Thursday, March 21, 2013

I am an Aspergirl.

I've been holding off on this post because I've wanted to make it super intelligent and though-out and like an Aspergirl manifesta, but I'm just sick of waiting to form intelligent thought, perhaps it will come out naturally Grimes-Tumblr-style. It could happen.

So, a couple of weeks ago I took the Autism Quotient and scored a 35. A score of 32 and above most likely means you're on the Spectrum. The spectrum of Autism. As I scored in the lower area of Autism, that probably means Asperger's. I haven't sought a formal diagnosis (which I'm planning to talk to my therapist about that at my next appointment) yet, but this label is fitting me so comfortably, so perfectly, that I think a lack of formal diagnosis would piss me off. Because I SO am an Aspergirl.
Let's just get the definitions out of the way first...
Mayo Clinic defines Asperger's Syndrome as: a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others. Children with Asperger's syndrome typically exhibit social awkwardness and an all-absorbing interest in specific topics.

Doctors group Asperger's syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders. These disorders all involve problems with social skills and communication. Asperger's syndrome is generally thought to be at the milder end of this spectrum.

While there's no cure for Asperger's syndrome, if your child has the condition treatment can help him or her learn how to interact more successfully in social situations.

Some of the symptoms (what I'd rather refer to as traits) that I exhibit include:
  • lack of eye contact and awkward body postures/positions
  • not understanding sarcasm: I never have. The first time my mom did it and explained the concept to me as a child I said, "I don't like that. Don't do that ever again."
  • poor coordination
  • mutism: being unable to speak in certain situations. For me, this is usually exhibited in one-on-one situations, especially if someone is asking me about myself.
  • can engage in monotonous tasks for hours on end: my favorite job ever was being a library page (shelving/checking in books). I love engaging in activities that occupy a background-space of my mind/body so that I can think about other things. My Valium is monotonous physical movement. If I'm sorting/shelving books, I'm calm. If I'm walking, I'm calm. If I'm dancing, I'm calm. If I'm typing, I'm probably ok too. This also goes along with stims (self-stimulating behaviors, like rocking, feet-shaking, weird, repetitive movements). I also can calm myself by touching certain textures. I like brushed aluminum, computer keys, warm metal, paper, etc.
  • repetitive routines/rituals: I fall apart without my routines. I almost can't sleep without watching Star Trek first. The soothing background noise on the Enterprise in The Next Generation calms me greatly.
  • eccentric personality/style: Have you seen me? Yeah.
  • strong sensory sensitivity: I find this to be the biggest part of being an Aspergirl. Every moment of every day I try to control my sensory input. I won't go to shows unless I know I like the music. I've taken to wearing earbuds when I go to movies, as they're often too loud for me. I'm constantly turning up and down the TV so that it's "perfect". I can't stand the sound of dishes clanking together. On days when I'm having a really hard time getting out of the house for work, I wear really comfortable layers and hide within the softness in order to create a buffer with the outside world. I frequently feel as if I don't want to be "seen". I like to have music going at all times, but I have to choose the music and the volume level myself. If I could always have headphones on in public, I'd function a LOT better in social situations. The only time I feel empowered/capable is while listening to music. Often I am overwhelmed by emotions portrayed in pop culture and I can't continue watching something that upsets me, especially if an image upsets me, I'll experience it over and over again in my mind for hours after seeing it. I can also be intensely distracted by an aspect of someone's appearance on a show or movie I'd otherwise enjoy and have to stop watching. For example, I can barely look at Courtney Cox on Friends because I know how much she'll fuck up her face later. Even though she was beautiful on Friends and I love her character as Monica, I can barely look at her with flashes of her new alien face flashing in my head.  
  • attachment to animals and/or inanimate objects over people: I have NO problem bonding with animals and electronics, its people I have difficulty understanding.
  • being in "their own world": I am CONSTANTLY fighting this at work. I have to remind myself to do my job constantly, because it's very easy to daydream in reference.
  • can spend hours in a library researching: but the problem here is that I can only spend hours researching something I care about. If someone asks me to help them on their family history, forget about it. I don't fucking care and I have a hard time pretending I do.
  • unusual preoccupations
  • hard time saying "i love you" or showing affection: I have a very hard time with this. I assume that those I am close to know how much I care about them because I tolerate their presence. I am aware how this sounds, and I try to be more engaging, especially in my marriage, but it is a conscious effort.
