I write this post on a topic close to me; in fact, it is who I am and it is why I am the person I am. It is a condition called Asperger’s; or Autistic Spectrum condition according to the people who have diagnosed me, and I ffel that now is the right time to discuss my condition and what it does.
To those unaware, I shall give you the lowdown: Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a ‘spectrum disorder’ because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees.
People with Asperger syndrome sometimes find it difficult to express themselves emotionally and socially. Examples of this being:
- have difficulty understanding gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice
- have difficulty knowing when to start or end a conversation and choosing topics to talk about
- use complex words and phrases but may not fully understand what they mean
- be very literal in what they say and can have difficulty understanding jokes, metaphor and sarcasm. For example, a person with Asperger syndrome may be confused by the phrase ‘That’s cool’ when people use it to say something is good.
Many people with Asperger syndrome want to be sociable but have difficulty with initiating and sustaining social relationships, which can make them very anxious. People with the condition may:
- struggle to make and maintain friendships
- not understand the unwritten ‘social rules’ that most of us pick up without thinking. For example, they may stand too close to another person, or start an inappropriate topic of conversation
- find other people unpredictable and confusing
- become withdrawn and seem uninterested in other people, appearing almost aloof
- behave in what may seem an inappropriate manner.
People with Asperger syndrome can be imaginative in the conventional use of the word. For example, many are accomplished writers, artists and musicians. But people with Asperger syndrome can have difficulty with social imagination. This can include:
- imagining alternative outcomes to situations and finding it hard to predict what will happen next
- understanding or interpreting other people’s thoughts, feelings or actions. The subtle messages that are put across by facial expression and body language are often missed
- having a limited range of activities, which can be pursued rigidly and repetitively, eg lining up toys or collecting and organising things related to his or her interest.
I was diagnosed when I was 15 years old. It has taken 12-13 years for them to diagnose me. In that time I went to therapy, I did workshops for different forms of social interaction, I joined a Drama academy as well to become a better orator (something which I am proud to say I am quite good at). The reason it took so long was because my files weren’t given to the council who run my High school and now College. It meant that I didn’t know what was wrong with me, my parents didn’t know, my Teachers didn’t know.
Earlier on in my School life, I was a lot more sensitive and shy in some ways. I often cried a lot and was more emotional. I was bullied in High school, and I took it very personally that these people were out to get me and lynch me; figuratively anyway. Then, I didn’t understand why they picked on me. Was it my weight? Was it how I presented myself? I did not know, and that hurt me. Nowadays, I am more in control and the bullying long since stopped. I feel no resentment or bitterness to my former bullies, many of them have since apologised and we have moved on with our lives. Granted I still do not like some of them, I don’t feel any hatred.
I also had problems communicating when younger. Before I got into Drama, I was not a good communicator. If I was shouted at by a school teacher, I would likely cry and be sent to the toilets to calm down. Sometimes that happened in High school, but I soon learned how to explain a problem. By calmly talking about what was wrong to the teacher or my parents or whoever else could help me. Even today, I am still misunderstood by some people when I try to say one thing, and it comes out the wrong way (I kindly ask you bear with me, and let me rethink my words).
The Asperger’s also gives me some anxiety. Well, I say some, a lot of anxiety. Sometimes I go nervous about my plans; thinking every possible thing that could go wrong, if a plan goes wrong, I panic, if I cannot do something, I panic. However, now I learn to come up with plan B’s in case things go wrong or something doesn’t work. There is no point crying over plan A’s shortcomings.
It upsets me when people make fun of my condition, well not MY condition, but Autism in general. People see Autistic people as unconfortable to be around, socially outcasting them, and then perhaps teasing them with the common words ‘retard’ and similar derogatory terms. That really upsets me, because we’re not like that at all. There are many high functioning Autistic people in this world as there are low functioning, and that’s not an insult to the latter who can be capable in their own way. Then there is the other side; those on Tumblr who romanticise my condition and other disorders to do with the brain. As a sufferer of Asperger’s, I have trouble when it comes to much social interaction and forming coherent sentences. As I am on the internet writing a comment, this is less pronounced as I can edit things which sound wrong. I have control of my problems, so it isn’t as bad, but it can be problematic; so do you really want that? I could say something wrong and it could be taken the wrong way, causing many awkward situations. To those who romanticise Neurological conditions and disorders, I kindly ask you to stop. It can be hard to live with, and can be very offensive to people such as myself with other, harder problems which they struggle with on a daily basis.
I have to live with Asperger’s everyday for the rest of my life. But I can control it, and slowly, I make progress. Things I wouldn’t normally do, I am putting into my everyday system. I feel that I am becoming a lot more social, opening up to people about my problems, and also letting my bubble expand. I have even taken to bending my rotas around if I don’t feel like following them, if I miss something out, I’ll either do it later, or not at all. I am learning to live with my Asperger’s, and there is still quite a way to go until I consider myself ‘cured’. There will be good times and there will be bad times, but I have to make progress to live in this world, and this is something which I am doing.