What was your initial reaction on being diagnosed with Asperger’s or a similar condition on the autism spectrum?
In my case it was one of considerable relief to finally have a name to put to my perceived odd way of thinking, impulsive behaviour, emotional turbulence as well as activities which are apparently know as “stimming” one of which was called “flying” by my stepfather in the absence of a better name for what I do when excited about something.
So here I was at age 45, sitting in a caring psychiatrist’s office while she explained her diagnosis based on her research of my “symptoms” and hearing a word I’d never come across before, despite being something of a keen amateur wordsmith and Scrabble player. (not that words beginning with capitals are generally allowed in the game invented by a certain Alfred Butts in 1938).
So I looked back on various events right from the very beginning of my school years (I could read by age 4 and had no problem with reading or writing when I started school) right up until comparatively recent events that puzzled me.
I would most likely never have been diagnosed had it not been for the post traumatic stress and accompanying joblessness of the mid-2000s. I stayed in a fairly well-run shelter for two years where strange happenings seemed to abound, coupled with a certain lethargy which was hard to emerge from, probably due to the remnants of my PTS.
I communicated regularly with my friend per “call box” telephone in the lounge of the main house on the premises. At this time I didn’t have a cell phone for a month or two and had no choice but to receive calls in the lounge. One evening a baby was making such a noise that I could barely hear and so I began yelling at the baby and quite naturally her cries became even louder as the decibels increased in my own voice. This meltdown on my part was not understood by two teenage boys on the premises. A few minutes later after I had returned to my shack there with my little rascal Benji, a rock landed on the roof with a thud. For a while it brought my mind back to my schooldays which abounded in such deviations from “normality”.
I’m prone to sudden bouts of extreme meltdown anger which I can forget all about within a few minutes, while those around me are still dazed and trying to regather their equilibrium. Luckily it seldom occurs nowadays but I can certainly recall various brief but violent episodes of meltdown, throwing things and having things thrown at me for example…
The more stressful a situation, the more radical a meltdown is likely to be, but often the outbreak of war clouds is way out of proportion to the trigger. A very small spark has caused bonfires that could threaten a city, and a gentle blow cause turbulence that could blow a satellite from the sky.
I’ve been able to identify and reduce such triggers as much as possible. For example, once when kicking over a bucket of paint, it was because it fell on my foot. An inanimate object suddenly became an enemy conspiring to stub my toe!
There has been an amazing improvement as I gained maturity and as the effects of my PTS lessened.
I wish I could have been able to put a name to these “symptoms” years previously, but now I can look back and identify other individuals I’ve met who in all probability were also on the spectrum, and have more empathy for them.
And so the saga of learning and growing continues. As the Nike logo states, there’s no finish line!
Despite my Achilles heel ruining my exercise plans at the current time, turning me into an Internet potato head, I feel a lot more motivated these days and am ready for any new challenges and opportunities that may come my way. I’m learning new stuff every day and am grateful to the doctor who took the trouble to go the extra mile.