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23 year old female, new diagnosis & unrealized social deficits due to previous substance abuse


New Member
Hi all!

My name is MB and I am a 23-year-old student in my second year of a Master's in Social Work program (not the status quo, I realize). I began going through the formal process of diagnosis with a psychologist who specializes in Asperger's (or ASD now) after being referred to the specialist after 6 months of weekly therapy with one of the the more prominent psychoanalytic psychiatrists in Southern California. So, needless to say, my Asperger's was pretty well hidden from everyone, including myself. My mom has severe Asperger's as well, which was not fully realized until I began the diagnostic process myself. My life has been non-conventional to put it mildly - my dad was a computer science researcher and professor and my mom was an electrical engineer growing up, and I was raised by Au Pairs (young women -from Sweden and Germany in my family's case- who come to the United States to live with a family for a year and learn the culture while taking care of the kids for 30ish hours per week). I loved having au pairs as a child, and developed a love of traveling the world and seeing beautiful places as a result. After moving states at age 11, my parents decided to have me skip 7th grade because of my mom's fear that I would 'lose interest in school.' I began to suffer from fairly severe OCD at this time and searched the internet for the cause of my repetitive counting and need for things to be situated 'just so.' However, my mom dismissed my concerns as a phase, which set the stage for years of hiding feelings and behaviors. I began to turn my need for control and order to food when I was 15, and developed anorexia, which my parents did not know anything about or how to address it. I ended up finding a program online for anorexia nervosa treatment, and I forced myself to follow the steps until I gained back the weight - one of the most difficult things I have done to this day. I then signed up for a study abroad program in Spain for the fall of my senior year in high school to escape myself and my family, and spent most of my days on the beach talking with homeless people and smoking hash. I graduated from high school at 16, and was well-known in my small town for my unconventional habits, use of alcohol and drugs, and academic promise (a difficult combination). I repeatedly would force myself to do things that made me feel uncomfortable in order to overcome that feeling, including being a barista, joining a sorority in college, nude modeling for figure drawing classes. I majored in psychology and learned how other people think, and have been obsessed with the subject for my entire life (and am applying to PhD programs for this fall). I seriously abused drugs and alcohol throughout college, rarely attended lectures because they were boring and I preferred to teach myself the material, and excelled academically at a top school. However, in the fall of my senior year of college I had a panic attack that was so severe that I felt like I was in the sky watching my body from above, and I did an emergency in-take at the school counseling center. After a year of weekly psychotherapy and meeting bi-weekly with a psychiatrist, I was given diagnoses of 1) Panic Disorder, 2) Generalized Anxiety Disorder and 3) possible bipolar II or cyclothymia, with no consensus reached. After I graduated I worked at a residential treatment camp for kids with severe emotional and behavioral problems for a summer, then broke up with my boyfriend from college who was drafted into the NFL that May because of reasons I could not understand myself, but was able to verbalize that I could not bear the thought of other people being interested in my day-to-day life and the social obligations that would come along with the relationship. I then bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia, and ended up backpacking alone through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Bali for 7 months, sleeping on wooden platforms and hostels for $3 a night while drinking every day and escaping reality. I then bought and drove a 1970s Honda Win motorcycle across Vietnam despite never having driven a motorcycle before, in a final attempt to rid myself of the severe anxiety and panic attacks that I experienced while driving (which I now understand originated from sensory overload). Fast forward to my return to the United States after 9 months in Asia, and my subsequent starting of graduate school within 2 weeks of my return. The transition was an absolute catastrophe, and my alcohol consumption reached a peak and finally began to impede on my life. I set up an appointment with a psychiatrist trained in psychoanalysis with 40 years of clinical experience, because I knew that I needed to see someone who was undoubtedly more knowledgeable about psychology than I was (which is more difficult than expected due to the fact that I had been reading scientific psychological articles since I was 11 and was absolutely obsessed with the subject). He immediately diagnosed me with severe ADHD this past February, which meds improved a lot, and I slowly began to stop drinking so much. However, my impairments proved to not be limited to ADHD when my parents told me that I was conceived with donor sperm this past May, which alerted me to the fact that my dad was not my biological father and sent me into a depressive meltdown. After giving up alcohol, I realized how much I actually hated being at parties sober, as well as most other superficial social engagements. I have been described by most people I know as eccentric and different, but it was never in a negative fashion. I was a complete tomboy growing up, and remember viewing girls' activities as 'stupid' and 'boring' in elementary school. However, the boys thought it was cool that a girl liked to play sports and was a bit more rough around the edges, so it didn't cause many problems for me socially growing up. I do remember watching girls intently to study their behaviors, and remember looking at the AOL Instant Messenger away messages of girls in my grade to try to learn and understand their humor (and imitate it myself). I also would imitate behaviors of TV and movie characters that I liked, which usually were the 'rebels' because I identified with their feelings of not belonging. My mom had always told me that I was a normal toddler and young child growing up, but I didn't consider that the observation was made from someone who had Asperger's Syndrome herself. I found out that I taught myself to read when I was 4 (before I could successfully tie my shoes), refused to wear anything except a certain dress for a year, would only wear soft fabrics, and insisted that my mom tie little ribbon bows onto all of my shirts so that I could run the silk of the ribbon through my fingernails to calm myself. I remember playing by myself for hours as a young child, and would often set up soccer games for the beanie babies I collected to play - but I would just set them up and imagine they were playing, not actually play with them.
Anyways, my life has been turned around in ways I couldn't imagine in the past year, and I have discovered that my true personality is FAR more introverted than the life I have carried out would suggest. My newfound desire for isolation and awareness of the sensory experiences / overloads I experience have come to light, but I have basically done everything in my power to overcome these differences in the past by flooding myself with whatever stimulus caused them. I feel in a very strange spot of not appearing to have had suffered any social deficits throughout my life, and even the people closest to me did not believe my diagnosis at first (but have come to fully believe in it through their own research). It is a weird time for me! I would love to hear about anyone else's experiences of 'non-conventional Asperger lives' until diagnosis, and how the diagnosis changed your life or the way you view yourself (positively or negatively), as well as any social adaptions made and how they went.
Looking forward to learning more about this interesting and complex condition, especially among late-diagnosed females!

Or if you've been here a while hi, I really enjoyed the look into your experiences. I like hearing about things that I know nothing about.
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