Dave is 44, he lives in Florida, USA. I found him through his blog Life in solitary. Sixteen years after beind diagnosed with bipolar disorder Dave realized he in fact has autism. His self diagnosis was confirmed on July 21st, 2016. Read Dave’s story here.
No, it’s not going to be about the film with James Franco.
I usually feel overwhelmed in new situations, and was often told to ‘work on my confidence’. Now I know this is because my brain needs time to process all the new data without selecting what is and what isn’t important and confidence has really nothing to do with that.
Instead of focusing on what to say I will be thinking about how the room looks like and how people are dressed. It’s not a choice and I can’t control that as that’s how my brain works. If there is really a lot going on and I am stressed on top of that, I may have a shutdown. For me it feels like I can still remember what is happening to me but I don’t understand it. Or, if you prefer: my brain can still record but can’t process until the shutdown is over.
The last time it happened to me was at an interview for another post within the company, two weeks ago. I didn’t get the job, fair enough, but what worries me is that whithin just over 30 minutes I managed to make a total fool of myself.
The post was only advertised internally and there was no section about adjustments for interview on the application form. I have been working all my adult life and I’ve been on many interviews before the thought of Asperger syndrome ever crossed my mind. So I thought I’d be fine without adjustments.
The interview was in another town, in a service that I never been to before. I also never met the manager. I came in and I was invited into a small office where I had to sit at a small table with two other people. I always felt uncomfortable while sharing small space with a stranger. If that wasn’t enough, the manager kept quite intense eye contact.
I felt horrible. Not only I wasn’t thinking properly but I started getting nervous tics. It was such an intense effort to speak that I could barely control what I was actually saying. I could still see it wasn’t going well but the manager didn’t comment on that, she just kept going through her questions. That made me even more confused. I really couldn’t understand at the time that even if she already knew I was nothing like who she wanted, she still needed to finishe the interview.
At the end the manager asked if I had any questions. I didn’t. How can you come up with a question if you aren’t actually thinking? It’s even more difficult than comming up with an answer. But I felt I needed to speak up, that it was my last chance to make a good impression.
‘Just say something’ – I said to myself. – ‘Whatever comes to your mind.’ So I opened mu mouth and spoke up: ‘If you choose me, when would you like me to start?’
I still remember how the manager looked at me, but only understood later what that meant. ‘Do you really think I’m going to choose you?’ Yes, even though I have Asperger, I can still read people if their face expression is matching the situation.
I only really realized what happened a few hours later, when I came home. I cried for a few hours. But can you imagine how much worse I would feel if I didn’t even know why it happened to me? How much worse it would be if I didn’t even know I have Asperger?
Today it really feels like you are my parasite.
I’m sad and don’t even know why. I had pretty good day at work and spent yesterday evening with my boyfriend. No, we didn’t have a fight. We don’t fight, we’re probably too old and too smart for that, even though we’re both on the spectrum. I had nice Polish take away lunch (called for some reason Hungarian style potato pancake) and wore earplugs while in town and on the bus. I wasn’t forced to socialise or look into other people eyes.
Two days ago I was so happy and excited when it turned out I wrote a post that pushed my blog’s statistics through the roof. The feeling was so great that it quickly got me exhausted.
When my friend first suggested I may have Asperger, it didn’t sound like me at all. After all, those with Asperger were supposed to be withdrawn and emotionally detached. For me that meant: unusually calm. Not: obsessed on Thursday evening but depressed by Saturday night. We have 2016 however and Google finally realized that ‘calm’ is not the word that describes us.
I don’t cope very well with excitement. Can’t deal with sadness or with passion. Should I then choose a boring life just to keep my mental state somehow stable? Oh, wait: I can’t cope with boredom either.
On good days I feel like I almost love you. If I at least could cope with love… It’s not easy to live with you, Mr. Asperger.
Have a look at this book by Liane Holliday Willey. I love it’s attention-grabbing title so much, I had to borrow it. And let’s be honest, I would never be able to come up with anything better myself!
Scroll down to see the reviews now. ‘Liane’s original book (…) gave such important insights into how women with Asperger’s syndrome used coping strategies in an attempt to fit into the neurotypical world.’ Yes, that’s right: we can’t trust our social instinct. Instead we have to make constant effort to behave the same way others do. And we know that, even those of us who never heard the word ‘Asperger’.
