Category: Health

Coping with a New Diagnosis: Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD)

I’m going through a bit of an existential crisis lately. I’m switching back to the tech industry; I broke up with my partner; and a couple weeks ago I found out that I have a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome. That last thing is probably the most confusing thing to digest. It makes perfect sense honestly. I was always a loner in school. I’ve always been insanely reactive to noises. I started having meltdowns when I was 16. I excel at math and music. I’ve worked as an engineer, where half of the people might be on the spectrum. I’ve always been an insomniac. I found it nearly impossible to make friends until my mid-thirties. There’s more, a lot more.

Learning that I was born with my social difficulties has allowed me to realize that my weirdness is OK. I get overwhelmed by the world a lot, and I never really had an answer to why this is. I’ve been this way since I was little, so there is also a lot of trauma and rejection piled on top of my difficulty with people. Then I developed fibromyalgia as a response to constantly being overwhelmed and unable to form social bonds. And of course I was also way more femme than the other boys.

But a label is really just a label or a bucket that separates people as “other.” It can be helpful in some ways, but also limiting in other ways. I have learned how to live in a world that is not designed for me. I have learned how to mask myself by mimicking other people, and this is something that everyone does to varying degrees. Where my natural inclination is to talk about deep subjects, most people just want to do small talk.

But it hurts to think that maybe my relationships might have turned out better if I wasn’t so cold at times. I really do crave social interaction, but I also get overwhelmed, and it can be a lot of work to maintain relationships when you need so much alone time to recharge.

So I’m trying to figure out how to be myself with this new knowledge. I’ve ALWAYS felt strange. I used to think that I must be some sort of robot for not feeling my emotions like other people felt theirs. It’s a supremely odd thing to get some new knowledge that completely changes one’s entire personal history and personal narrative. And I know a common reaction to this will be “you don’t seem autistic!” That’s because I’ve worked very, very hard at developing behaviors that others take for granted. I’ve had to shoulder this load in silence, alone, and it’s been extremely exhausting.

I know because I don’t have skills in certain areas, I have talents in other areas, like writing and music. But right now I feel somewhat lost. I know I’ll find my footing again. I’m not these labels. I am a magical mermaid artist, lover, dreamer, creator, and fool who can make people laugh. I suppose it feels like a certain part of my brain is on overdrive, and so I have had to learn how to deal with this without spinning off the rails.

I’m figuring it out, but it’s been a slog. At least now I have an explanation of sorts for the root of my “issues.” And honestly for someone with high functioning Autism, I’m doing really well. I’m working full time; I’m getting my Master’s; and I’m a performing musician. But sometimes I get overwhelmed and turn into a social recluse to cope. It’s tiring, but I’m making my way through the fog with a little help from friends, family, and lovers. I wasn’t really born with the ability to maintain those relationships but I’ve learned how over the decades. And I’ll keep on learning.

“Hidden” illnesses like Fibromyalgia are real, and those who suffer from them are working harder than you might think just to be “normal.”

If someone has fibromyalgia or another chronic fatigue condition, they are probably trying a lot harder than it looks. I try not to fence myself in with limitations, but sometimes doing what everyone else takes for granted requires a tremendous amount of strength. They are not holding back. They are not lazy. They still love you even if they can’t keep up with you.

This might sound obvious, but as someone with an “invisible” illness like Fibro, I’ve often been called crazy, unmotivated, or lazy. I, in fact, have matured with two invisible conditions: Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue and being transgender. It often felt like I was living a lie because I had to conform to a society that was not built for me. But the reality is that any society that tells its children to not be themselves is a lying society.

I’ve made tremendous progress, and you can get over illnesses like Fibro, but you will likely have to be vigilant about roughly 20 different things in your day just to be “normal.” I’m surprising myself these days with my normalness. It feels great. But I’ve still had to deal with people not understanding me and giving me shit for not meeting their expectations. I guess I know now that those people are not right for me, and I have to find people who do understand what’s going on inside of me. Some people will never get it. They won’t see the 20 things you do every day that they don’t have to do. Or they’ll tell you that “everyone has problems,” and focus on what you can’t give them rather than what you do give them.

Live and learn I suppose. These conditions have made me an alien, a stranger in my own land. But honestly, I’m pretty glad about that reality because I do not want to be an average sleep-walking American. Getting through the alienation and struggle has made me a better person. It has been a steep climb, but now I know it was what I was born to do. There is something else invisible in everyone: a deep well of strength that can carry you forward through anything as long as you persist. And persist I shall.