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Interaction

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It has been brought to my attention from one of my followers – who also happens to live in the same house as I do and also happens to be married to me – that I need to be more interactive with my commenters and followers. Apparently, this “follower” has not been paying attention to any of the posts on this blog… or the behavior tendencies of her husband for the past fourteen years.

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She also doesn’t know about the meth lab I have running in the basement.

Breaking news: I have Aspergers. Also breaking news: people with Aspergers are generally bad at interacting with others. So yeah, you could say that my people skills are not exactly up to par. When interacting with people, at best I come off awkward and strange. At worst, I come off like a heartless, uncaring sociopath. And I thought one of the goals of this blog was to attract readers, not repel them.

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I would not be the first person to make that mistake.

With that being said… as much as it pains me to say so – because I’ll never live it down – this “follower” is right. I should be conversing with my commenters and followers. Sure, I can post personal and interesting things for you to read, but what better way to reach out than to talk to my readers and respond to their questions and comments directly? We might start a a conversation that never would have been explored without that direct level of interaction.

So, along with responding to emails, I will also be answering comments on my posts when the situation calls for it. And yes, I will also be responding to comments from that certain “follower” as well.

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If I have the strength left after heaing “I told you so” 1,364 times.

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This Is My Aspergers

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I have written in previous posts a little bit about the history of my Aspergers and what it was like for me growing up, but I haven’t really gotten into it in great detail yet. Every aspie is different, comes from a different background, and has a different story to tell.

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This is my Aspergers. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

I only became aware of my Asperger-ish tendencies a few years ago when my daughter was diagnosed, but the roots go back to when I was very young. When I was in preschool, I remember bouncing back and forth between friends, trying my best to connect with whoever was within proximity of me at the moment. I tried my best to mimic in order to be accepted; this works pretty well as a child, however I can remember not really having a sense of who I was. I would absorb the traits of those around me in order to blend in.

The defining moment in my young childhood came at age 6 when I was hospitalized for a severe kidney condition. I got sick on the first day of school, was rushed to the hospital, and nearly died. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks, subjected to blood draws and regular dialysis treatments. My family was devastated that I was so sick and scared of losing me.

The thing I remember most vividly is all the cool toys I had in my hospital room.

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Coming up next on Pimp My Pediatric ICU…

Granted, I was only six, so my memory of the experience shouldn’t really be picture perfect. But don’t you think it’s a little strange that I have absolutely NO memory of the horrible medical procedures that my mother tells me I had to endure, yet I can remember with great clarity the Lego kits my dad and I worked on and the inflatable Superman doll that hung in the corner during my entire stay? I think my brain decided that it wasn’t going to connect itself to what was going on, and I must have checked out and gone somewhere else mentally during the rough parts. I still use this skill to my advantage from time to time. I don’t know if the stress caused my brain to adopt an overall emotional disconnectedness – virtually “causing” my Aspergers – or if it was my aspie brain that allowed me to get through it. All I know is that the experience had a profound effect on me and my mental processes. It’s like my super hero origin story.

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Able to create soul-crushing social awkwardness in a single sentence! 

As I got older, I began to show more of what I realize now were classic autism/Aspergers traits. I memorized the bus route home from school, including street names; I even helped a substitute bus driver find the correct route on one occasion. I had a very rigid tv routine, watching my favorite cartoons every single day; I knew by heart when each was on and in which order. I would spend hours “racing” my Hotwheels cars, which actually meant lining up 30-40 of them one behind the other and moving them one at a time for a few seconds each. I would throw tantrums if I didn’t win while playing board games with my sisters. I would play ball in the living room by using a mini-bat to hit a foam ball aroud the house, completely oblvious to the risk of breaking things. I often played 2-player sports games by myself, switching between controllers to play both teams; I even kept stats and charted out seasons that I scheduled myself, long before games like Madden featured their own season modes.

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The list goes on…

I actually hid the social aspects of my Aspergers pretty well during school. With the benefit of hindsight, however, the cracks begin to show. Bullies were constantly trying to get to me, only I was so socially clueless that I didn’t even notice. Eventually, thye pretty much gave up and moved on. One of my best friends (even to this day) was with a group of kids who would brutally make fun of me on the bus. One day the other kids weren’t there, so he invited me to his house to hang out. Oblivious Aspie Me said, “Sure!” I continued with my “blending in” strategy, getting along with many types of people but never really connecting to any of them. I had a small group of close friends, but even they were distanced from me; I very rarely hung out with any of them one-on-one.