  • need to withdraw into solitude frequently: I would prefer to spend about 75% of my time alone (with animals and internet connectivity with other humans).
  • attention narrowly focused on their own interests: I really only light up in a conversation when something interests me personally. I have a hard time remembering to ask what's going on with the person I'm speaking to. I tend to befriend people who entertain me, as well. If you bore me, I probably won't engage with you often.
  • shuts down in social situations: if I feel like I'm not in control or can't predict something in a social situation, I probably won't even be there, let alone engage. I will probably leave a situation immediately if I can't find a calm, comfortable, clean place to sit. Although, if I was allowed to supply the music, I could probably handle any environment/social atmosphere.
  • rigid social behavior due to inability to adapt to social spontaneity
  • has a compulsive need to inform which can come off as blunt/rude: This is very true. I have unintentionally hurt people MANY times with my bluntness. Often the reason I am mute in social interactions is because I'm attempting to censor/translate/sift my initial reactions. If I spoke what first came into my mind, I'd sound like Cordelia or Anya on Buffy or Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.
  • great difficulty with small-talk: I abhor bullshitting. I am incapable of it and I find you fake if you engage in it. I don't get it at all. One of the reasons I don't say "i love you" often is because I want to genuinely FEEL it at the moment I'm saying it. I feel the same about conversation. I don't want to say something unless it's genuine. My expectations, therefore, for what is "genuine" are extremely rigid.
  • can appear younger than age in dress, actions, etc: I never understand what people mean when they say a 40-year-old woman can't wear certain things. I don't agree with that at all. I wear the same clothes I did in middle school (sometimes literally the same exact articles of clothing). If I like it and fit into it, I'll wear it until it falls apart.
  • will not spend a lot of time grooming: My hair has to be no-maintenance. I only bathe every other day. I only wash my hair once or twice a week and only brush it once every two weeks or so. I don't spend much time looking in the mirror. As long as my zits don't need to be popped and my self/clothes are relatively clean, I'm good to go. 
  • androgynous (hates gender roles): This is a big one. I hate gendered expectations/roles. One of the reasons I'm obsessed with drag is because I like when people play with gender.
  • enjoys reading scifi/fantasy
  • may find employment daunting: It is a struggle almost every day for me to go to work. I accomplish it and have held down a job for 9 years, but it's only part time and I don't think I'd ever be able to handle full time work. 
  • highly intelligent, yet sometimes can be slow to comprehend due to sensory and cognitive processing issues. Will not do well with verbal instruction--needs to write down or draw diagram: there are several times at work where I will have to ask again and again the same questions about how to do something. I WILL NOT remember until I write it down.
  • due to sensory issues, can be overwhelmed by sex: it takes a LOT of emotional energy for me to have sex. It feels like a total body overtaking and it is a huge gesture of love for me to engage in sex. I feel like I will "never be enough" in this category. This is the #1 issue in my romantic relationships. All sensory stimuli have to be in perfect alignment for me to be "in the mood". It's very difficult for anyone attempting to have a romantic relationship with me. I feel a lot of guilt about this issue as well. 
  • words and actions often misunderstood by others: like all misfits, I feel misunderstood almost all the time
I already feel very exhausted by exposing all of this. I made a sort of Asperger's announcement on Facebook, but have gotten hardly any response. I guess people don't know what to say? Some close friends/family have said that I don't need a label and they don't think of me as different, but I don't really believe that. I think they're trying to be nice. I feel VERY at odds with people ALL the time. Surely I stand out, socially. I don't understand why they can't tell me the truth. But right now I feel like I DO need a label. I like having an explanation for why I am such a pariah. I really like connecting with people, but I don't want to do it in the way most people do. And I usually can't relate in the way others do. Sensory issues are always with me. Currently, I'm torn between how much of this Aspergian stuff I can work around, how much to use as excuses for things I've always thought I should "get over", like what's the line between acceptance and excuses? On the one hand, it's really great to feel more self-acceptance for all these things I've always thought were "problems" I had, but how do I know when to accept and when that acceptance becomes an excuse, if that makes sense.

Anyway, that's my freestyle rant on being an Aspergirl. I'm happy for the distinction, and I feel I am understanding myself, forgiving myself more than I've ever been able to do. This is a crux of change. This is a moment of precipice and what do I do now? I'm flailing madly between certain/uncertainty.

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