I suppose we all think of ourselves as being odd and as a young child I wasn’t any different. I used to stand in the playground and watch everyone else play their games and didn’t have a clue how to join in. I tried to create my own games but wasn’t very successful in getting others to join me.
At the age of 7 I started to gain weight and was teased because of it. In my juvenile brain I connected my perceived inadequacies to being fat. This resulted in years of disordered eating in a desperate attempt to ‘fit in’. I also discovered that people would volunteer to interact with me kindly if they thought there was something wrong with me. This began a very destructive path of pretence that continued into young adulthood. One of these caused me to lose the trust and friendship of someone that I valued immensely. I knew that both of these behaviours were abnormal and this contributed to my dwindling self esteem and self worth.
I have an all or nothing mentality and can get obsessed with things e.g. particular foods, which I have eaten to excess for weeks until I moved on to something else. It was the same with my hobbies. When I started trampolining at the age of 16, I went to every session available and not just the local classes. In the past I’ve even gone into debt to buy items to complete collections. I’m a lot better about this now that I understand why I’m doing it.
One aspect of my behaviour that has caused me the most problems is that I have very strict ideas about what is right and wrong. I cannot bear it when I see anything that I think is wrong e.g. I was stood behind someone in a queue at the doctors this week and the collar on her blouse was folded wrong and it took all my self control not to fold it properly for her. Seeing something ‘wrong’ makes me feel unbearably stressed. I just didn’t understand why I was so weird.
My youngest daughter had problems socialising at school and had one special friend of 12 years. When this friendship broke down, she really started struggling. She had chosen to study psychology at A-Level and they had reached the topic of autism; she immediately recognised the traits. A few months later she was diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder.
David and I started to research autism. I immediately knew that this explained why I was different. Everything from the sensory overload to the rigid thinking suddenly made sense. David also realised that it applied to his behaviour too. Both of us have since been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder with the subtype of Asperger’s syndrome. The fact that we both have this condition was probably the reason why we got on so well.
I did feel guilty about my daughter not being diagnosed earlier as she had really struggled during her childhood. I had mentioned certain behaviours to our GP when she was younger but was just told not to make a ‘big deal’ out of it. The doctor that diagnosed her with autism said that it was a credit to us as her parents that she had done so well. Our home is obviously very autism friendly e.g. we have a green blind permanently down in the living room to soften the light. When my daughters brought their boyfriends home almost all of them thought that our home was unusually quiet and that the way we ate (repetitive menus) was a little odd.
Being diagnosed as an adult meant that a lot of my behaviours have become ingrained. I have been able forgive myself for some of my failings as I now know that they weren’t entirely my fault. Knowing the problem has helped me make some positive changes.
As an adult I still struggle socially. I don’t understand the social rules and continually say inappropriate things; most of the time in an attempt to be funny. It’s not until I see peoples reactions that I realise I’ve messed up yet again. I’ve tried to maintain a couple of friendships over the years but I feel that they’d rather I didn’t bother them anymore. I feel much more comfortable around family who accept me for who I am.