Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hello, my name is Leigh, and I'm an...

I'm an Aspie. There, I said it.

It was on the 16th November 2010, at 1.05pm, when I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.
I cried.
It was a life-changing moment, but also a (albeit, harrowing) confirmation of a long-held suspicion, and not a surprise.

It has been a surprise for many others, though - those who don't know me. "Well, it is a spectrum," they say. "You obviously don't have it very badly."

They wouldn't last five minutes inside my head.

From the age of three I've known I was different, and that I didn't want to be. As I grew up, I studied body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and everything else that goes along with 'being normal'. I convinced myself that if I just worked at it hard enough, I could be like everyone else. I got quite good, didn't I?

The trouble is, the more skilled I became at pretending (which is all it could ever be), the more people expected me to behave 'normally'. As I mastered increasingly subtle ways of interacting (you lot have no idea how complex a conversation is, and on how many levels), it became harder and harder for me to keep up. I became exhausted. Long term, chronically tired. Which is why I finally had to know.

Knowing is good, of course - it has to be - but, remembering that I've dedicated my whole life to being accepted into your world, having the door slammed and locked in my face is... well, it's been a bit upsetting.

It took me two weeks to stop crying. I went through denial, bargaining, anger... I raged at everyone: the people at my school/university, for making my life hell - peers and staff alike (note to VJ: You bullied the autistic kid. How big d'you feel now?); my parents, for their attempts to correct me with 'discipline'; and everyone else around me for having what I wanted. I'm through that now. You're fine. (Please scratch anything I said/wrote to the contrary in recent weeks. Thanks.)

I'm calmer now, and can forgive myself for so many things: I'm not a failure; I'm not a crybaby; I'm not a fusspot; I'm not rude or uncaring, a stubborn little madam, or any one of a myriad of confidence-destroying labels. I'm an Aspie.

Learning all about what makes an Aspie is like a homecoming, and reading Tony Attwood's Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome, is like reading a Haynes manual for Being Me. I wish I'd read it thirty years ago. I wish my parents and teachers had read it... Anyway, I've decided. I'd rather be a happy Aspie, than an miserable impostor.

So when I talk to much, don't get your jokes, object to being teased, want the music turned down, wander off by myself, or whatever... please understand I'm not being awkward, I'm being weird. I hope you're okay with that.

I am.


Queenie said...

You're a writer, too, hon. And a brave woman. Beautiful, eloquent post. Sending you love and hugs xxx

Jen said...

Weird or whatever you call it, you know what I think. It's made me really fascinated to learn more about Aspergers - and besides, if you were like everyone else, you wouldn't be you. And the 'you' I know and love is pretty blinkin' fab.

Tom Foolery said...

"I'm being weird. I hope you're okay with that...."

Of course we're Leigh, you're what you're and I agree with Jen, just remember you're a pretty blinkin' fab lady too :)) TFx

trousers said...

Absolutely. More than ok with this - to echo what Queenie wrote, this is a brave and eloquent post.

womagwriter said...

Everyone is who they are, and who we love is the person: warts, labels, weirdness (or not) and all. Which is not to imply you have warts.

Brave post, Leigh.

Fran said...

Great post. You don't often hear an adult's point of view on this.

Gavin Bollard said...

Welcome to the club. You're standing shoulder to shoulder with some giants who have already proven that it's not a barrier.

Knowing and accepting is half the battle. Now that you know what you're dealing with, you'll re-evaluate your past in a new light (It's taken me years to come to terms with mine). You'll also find yourself more and more playing to your strengths.

A new day is dawning and you are the sunrise.

Debs said...

Ditto what Queenie said.

My nephew/godson has Aspergers and is one of the loveliest people I know, so as far as I'm concerned you're in excellent company.x

Sue Guiney said...

You're brave, honest, smart, kind and lovely. Aspergers is just one of the many things that you are.

Casdok said...

Weird is more than ok :)

B said...

wow. the times i've met you you have seemed entirely normal. you must have been exhausted. i'm glad you can finally know for sure and be yourself. proper yourself, no pretence.


and i'm so glad that Asperger's is (a little) better understood these days. hopefully there is even a little less chance of Aspies being blamed for their condition now. i really hope so anyway.

Denise said...

What a beautiful post. Weird is definitely OK :-)

Leigh said...

Thank you, everyone for your comments. I wasn't fishing for compliments, but that you say such nice things helps a lot just now :o)

Karen said...

Didn't you know - weird is the new normal :o)

Acceptance is hard but can bring peace too. You're uniquely lovely and I'm sure no one who knows you would want you any other way.

Troy said...

Having met you twice I must confess to finding it hard to get my head around this. Given your reactions to my "witty" comments and your own highly developed wit and GSOH, I would never have seen you as an Aspie. Frankly I'm a stunned and speechless* Troy.
(* well apart from these words)

Jenny Beattie said...

I like odd. I like you just the way you are. Whatever you are. Big hugs, JJx

Leigh said...

Thanks JJ and Karen.

Troy speechless? That's a first.

Lane said...

what an eloquent post.

Ok with it? as the others have already said - you betchya.

Have a wonderful Christmas m'dear. x

born2bme said...

Hello Leigh,
Weird is wonderful and a lot more interesting than normal! :)
Welcome to Aspie Bloggyland!
Bruce :)

Leigh said...

Lane - Thanks, love. Hope you had a good Christmas too. Hope to see you in 2011 :o)

Bruce - thanks for this! Looking forward to reading more on your blog.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Hi Leigh,

Welcome to the World of the Weird! The great thing about us is that, once you realize you're one of us, you end up feeling you're not so weird after all. :-) You're just you.

Catherine Hughes said...

Hi Leigh!

I love your blog. And your post was very wise. What you say about spending so much time pretending to be normal and about others' expectations as a result struck a huge chord with me.

Best wishes!


Leigh said...

Cat - thanks for coming by and commenting. Your blog has inspired me more than I can say this week.