I'm a 43-year-old married mother of three children and two step-children. I recently discovered that I have what used to be called Asperger's Syndrome but is now just referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder. I'd like to share with you how this discovery has affected me.
I started researching symptoms of autism when my 18-year-old son suggested that autism explained a lot of symptoms he had been dealing with throughout his life. As I read through the abundant material available online I kept thinking to myself, wow, this sounds a lot like me. I took a few online self-evaluation tests and, on all of them, I had scores that confirmed I indeed have Asperger's.
Now, a lot of people have been telling me that because I haven't been officially diagnosed, I can't really know that I have Asperger's. Let me just say that when you've known all your life that you're different than everyone else and you have difficulties in areas that others can't even begin to understand and then you see a list of symptoms and they almost all apply to you, it is a moment of revelation that you will never forget. For me, it was a very pleasant shock. After all my years trying to explain what was going on inside of me to others who didn't understand, I realized that I'm not crazy, I'm not just imagining that I have problems. It was all written there right in front of me and many other people have the same experiences that I do.
There is a huge mixture of emotions going on inside me over my realization. On one hand, I have a major sense of relief but there is also a lot of fear and worry. How will my friends and family react to this news? Will I lose some of my friends because of stereotypes? Will my husband and children still love and respect me? Should I even tell anyone or just keep it to myself?
It took me several weeks of worrying and planning before I told my husband. He was a bit skeptical but he was well aware of many of my particular quirks and after I presented him with some information I had put together he was actually very accepting. I have talked to my kids about it and some understand, others don't but they still love me nonetheless. I haven't been brave enough to tell my friends yet. I have made some new online friends from groups related to Asperger's and they have proven invaluable in opening my eyes to this new enlightenment.
One of the most important things I've learned is that there is nothing "wrong" with me. If you were to look at me, you wouldn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I am different in the way that my brain is wired but I am still a fully functioning human being. The ways that I am different from others are minimally noticeable to anyone but myself, this is actually the hardest thing about Asperger's.
Social skills are very difficult for me to navigate. I can't read body language well and I often don't get jokes or hints. I don't understand when people are lying most of the time and I have a tendency to be over trusting and a bit naive. I'm not sure when it's the right moment in a conversation for me to speak or laugh or whatever else might be called for. Making eye contact is very difficult but I try because I know it is expected. I keep to myself as much as possible. I only speak when I know for sure that what I'm saying is correct. The amount of fear and anxiety created every time I may need to have a conversation is extreme and not something a typical person can understand. I would rather stay home all day than go out and risk running into someone that I may have to have an unplanned conversation with. If I have an event that I must attend, I can spend days stressing out before hand and planning every possible thing that may happen and how I could deal with each of those things should they come to pass. Having said that, if you were to see me at a social function or out in the neighbourhood, you would have no idea that all this is going on inside of me. I work very hard at presenting myself well to others. At the end of every day I am often exhausted just from the effort of trying to portray myself as "normal" to everyone.
There are a lot of other symptoms of Asperger's and I will continue to write about each of the symptoms and how they affect me personally in articles to come. Thanks for reading :)