Do I have Asperger Syndrome?
I’ve always been a quiet and shy person, one of my earliest memories is of my mother telling people “Don’t mind him he’s shy”. For the longest time I have just assumed that this was a quirk of my personality. Some people are born with brown hair some with blond; some are shy and some are bold but recently I have started to think that perhaps this is not a quirk of my personality but rather a symptom of Asperger Syndrome.
Of course people with AS are weird and you can tell just by looking at them that they are “on the spectrum”, there is absolutely no way I could have this, right? Some simple research tells me that I could be wrong. Late diagnoses of AS are fairly common with some people well into the their 60’s being diagnosed suggesting that it is wrong to assume that you can tell just by looking at someone that they have AS, and that this can very much be a silent or at least very quiet condition.
I’m 34 years old and have been considering, for about a year now, that I could have AS. Sometimes I am completely convinced that I have it and will not be told otherwise and at other times I feel like I’m being silly and perhaps trying to use the condition as an excuse for my failures in life. The waiting list for the NHS mental health services is ridiculously long so I’m not expecting a diagnostic assessment anytime soon although I am on the waiting list. A positive diagnosis would certainly explain a lot about my life so far, although seeking a diagnosis is scary, as I’m not sure how I would react if I was, in fact, told that I do not have AS. The one thing I do know is that I need to know one way or the other. Some people choose not to get a formal diagnosis which I do understand in some regards as there is no cure, there’s no magic pill, and therefore nothing’s going to change. But for me it’s not so much about the future as it is about understanding the past.
For 34 years now I have thought of myself as being just like everybody else, why would I assume otherwise? I got on well in early school, although quiet, I had friends and can’t really blame anybody for missing a potential diagnosis, as even looking back now I can’t think of any obvious signs of AS other than being quiet and shy. I’ve always been introverted though, I didn’t know what this was back then but looking back now I can remember that I was always thinking, all the time just in my own head, pondering. I was and still am a people watcher, in school I would watch the other kids and think about why they were acting the way they did, particularly the badly behaved kids. Why couldn’t they just do has they are told? When the teacher would tell them to stop talking, why did they continue to talk, it didn’t make sense, did they not understand? This was before the days of ADHD of course but my point is that so far I seem to be quiet, shy, introverted and studying my classmates to try to understand them. These symptoms alone of course are not enough for a diagnosis but from the little study I’ve done it seems that the signs of an AS sufferer can appear later in life. One particular thing happened when I was 11 years old which suggests some odd behaviour, a classmate of mine was killed in a car accident. I spent most of this school day watching my other classmates and trying to understand why they were showing so much emotion, many of them where crying uncontrollably. I started to feel like I was doing something wrong as I became acutely aware that I was not showing any emotion at all. I was more concerned with analysing everybody’s behaviour. It wasn't that I didn’t feel sad, I did, and I completely understood the gravity of the situation but I just wasn't reacting in the same way as the other kids. I also remember trying to feign tears so as not to seem callous but I couldn’t, I was clearly processing this situation differently, I was analysing it and not experiencing it. It was like I was on the outside looking in.
As I’ve already said I did fine in primary school, just mostly going unnoticed and this continued into high school. I was an average student and I had a small bunch of friends that I went through high school with but even within this group I was always on the fringes of it, just kind of a tag along, I generally didn’t speak unless I was spoken to and this way I wouldn’t be seen as anti-social and hopefully wouldn’t say or do anything stupid. I wasn’t bullied as I'm quite tall and was able to stand up for myself which I did on a few occasions. I do remember though that I was really only comfortable with my own group of friends. Whenever we, as a group, would interact with another group I remember thinking very strongly that I wished they would go away so we could be by ourselves. I hated interacting with people that I didn’t know, and still hate and fear it to this very day, I could never figure out if they were nice or not. I always saw them as a potential threat. I used to tell myself that these were just not my kind of people but now I think it could be because I just wasn't able to read the social gestures. Maybe they were nice people and I was the one not being particularly nice. Most of the guys in my small group of friends seemed to have other friends outside the group, I did not. I didn’t like it when things changed and throughout high school things and people do change, which is why every lunch hour instead of spending it with my friends I would routinely walk the 25 minutes home, grab something quick to eat, and walk the 25 minutes back to school, this way everyday would be the same, nothing bad would happen and I also just really liked being on my own for a while. Its things like this that I have never questioned, until now I would just put this down to my personality or perhaps adolescence.
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Undiagnosed - Part One