A few things this post is not:
It is not prompted by any recent events. It's been brewing for several months. You might say it's been brewing for 50 years.
It's addressed mainly to those who knew me in college and earlier (e.g., family). But it's public and everyone who wishes to know me better is welcome to read it.
It's not a pity-me post. I'm not looking for sympathy or apologies. I'm just putting it out there in hopes of gaining a bit of understanding from those folks who are still thinking, "What the hell is/was up with her?"
I've suspected for a few years now that I might have Asperger's syndrome -- that high-functioning version of autism. I took an online self-diagnosis quiz that said if you score 32 or above, you are definitely an Aspie. I scored 28. So maybe that makes me a half-Asspie. But I suspect I am somewhere on the spectrum because:
I am extremely awkward socially. I suck at eye contact and small talk.
I melt down easily, as a child over just about everything, as an adult when confronted with frustrating situations. Getting lost while driving, or not being able to navigate a Web site, can reduce me to tears.
I have an obsessive streak that has manifested itself in weird, out-of-the-mainstream interests, and wreaked havoc on my relationships (more of that below).
If I don't know the rules, I'm terrified to get into the game. When I was young and starting to date, I had no clue what sort of Reputation I might get for second base, third base, et al. So I didn't allow *any* bases until I was ready for a home run. As a child, I was taught that asking personal questions was rude, so I shy away from asking people *anything* about themselves because I can never be sure what's too personal. For this reason, although I have a large circle of friends, only a handful of them are truly intimate friends -- the ones whom I can share my deepest feelings with and who feel free to share theirs with me.
Then again, certain AS traits don't apply to me at all. For instance, Aspies aren't supposed to get irony, sarcasm, wordplay or figurative language. I not only get them, I love them. And that is actually one of the things that has made me feel different over the decades -- my love of wordplay and puns.
As I said, I've been thinking I might be an Aspie for some years now. But recently, my sister suggested this out of the blue and passed a Facebook exchange on the subject on to my mom (I'm OK with this), who now thinks I should get tested for it. Part of me would like to, but part of me thinks that at my age, it wouldn't do me much good except to give me a "note from my doctor" to wave in people's faces. "See? There's a REASON I'm weird!"
I'm not in school so I don't need an IEP. I'm doing OK at work so I don't need any special accommodations. And the fact is, Aspies my age have invested so much in learning to live in the neurotypical world that the syndrome may not even be recognizable.
I'm reluctant to pin the A word on myself without a professional diagnosis. So maybe I'll call myself AT (Aspie tendencies) instead of AS. Recently I read on an autism/Asperger's site that having AS feels like everyone else got the manual for life, and you didn't. That's an analogy I used long before I read that. (Sometimes I think I *did* get my manual, but it was in Sanskrit.)
Growing up with AT in a time when AS wasn't widely known in the medical community meant being told at every turn that there was something fundamentally *wrong* with me, that everything I felt, thought, believed, wanted, acted, reacted, saw the world was bad/wrong/inappropriate/didn't make sense. Maybe I did have trouble figuring out less-than-literal language when I was younger, because I internalized every casual comment from parents, siblings, teachers and peers as finding fault with my thought processes and emotions. I'm 51 years old and avoid talking to my mother, despite the guilt that comes with snubbing the 88-year-old woman who gave me life, because she can still cut me to the quick with four little words: "That doesn't make sense." Maybe it doesn't, but it's *my* reality.
Over the years, especially the first 20 years, I internalized every, "You're weird," "You shouldn't feel that way," "That's crazy," and even "A pun is the lowest form of humor." Any questioning or teasing about my tastes, my interests, my preferences, I've taken as a judgment, even if it wasn't meant that way. And the result is that I'm carrying this burden of self-doubt bordering on self-loathing. This in spite of the fact that I managed, in the past 20 years, to stumble upon a wonderful community of people who accept me and overlook my quirks.
Comorbidity? I haz it. A good shrink would probably diagnose me with depression, anxiety, PTSD and a touch of OCD. Well, maybe just the O part. I've gained some control over this, but in the past I was a sucker for any person, place or thing I thought would make me feel better, from the dream job, to the degree I thought would lead to the dream job, to the person who seemed to totally love and accept me.
That last is something to which many of you reading can relate. When I meet someone who seems to "get" me -- this person who has felt so "ungotten" -- I cling for dear life. If we have things in common, so much the better. I start thinking about fate and destiny and how much we must belong together. If it turns out, as it almost always does, that the other person doesn't share that feeling, I will turn myself inside out trying to make the magic happen again. This has happened both with potential romantic partners and friends.
This is how, a scant seven years ago, a certain smooth-talking sociopath managed to hijack my life for almost two years -- by acting for the first couple of weeks that misfit me was the best thing that ever happened to him. I almost let the best relationship I've ever had get away, because I was so sure this was Meant. To. Be. And it took me years after snapping out of that obsession to figure out that he was lying.
I went to therapy to deal with this. That's where I finally figured out why I turn into The Remora That Walks Like a Woman around certain people. So I've learned not to do that -- not to assume that just because someone likes me, I have to fall in love with them. But I still haven't figured out what to do about the underlying cause -- the inability to make peace with the fact that I am not like other people and never will be.
In many ways, I've been extremely fortunate. I could have been date-raped. I could have been financially swindled. (I sort of was in a way because of JR, but only because I was so distracted I let my finances get messed up. But he didn't directly rip me off.) I still have this nagging feeling that I could be doing better professionally, but I have a good job that I do well and that pays decently if not great (my own fault for not choosing a more lucrative field). I have lots of great friends, and even if only a few are truly close friends, I treasure every single one of them.
I have lots of questions and lots of theories and speculations. I wonder about all the Aspies from the baby boom generation and earlier, who were punished for being "bratty" or "difficult" because there was no word for their situation -- a less malignant version of the way epileptics were condemned as possessed by demons, because there was no word for their condition. I wonder how many of us are out there, how many of us are hurting and how we can find and help one another. How many of us have been misdiagnosed and improperly medicated. How many of us have resorted to self-medication.
I wonder if I can put an end to this post, or if it will turn into a book. For now, though, I'll stop, and thank you for taking the time to read it.