Do I have AS and does it really matter?

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machinex
Tufted Titmouse
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10 Oct 2007, 7:29 pm

First of all, my profuse thanks to anyone who can read all of this. It's a long story, and probably not the greatest entertainment. But I hope you all can help me... It's been a long, lonely road with whatever is wrong with me... and this seems to be the place to ask.

I swore to myself I'd never post on one of these sites, mainly because I'm not the type to seek help, therapy, support groups or even something as anonymous and benign as a forum such as this. I did not really want to consider that something might be wrong with me. But I can't really deny the facts, there is something off about me, and there always has been as far back as I can remember.

I have random and seemingly unrelated intellectual obsessions. It might be the 1000 year history of the Byzantine Empire, or perhaps a driving need to understand everything relating to Geology. Typically I become obsessed with a thing for around 6 months to a year, but some obsessions are lifelong, and I've had more than one at the same time quite often. I must know everything that I can learn, I immerse myself in the subject and come out at the other end with a ridiculous level of understanding. I've been doing this since I can remember. As a 5 year old, I had a bizarre need to understand astronomy and physics. As a senior in high school, I couldn't put down Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which would take any sane person months to read.

As a child I had the social skills of a box of rocks. I had periodic emotional outbursts after other kids would constantly make fun of me, which I am ashamed of to this day (I display almost no emotion now, but it took a long time to do this). By high school, I had made something better of myself, becoming a class clown, always saying some pithy phrase, playing a prank on someone or otherwise making a nuisance of myself. I wasn't popular, but I was at least free of being picked on, and was something of a king-figure to the geek population. Among the geeks I was well-liked, my intellectual obsessions were less of a problem, and I could at least communicate with them on some fundamental level. I aced all of the hardest classes without even thinking about it, because for the most part, whatever a teacher wanted to teach.... well I had been obsessed about it at some point in my life and had become a veritable expert in it.

I couldn't, and still can't, read body language, facial expressions, moods and other non-verbal signs. These days I have some intellectual understanding of them, which I had been lacking as a child, and it's enough to get by generally... but it holds me back a lot at work. I've never had a review that didn't end with "needs to develop better working relationships" or "needs to work on social interaction with coworkers." These same reviews show absolute perfection in everything else. I also have to work ten times as hard as my coworkers to prove myself. Everyone wants to tear apart my work and find flaws in it, not because I screw up, but rather because I am not social and not well-liked. If anything my perfectionism with my work makes them MORE angry with me. I might say to myself "Well if my coworker arches his eyebrow in such and such way, and leans back this way, he is feeling this way." But it's always a guessing game, and I'm wrong a lot of the time, no matter how much I try to figure it out. I've learned that what I say can often inadvertently insult people or cause trouble, so I've learned to keep my mouth shut as much as possible, and that generally avoids conflict. But I wind up in a position where I will never get the promotions, I will always have to work harder and longer to compensate for others' dislike of me, and I will rarely find friends in the workplace outside of geeky areas such as the Technology department or the Graphic Design department (I am a graphic designer and programmer by trade).

As a child my parents knew something was wrong with me, and tried a number of tests. First they tried ADD, which came back negative. The psychologist said something to the effect of "something is wrong with that kid, but it isn't brains and it isn't an inability to focus." I wonder if the guy knew about AS. They tried therapists and such, and all that did was make me mad. I mean who the hell wants to be known as the kid that has to go see a shrink. They tried medications; Ritalin and the other usual suspects. In the end nothing really helped, and I just began to despise psychologists, a feeling which persists to this day.

I began to understand what was wrong with me without having a name to attach it to. I called myself "socially blind" and figured that there was something I was missing somewhere that everyone else had. I once jokingly referred to it as "booger hanging out the nose" syndrome, where I compared it to the fact that if one has a booger hanging from their nose, no one is likely to tell them about it because no one wants to be the one to say it, so the guy just walks around looking like an idiot because he doesn't know about the booger. I figured no one would tell my I was a social idiot just because they didn't want to be the one to break it to me, and here I was walking around making a fool of myself, entirely oblivious.

Eventually I came to adore Wikipedia, I suppose for those with AS it can be like a candy store. Lots of information on whatever random obsession might come about. And I came across AS. This was years ago, and despite the near perfect match I didn't want to entertain the possibility that I had a mental disorder (thats how I thought of it). But with my career stagnating because of social issues... it's time to face the facts. I'll never walk into a psychologist's office again, but I did take all the online tests I could find... and they all pointed to AS. Nonetheless I won't accept the "self-diagnosis" without some outside help... and that's where you all come in. Given all that I just wrote... is it true?



