I've now changed the blog's links to reflect the kinds of blogs this one is like: autobiographical, a few friends, links to my listservs & other 2 blogs (for ease of transfer) -- and blogs about Aspergers and other problems and states of mind I share. I will be adding to these as I find congenial (I hope) blogs to read. I will return to signing Sylvia and resume a few pseudonyms when talking of people close to me.
Tonight I thought I'd talk about a realization I came to -- or finally confronted some months ago. i recognized that a lot of the problems I've had in life, have either been directly or partly caused by my having a number of Aspergers traits. On the whole I'd say realizing and recognizing has not made my life any easier or happier; rather it's explained aspects of myself to me and made me feel less alone (or different or odd or strange). I would call this an important conceptual breakthrough for me.
I first heard of Aspergers syndrome during a luncheon with members of the Victoria listserv during an MLA meeting; a woman described her son to me and used the term. I bought myself Laura Schreibman's The Science and Fiction of Autism (which I heartily recommend to anyone seeking to understand this spectrum of disabilities). It contains about 3 sheets of diagnostic tests which are used to categorize people and while I find I do not have traits in all six categories (so cannot be called fully Aspergers) I do have a number of strong and more than one trait in four.
It is something of a relief to see this. I have for years tried to explain to myself why I have failed so signally ever to be promoted, why I have such a hard time socializing, why interviews were among the most painful experiences I've ever had. I came up with a number of disparate contexts and reasons from my personal history. I think some of these are still valid: for example, I come from a working class background and never learned middle class assumptions or expectations until I was in my 20s or 30s (some when I was older than that). I don't share the norms and values of this society, I don't buy into them. I'm a woman without connections, didn't go to the right schools &c&c. But at the core the problem is now explained with an Occam's Razor simplicity. I just can't figure out how to maneuver and understand what others are assuming and want: it's been a frequent experience with me in my life to know that after talking to someone they walked away and after a time I realized that I said or did a wrong thing or didn't do something I was expected to do and either offended them or was dismissed as useless (clueless?). On listservs for ever so long I couldn't understand why I was said to be breaking some tabooes when I talked about myself. I knew I wasn't saying what really counted or telling the actual causes of my own anguish.
A few repeating experiences that cripple me or my endeavours are (apparently) wholly aspects of this disability. For example, I not only fear getting lost because I do panic, I often do get lost. I have to practice going to a place by car before going there if I have an appointment to make. I have no sense of direction. I much prefer driving on the streets because I can remember visual things along them. Highways are a blank, especially at high speed. It seems to me I perpetually guess wrong. I am one of those who once given a set of directions I can trust to must hold onto them and not deviate. Sometimes I get vexed at myself for not being able to deviate when I see a short cut, but experience has shown me if I take the short cut, I get anxious again. Even after 20 years of being in the English department at my college, I can easily get confused in the hall as to which way to walk to get to the right corridor. The department is on the fourth floor of a very bland rectangle building. All the corridor (four) on each floor are alike until you look at the boards on the walls, and notices and some peculiar configurations of doors. It still was frustrating to discover that I walked in the wrong direction from the elevator (as I often do) and had to walk all around to get to the department. But oddly I didn't feel as bad about it. I didn't feel so feeble and strange. It helped to know this was not just me being inadequate but some neurological condition where I can't cope as easily with space as other people. I've been told this is a form of discalculia. It's a space time problem. (I did always loathe those crazy algebraic and trigonometric stories where one can to work out which formula to use to understand the relationship between space and time. I would memorize the formula used for each type of story and ace the exam that way.)
This has serious consequences. I am very anxious when I travel anywhere near and really can't go far alone. Indeed I experience intense anxiety and dread often before going to social occasions where I don't know the people very well or there are too few (yet more than two). Paradoxically once I get there I often have a good time, but it's done through being too open sometimes and then when I come home I have very mixed and confused feelings about precisely what happened. Only recently -- since being on the Net (what an education this has been and continues to be) have I learned self-control, what is meant by self-control, the things we are to control and not show. This will be the subject of another blog.
I am just hopeless with new technology and find it very stressful to adjust to new things. Too much activity in one day with no quiet or rest inbetween bouts of socializing or doing things leaves me shaken.
I can list a whole bunch of traits which cause me pain and lead me to prefer being alone rather than uselessly try -- bang my head against a wall -- for something I don't enjoy or can't do. I confide too readily in people who seem to confide in me too quickly; they then will distance themselves when it was they who originally offered the confidences. I simply meant to reciprocate. I feel too strongly and have to control evidence of this strong feeling, for if or when I show it, while the immediate response may be sympathy or empathy (it may not), in the situations I am thinking about what happens is later on when the person is not there any more, I discover they estrange themselves. My sense of one of the afflictions of Aspergers is its traits make people feel every bit as strongly as neurotypicals, and sometimes stronger, for other people, but because we (or I) seem not to know how to show it in ways that are acceptable, we're driven to hide it lest the other person know it's there or exploit or manipulate it. . It's a complete misunderstanding to say all or a majority of Aspergers people are without emotion or empathy -- though some are. Rather it's a disability where one has an irregular emotional life
So I love quiet and quiet music. I love landscapes. Quiet art.
Nell Blaine, The Cookie Shop
Still lifes. My routs (routines).
Melancholy. Satire too, and irony. Certain kinds of books, the grace and slow movement of costume drama. I am often very sad (grim) -- this goes with the territory.
I'll write a separate blog -- indeed I may write far more than one -on the hostility and misunderstanding that Aspergers and other disabled people meet from those with no Aspergers traits, but here tonight I thought I'd end on the reality that it's been another losse at a Yahoo listserv, one for Aspergers which encourages,just about enforces anonymity which while I understand the practical reason for this (some who have jobs may fear losing them) it reinforces a sense of shame and precludes relating to people when you don't know who you are talking to or if an "identity" on the list is made up of several people. There were threads about friends and one man carefully defining and excluding this or that "circle of peope" as friends (one person did say this was unreal). A couple persisted in presenting reality in an unreal optimistic way and others bowed to the pressure to do so. They as a group shored up concepts like everyone has or should have (like it's a thing everyone can do) firm support system. They are as susceptible to respecting and dismissing others in accordance with the world's ranking as anyone else. The same repressive constraints, really illegitimate norms are validated and the question is, how can one "come up to these." People often can't and don't break through the very ideologies which work to berate and marginalize and pain them.