I have been quite introspective over the last few months. This has been to some difficulties. I have been told on multiple occasions during some problematic times to “get over it” in terms of the additional difficulties that my Aspergers’ presents. This does a lot of damage to my morale, particularly when you hear it from loved ones.
This attitude to my diagnosis can be very destructive. How can I get over my Aspergers’? Is there some way to re-wire my brain to read all these subtle signals that everyone else gets? It’s like everyone else is in on a joke and you never get it; but my misunderstanding gets me into trouble rather than missing out on laughs.
The following are my own thoughts on the subject. These are not meant to insult anybody, but to start an open conversation.
My view on this issue has been broken up into nice little, organised chunks:
The Problem: Overuse of using diagnoses as an excuse, this can lead to NTs to think that this is an excuse for being rude, manipulating or aggressive. Sometimes I catch myself using it as a prop to excuse myself for being grumpy. As more and more people are getting diagnosed, I have noticed several NTs say that “everyone seems to have autism nowadays”, as if they are sick of hearing about it.
Why is this a problem?: Using my aspergers’ as an excuse for my poor behaviour deflects my responsibility for my own actions. Yes, it’s difficult to control that “filter” that stops offensive sh*t coming out of my mouth. Just because I have Aspergers’ doesn’t mean that I can’t even try to reflect on my own behaviour.
Situations in which using diagnosis as a reason/excuse: I feel that there are, at least from my own unique experience of Aspergers’ that it’s acceptable is when you are growing up, sensory overload, and meltdowns. These instances in which it’s got too much and you have no idea how to cope on your own. I had a recent event at work in a meeting where I had to leave the room due to a very high-pitched noise continually being sounded in the room adjacent to the meeting. I tried my hardest to stay focused on the meeting but then that became a source of anxiety and I had to leave.
Situations in which this is unacceptable: everyday stress, not even attempting to understand other’s thoughts, isolating yourself and generally being unhelpful because you aren’t feeling the task. I work full time and have an hour’s commute into the centre of Birmingham, UK. It’s not great, working quite hard, socialising at work and then being focused with all the crazy drivers out there. It makes anybody tired, not just me. I grump and my “filter” wears down by the time I get home and then a change in my expectations of home can set me off and I make everyone miserable. People dreaded me coming home as the strain became evident. Using it also to stop yourself going to social events can also cause more problems than it solves. Yes, the short-term anxiety passes but what about the people who invited you? They obviously wanted to get to know you and share some experiences. The more you back out of these things, the less you get invited and the more isolate you feel, leading to more anxiety when another event comes along. I agree that it is very difficult going to social events but I have gotten stronger after each one and I even felt silly for even feeling anxious in the first place!
My Solutions (these work for me, maybe not for you): I take responsibility for my actions, whilst I own my Aspergers’, it doesn’t mean I cannot give up and depend on other people. It takes hard work. My old Tai Chi Master said “disability is only the inability to do something in a certain way”. This means I have to, like everybody else, find a solution that works for me.
My second solution is to surround yourself with understanding people both at home and work. Being around ignorant people who dismiss your difficulties make you feel weird and stupid, you don’t need them in your life. When I explained to someone that my hypersensitivity to sound meant that I could hear everything in the open office I was working in ,and not be able to block it out. The response was that I would learn to block out noises when I have a child. It’s just that ignorance that causes problems. Surrounding yourself with people who are aware of these difficulties enables these situations become so much easier to handle as these beautiful people can help when it all gets too much. Just remember to return the favour!