Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Own Personal Test for Aspergers

The funny thing about telling people you might have Aspergers is the reaction. 

Most people probably don't even know what it is, or what it means to have it, so you wouldn't get any reaction at all. 

These of course are not people you, as someone now almost officially diagnosed as slightly odd, would be talking to.

The people YOU are talking to have one of three reactions.

They either go, oh, but that sounds just like me.  And get really excited about the possibility of finally understanding themselves.

Or they go, but that sounds like me too, and aren't we all a bit that way, and it couldn't possibly mean anything.  And then take tests to prove they aren't as well.

The third group generally goes oh, yeah, that does sound like you.  Funny isn't it.  And then moves on.

Congratulations, you have just taken my unofficial Aspergers test. 

If you fall into group three you probably do NOT have Aspergers.

If you fall into group one, you could probably be diagnosed with Aspergers.  If you'd like.

If you fall into group two you are most likely very close to someone with Aspergers, whether you have it or not.  My guess is no, Laura, like I said.  Because if you did have it it would come as a relief to think you might.

The thing is that noone really knows what Aspergers is, or even IF it is.  Is it a form of autism?  Is it a disability?  Is it even something real?   Or just a personality type?

Van Gogh.  Michelangelo. Mozart.  Beethoven.   Newton.   Edison.  Einstein.  Darwin.  Hans Christian Anderson.  Jane Austen.   Mark Twain.  Alfred Hitchcock.  George Orwell.  Henry Ford.  Hans Asperger.  And Tony Attwood.  (A leading authority on Aspergers who lives and practices psychology here in Brisbane.)  Then you get Michael Jackson.  But you also get Bill Gates.

All people who exhibit signs of having or having had Aspergers.

Although Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Mozart, Beethoven, and oh heck, just about every famous writer, artist or musician from the past also showed traits attributable to bipolar disorder.  Yes, Michael too, poor dear.

I have a lot of books on this disorder as well since THAT was my initial diagnosis at the clinic in Germany. 

All things considered, I'd rather have Aspergers.

Saying I have Aspergers answers so many questions I have always had about myself and about the world around me.  Mostly, like, why the heck is everyone else behaving in such an illogical and unproductive manner?  Why am I causing offense by saying it like it is?  Or trying to correct things and make them better.

And often, why am I the only one trying to make this better?  Why am I the only one this bothers?

Why am I trying so hard?

I was voted "most likely to show up late for an exam" in veterinary school.  I like it.  It shows I left an impression.  I was a mess.  But people still liked me enough to show up and vote! 

There was no vote.  And I wasn't the only mess in vet school.  But people have generally managed to see through my mess and find something worthwhile underneath.  I thank them for that.  I wouldn't have had the patience to be my friend.  (Oh.  Deep psychological insight there, right?!)

I was drinking.  I was partying.  I was everywhere.

I was also cowering in the downstairs bathrooms, crawled up in the fetal position, too anxious to make it to clinics on time. 

I was curled up in bed, sobbing hysterically, because I couldn't face the thought of being trapped in that building, surrounded by slabs of concrete, surrounded by West Philly, surrounded by the poverty and violence, the anonymous apathy of a big city.

I was trapped in my guilt and shame and inadequacy.  Because this was my dream and I was failing at it.

Or worse yet, because maybe this wasn't my dream after all.  But I didn't have the strength or self-acceptance to follow another one.

I got straight A's out at New Bolton Center, the large animal unit.  It was out in the country.  And I could walk around the horses and cows and feel the heat of their bodies and the warm breath of their muzzles on my hands and face.  I could lay down in fields of  tall grass and noone would know I was there.

The dogs and cats in their cages didn't elicit anything from me.  I couldn't bring myself to care.  Academically or otherwise.  Just cages.  And deadness. 

I thought I was weak and worthless.

But it took more strength than you know just to uncurl from my fetal position in the downstairs bathroom and force my legs and my body up those stairs.  Two hours late.  And then pretend I didn't care.  And party on all night in the hopes it might help me get up the next morning to face the same thing.

Do I have Aspergers?  I don't know. 

Am I brilliant?  Probably not.

But it helps to put those brilliant names onto a list and consider that I might have something in common with them.

Because the alternative is the empathy I felt for the mentally ill on the streets of Philadelphia.

Congratulations.  If you have never found yourself curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor you probably don't have Aspergers.  Or bipolar disoder.  Or depression and anxiety.

But you do know someone who probably does.  Me.

And its really not as bad as it sounds now that they have a name for it. 

Because the journey of self discovery is hard enough without a road map.

How nice to at least be given a starting point.

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