How Did I Get Here In The First Place?

I don’t mean literally. Yes, I know all about the birds and the bees. What I mean to tell you is how I came to the realization that I have Asperger Syndrome.

The very beginning of the story starts about a year ago. I had been struggling with outbursts, panic attacks, and temper tantrums on and off throughout my life. Somehow, I managed to get to age 26 with only a few major incidents (and this is even through an unstable childhood, plus physical, emotional, and sexual abuse throughout my teenage years — but that’s a whole ‘nother story). By this time, I had already met and been with my fiance for about two years. But some major events in our life began causing a great deal of stress on both of us. This is when the panics attacks and meltdowns began.

Over the years, they became more frequent and gradually worse until last year, I realized that I could no longer ignore the problem or handle it on my own. My meltdowns could sometimes become rather violent, resulting in sometimes thrown objects and other things. I was beginning to become scared of myself, afraid that a monster was growing inside me that would take over. That is when we began to see a counselor who specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy (more on that in a future post).

Our counselor began working with us about a number of things, including my childhood and the extreme stress we were both under. I was making progress. However, earlier this year an old friend of mine began considering that she had Asperger Syndrome. When she shared a detailed description of traits associated with AS, I saw that about two-thirds of them fit me — but I at first attributed that to my painful and abusive childhood, plus Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, I took a second look and thought…and remembered that other qualities have been present throughout my whole life: the temper tantrums/panic attacks, my trouble with eye contact, my tendency towards black-and-white thinking, and my many social foibles, both as a child and as an adult.

But most of all, I remembered the feeling of being “different”. I first noticed this when I was maybe seven or eight years old. I only went to half of my kindergarten in a public school, so I hadn’t been in a literal school for about a year and a half (I’d been homeschooled in the meantime for part of this period). At my new school, I had trouble interacting with the other kids. Later, when I was moved to a school across town, it got worse: I was constantly teased, and what I went through would border on bullying. I never knew how to react, or how to defend myself. I would just “freeze”…standing there, saying nothing. This pattern repeated itself at pretty much every school, and because we moved around a lot, I was the “new kid” every couple of years or so, which made matters worse. This didn’t change, even in high school: I was still teased, made fun of for my advanced vocabulary, my frizzy hair, my social awkwardness, and my general cluelessness. I was the butt of jokes because I didn’t understand what was going on or what the kids in question were doing. And to add to my trials, my own family was harrassing me: the aunt who was raising me by this time was constantly asking why I couldn’t be normal, and (I don’t know if out of fear of her or what) my other family members either a) did not defend me or b) agreed with her.

Now, at age 33, I began searching on the Internet for everything I could find on Asperger Syndrome, and began narrowing my search to information about Asperger women. One day in one of our counseling sessions, I mentioned to my counselor that I was considering that I have AS. She mentioned that she’d seen a few spectrum traits already (namely my discomfort with too much eye contact, which I have had trouble with my entire life) and encouraged me to keep reading further. And I did. I’ve read Pretending to Be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey; that was the first book I read about Asperger’s, period. I began to see some of the parallels between my life and issues, and hers. Gifted and spoiled — people used to call me that, too. Used by people I thought were my real friends because I couldn’t work out their true intentions. Overwhelmed by excessive stimuli, namely in supermarkets and clothing stores. I could go on and on, but you get my point.

After discussing this with my counselor for a few more sessions, I began to ask about diagnosis. Unfortunately, the instruments available to her to diagnose people on the autism spectrum mostly deal with children, with only one measuring up to the age of 21. So I don’t have an official diagnosis. I don’t know what to do about this yet, or if I can, or even if I should. However, my counselor does seem to think that I am on the spectrum. Why do I think it’s Asperger’s, and not say, high-functioning autism? Well, Dr. Temple Grandin helped clear this up — in her book Developing Talents: Careers for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism and in this YouTube video, she mentiones that those with Asperger Syndrome do not have any obvious delays in speech, but those with high-functioning autism typically do. And there was no speech delay with me: I was attempting to talk at about four months old, and was decently fluent (meaning I was attempting complete sentences and was decently fluent) by the time I was a year old.

