New member, 42, mom, married 10+ years,....

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Saja
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12 May 2009, 5:21 pm

Hi all. I have just recently rejoined WP after a couple years' absence. Back then I used my real name (as I did all over the Web), which consternated my husband (NT), so I agreed to use a pseudonym from then on in fora and the like.

I'm posting here because I feel most comfortable in a smaller, women's area, where I expect fellow forum members to best be able to relate to what I have to say.

Recognizing myself as AS five years ago (after my daughter was diagnosed) was liberating and very much an "aha!" moment, when my childhood and much of what I still struggled with socially as a "fully baked" adult fell into place. After an initial flurry of activity, my AS-ness kind of receded to the background. (A whole lot happened in those years, including my daughter's death from brain cancer and a new baby.)

I'm married to an incredibly loving, warm, gentle, understanding man; he's perfect for me in so many ways. My other three (NT) children are beautiful and sweet and funny and fun to be with. We have a nice lifestyle; I don't have to work, my husband picks up all my slack household-wise without complaining, and he does his best to give me time alone. Yet I continue to struggle.

Socially, I'm a total success story. I guess since there was no AS diagnosis when I was growing up, I never got a label and thus never realized I "couldn't" be just like the socially-at-ease natives around me. I worked incredibly hard, imitating, practicing, studying others, and damned if I didn't get to the point, after 30-some years, that it's become almost natural. Just like learning to drive, I first had to pay attention to a million unfamiliar, awkward things, and practice them consciously over and over until they became second nature. And they did! I can honestly say I now often genuinely look forward to social moments with friends, and I usually don't feel at a loss for what to say in any situation.

What's troubling me now is the realization of what it costs me. Since I've been "doing" "socially acceptable" 24/7 for so long, I barely even notice it's an act. It's like driving in my sleep. I can do it with very little conscious effort, but that doesn't mean there's no effort involved. I am constantly "on," my social mask is constantly at the ready. It makes me irritable and snippy, and WORSE, it sucks up all my attention and energy, so that the things that are most important to me never get done. I'm focused outward, doing a bang-up job of being a normal 40-something woman, wife, and mother, at the expense of my (for lack of a better word) singleminded genius.

There's so much information on how knowing you're AS means you can learn socially appropriate skills, etc etc etc. But I mastered those before I ever knew I was AS, and now I want to do the opposite: I want to embrace who I am at core, to strip off the social coating and turn inward, focus on my interests, be the me I am in those rare periods when I've had a week alone. I want to stop being cranky and perfectionistic in the service of some "normal person" ideal, and just be distractible, quiet, sweet-natured, vulnerable, mathematical me. I want to stop trying to manage and schedule everyone and everything, and accept that far from being the driving force, I in fact rely on my husband to get me through the immense complexity of a day, every day.

I'm working on it (for about two days now)...and I like my results so far. I've only been around my family (husband, children), and I doubt it'll be an easy transition in other situations, but I hope to get there. Ideally I hope to keep my social mastery to pull out when I need it, but I worry that I'll lose some of it now that I'm not using it 24/7 anymore. But so far, it's such an immense relief. A weight off my shoulders--one I mostly didn't even realize was there. I'm cleaning the house because I like ordering and organizing things, not because I'm a Successful Woman Who Keeps a Clean House. I had actual emotional and mental time for my children today because I wasn't busy making sure everything got done on time and according to my mental image of Successful Woman. I went to the grocery store and hated it as much as ever, but I accepted that hating it is normal and by doing it, I was saying "I love you" to my husband (since he wouldn't have to dash off to the store between conference calls as he usually does), instead of beating myself up for being a lazy wife who doesn't do her share of the work.

Well, this has turned into quite the tome. Thanks for reading.


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millie
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12 May 2009, 8:41 pm

welcome :)



chawieman
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12 May 2009, 9:03 pm

Welcome Saja!

I think you are doing a very smart thing, unlocking your inner genius, because really the whole social effort is not natural for us aspies, and being in social mode means you're not thinking as deeply as you otherwise could be and expending energy being something unnatural to you. I don't think it will be too tough for you to still act normally around people you know very well and have spent a lot of time with, like your family, but it will be harder to adjust to people you don't know well without your social mask. Anyways good luck and welcome!



millie
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13 May 2009, 1:09 am

Also, go to a blog called aspergerjourneys.com (there is no www in front.) it is great and is written by an ASD friend of mine who is a woman with AS and who has talked about the relief that came with letting go of trying to be normal.

I relate to the "relief" part of it. I also relate to pulling inwards.

:)



Saja
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13 May 2009, 2:19 am

Thanks for the welcome!

chawieman wrote:
I think you are doing a very smart thing, unlocking your inner genius, because really the whole social effort
is not natural for us aspies, and being in social mode means you're not thinking as deeply as you otherwise could be and expending energy being something unnatural to you.

