By Margaret Dixon, Student at the Berkshire Center
I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of high-functioning autism.
When I am interacting with people I barely know, I often feel that this little fact is magnified about a hundred times.
In a way, it’s a little like an aggressive puppy nipping at my heels, while I try in vain to shoo it away so that I can act like a “normal” person for once. It can also be like a huge sign around my neck saying “Hey everybody, I’m a socially awkward freak!”
I guess that is why I enjoy my alone time a little more that most people. When I’m alone with my computer, iPod, DVDs, graphic novels and art supplies, I don’t have to worry about appearing awkward or clueless. Nobody is around to judge me.
Contrary to public belief, though, even autistic people get lonely. It’s when I begin to crave the company of other people that “the little asperger’s puppy” becomes a problem. My struggle to maintain eye contact, bizarre rambling and fidgeting often seems to make an awkward impression.
I admit that I have become resentful to other people who are quick to deem me as “odd” and after just one conversation with me, decide that I am not worth knowing. I know that people who are judgemental are not really worth my time anyway, but it still stings when it happens.
Sometimes my life seem to be a cycle of isolating myself, becoming lonely, seeking out other people, humiliating myself, and the the self-imposed isolation again.
Still, it’s not that bad. I have made some friends who are willing to ignore the “Rain man” stereotype of autism and accept me despite my (sometimes irritating) quirks. I am very grateful for them.
I guess I don’t really want my Asperger’s syndrome to just disappear, even if the only reason is that I don’t know any other way of thinking, or existing. If I was suddenly “cured”, I’m not so sure my sanity would remain.
Autistic people often don’t take too kindly to change and I can’t really think of a more extreme change than rewiring my brain. I wouldn’t even be the same person. Would I still have the same appreciation for bizarre humor? Would I still doodle wierd creatures on my notes? Would I still have an obsession with comic books, Eddie Izzard quotes, musicals and all my other hobbies? Or would I change completely, a stranger to my family and friends, but most of all myself. This is one case where I am perfectly happy to remain “flawed” rather than have somebody “fix” my brain.
When I think, I almost always think in pictures. I have a seemingly random image to accompany every thought, even when I don’t realize it. It’s nearly impossible for me to think any other way.
In a way, the monster this is asperger’s syndrome is my worst enemy but also my best friend. It gives a unique and I admit it, often strange way of looking at the world. It lets me see who my true friends in life are (most people find it is harder to be nice to the eccentric ones than it is to be nice to “normal” people). On the other hand, it is also one of the main reasons for my loneliness sometimes. But I’ll just have to learn to live with that.
I’ll have to learn to live with everything that comes with the whole “autism package”, because it’s not the kind of package that comes with instructions. I can only image what they would say: “Step one: Get diagnosed. Step two: Sorry, you’re on your own now.”
In the end, I can’t entirely love or hate my little monster. I can only accept and live with the person it has turned me into over the years, because like it or not, I have no choice.
And yet, I’m surprisingly okay with that.