Hello to all my readers. I apologise for not blogging as regularly recently-settling into life as a married woman means I am very busy a lot of the time. I also turned 30 this past Monday so have been busy celebrating that. To coincide with turning 30, I thought I would do a blog post detailing 30 things I have learned from 30 years living with Aspergers. As I always say, this list may not be applicable to every person with the diagnosis as we are all individuals-this is based purely on my personal experience. It’s intended to be a bit of fun so hope everyone takes it in the spirit that’s intended.
1. Living with Aspergers is an emotional roller coaster-so many highs and lows, but the best thing is just to accept your life for what it is. Trying to improve your life is never a bad thing but work with what you’ve got to do that, rather than just hoping one day the Aspergers won’t be there.
2. Your friends and relatives can set their watch by your little routines.
3. Talking of watches, you are always early to every appointment and social engagement you have as you hate being late for anything and so take great lengths to ensure that doesn’t happen. (I know some people on the spectrum can struggle with time keeping due to executive functioning issues-I’m not one of them).
4. Social rules keep changing and, as an adult, it’s a lot harder to get away with making social mistakes than it was when you were a kid.
5. These days, a lot of people think they know what Aspergers entails (largely through media exposure) but have the wrong impression or idea when it comes to you personally. Try not to be offended-instead use the opportunity to raise awareness and educate them into what Aspergers is like for you.
6. You may as well save some time and not even take a menu in a restaurant as you know exactly what you are going to have there but you end up glancing through the menu every time anyway only to choose exactly the same meal you’ve chosen for the last 10 years every time you eat at this restaurant.
7. A lot of people, including a worrying number of professionals, seem to believe that, once you turn 18, your condition suddenly disappears and you go from being a child who needs a lot of support to being an adult who needs no support at all despite having a whole different set of issues to cope with. This is very frustrating and has ended up being very harmful towards some people on the spectrum, particularly with PIP being declined in a lot of cases. This is one aspect of ignorance that I find so hard to change because so many people still think of autism as a childhood condition.
8. Traits which often lead to bullying in your school years, such as being hard working and eager to please, are well respected in the workplace. (That said, the employment statistics for autistic adults are dire-I have come across an extremely high number of people on the spectrum who are perfectly capable of working but are not given the chance which really upsets me because we, as a community, deserve more. I have been lucky enough to find a career in an industry I thrive in but I know that a lot of other people on the spectrum are not as fortunate. Hopefully, in time, things will change).
9. You seem to have a special affinity with animals.
10. You have odd little habits that most people don’t understand but that you rely on to feel secure. One of mine is watching TV with the subtitles on. I don’t need to have them on as my hearing is fine but, for the past 20 years, I have needed them on to make me feel secure. It’s really hard to explain but I know that a lot of other people with Aspergers have similar sorts of comforts.
11. Clothing was never designed with us in mind. Labels feel like sandpaper against your skin and certain textures lead to frenzied itching (wool is the main one for me). Most people on the spectrum dress for comfort, not style, hence why most of us are never going to win any style awards!
12. Certain sensations that don’t seem to phase other people are such an issue for you that you do anything to avoid them. One chief example for me is static electricity. The thought of receiving a static shock is so distressing to me that I will roll my coat over my hand before I touch the handrail of an escalator or open a car door because these have given me static shocks in the past. I will also avoid unfolding any item of clothing that’s just come out of the dryer and has static properties. I recently received a static shock from an escalator in a busy London railway station and spent 10 minutes looking for a lift so I wouldn’t have to step on the escalator again (there wasn’t one so I ended up having to go back on the escalator after a couple of “false starts” because I was so worried about getting another static shock!)
13. Everyone wants you on their quiz team at the pub quiz because you’re great at knowing the small details that most other people overlook because they find them boring.
14. You get so fed up when people accuse you of not having empathy because you are actually highly sensitive and emotional.
15. You don’t understand how anybody could find clubbing a fun night out as it’s far too overwhelming for your senses. You’d rather a nice meal in a curry house any day!
16. You love a bit of repetition! Whether it’s a certain episode or scene from your favourite TV show or a certain song, you have no qualms with watching/listening to it 500 times in a row!
17. You realise who your true friends are when you’re in meltdown mode in front of them.
18. You are always accused of being too open but you don’t know any other way to be.
19. Your inner thermostat never matches with the weather. It can be the middle of summer and you feel the need to wear a coat or it could be the middle of winter and you get your shorts and T shirt out!
20. Your family, friends, teachers and work colleagues recognise your handwriting anywhere because it’s so unique, to put it politely!
21. You’ve always seen clapping or jumping as a legitimate expression of excitement or happiness and don’t understand why so many people can’t understand this!
22. Textures of food items are more of an issue than how they taste when it comes to whether you can eat them without gagging.
23. You don’t understand why people see obsessions as a bad thing when they have brought you so much happiness over the years.
24. It’s hard to try new things but, once you do, you continually amaze yourself with how you can adapt to your new circumstances and how strong you are.
25. A lot of people have low expectations for you and you are continually proving people wrong.
26. You are so disorganised and continually misplace or lose your personal possessions but seem to be able to find other people’s lost possessions with ease.
27. You wonder constantly how you managed to get to adulthood with such non existent observation skills.
28. You know that the friends who stick by you are special and you would do anything for them. We’re not the easiest people to be friends with a lot of the time so those who remain friends with us are life’s decent people.
29. A lot of people won’t ever understand you or have the will to try-those who do understand us are the ones we need to keep in our lives. It makes life so much easier than constantly trying to explain yourself to someone who will never understand you.
30. Finally, despite all the negatives, you wouldn’t change who you are for the world because you have a great life.