I never heard of Aspergers when I was a kid. I remember when I first heard about autism (Temple Grandin). I felt like there was a certain kindred-ness I couldn’t quite explain. The vivid pictorial imagination; the social awkwardness. But since I only ever heard of the more severe cases of autism, I didn’t really think that could be me. I was highly verbal. I could function in regular classes. I had a terrible time socially, but so long as I was getting straight A’s, the teachers and therapists didn’t seem to think anything was wrong. I made it through elementary and secondary school. Things got easier in college. My peers were less judgemental and I started to break through the low-self esteem that had plagued me through my adolescence. I even started to learn some of the social skills I had missed.
Then, at 19, I entered adulthood all at once when my mother and only caregiver passed away. I seemed to be far less prepared than other 19 year-olds. I had not yet bothered to learn how to drive, and was terrified by the idea of financially supporting myself. I dropped out of college and spiraled into anxiety and depression. It took me years to pull myself together. Adversity does not always make us stronger, at least not right away. I don’t know if I ever would have worked things out without the help of my ‘Aunty’ (my mom’s cousin). She let me stay at her place for a nominal rent. I stopped stressing about ending up on the street. I started to plan my future.
Over the next few years, I finished my biology degree, got more involved with Judaism, got a decent job, and got married. Then I stayed at the same decent – but also stressful and dissatisfying – job for six years. I was brilliant in college. Why am I stuck doing boring administrative work? Why do I let it stress me out so much? Why can’t I seem to get it together to do what I really want?
I finally quit that job. For the past year and a quarter, I have been working part-time for an online nonprofit, with the idea that I would spend my free time on putting together a more satisfying career. I try, I fail. Plans stall out. It’s too hard. I didn’t know why.
So back to Aspergers. I have been having a much easier time socially lately. Yes, I am still awkward, but I care less. I am learning. Meanwhile, I have a few good friends who accept me for who I am. But every now and then it still bothers me. Why was my childhood so hard? Why am I have such a hard time now with productivity? Could my social troubles and my productivity troubles be *gasp* related??
Why yes, they can. I have been suspecting that I have Aspergers for some time. But every time took a look online at the symptoms, there just wasn’t enough there. Until recently. I discovered that women are grossly under-diagnosed for Aspergers because they present differently. Once I started looking at the symptoms for women, it all started to fit. What I have is a system of intertwined talents and difficulties. Every aspect of my personality is affected by this.
For the second time in my life, I am finding my people. The first time, I found in the Jewish people a family that would accept me for all my differences, even if they didn’t understand. Now, I’m finding people who actually do understand. It’s really exciting.
And I’m learning how to navigate this labyrinth that is my mind. Come wander the pathways with me.