Anna always felt different. Recently, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder that makes everyday situations challenging. With the MISSING PUZZLE PIECE finally in place, life began to make more sense. Here she shares what it’s really like LIVING WITH ASPERGERS….
As a kid I always felt different. Others saw me as eccentric, weird, a bit odd. You know the kind of kid we’re talking about; the loner, the child who either wants to be left alone in their own little world, or the one who interrupts conversations to expound on their latest obsession. With me it was meteorology, astronomy, archaeology. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t want to play with other kids, but it bothered others. Adults thought it wasn’t healthy, that I should socialise more. They tried to encourage me to take part in group activities, inevitably leading to a meltdown. I couldn’t stand the noise, the confusing behaviours of other children. They laughed at my clumsiness, made fun of my voice and seemed to talk in a code I couldn’t crack. Being physically close to people made me uncomfortable. I found it so hard to process what was going on, to read between the lines, to figure out how social interaction worked. None of it came naturally and trying so hard to act normal was exhausting, dispiriting and very stressful. Every day was a minefield, a jigsaw puzzle with no picture on the lid.
Understanding how someone can be your friend one day and not the next was so confusing. And we all know how tricky groups of girls can be. It was completely beyond me and my confusion was compounded by the fact that I don’t get nastiness, don’t find sarcasm funny, don’t understand ulterior motives.
I moved schools a lot as a child, so my isolation was sometimes put down to being ‘the new kid’. Granted it didn’t help, as in each new place I had to try once again to figure out the bewildering dynamics of relationships. Understanding how someone can be your friend one day and not the next was so confusing. And we all know how tricky groups of girls can be. It was completely beyond me and my confusion was compounded by the fact that I don’t get nastiness, don’t find sarcasm funny, don’t understand ulterior motives.
On top of that, teachers were forever telling me to try harder; a constant theme running through my childhood. If you just tried harder, if you just made an effort, if you listened more, if you could try to be more organised. What they didn’t realise was that I was trying really, really hard. It just didn’t pay off. I’d do the wrong homework, say the wrong thing, bring the wrong book. Trying to organise appointments and times, and keeping all that in my head while trying to remember names and to look someone in the eye, for so long but not too long, while trying to interpret facial expressions and gestures and tone of voice. It was mind-blowingly stressful and perplexing for me. I tried so hard to fit in, to pass for normal, to be like any other girl. But on the outside it looked like I was lazy or didn’t care. Far from it. I cared so much it hurt.
For more, see our September issue of THE GLOSS Magazine, which is out today, free with The Irish Times — don’t forget to pick up your copy.