So bear with me.. because now that I have introduced myself, I have to tell about my struggle with Asperger’s syndrome. People with Asperger’s syndrome, you may find these symptoms, feelings, and stories relateable; maybe not.
My struggle and diagnosis started very young-age 4 to be exact. I have been bullied for my odd ticks in school and made to feel miserable for my uniqueness and different ways of thinking from 1st grade to 5th grade. I have built myself up with the help of an exceptional 6th-12th grade charter school. I acquired social skills and restored my confidence, but my overall self-esteem still struggles. I have recognized that people will not judge, and that I have the social tools to change and rearrange any social situation I face, but I cannot accept my diagnosis. This is where I am at right now in my mental healthy journey. You could say its denial, and just healthy wonder to some extent.
The thing is, I am social and always had that interest in others and even social skills. In elementary school, I was never that popular outgoing kid, but I always remained so on purpose. I guess you could say I never had a desire to be apart of my classmates. The boys chasing girls was so trivial and to join would go against everything I stood for. I did like socializing, don’t get me wrong: I loved playing house with others kids and playing in the sand and building a city with them. The chasing game was not my thing nor any of the popular kids’ fu-fu style games. I was always on the outside looking in, like a little girl, lonesomely looking out the window of her room, hugging a teddy bear, longing to be outside with all the frolicking kids in the grass. It was not like I was locked in my room. The door was open. It was more like I was locked in my mind I wanted to do my own thing and stand on the sidelines and just observe. I wanted to join in with the popular kids, and I hated not being able to, it just was not fun to me. Despite this, I faced bullying and a lot of school problems because of it. I had occupational and speech therapy and kids also teased me for going to these and having to be taken out of class.
I link my Asperger’s syndrome to the childhood bullying. Thus when I think of me having the disease i cannot help but to simultaneously feel defeated and anxious as my brain, consciously or unconscious recalls being defenseless in social situations. This phemomenon is confusion and it feels like I’m trapped in my mind. No one can really relate to me so they do not understand the sadness, I feel.
So, the story: after throwing my shoe at my moms head while she was driving, i finally convinced my mom that I was not like all the other kids and my tantrums and fits were a little more than the average kid’s. When I threw the shoe at my mom’s head, she swerved, and a cop pulled her over, thinking she was drunk. My mom was in tears at this point, having to deal with me and then being pulled over. The cop then suggested the children’s hospital to diagnose me and put me on meds (because medication is where the mental health therapy gravitated towards at the time, of course, but more on this later.). So, after a month staying there, I received my diagnosis. I was 4 years old. I was put on so many pills every so month but nothing worked. I saw a countless number of counselors and psychologists but the change never came, until in my teenage years. After fourth grade, I stopped taking all pills and have not had such pills since. I became a normal, ‘manageable kid by age 11.
So, it begs the question if my diagnosis was real. I could have just been a more difficult, hyperactive child. It did not help that my neighborhood was full of old people and I had traumatic bullying and special classes for which I had to be pulled away from the ‘normal’ kids, to attend to.
So, returning back to my thinking and statement i have been asserting all along: I do not want to accept my diagnosis. I am grappling with if my diagnosis was false. Maybe the doctors were pressured to diagnose me, and just wrote down something. How do I know it is right?
It seems like a trivial thing to be obsessing over, right? -But I respond with this: It affects me personally. This disease followed my childhood and my family members all were told I had it. It doesn’t help that my mom was happy to tell it to everyone whenever I misbehaved or acted odd. It is like my punishment was being labeled with this syndrome and then a glaring look towards my way. So many negative perspectives about myself have projected onto my self concept because of this diagnosis. While it served as something I had to live with and overcome, it also was the biggest bully of my childhood that called me a freak and a demon child whenever I had too much energy or could not express myself, or just did something unique or quirky. I say it like had it when I use words like overcome, but I just mean change my flaws. The thing is, this syndrome planted its blossoming flower on my self-concept so now the reality of the flower involves my self-concept. It is not just a question of if I have Asperger’s syndrome; it is an issue of what my self-concept is, specifically ‘who am i?’ .
For one, it happened so long ago. Then mental health care was nothing like it is today; there was so little knowledge on high functioning autism, yet alone, ‘Asperger’s Syndrome.’ They could have misdiagnosed me or hyperanalyzed my symptoms as Asperger’s syndrome. Secondly, Asperger’s was not apart of High functioning autism then, and so my diagnosis may of met the loosely characteristics of the syndrome alone, but not the refined high functioning autistic diagnosis.
I was curious. I have looked at others’ stories of their aspergers, and to my surprise, I came across a lot of older adults saying they wish they had been diagnosed earlier. WHAT!?!
…They go on to explain that growing up, they always noticed they were different from others, yet did not know what was wrong with them. Harris (2016) on the Guardian talks about Jon Adams, specifically, who thought something was just wrong with him, yet he did not know what, and the feelings of no belonging just forced him to like things he didn’t like. Huh. Well, now I am a bit ungrateful. I was diagnosed and knew I was a bit different, while people before me did not know and could not receive that solace, nor the help I received. Moreover, if I did have Asperger’s Syndrome, i was able to have the help I needed to feel that I was like everyone else.
So at this point, being diagnosed with Asperger’s or not, you are still made to feel different. and it hurts. People’s attitudes around the syndrome project negative personas onto our self concept, and the growing is just not easy.
While others wish they would have been diagnosed with the the syndrome earlier on in their life, I was lucky enough to have their wish happen to me. -but at least in my circumstances- it only haunted me and put me on unwanted pills. Instead of a solace for my happiness, Asperger’s syndrome became a chip on my shoulder and the dreamy subject of my social anxiety and depression.
Despite all this and my dreary experience, I think mental health has come a long ways in treating mental health. Society has grown in its knowledge and therapies available for Asperger’s. So in consequence, people with mental disorders feel more welcome in more and more social scenarios (but the negative vibes have not gone away). I hope we continue helping people overcome whatever mental issue ales them, and do so in a positive uplifting manner.
Harris, J. (November 2016). ‘All my life suddenly made sense’: How it feels to be diagnosed with Autism late in life. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/19/autism-diagnosis-late-in-life-asperger-syndrome-john-harris