Oh, yes, exactly how I feel about it.

millie wrote:
Also, go to a blog called aspergerjourneys . com (there is no www in front.)

Millie, thank you for this. It could be me writing, as much as I identify with what she says.

I so hope I can keep it up. I'm much more relaxed and "me," but the pull to meet my own expectations of "social" and "normal" is huge and, by now, completely automatic.


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http://autism-fallingintoplace.blogspot.com


millie
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13 May 2009, 4:39 am

just cut down on Oprah viewing and the need for group A-HA moments and you will do fine having a bit more time to yourself. :lol:
you are very welcome here and there are quite a few women who are mothers and who struggle in the ways you mention.

Keep it up as much as you need to i suppose. Does it have to be one or the other? can it not be that you factor in more down time and alone time to centre yourself whilst maintaining some of teh social contacts you now enjoy and have managed to contend with successfully?
:)



TheKingsRaven
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13 May 2009, 10:14 am

millie wrote:
Also, go to a blog called aspergerjourneys.com (there is no www in front.) it is great and is written by an ASD friend of mine who is a woman with AS and who has talked about the relief that came with letting go of trying to be normal.


Could you link to the actual post where she talks about the relief part please.



Saja
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13 May 2009, 12:42 pm

millie wrote:
just cut down on Oprah viewing and the need for group A-HA moments and you will do fine having a bit more time to yourself. :lol:

Mmmm....I don't watch Oprah (or much TV at all, just the occasional episode of House or a good movie), and group A-HA moments give me the willies. ;-)
millie wrote:
Does it have to be one or the other? can it not be that you factor in more down time and alone time to centre yourself whilst maintaining some of teh social contacts you now enjoy and have managed to contend with successfully?
:)

I'm actually happy with the amount of socializing I do in the usual sense of the word (dinner with friends, etc). It's the near-constant barrage of daily life that's too much. Particularly the sense of responsibility when the kids are home from school, even if they're playing happily outside...I'm still "in charge" and may be called upon at any moment. And all the organizational complexity of life as a family (which I'm sure doesn't seem complex at all to many people, but it's a chaotic nightmare in my head).

I definitely do need more time alone. Not in-a-different-room alone, but no-one-else-in-the-house alone. That will gradually return as my youngest (now 14 months) gets older, but DH and I are trying to work in some structural time alone for me--a weekend away every month, or a week away every quarter--in the meantime.

I'm on 100% duty for the next 40 hours, though, while DH is on a business trip. And the plumber is coming at 7 AM tomorrow morning to pull cables and whatever else it is he needs to do for the addition we're building on. And I have to get everyone ready and out the door on time. I don't know why that makes me short of breath, why it's such a monumental task for me, when it isn't for other people. I actually still don't really grok that I'm different, you know? I mean, I *know* I am, but I just can't quite believe everyone doesn't react the way I do, doesn't want time alone or start hyperventilating at the thought of going to the grocery store.


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millie
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13 May 2009, 11:20 pm

TheKingsRaven wrote:
millie wrote:
Also, go to a blog called aspergerjourneys.com (there is no www in front.) it is great and is written by an ASD friend of mine who is a woman with AS and who has talked about the relief that came with letting go of trying to be normal.


Could you link to the actual post where she talks about the relief part please.


no-- that part is here on WP in various posts she made when she was posting a lot.
you may have to sift through her blog and go to the first entries to find that info.



millie
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13 May 2009, 11:23 pm

Quote:
Saja wrote:
millie wrote:
just cut down on Oprah viewing and the need for group A-HA moments and you will do fine having a bit more time to yourself. :lol:

Mmmm....I don't watch Oprah (or much TV at all, just the occasional episode of House or a good movie), and group A-HA moments give me the willies. ;-)
millie wrote:
Does it have to be one or the other? can it not be that you factor in more down time and alone time to centre yourself whilst maintaining some of teh social contacts you now enjoy and have managed to contend with successfully?
:)

I'm actually happy with the amount of socializing I do in the usual sense of the word (dinner with friends, etc). It's the near-constant barrage of daily life that's too much. Particularly the sense of responsibility when the kids are home from school, even if they're playing happily outside...I'm still "in charge" and may be called upon at any moment. And all the organizational complexity of life as a family (which I'm sure doesn't seem complex at all to many people, but it's a chaotic nightmare in my head).

I definitely do need more time alone. Not in-a-different-room alone, but no-one-else-in-the-house alone. That will gradually return as my youngest (now 14 months) gets older, but DH and I are trying to work in some structural time alone for me--a weekend away every month, or a week away every quarter--in the meantime.