Aysmptotes
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10 Oct 2007, 7:38 pm

umm yeah it does sound like you have AS. And I don't know what else to say. Haha.



martin_nyc
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10 Oct 2007, 7:50 pm

Quote:
I ... was something of a king-figure to the geek population


This turn of phrase alone makes me say there's a good chance. =)

Given what you've written, you certainly seem to have some of the more Asperger-like (Aspergerish?) qualities of the spectrum. You could probably get a diagnosis from an MD. But I'd recommend not to get caught up in diagnosing and giving things names. Try out this little community, and see if you like it. If it helps, great! But don't assume that everything's wrapped up. It seems most of the adults on here have been diagnosed with several different things as the years passed, new doctors were visited, and more research was done and distributed.

With that little diatribe, welcome to WP. /m



kosgrove
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10 Oct 2007, 7:55 pm

At the very least, it sounds like you have some very AS-like tendencies.

Now, the question is: what do you want to do about it now that you've been "diagnosed"? Are you ok with your social skills being held back to avoid seeing a mental health professional?

I was right there with you - avoiding shrinks like the plague because they were so utterly unable to help me, but I'm back in therapy now. You might want to do yourself a favor and see someone sooner rather than later. Just make sure you find someone who has experience in people with AS.



machinex
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10 Oct 2007, 8:52 pm

Thanks for the help... I was pretty sure about this, but it's good to hear the same from others. I've tried books relating to body language and moods, and they do help somewhat. Still, I feel as if my best effort socially is just barely enough to avoid getting into big trouble with people. I can't afford to go to a shrink even if I wanted to, though my girlfriend is always quick to drop hints in that direction (the fact that i am picking up on them now, where I wasn't before, is a good sign for me maybe). My current obsession is with remodeling my house and teaching myself how to do it, which winds up being expensive.

I'm hoping that this community might be of great help, and might be an alternative to shrinks, especially since I am sure many of you have been through all this before, and probably know a lot more than I do about dealing with it. Just reading a lot of the more recent posts (I've been lurking for awhile) has been very educational.



bigizz
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10 Oct 2007, 10:21 pm

I read your post and I actually found it very entertaining. I believe very strongly I have AS and while I don't have a formal diagnosis, you sound like you have it and sound an awful lot like me. Believe me I can understand the problems you have faced; but I don't think having AS means you need to see a shrink. AS isn't the problem it's the fact we have AS in a world predominantly made up of NT's. There isn't anything "wrong" with us. I have very little ill will towards Asperger's Syndrome and while it certianly has it's negatives I wouldn't trade it if I could. So I say just learn to use your gifts and do what makes you happy and don't worry about social norms or what may be expected of you.



2ukenkerl
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11 Oct 2007, 7:10 am

You DO sound like you have AS. And HEY, there is no cure, etc... So I doubt a psychiatrist will help.



Khalaris
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11 Oct 2007, 7:26 am

I can sympathize with most things you said. I don't have an official diagnosis, too, but do you really need it? For me it's enough to know that there are a lot of people out there who are like me, have the same problems like me and so on. You can find a lot of methods here that might help you with social interaction.



machinex
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11 Oct 2007, 5:45 pm

I seem to be able to fake normalcy at work for awhile, sometimes as long as a year or more. I can make a good first impression based mostly on practice, but my social shortcomings slowly come out and the longer I work at a company, the more they slowly become aware of something off about me. I've been at this job for three years and the only reason I haven't been fired is because I do such enormous volumes of work that my boss simply can't afford to get rid of me. I do almost all of the work in my department, including much of her work. And for that, I am barely tolerated. Just last week I get called into her office for not smiling at everyone, eating by myself at lunch and not greeting everyone when I walk past them in the halls. I don't see it as being an offense... but everyone else does, apparently.

In a one-on-one situation I can do fine, I can grasp that certain gestures and expressions mean certain things and can generally relate to people, but I cannot get a natural "feel" for it like everyone else seems to have. And when I don't pay direct attention to the person, e.g. when walking in the halls when I am off doing something important or when eating my lunch, I don't do it at all and inadvertently cause trouble and give people the impression that I don't like them or don't care about them. They complain to my boss that I am not personable, and it winds up preventing my promotion.