But it’s not just female experience. Somanyspoons, 40 year old male, writes on Wrong Planet forum: ‘Like a lot of adults on the spectrum, I’m a really good actor. I’ve been trained well, and a little brutally, to be normal. If I act weird around you, it’s an expression of trust’ (at the bottom of the second post).
Did you know that’s how life on the spectrum is like?
You can make up your own mind by going to my About page. The picture was taken less than a year before I realized I am on the spectrum, but around four years after my dearest NT friend Beata informally diagnosed me. ‘Shut up’ I said. ‘I don’t have no Asperger.’ She used to work as a teaching assistant for a boy with Asperger at the time and must have picked up on some behaviours that we shared.
I didn’t ask what made her think I may have Asperger. I googled it instead. ‘You see, Asperger in women is exteremely rare, I can’t have it then, it’s just my personality’ I dismissed her observation with my unbeatable logic. The funny thing is that when I was waiting for my assesment, suddenly convinced that I finally found out who I am, Beata was the one who kept on telling me I may not have Asperger, it’s probably just my personality.
But we never discussed my look this way. I might have been ‘just a bit too curvy’ or ‘just right’ at other times. At some point she actually believed I was too skinny, but that was like 10 kilograms ago. Or maybe even more than that? Maybe my hair was too long or not quite the right colour. But I never heard I looked ‘too autistic’, or, for that matter ‘not autistic enough’.
Have a look at this short video by Amythest Schaber. Amythest ia an autistic writer and activist. She created series of ‘Ask an autistic’ youtube videos. I chose one where she doesn’t say anything, so that you don’t get distracted while trying to decide whether she looks autistc to you. After you’ve made up your mind you can move on to her other videos. Happy watching!
So does she look autistic? And me?
I found this on Different Together, an online community for the partners of those with Asperger syndrome. On the right you have a story of recently diagnosed Anonymous Husband. He says diagnosis made him aware of some behaviours that his Anonymous Wife finds annoying, so he can now understand her reaction instead of getting angry with her. But it also made his AW more impatient. Now, after AH has in writing what exactly is wrong with him, she expects him to put all the effort to change, so that she can finally be happily married.
It is said it’s us, the autistics, who can’t easily see other people perspective. And I guess that is quite often true. It is partly due to who we are but also, I believe, due to lesson we learned while living our Asperger lives.
Our own ‘bids for interaction‘ are so often ignored. What we find fascinating makes others think we’re just some kind of boring weirdos. It so often feels like no one gets what we are trying to say as people would rather read our face expression than listen. Even counsellor that we can barely afford can’t seem to understand us. Not to mention the bulling that most of us experience more than once or twice. Imagine now, dear wifes (and husbands, if there are any here) this is how your own life looks like. How easy will it be for you to find the strenght and courage to see others needs first?
It’s you who kept receiving understanding, while we are those who were denied. And now, maybe the first time in your entire life, you find yourself at the other side of that inequality. You are married to someone who doesn’t understand you and who has different needs. So you use his diagnosis to request him to change. You shout about your problems to your all NT friends. You know you’re right, he’s wrong. After all, you’re like most people, while he has a dissorder.
Yes, you deserve better, I get it. But so does he. Can you see that from his perspective?
It is said one of the signs of Asperger syndrome is lack of social and emotional reciprocity. But what does that actually mean? While looking for the answer I came across an article about emotional reciprocity between horse and human. That’s irrelevant, I know, but here you are, in case anyone is interested.
Some NTs claim lack of social reciprocity means we don’t get the fact we’re supposed to buy birthday present for someone who gave us one earlier in the year. Really??? And I’ve heard a few times it’s the autistics who take things literally.
American Speach-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website provides much better explanation: difficulty initiating and responding to bids for interaction. That sounds exactly like what I was looking for. Well, almost.
I can’t cope very well with ‘bids for interaction’ from non-autistic females. I feel like Little Red Riding Hood standing in front of the Wolf. ‘What big eyes you have’ I think to myself. ‘I’m scared, please don’t eat me…’ I have no other choice but to look away.
However, I have no problem looking into the eyes of a female identified by my Asperger built in radar. She’s not the Wolf and I’m not a little girl lost somewhere in life. She doesn’t think I’m shy. I don’t think she’s withdrawn. It feels good to exchange our autistic ‘bids for interaction’: some quick glances and a few quaters of a smile.