Today has been a very strange one. This morning I had an appointment with a Consultant Psychiatrist, who put me through a detailed assessment before confirming my suspected Asperger Syndrome diagnosis.
My strongest feeling tonight is one of relief at finally having a diagnosis that makes sense, after years of frustrating treatment for anxiety, stress, depression and the like, making little progress with any other therapies I have tried. As I suspected, I have a relatively mild and high-functioning form of Asperger Syndrome, which is probably why the condition went unidentified for so long, especially in my childhood. But today’s diagnosis means I can start learning more about the condition and how to manage it, so it impacts as little and as harmlessly as possible on my life and the lives of those around me. It also explains properly feelings, reactions and unconscious behaviour that I have been dealing with for a long time.
Why I constantly feel as though I am in a bubble, detached from the world around me, yet affected in strange and unpredictable ways by the people and events I come across. Why I can never answer the therapists’ questions “What did you feel like before all this began?” and “How would you like to get back to feeling?”, as I cannot ever remember feeling any differently. Why I don’t understand the way other people react to things, or why it is so different to my own responses. Why I get obsessed with things. Why I always want to talk about what is important to me, and interrupt people to make sure I can do that. Why I find social situations so impenetrable, and even a casual night out with great friends can be so daunting it brings me to tears of dread. Why I walk a constant tightrope between feeling like the most selfish and unlikeable person in the world, yet devoting so much energy, effort and heartache into trying to please other people and make them like me. These are just some of the things that can at least partly be explained by the diagnosis.
But alongside the relief, part of me is scared, maybe more than I ever have been in my life before. For years I have worked on the basis that somewhere, in some medication, therapy, lifestyle choice or whatever, there would be a way to “get better”, a way to stop feeling like this, and maybe just be able to respond to life the way I see people around me do, but can never quite understand. But of course Asperger Syndrome is for life. While there are some things that might be helped by some targeted Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions, most of the support I can expect will be in the form of information that will hopefully help me to understand more and cope better. There will definitely not be any “getting better” in the way I thought there could be, and that is a daunting prospect.
So why am I writing this? Well, partly as a way of getting things out of my head in a coherent form. One thing I have learned from all that therapy is that writing feelings down can sometimes help! But partly because I feel somehow that I owe it to myself, and to people that know me to varying degrees, to be perfectly honest now that the diagnosis has been confirmed.
Not for sympathy – I would not want that from anyone, nor for people to treat me any differently from how they ever have. Just for people to know and, if I’m very lucky, to understand. To realise why I need routines and to have everything planned out, and why I get so upset if plans get changed. To know that if I only see the world from my point of view, and don’t always ask questions about their lives, it doesn’t mean I’m being self-centred in the normal sense of the term, or that I am not interested in my friends and family and how their lives are going. To know that if I interrupt them to talk about something on my mind, it’s not that I don’t care about their views and am not interested in listening to them, because I promise that is not the case at all. To appreciate that if I act like we’re best friends when we don’t know each other that well really, I’m not a stalker. To not want to strangle me if I am needy, trying too hard or being hard work in any other way. To understand that if I need a break from being sociable sometimes, it’s not a reflection on the company.
Most of all, just so people will know me honestly. Leading up to the diagnosis, I have learned so much about myself from finding out about Asperger Syndrome. I feel like for the first time probably in my life, certainly my adult life, I am starting to know and understand who I am and why my brain works in a different way, and essentially I want to give other people a chance to do the same. So now you know.
If you’d like to know more about Asperger Syndrome, feel free to ask me and I’ll try my best, alternatively a simple but detailed description can be found on the National Autistic Society website.