A Mid-Forties Butch Aspie
Makes Her Way
(blog originally kept at WrongPlanet.net)
The Second Time Around - Part 4
Recalling History -
The Third Appointment
Composed on June 28, 2012
Okay, now it's three down and one to go.
I'd expected this one to be harder than the preceding appointments, and I think I was right. But only a little. It's just that there's so much I don't remember and there are so few people I can get any help from anymore. We needed to go all the way back to preschool and then up through the rest of my childhood. My mother passed away in 2001 (I've really been missing her through all of this), my father doesn't know yet what I'm doing, and my older sister is, it seems, having somewhat of a hard time with this whole thing, so I didn't go to her about this. However, my younger sister was with me again, and she not only remembers a lot of stuff herself but also recalls some things she was told about me by my mother. I was also able to give the little bit of information I got from a high school teacher I managed to reach. I didn't know how much history would be considered too recent, so a friend I've known for the last decade or so came in with me, as well. She'd been watching my niece while my sister and I were in for my previous appointments and was able to come in with us this time, because my niece was with her father, who was home from work that day. (Great guy, my brother-in-law!) As it turns out, my friend's recollections were not needed, but her moral support was much appreciated. I'm sure that session was an eye opener for her, but she was cool about it. She thinks her brother is on the spectrum, and she's raised a son, so nothing that was said really phased her.
Not knowing what sorts of things would be important, I wasn't able to answer all of the questions as well as I might've liked. Even knowing in advance what this appointment was for, I still felt on the spot when the time came. There were things I thought of afterwards or that I realized later on would've been worth mentioning that I neglected to say anything about, even though I remembered them at the time. So, when asked about how I played as a child, I said nothing about the times when I'd played with my calculator, adding up and subtracting numbers over and over again, just to watch them change on the display. Sometimes I did this while lying across the chairs, all pushed in under the dining room table, so I could hold the calculator up against the bottom of the table, as though I were opening a lock with a combination. But I often just sat and fiddled with the numbers. I have occasionally done this as an adult, too. It's kind of soothing. I also never mentioned stacking toggle blocks by color, so that I could enjoy looking at the patterns of blue and green or red and yellow. Now that I'm recalling this, I'm enjoying just thinking about it. I never said anything about how I also spent time, on a number of occasions, playing with watercolor paints and tracings I'd made from the encyclopedia of the outline of the human body. I used to paint on skin, then use red to make a wound somewhere on the body, then paint the skin back over it to "heal" it. I'd do this again and again in the same spot until I wore out the paper, then move to a new spot, until I had no room left and needed a new tracing. It was really about seeing how long I could mix colors to blend them in with the rest of the field before the red was too much, not about wounds and healing. I simply pretended it was a kind of surgery in order to put it into some kind of context. Telling the psychologist about these things might've been useful, I now realize. At the time, though, I only recalled the painting, and I thought it might be insignificant, so I didn't bother with it. That was probably a mistake. I've made a note, though, and I'll mention these things at the beginning of the next appointment. He's been okay with my having done that kind of thing before, so I expect he'll write it down, as he has in the past.
I also learned some things while I was there. According to my sister, who's an RN and a mom, and who went thorough the same school district I did (though her kids don't), some of the teachers I had simply weren't very good. Also, the district as a whole wasn't very good at identifying kids with special needs. My older sister went all through school without having her dyslexia recognized. Even when she got extra help, it wasn't appropriate, because they didn't understand the nature of her particular problem and didn't ask the kinds of questions that would have revealed that information. So, my struggles were not just the result of the lack of awareness of Asperger's syndrome in those days. There I was, a smart kid with frustratingly inconsistent academic performance, and all I got was the expression of my teachers' disappointment with me. I was even occasionally embarrassed by one of them in front of the class, because she decided I "deserved it" (her words).
When all this is done, I may want to talk with someone about these feelings I'm having about how my life has been because of having been undiagnosed and having had all these difficult experiences. I'm reviewing my life and finding I need to reassess how I want to think about things from this new perspective. I also may want some help with current aspects of my life, so that I can better implement the things I'm trying to learn from the books I'm reading. I'll have to see what kind of help I can get once this is done, should I end up with an Asperger's diagnosis. According to my sister, it looks like that's where this is going. She thinks the psychologist is getting that the bullying I told him about was the result of kid's negative reactions to my differences, rather than considering my problems to be solely the result of having been bullied. And she thinks he understands that this wasn't about gender issues alone, so he's not going to put it all down to their having objected to my tomboy ways. That's way better than the first psychologist did!
After the appointment, my sister, my friend, and I went to a local diner to debrief. I've needed some time to come down and start digesting the experience after each appointment, usually by going to my sister's house. This time, though, it was nice to go out. The waitress was really great and a lot of fun. I picked up the check, and the other two kicked in for a nice, fat tip for the waitress. We stayed quite a while, and I felt fairly together and ready to go home by the time we were done.
I'm anxious about what the result of this new assessment will be, and I'll find that out next time we go in. The psychologist said he wants to gather a little more information at the beginning, and then he'll tell me what he's found. I have to be prepared for the possibility that it might not be what I expect. I also have to be prepared for the possibility that it will. I remember when Ellen came out on her show and was interviewed at the time. She commented that she'd had the thought that nobody ever says, "Congratulations! You're gay!" But, having told people that, she then was treated to a cake made for her that said that very thing. Well, there's nothing wrong with you if you're gay, though there have been plenty of parents who've grieved at the news of it when their children have revealed it to them. Whether or not there's something "wrong" with you if you have Asperger's is something I've found people who have it debate, especially those who function pretty well. Is it a problem? Is it just something the world seems not to be geared for, so that it's a problem within the context of our society and not in and of itself? Should it be thought of as a disability or as an incongruity? I've found some of my troubles to be more than just social. I've been frustrated with things I haven't been able to manage, and only some of them have to do with modern life, I think. So, I don't expect a congratulatory cake. On the other hand, by completing this process, I believe I will have shown the kind of character it takes to overcome ignorance, prejudice, and other obstacles; to persevere through a lengthy, drawn out process; to pursue knowledge and self-understanding in the face of a certain amount of fear within myself, as well as some measure of discouragement from others; and to finish something I started. I think that's worth celebrating, no matter what I discover at the end of this journey.
"Congratulations! You have Asperger's!" Yeah, I think I wouldn't mind a cake that said that. Those words could stand for all the rest. One way or the other, though, I'll have to face the future. Two weeks more, and then I'll have my answer. After that, I'll have to work with whatever I've got. But, then, how is that simple reality any different from the way it's always been? However much I've known, and whatever I've been able to do, I've always had to work with what I've got. So, in that sense, things will be very much the same for me. Which is to say, I think I can honestly report, not necessarily a bad thing. All in all, I think I've done all right. It just hasn't always been clear how much I've been doing or how hard I've had to work in order to accomplish it. No matter what I'm told in that final appointment, I think what I've really learned about myself is how far I've come and how much I've achieved over the course of my life, despite my difficulties. Whatever anyone else sees, whatever they think, I'll know I've risen to the challenges I've faced and done my best. And if I don't get an actual, physical cake out of this deal, then maybe I'll just have to find a way to metaphorically bake my own.
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