list because I keep thinking of new things) that make sense now when you look at how Asperger's is described (you can find this list in the link above, all apply which threw me through a loop, but I'm just highlighting some here):
Things like head banging in the car. I needed to move, so I'd move. There was something strangely comforting about constantly banging on the back of the seat. (My sisters didn't appreciate it much though...) I craved the motion. I still do. I can rock or swing for hours. I was a very stimmy child, often flapping my hands and being told very sarcastically that I wouldn't make it off the ground by an uncle of mine... :/
I crave pressure. I am one who will sleep with the comforter when it's 100 degrees in the room. I need to feel the weight. I also have to have my feet covered at all times.
I was staring at objects from an early age, just watching them move, trying to figure out how they moved. A few years ago I remember doing this with a Hoberman sphere that my son has. I lost hours to that thing one afternoon.
I had a thing I can only describe as a "scissors feeling when in car." I would cry over this one. Whenever I touched something I felt as though there was some sort of invisible string still tying me to that object that I had to "cut" to release. Then I'd have to cut what I just cut. Then cut again. And again... You get the idea. Eventually I would just cry in frustration.
I am one of the most inflexible people I know. I'm very rigid in how I think and respond. I have a really hard time adjusting to changes in plans, especially when they are last minute. I can easily lash out. Zero to 60 in 2.3 I always say... Once the change is in my head, I'm ok. I can adjust myself after the initial panic, talk myself down, and be ok. I just have to get there first...
I also have to do things in a very specific way. I thrive on routine. Things have to happen at certain times and in certain ways or it throws me off. This morning I accidentally shaved my right leg first... Seems like a small thing but it really messed with me for a while after that.
I have a love of cats. That is likely where my son gets it from. Growing up my world revolved around them. I was convinced for years that I would be a wildlife photographer and go to Africa to photograph them. They are and have been an intense, deep, interest for me. I am very attuned to my kitties.
I have major sensory issues. The biggest one being the feel of my clothing when I'm tired. They just get suddenly uncomfortable. When this happens I get irritable. I even have to take off my watch. I also hate being wet. It is nails on a chalkboard for me.
I have a major need for music at times. It works wonders to regulate my thoughts and emotions. It helps calm me and make sense of chaos around me. If the kiddo is particularly vocally stimmy I will have to pop in my headphones in order to be in the same room. (Which hurts to say.) Many of you already know of the headphones and music we bought for him for the same reason.
I often live in my own world. I like it there. I feel safe there. Going with that, I prefer to be alone. I'm content to sit by myself undisturbed for long periods of time.
My whole life I have struggled greatly with who I am and where I fit in. I've never really felt I belonged in a sense. I didn't feel like I really had an identity unless I had a label: band member, cheerleader, admin, and eventually mom and teacher. I live by those labels. Without them I am lost.
I often have to rely on my friends in social situations for cues on how to respond to something. I often respond wrong and don't know it or understand why (a big issue in relationships, like the one I already mentioned). The issue here is that I am often seen as cold and unfeeling which is really not accurate at all. I easily offend and alienate people as a result.
As strange as it may sound, I keep certain objects near me at all times. It changes as times goes on but it's pretty consistent. As a result, I carry a large purse... I have a hard time letting go, objects or people.
My closest friends have always been male. I say it's because there is less drama (which is true) but men are often so black and white. This makes them so easy to understand. They also don't really seem to care so much about those minor social things that women pick others apart for.
I've always been very motherly, taking care of people and making sure everything is ok. This usually isn't an issue on a larger scale and it works nicely to counteract those who think I'm cold and unfeeling.
I'm very blunt and have no filter. This is not good in many social situations but over the years I have developed my skill for tact and diplomacy which has helped ease the sting on this one.
Growing up I found it easier to be friends with people older than me and had many adult friends. To this day I have friends who are older than me (as I age this gap closes). I've been told I have an old soul. I can only guess this is where that comes from.
I found it interesting than an intense interest in reading was on the list. I'm an avid reader and am never happier than when I have a book in my hands. My son shares this love of books and we currently have far more books than we have shelves to put them on! He recently came home and told me that the book fair was coming to school and on what day so I wasn't allowed to forget! :)
Appearing shy was also on the list and this one made me smile. Growing up I was often assumed shy because I am also hearing impaired. I would avoid large crowds and when I couldn't, I would be the quiet one in the corner. I would (and still do) avoid going to parties and large gatherings for this very reason. However, around trusted friends I would be completely out of that shell and show my more outgoing side.
I remember a little quirk I had growing up. I would circles around the house for hours. Perfectly content to circle, lost in my own world and thoughts. About 3 years ago now, my son was spotted doing the same and I had received a frantic phone call from my mother who was convinced the kiddo was upset and I needed to come pick him up. He was perfectly content, and I knew he was, but there was no convincing her. (She does not remember this but there was so much going at that time that it probably didn't stand out to her.)
The ability to hide how things really are? Got it. I am very well mannered in a sense and never reveal how I'm really feeling or what is really going on in my life. I find it very difficult to let anyone in.
I've always been very conscious of appearances. Always. Everything has to be "just right" or it won't work. I will change my clothes 6 times before leaving the house if something is not quite right. Going with that, I have to have certain things like my watch or a necklace. I cannot leave the house without my necklace... (I've also worn the same necklace for the last 4 years...)
I think it's obvious that I'm a writer. I used to write poetry. It all surrounded my feelings. Some of it has been published. I feel free when I write. I get lost in the worlds I make. I also draw. I love art. It's something the kiddo and I definitely share. I am also an actress. My first degree (BA) is in theater.
I guess that lets the cat out of the bag so to speak. To go back to the original question, why seek the answer from him? Validation in a world that has time and time again invalidated everything I have ever felt. Confirmation of what I know. The beginning of something to help make sense of my world.
For the last several years I have seen my son in me. It has been both eye-opening and comforting in many ways. I no longer wish to "see how he sees" because I realize now that I already do. As Mutha Lovin Autism said best: He is me. I am him.
Editor's Note: Before publishing this post I did send it to my family and Strike for them to read. I don't want to spring anything on anyone. As I expected, there were no surprises. I have also embraced my happy stimmy self which I'm sure is driving Strike nuts, but he needs to know what he's in for right? ;) I feel free. I feel happy. I feel better than I have in years.