I'm on 100% duty for the next 40 hours, though, while DH is on a business trip. And the plumber is coming at 7 AM tomorrow morning to pull cables and whatever else it is he needs to do for the addition we're building on. And I have to get everyone ready and out the door on time. I don't know why that makes me short of breath, why it's such a monumental task for me, when it isn't for other people. I actually still don't really grok that I'm different, you know? I mean, I *know* I am, but I just can't quite believe everyone doesn't react the way I do, doesn't want time alone or start hyperventilating at the thought of going to the grocery store.


Wow - that is a really big load. I can only imagine. I have one child aged nearly 7 and i spend each and all of every day on my own - mostly except of a four hour stint of teaching most weeks (5 or so student - my special interest is what i teach.)
It sounds good that you have a good partned who is really understanding of your issues.
good luck and hope it all goes smoothly and you get some much needed alone time when you can. :)



TheKingsRaven
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14 May 2009, 3:30 am

millie wrote:
no-- that part is here on WP in various posts she made when she was posting a lot.
you may have to sift through her blog and go to the first entries to find that info.


Ok, thanks anyway.



ZUNISUN
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15 May 2009, 10:27 am

I'm not really sure what the nature of your difficulty is. It seems like you are probably NT or mildly AS if that.



Saja
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15 May 2009, 12:38 pm

ZUNISUN wrote:
I'm not really sure what the nature of your difficulty is. It seems like you are probably NT or mildly AS if that.

I'm not sure if you're talking to me or not, but I assume you are.

I have no doubt about my AS / HFA / whatever label best describes it. I also thought I was pretty vivid in my initial post, about what my difficulties are. Simply put, I've expended so much energy on acting "normally" in the world that there's none left over for being me. And despite all my efforts (and successes), I still can't manage to do the grocery store, or handle lots of noise, or deal with sudden changes, or keep the house organized, or make order out of the chaos in my brain, in a sustained way. As a result of the overwhelming amount of stimulus in an ordinary mom-and-housewife day, I have regular "meltdowns," though we've called them depression (and that's definitely how they feel). I now realize this is all a result of expecting myself to live up to what I see others easily able to do, and though I have really worked those muscles and am pretty good at keeping up for a while, it just isn't natural, and I'm paying the cost.


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bhetti
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21 May 2009, 2:25 pm

wow Saja, thank you for posting all that!

it helped make some sense of what has seemed to be a downhill slide for me because I had to do the perfect wife/housekeeper/mother thing for a long time. it was draining and I was so unhappy (my ex was really abusive, on top of everything else). I was emotionally flat-lining the last year of my marriage because if I'd allowed myself to feel anything I would have killed myself. but on the outside I looked like I had it all together. my children were very damaged by all of it.

now I don't focus on housework or trying to seem like I have it together. I focus on my kids, my self and my husband (remarried, he's probably AS, too, we're finding out). when I have to, I put time into the endless legal battles with my ex because he's a selfish dick.

I was feeling pretty guilty though, wondering why I fell apart the way I did. now it makes some sense that I couldn't keep up the pace and by shedding some of the unrealistic expectations I've become a happier person, and actually I think I'm a better mom now because I'm not stressed out all the time and I can focus more on what my kids really need.



Zola
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21 May 2009, 5:43 pm

Saja wrote:
ZUNISUN wrote:
I'm not really sure what the nature of your difficulty is. It seems like you are probably NT or mildly AS if that.

I'm not sure if you're talking to me or not, but I assume you are.

I have no doubt about my AS / HFA / whatever label best describes it. I also thought I was pretty vivid in my initial post, about what my difficulties are. Simply put, I've expended so much energy on acting "normally" in the world that there's none left over for being me. And despite all my efforts (and successes), I still can't manage to do the grocery store, or handle lots of noise, or deal with sudden changes, or keep the house organized, or make order out of the chaos in my brain, in a sustained way. As a result of the overwhelming amount of stimulus in an ordinary mom-and-housewife day, I have regular "meltdowns," though we've called them depression (and that's definitely how they feel). I now realize this is all a result of expecting myself to live up to what I see others easily able to do, and though I have really worked those muscles and am pretty good at keeping up for a while, it just isn't natural, and I'm paying the cost.


This was very similar to when I was diagnosed. Try reclaiming one thing at a time. For example, background noise can drive me absolutely nuts--I can't filter it out unless I get into a total hyperconcentration state, and I can't get into the hyperconcentration state if it's too noisy.

So I started with a pair of noise-reduction headphones. At first my kids didn't like it, but after a few weeks when they saw the difference in my mood, they accepted it. They also knew that if they needed my attention it was perfectly okay to come over to me.

By the time they went on their own, I had put down many of my pretenses, and after about a year of adjustment (because I didn't have them to dictate the boundaries of my life), things really started to come together, and I am happier than I have ever been.