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“Thank God you guys are all here! I’m terrified of each of you individually!”

When I went to college, my isolation became official – I’m not exaggerating when I say I did not make one new friend during my four years in college. I tried a few times early on, but I just couldn’t make it work. In my mind, I had nothing in common with anybody at all. I had already figured myself as an outcast. Most of my social interaction came via the internet – where I could be whatever I wanted to be, take my time to measure my responses, and avoid the intensity of face-to-face contact. I actually met my wife over the internet during this time, and somehow she wasn’t completely turned off by my behavior when we met for the first time.

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It was slightly less awkward than this was.

At the time, it wasn’t so obvious to my parents that something was up with their son. Autism spectrum disorders weren’t featured as prominently in the news as they are nowadays. But looking back now, and with the benefit of the knowledge I gained while working to get my daughter diagnosed… it’s pretty clear. My childhood is no doubt different from the stories of other spectrum children, but I’m sure it also runs parallel to them in many ways. I worry about my daughter a lot – will she have friends? Will she be happ? Will she be successful? Looking back on my story gives me a sense of peace. If I made it this far in the face of this challenge, then the potential of my daughter is limitless.

Flippin’ Out

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My wife and I know that we can usually expect an aspie explosion from our daughter on days when she has a social-heavy event. So why can’t I ever see the same thing happening with me?

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Hi there! We’re the people who will ruin your day long after you’ve dealt with us!

Today the family went on a hike through the woods with my daughter’s nature club. We had a good time, although near the end my son started getting a little tired. I honestly didn’t feel too stressed about the whole thing, but I’ll admit I didn’t feel quite “settled” during the afternoon. During the rest of the night, I felt myself getting easily irritated by every little thing – I threw a fit because I couldn’t find the correct pan to cook brownies in! I had just about had it. For lack of a better way to explain it, I was just pissed off. So I did what we often tell our daughter to do when she needs to de-stress.

I went up to my room.

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Leave me alone; tantrum in progress…

This must be what it felt like for my daughter to go to school. She’d be completely fine at school… well not completely fine, but you get the idea. She’d get through the day, get home, and have a flippin’ fit on us until we had to send her to her room before she went completely ballistic. Then the teachers would be like “We don’t see any social issues with her, she’s perfectly fine.” Yeah, tell that to the smashed broken toys that are littered around the house because my daughter couldn’t get them lined up in just the right way. I’m an adult, so I don’t end up smashing my stuff, but I can still throw tantrums. Maybe I need the same thing she does: a little time after a social gathering to decompress myself, at the very least to avoid acting like a jerk and getting everyone in my family pissed off at me.

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Yeah, I’ll be upstairs until the urge to stab me has died down.

You Know What I’m Talking About

I just don’t get it.

I understand when I do something weird, like starting a conversation with someone in the middle of an idea. I know that’s strange, but sometimes I just can’t help it. It happens. I get that – you don’t know what I’ve been thinking of for the past 5 minutes, and you need a recap. It’s just hard for me to waste the time catching you up on what’s been flying around inside my brain.

But that’s not it. Here’s the thing.

The other day, my wife is talking about something that she and her mom were talking about. This triggers a thought in my brain about something my mom has been dealing with recently (which my wife knows about). So I ask her if she has heard anything about it. Her response:

“You know, you started that conversation in the middle again. I mean, I know what you mean, but do you realize that you did that?”

So, if my wife admits to knowing what I’m talking about when I start talking in mid-conversation…

WHERE IS THE PROBLEM????

If she gets confused thinking that I’m talking about her mom, then I apologize and start from the beginning. But I know that she will catch on, and I’d rather not waste my time with the other stuff. She should actually be happy that I think she’ll be quick enough to get what I’m talking about.

I deal with these things all the time.

Why don’t you understand?
What was that noise? You can’t hear that?
How was that supposed to help?
Why are you wasting time?
There isn’t a way to do this easier?
Doesn’t it bother you that you are wrong?

And, apparently, I am the weird one.