I’ve mentioned before that finding out that I’m autistic/an Aspie has felt like stumbling upon the code-key to my entire life.
Since those of us on the spectrum have been said to tend to say–and understand–communication in more of a literal sense, please take the statement above…almost literally. 🙂
I didn’t unearth a physical code-key or anything. But I did get hit (in a good way) with such a profound series of revelations in rapid-fire frequency, that I felt like I had. It sure seemed that way.
I think that I asked myself so that’s an Asperger’s/autism thing too?” so many times that I felt like a CD that keeps skipping in one particular spot.
After all, so many loose ends seemed tied together in one neat little package. And many of these ends were extremely loose; this went well beyond the more-obvious characteristics such as introversion, social awkwardness, interpreting (and expressing) communicating literally, my feeling of being “othered” in an otherwise-seemingly-cohesive world, my playing with my hair (a stim), my intense focus on certain subjects (human biochemistry and pathophysiology, pathological microbiology, abnormal psychology, music, economics, art, etc), and so on.
Suddenly, all of those quirks I had filed under “Miscellaneous” seemed to merge together in a single phenomenon, with a single explanation: Asperger’s/autism.
For example, I had always been clumsy. This wasn’t the case as much in childhood as it is now for me as an adult; it has increased over time. I think that the only reason that I hadn’t been as uncoordinated during childhood and adolescence was that I was much more physically active, which has a way of strengthening neurological pathways, a topic on which I’ll expand in a future post.
Another example: I knew I liked to spin as a small child. Spinning was amazing! It felt incredible. I had thought that every kid had done that, and was quite surprised to find out a mere few months ago that that’s not the case.
I also realized why I had a “mental jukebox” in my head. I can wake up with songs running through my head, and they can pop up at random (especially when I’m trying to sleep!), start meshing together, and whatnot.
I now had an explanation for being so “picky” when it came to how I work and interface with people who aren’t in my familiar Inner Circle.
I had found the answer to why I have perfect pitch, why I could never handle mashed potatoes, or why an instantaneous shockwave sensation washes over me when someone drops something in the kitchen. (God(dess), I hate kitchens!)
I also understood why I had a small security blanket (called a “tiew” pronounced like “you” but with a “T” at the beginning) until age seven.
I now had an idea why I looked so much older than my age in childhood and adolescence, but haven’t changed too much since then.
I knew why I could reinvent myself as needed, although this always took considerable amounts of energy and was usually accompanied by massive discomfort.
I hadn’t known that being uncoordinated, spinning in circles, hearing songs in my mind, having such specific criteria for meeting with people, hearing a song on the radio and being able to tell what key it’s in, or trying to copy-paste someone else’s personality into my own had anything to do with being autistic/an Aspie. I hadn’t had a clue that any of my quirks were connected to a common denominator, much less that particular common denominator.
I suddenly knew why I was so sensitive, why I couldn’t stand living in certain places, why I can’t stand bad vibes, why I’m so “tuned in” to animals, why I can make eye contact with animals but not people, and why I can’t handle Borderline Personalities, head-games, pettiness, or superficiality.
I realized why it would take me so long to recover from practically anything, whether it was a short trip out of town (even if it was enjoyable), a concert, an outing (even grocery shopping), a conflict, the end of a friendship, the loss of a loved one (through death), and so on.
It explains why I was never interested in “mainstream” topics like sports, headline news, war coverage, celebrities, reality TV shows, mainstream political candidates, even large companies (you know, the ones that seem to be on every street corner, or at least, in every town). Hell, I won’t even go into mainstream grocery stores, listen to current mainstream music, or watch current mainstream movies.
I also know why I never “got into” sexual intimacy: it’s too overwhelming to my tactile senses. It also seemed to be an incredible waste of time. How could I ever expect to stay caught up (or try to catch up) with my racing brain and all of its Thought Exhaust?
All this time, I thought these were simple “quirks”–sometimes advantages or gifts, and other times character flaws. I could effortlessly do “this” or that, and there were other “this”s and “that”s that I could never seem to master.
Looking around me at the people in my (offline) life, I didn’t notice these traits in anyone else.
I didn’t notice anyone else bumping their shoulder on the corner of a wall because they rounded that corner too closely.
I didn’t notice anyone else becoming irritable just from spending some time in a mall.
I didn’t notice anyone else having such a tough time getting motivated to work after an emotional falling out with a friend or someone at work.
I didn’t hear of anyone else who didn’t like sex; everyone talked about how much fun it was, and how it was a biological need, yada yada. (Yeah, no–it’s not a need for me.)
I had never heard of anyone else having to plan their day as carefully as I did, or having to insist upon knowing every detail upfront, and so on.
I hadn’t heard of anyone else being shocked because they’d been called a smartass because they said something they genuinely meant but didn’t intend to be offensive.
I hadn’t known anyone else to enjoy peeling the bark off of trees, the paint or old wallpaper off of walls, or anything else. I could spend hours contently doing any one of these, without getting bored.
I hadn’t known anyone else to experience the same confusion on a daily basis regarding the world at large like I did.
I didn’t know anyone with an equally long memory (mine go back to five months of age, if not earlier. But I’m not sure that’s always a good thing!).
…Until, that is, I met other people in the Asperger’s/autistic community. Blog post or tweet after blog post or tweet, came the revelations.
And the revelations are still coming.
My trouble with getting on and off escalators? Check.
My desire for evenly-distributed pressure/weight on my body? Yep–that, too.
My previous feeling of confusion regarding gender identity and sexual orientation? My ability to form incredibly deep and affectionate (but nonsexual) relationships or attachments with someone in particular? My unconventional taste in people? Yep–check, check, check.
My wish to stop or pause the world so that I can catch up? Totally.
And my dichotomous wish for the world to hurry up and catch up to where I’m at so that I don’t have to keep explaining things or trudge laboriously through mundane information? That’s a thing, too.
Even though in less than three weeks I’ll be a year into my self-discovery (and as of yesterday, I’m four months in to formal diagnosis), I still continue to read, research, and accumulate knowledge and understanding. I still make new connections. I still uncover new info-nuggets. I still feel the occasional “a-ha!” moment.
I don’t think I’ll ever be “done”. The rabbit hole keeps going, forever deeper than I had ever imagined.
And I rather like that 🙂
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(Image Credit: Android Jones)