April is the Autism Spectrum awareness month. It was seven (7) years ago, on a Friendica instance, that someone suggested that I might be one, an aspie or someone born with Asperger Syndrome. Out-of-curiosity, I did my due diligence and found that perhaps I am one.
Like any person who have been in the Internet since the late 90s, I was careful with what I was reading online. Though we joke about “Doctor Google”, the fact remains Google is not a doctor (nor any website for that matter). I did my own tests and observations, primary to myself.
Fortunately (maybe to you it was unfortunately), it turned out right. I had questions, struggles, experiences, and observations before and after that were answered and made sense if indeed I am an aspie (or autistic if you prefer it).
Sway… sway… wee…
For example, during my teenage years, I used to sway myself when waiting for someone. Back then I did not know why I was doing it but it did help in keeping me patient and sane. At some point, 21 or 22 years old, I got conscious about it and I stopped doing it. It was also when I started to become very impatient and very angry when I am waiting for people.
Back to seven years ago, this was one of my experiment, I let myself loose and just did what my mind and body wants to do, I swayed. The result? I was no longer impatient nor angry when waiting for someone. I can even smile and say “it’s okay, no fuss”. It was a relief.
Go back… turn left here!
There was also this quirkiness in me when it comes to paths I took. Say in a mall or office, even parks, the path I took to come to the place will be the same path I will take when I leave. I am doing it at times consciously or unconsciously. I had no idea why I was doing it, but it was always a relief to have taken the exact same path I took.
You see, I have this in my mind that I am leaving some line or rope behind whenever I walk (or run). If I fail to take the same path back, it gets entangled and unrecoverable, and this makes me very, very, uneasy, bothered, and upset the rest of the day.
It was a nightmare in a department store when we go shopping for our new school uniforms. But believe it or not, I was able to remember where we turned, walked, how long we stood there, and reverse the whole process. It also kept my memory sharp.
Seven years ago, I let myself go natural. Yes, I still find relief when I reverse the paths I took to get from point B back to point A, even to this day. The only difference was, I can better control myself today as long as my mind is into it.
I am People Watching
Here is another example. I am sure we are all familiar with bird watching but there is also what I call people watching. My oldest memory of me doing this was when I was 10 years old. I’ll stay in a place where someone disturbing me is almost nil and just observe everyone.
Again, I had no idea what I was doing and why I was doing it. When people asked me, I tell them “nothing, I just want to look at all these people”. For them it was a total waste of time. For me, it was relief. It keeps me calm, at peace, and it refreshes me.
I am weird, odd, eccentric, yes, I know!
Obviously, people told me I am weird, which again I had no idea why and what that word meant or what they were trying to say to me. The thing with Neurotypical (or NT) people is that they always have this expectation that you can read between the lines. I can not and will not. Most of us in the spectrum can not and will not do that. If we attempt to read between the lines, we are always off by a mile or three, so we just don’t do it.
I also can not interpret social signs, except for happiness, sadness, and pain. In fact, sadness and pain I can rarely identify! Which is not very good in any romantic relationship. So, yes, I am odd, eccentric, whichever word you want to use.
Nah, you just think that you are, coincidence
Of course, all these could be just a simple coincidence (and I don’t believe in coincidences). I heard a few people say that s/he knows someone who do the same things and s/he is not in the spectrum. But, believe it or not, I have not heard someone tell me that s/he does the same and s/he is not in the spectrum. It was always, every single time, someone they know somewhere who I will never meet nor be able to talk to. I sometimes doubt they do know someone.
I ask then:
- Do they know someone who loves to walk around and does not know why they were walking around? I used to do that when I was kid according to my mother.
- Do they know someone who loves to follow patterns in the street and get lost in it, to the point they get in danger? I still do that.
- Do they know someone who talks a lot without noticing his or her audience is no longer interested because s/he dragged it? I do that.
- Combine all of these together, in varying degrees, do they know someone like that?
This is, I believe, signals that one is in the Autism Spectrum, if he is still “functional” as the so-called “experts” label someone, then it is possibly Asperger Syndrome, a sub-type of the spectrum. If one is barely “functional”, then he has classic autism. (Classic autism is the one that is always made a joke by people in offices and the entertainment industry.)
Most Neurotypicals are Ignorant or in Denial
And it is hard. It is not easy at all to live in a society dominated by Neurotypicals who are ignorant of us or simply refuse to acknowledge that we do exist. We almost always end up pretending to be a neurotypical, which I unconsciously did and is much harder. So, after I accepted that I am an aspie, everything became easier because now I know that I was trying to force myself to fit in a world that is not my own, pretending to be “you” when I am “me”.
However, it does not mean things are finally easy, easy. Because the world-at-large is still unaware of the Autism Spectrum. They see us as an “abnormality”, a “disease” or “sickness” that should be cured. Autism Spectrum, for me, is not any of those. There is no cure to AS because it is not a disease or sickness or whatever. Yes, you can theoretically prevent AS if you can rearrange a developing baby’s DNA, but after that? No. AS is a life, our life. It defines who we are and what we will be.
We are who we are today because we lived a life as someone in AS, we may not have known it but it was there, a part of us. I for one can not and will never exchange myself being an AS to live and think and be socially “functional” and “acceptable” like you. This is me. I love how my brain works, how I think.
Autistics/Aspies lack empathy
Neurotypicals claim they have empathy and we in the spectrum don’t. Well, if you do have empathy, then why is it you are either denying AS and us exist, or you are not educating yourself about AS and us? If that is what empathy is, then we are glad we do not have empathy at all.
A fair note. It was the psychologists and psychiatrists who are telling people that AS does not have empathy. Do not forget, these so-called “experts” are Neurotypicals who call themselves “normal”. Let me tell you a secret these “normal” “experts” are not telling you, we in the spectrum do have empathy, it is just different how we process and show it.
We are human beings like you. We are not “below normal” or “abnormal” (above normal). We are not sick. Autism/Asperger is not a disease, it is not a defect in our DNA. We are not mutants or meta-humans. We are just different.
But if you really insist that we are not you, then we can agree that we are the next step in human development. If you can not accept that we are the future, then you have to accept that we are humans like you.
I hope, this lengthy post, helped shed some light and understanding about us.
This is in no way a representation of the whole Autism Spectrum, which Asperger Syndrome is a subset or a type of Autism. The reason it is a spectrum is because no two AS person is the same. It is so varied in many ways that it is impossible to define it with pinpoint accuracy.
There are labels used like “mild” and “strong”. One would think that “mild” AS are similar but the truth is, no two “mild” AS are alike. And if there are that much difference between two AS, there are also that much similarities in both, or common denominators.
Me, for example, I do not like being touched by strangers. It upsets me but it does not cause pain, to another AS it causes pain. I also get overwhelmed by too many people speaking and all the noise, hence, I stay away from places like the supermarket and wetmarket because sounds are trapped inside the establishment, it gets amplified. I also can not work in an area where there are constant calls, it makes me crazy and very tired. But to another AS, none of these affects him or her.
How then can we define “mild” and “strong”/”severe”? It is not possible. The best we can do is list down each quirkiness and label it as “mild” and “strong” because an overall label just would not work.
Thus, my letter above is not a representation of the whole Autism Spectrum. You should take it for what it is, another unique perspective into the world of Autism, and in particular Asperger.
To end this, I have not even started to share my deeper thoughts and more profound experiences. The ups and downs. The weirdest, most eccentric things I do.
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7 Years Since I Learned I’m an Aspie by Yuki (雪亮) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Legal Notice.