I have been planning and editing this post in my head for almost a month, and now that I am sitting in front of the computer, it is all a blank. I am starting this at almost 10pm on 4-3-11. I write that because I am interested to know when I will be finished with it. Time will tell, right?
Well, eff it, I am just going to type…..if you are looking for a break from posts about running or planning for races, then read on. I might suggest a nice fresh cup of tea or coffee first. We might be here a while.
Has anything you’ve done or said forced you to take a long look in your mental mirror, even if you didn’t want to at the time? If not, I believe that one of two things is true: 1) your time is coming, or 2) you aren’t being honest with yourself. I had one of these situations a few weeks ago, and have been stewing on it ever since. In doing so, many, many things that I have always wondered about have fallen into place.
Let’s examine a few things, and how I believe they apply to me:
• Lack of managing appropriate social conduct I have a tendency to hide or avoid social interactions. You may be thinking, “but Gene, you do so well here and on twitter….” Here’s my reply, “it is because I can’t see you, and I can walk away from the conversation at any time, and that is acceptable in these realms.” Imagine if we were eating dinner together and I just got up and left. Not quite as acceptable, which makes me feel strange, and I don’t like that, so I have always tried to avoid those things. Knowing that we have an event to attend (even a sporting event) causes me to be edgy for days in advance.
- Problems engaging in "small talk" I am not good at social hours or cocktail parties. I can’t engage with others at conferences before the speaker starts. I sit there, either writing, playing some logic-based game on my phone, or categorizing people in the crowd. I don’t mingle….even at family gatherings, and this has become a problem in my life.
• High intelligence While I have never been accused of this, and it is uncomfortable for me to talk about, I agree. Or at least high on the average scale.
• Anger management problems Oh, yes. This is ME! I have a tough time managing my anger and frustration. I am nearly always at the boiling point, and I don’t really know how to control it. I tend to pound my fist on a table, or my cell phone, or the fridge, or…..once I kicked a concrete pillar so hard I had to be on crutches for a week. Dumb.
• Controlling feelings such as depression, fear or anxiety Depression can either sneak up on me or ambush me in the middle of a great day. I rarely see it coming, as many of you can recall from some tweets that I have sent out. Fear? not so much. Anxiety? mostly as it relates to being in large spaces (I don’t like to go shopping. WAAAAAY too much stimulus…)
• Lack of empathy I can be empathetic, and I think that I am fairly empathetic. Thing is, I don’t always express it in such a way that other people see it….
• Inability to listen to others I’m sorry, what? I listen well, I think. But part of being a good listener, I am told, is being empathetic. See above…
• Inflexible thinking Black/white. That’s it. Moving on…
• Repetitive routines provides feelings of security Not in the sense that I have to check the back door 15 times before I leave the house, but…I will re-arrange items on a table at a restaurant, straighten out the sugar packets, align items on our shelves so that all labels face the same way, etc. All of the screws in my light sockets are straight up and down. At least they were when I put them there. Hang on, I gotta check….yep.
• Stress when their routine suddenly changes Oh, Lordy this is a big one. Going grocery shopping? cool. ummm….WHY are we at Khol’s???? there are NO grocery items in that store. Shopping list? cool. ummmm….strawberries aren’t on the list. why are they in the cart? Just ask my wife about this one. yea. shopping with me is NOT fun.
• Inability to think in abstract ways Au contraire, actually. Sometimes my thinking is so abstract, I can’t get anyone to understand me.
• Specialised fields of interest I have had several. Read many books on Everest. Many on climbing techniques. Other things, too. I love music. Can sing along to almost anything prior to 2002. After that, I just pretty much stopped listening to the radio.
• Visual thinking I like to, prefer to, sketch things out. I love, LOVE maps. I have a few full sketch books, and even have one for small carpentry projects from around the house.
If you have hung on this far, you might be wondering what I am getting at. I’m taking lists of criteria and characteristics and seeing how I feel (think, actually. I FEEL with my fingers, etc.) that they apply to me. Many of you are certainly bored at this point. others may not be yet, but are getting there. others have gone for a second cuppa coffee. what’s better than reading about someone do this to themselves online? not much.
- Friendships are usually formed through mutual interest areas or activities Check. Runners, hikers, climbers. While I am very interested in Z’s athletic endeavors, I am not friends with the other ‘team dads’. My wife has had a daycare for nearly 5 years. Some of the parents have been with her since day one. I know them, but wouldn’t consider hanging out with them. (see small talk, above).
- Some individuals have extreme hyper or hypo sensitivity to light, noise, touch, taste, or smell yep. at night, if one of the cats fart, I’m awake. overhead lights drive me nuts. I sometimes wear a baseball cap at work. contrasts between light and dark are very distracting. when in stores, I have a tough time blocking out all of the ancillary conversations and announcements around me. most of the time, light touch is uncomfortable. most of the time…
- Sensory and social demands of life make more downtime essential When I come home from work, I crave alone time. sometimes it is a run. sometimes it is playing video games, or reading, or just lying on our bed. this doesn’t always happen. when it DOES, though, I think that I am much better. at family gatherings, I often will drift away from the party. I need to let things quiet down in my head. this has often caused problems, because people have felt that I didn’t want to be around them, or that I was mad, or whatever. nope. just need some quiet.
Thing is, for all of these categories listed, I could never actually group them or understand them like this. I just always thought of myself as odd, as the one to blame, as, well, as just the way it was. and I struggle to change it. I have tried on several occasions, in this marriage and my first, to be more….’there’ at gatherings. So far, it hasn’t worked. But I will keep trying, especially now that I have a ‘reason’ for my aloofness.
My enlightenment came after a text message from one of my cousins. I had sent out a tweet saying something about ‘why do my weekends always fall apart, even after a good week?’ She replied, “it is because you are Autistic.” whoa. what? when I asked her, she said, “dude. you totally have Asperger’s. look it up.” And so I did. And, after reading article after article online and taking 3-4 online ‘tests’, I agree with her.
I am a self-identified (not self-diagnosed) “Aspie”. The bullet points above are characteristics of people with Apserger’s Syndrome. As a syndrome, it is not a disease or a disorder, but by definition it is “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality or condition.” When I look at the criteria for diagnosis with Asperger’s Disorder, I don’t quite fit, which is good.
Asperger’s is on the Autism Spectrum. Is there a cure? NO! It isn’t a diesase. Autism is a neurological condition, and this holds true for all other conditions on the spectrum.
Ok. I am drained. Time check reveals 11:37 on the same night I started this. I did better than I expected. cool.
Thank you for reading this far. I wish that I had a chunk of cheese for you, or a finisher’s medal. All I have is my gratitude for having an ‘audience’ to talk to. even if my hit counter stays below 5.