Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well

Three years ago, I found out something about me that made much of my life make sense. 

I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

For those who do not know what Asperger Syndrome is, it is a form of high-functioning autism. If you asked someone what an autistic person is like, they would probably say Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. (While that character was based on someone who was not autistic, there are some similarities.) Autism actually varies widely and affects people in different ways. Most autistics are not afraid of flying, nor are they especially adept at counting cards. 

Some of the characteristics of AS include difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, restricted and repetitive interests and behavior, speech and language abnormalities, and problems with motor skills. I have all of these characteristics.

It is hard for me to write this, but I think it is important to try, because I feel that my experiences are things that people can learn from—Aspies, their families, and perhaps even myself. 

I could spend a month of blog entries on each of the Aspie characteristics and how they have impacted my life. The most prominent one is the inability to read people. It has been only recently—since my diagnosis—that I discovered that I have a big problem understanding people and their motivations. I tend to take things people say literally, which often gets me into trouble. Case in point: I was in law school for a year—the mistake of my life. At the beginning of the year, one of the officers of the student bar association spoke to the first-year students. Among the things he told us was, “Don’t worry about your grades. They’re like the lottery.” I took this to mean that your grades somehow did not matter. I’m still not sure what he really meant—maybe that you can work your butt off and still get a C. Regardless, it’s way too late to figure out that statement. 

One might look at my Facebook profile and wonder how I can have a problem with people. My college major was, of all things, public relations. But I saw PR as more of a writing job, and it appeared to be a way to write that promised more job opportunities (or so I was told) than majoring in journalism or English.

The irony is that I actually thought I was good at working with people back then. The reason I thought this seems silly in retrospect. I figured I was good with people because—are you ready?—math and science were my worst subjects in high school (and I think that might have had more to do with how those subjects were taught than any lack of ability on my part). I’m bad at math, so that means I’m good with people, right? There’s a lesson in that. As I learned, in rather humiliating fashion, during a seventh-grade field day, just because you can’t hit doesn’t mean you can pitch.