So where am I at now? First, after began to confirm my suspicions that I have Asperger’s, the pieces began to fall into place. Some examples: I had never admitted this to anyone, but I had at this point in my life learned how to get along socially — but a good percentage of what I do is based on a series of “scripts” in my head that I use. Also, I now understand why I have trouble shopping at Wal-Mart: the lights ahead are awful and taxing on my nerves, plus you have a super bright white floor — not good. I now understand why I get exhausted to quickly at work: I am an administrative assistant, which requires social interaction, frequently stopping and starting work tasks, and multitasking, which aren’t my strong suits, but I can do them. I’m reading more books now, and everything else I can get my hands on and have time to read. And I went public in a sense with this in my poetry when I wrote a poem titled “You Don’t See It”. And you could say, I’m going public with this blog.

So, the journey begins. Stay tuned for more updates.

-Nicole

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6 thoughts on “How Did I Get Here In The First Place?

  1. […] Woman With Asperger's Defying Stereotypes Since 1976 Skip to content HomePostsAbout This BlogWhat Is Asperger Syndrome?A Word About NeurodiversityThe BookshelfPretending to Be NormalHow Can I Talk If My Lips Don’t Move?Asperger Syndrome and AnxietyDeveloping TalentsAsperger Syndrome Employment WorkbookThe Complete Guide to Asperger SyndromeEmergence: Labeled AutisticResourcesAspie PoemsPoem: You Don’t See ItPoem: Dust How Did I Get Here In The First Place? → […]

  2. Your journey sounds very similar to mine. I was diagnosed a week ago, at age 35. I have coping strategies and social scripts I use, but nothing feels instinctual. I also have problems with anxiety & depression caused by my AS.
    Best of luck with your journey.

    • Up until very recently, I had chalked up my anxiety and depression solely to PTSD and the traumatic past I’d undergone. I don’t discount this as a cause now, but I understand that Asperger’s just makes it harder to deal with. You could say that the two intersect to create a kind of sometimes terrifying universe for me…which I am slowly trying to find my way out of. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I hope to see you here again.

  3. Just found your blog today, via Facebook when I was browsing Asperger groups and pages. Amazing. I’ve been processing these same questions just a little longer than you – my 7-year-old got the diagnosis of being “Asperger traited” last January, and I suspect very strongly that I’ve got those traits too. It has been a series of enlightening moments – so many things I’ve read seem to fit, so many things in my life seem to finally have an explanation. It’s a great relief too, that I’m not only weird, lazy, clumsy etc – there may be a neurological explanation to all that, that’s the way I just *am* and it’s something both myself and ppl around me can learn to cope with… Thank you! (apologies if I made some stupid mistakes – English is my second language)

  4. Yes, lots of similarities. I am also undiagnosed and not sure what to do about that. I feel that I need to be very mindful as to who I approach about diagnosis, since my understanding of my experience is that I am overly empathic. It’s as if I’m drowning in other people’s feelings, expressed or otherwise. I know that many autism ‘experts’ do not accept this view (though most of us who actually are autistic do) and are therefore unlikely to view me as on the spectrum. Supermarkets are possible only in small doses, and work involving lots of social contact is intolerable. Thanks for writing this.

    • Hi Jess: Thankfully they are mental health and medical professionals who understand the “intense world theory” of autism. I am fortunate that the woman who diagnosed me understood the truth in this theory. It may take some time and effort, but I believe eventually you will find a good professional who is aware of this and how autism manifests in adults. You are right, though, to be careful, as there is so much misunderstanding about this.

      Since I wrote this first post, I was able to obtain an official diagnosis (October 2010) and I’ve managed to expand my awareness and understanding. I invite you to check out some of my other posts here on the blog. I hope to see you around again.

      -Nicole

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