I want to take a moment to talk about something that I tend to be fairly quiet about, but is probably the biggest part of who I am today, I have Aspergers.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Aspergers is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized primarily with difficulties in social interaction, as well as repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It’s a bit different from the rest of ASD though due to the lack of cognitive and linguistic difficulties.
Most people these days think of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory when they hear mention of Aspergers, and I hate him for that. So many people I’ve talked to think we’re all weird social outcasts and walking punch lines thanks to that show, for the best representation I have seen on television, I recommend Community’s Ahbed. But I digress. Which is actually one of the parts of Aspergers, we tend to get sidetracked easily and just say whatever we think of, but I’ve decided this time to just keep in whatever comes to mind, hoping that it will help show how my train of thought works.
Anyways, back to what I really wanted to talk about. I have Aspergers, and because of that, I see the world a little different from others.
For starters, it’s usually quite hard for me to read into what other people mean or what their intentions are, because of this I often either mislead people or hurt them. On the reverse side, I often get hurt and taken advantage of due to my misunderstanding of the situation.
This issue is most prevalent for me personally when it comes to guys. I rarely realize when someone is flirting with me until they make a move to kiss me or ask me out, which has lead to many instances of both me hurting people by ‘suddenly’ turning them down, and me just being taken advantage of because I do not often know how to detach myself from the situation. It has gotten much better over the years, but once during high school I was “dating” four guys at once simply because I could not seem to say no.
Not being able to read into what other people mean has also lead to incredibly awkward situations where I don’t know what to say or do in response to something very emotional, especially grief and anger. I quite often cannot fully understand why the person is saying and doing things and simply get incredibly frustrated and lash out at those near me. The biggest cause of fights with me and my loved ones seems to be that when they show a great deal of emotions towards me, I don’t know how to handle them and as such, I react inappropriately.
Next up, sounds. Anyone who has spent a great deal of time with me knows what my biggest pet peeves are: crunching, slurping and sniffling. I literally cannot be near those sounds for very long without either becoming angry or so frustrated that I begin to cry.
Obviously (especially since moving to Japan) I have to put up with it in silence most of the time, but I do have a lot of tricks to avoid it as much as possible. Not surprisingly, I avoid noodle shops as much as I can, don’t use the trains without headphones and while traveling I always have earplugs. Every night I even have a white noise machine playing to help me drown out any potential noise. The worst though is going to hang out with friends or going to a party, because you just know that there’s going to be a bunch of crunchy snacks and people chewing on ice. It’s become such a big deal that a few close friends actually avoid chips and ice when I’m around them (thank you. I love you.)
David, amazing, sweet David, even went as far as to buy a non-clicking mouse for his computer and asked his gaming friends not to eat loud things while they skype and I’m around.
I’m really not sure how I would continue functioning without people like him in my life.
This particular issue, I have noticed really rubs off on people. Namely, my mother and David. I hear at least once a week “I’d never noticed ~~ sound before” or “I just knew, Jen would hate this!” Now that isn’t to say that they’re now annoyed by these things too, but my issues have made them so acutely aware of these things that they notice sounds they had never known existed before (sorry).
The last thing I want to talk about is why I have been so quiet lately. Those of us with Aspergers know we’re different; we know we don’t quite fit in, and knowing that, often leads to depression. Ever since I quit my job to begin volunteering and traveling, I have also had far too much free time to reflect upon my life and how outside from everyone else I am, and that led me to a very dark place. Now, obviously I KNOW people love me, I KNOW I’m a smart and talented woman who has lots to offer the world, and I KNOW that I will have an amazing life, normal or not. But that doesn’t stop depression. Depression is impervious to logical reasoning. You can’t just wish it away.
So, to close, I may get down a lot in these coming months while I have loads of time to ponder, so please help me to remember that it’s ok. It’s ok to be different from the norm. It’s ok to be ME.