Asperger and not following the herd

People on the spectrum sometimes try to imitate others. It’s because we want to be accepted, to belong. It’s also because we don’t know what’s expected of us, and many aspies suffer from social phobias. We imitate neurotypicals because they know the right things to say and do. We can avoid ridicule this way.

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However, sometimes we have to choose between imitating others and being happy. Although imitating others can make us feel safe in some circumstances, it’s not necessarily the wise thing to do, not if it’s on the expanse of one’s happiness.

I might imitate others in some ways myself, like make small talk I’ve heard other people use, or smile at the right times. However, as a child, I was told to always imitate my peers. I was told I had to make friends, as if making friends was a duty. My intense love for animals was frowned upon. I was expected to go to parties and act ‘normal.’

Although some aspies are happily married, and some aspies are happy to be parents, this doesn’t work for everyone. My ability to be around people is more limited than many other aspies, judging from what I’ve read in many forums. So is my ability to receive joy from other people, to enjoy company. I must admit I have some serious issues in that area.

Society put pressure on me to get married, to have kids. Coworkers have told me, “You love yourself too much,” when told I don’t want kids. “You’ve got problems.” “You need therapy.” This is what I’ve heard on more than one occasion from people I talked to. All because I’m childless and single by choice.

Also, I’ve made the mistake of telling a coworker I get tired when being around other people for too long, and she told other coworkers, “I think we should stop talking to her now, or she might get a headache from talking to people for so long.”

Following the crowd has its price. It’s a sacrifice. If an aspie is happy in his/her marriage and is content to be a parent, that’s great. But if one knows this isn’t right for him, then he shouldn’t go through with the motions just to be like everyone else, just to join the herd.

I used to try to blend in, and I’ve paid the price by suffering. Living alone agrees with me. I’m much happier and calmer now. Life is much better when you do what you want and not what you’re expected.

Anyone has similar experiences?

‘All cats have Asperger syndrome,’ is a book that is inspired by the feline world. Cats seem to be happy, probably because they live the life they want. It’s funny and filled with beautiful cats’ pictures. This link is an Amazon affiliate link. Click to learn more.

 

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Asperger and depression

I’ve read many complaints about depression in aspie forums. It seemed a whole lot of people on the spectrum suffer from depression, but is it situation-based, or is it the way the aspie brain is wired?

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Reasons for situation-based depression among aspies
The constant feeling of being misunderstood, loneliness, social awkwardness, bullying, a feeling of not belonging anywhere, and inability to make friends.
It seems like we have quite a few reasons to get the blues.

Non situation-based depression in autism
Many aspies suffer from anxiety, and anxiety and depression often go together. There’s a theory that anxiety in itself causes depression because it’s emotionally draining to worry all the time. However, what if a brain that is wired to feel anxiety is also wired to feel depression?

Aspies tend to over analyze things. We think too much. Our minds are overactive. Creative people such as writers, poets, and artists tend to suffer from mania depression more than the average population. Maybe this is the curse of the overactive imagination and creativity, sort of a mixed blessing.

My childhood experience
Unlike many little aspies, I never wanted to belong or make friends. I didn’t like human company, except for my brother. All I cared about was animals, nature, and music. Being around other kids my age bored and drained me emotionally. I wasn’t depressed because I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t want friends anyway.

I wasn’t bullied too often, either. I didn’t live in fear or dread going to school. My anxiety bothered me on occasions, but I didn’t feel depressed whenever feeling anxious or right afterward, and I wasn’t anxious all the time.

I had a feeling of melancholy since age five or six. It got worse when I watched the sun lowering in the sky and worsening at sunset and twilight. I’ve always felt more hopeful and cheerful in the morning.

When I try to rationalize it, the only reason I can find is that I suffered from insomnia even as a child. Nighttime approaching meant battling with insomnia again. But it doesn’t seem like a sufficient enough reason, and it doesn’t explain why I was a bit depressed during the day as well.

My adult experience
I didn’t understand my depression as a grownup. I didn’t have a reason to be depressed, so why was I feeling this way? I remember asking someone once if he ever feels depression without a reason, and he told me, of course not. Why would he feel depressed if he has no reason? No, never. He didn’t understand what I was talking about.

Out of touch with me feelings, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was depression. Sometimes I thought it was my imagination. I told myself I wasn’t depressed, that I had no reason to be. But it didn’t help.

When other people told me I had a good life, my own apartment, a job, and no reason to feel bad, I held on to that and told myself more firmly that I wasn’t depressed, that I couldn’t be, because everyone told me I had no reason. But the depression stayed.

I believe aspie depression is partly situation-based, but it’s partly the way our minds work. I don’t feel depressed all the time now, only on occasions.

What helps me overcome my depression is setting a goal, like making money, writing a blog, writing a story, learning self-defense. Another thing is focusing on the things I like, such as going to the park or the beach and spending all day there, or walking down the street and stopping to pet every friendly dog or stray cat I can. I’ve been scratched quite a few times by enraged cats that didn’t welcome a pat from a stranger, but it’s worth it.

My favorite books with characters suffering from depression are ‘The Prince of Tides’, about the hero’s gifted sister trying to overcome an abusive childhood, and ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’, where a teen attempts suicide when under tremendous pressure to succeed in school and is hospitalized in a mental institution with a patient who believes he’s the president. And he finds out the source of his anxieties.

The links above are affiliate links to Amazon’s products.

The importance of independence for autistic people

Many people with Asperger syndrome live independently. However, it’s more difficult for a person on the spectrum to live independently than it is for a neurotypical.

                                 The danger of dependence
There are consequences to being dependent on others, and there are different ways of dependency. If someone else handles your money, you can’t always trust them to make the right decisions. I’ve read on the net complaints about social workers spending money on clothes that the person didn’t need or want, when that money was desperately needed for other things.

Living in a home makes a person vulnerable to abuse to staff and sometimes violence from other people who stay there. Living at home can be problematic for someone who doesn’t get alone with his parents, especially if the parents are abusive.

Being independent is important for neurotypicals too, but being dependent can be more dangerous for people on the spectrum because they’re more vulnerable to abuse and may not be able to defend themselves or tell anyone about the abuse.

That’s not to say all social workers, parents, or caretakers in homes are abusive. Many social workers and caretakers are decent people who do the best they can do, and some are the kind of people that chose this job out of idealism and a goal to help others. Most parents would give their lives for their kids without hesitation.

But this is like walking down the street after midnight or hitchhiking. Most people aren’t serial killers or gangsters, but all it takes is for you to run into one, just this one twisted person in order to get hurt or killed.

                            Dependence and low self-esteem
Being dependent on another person is especially bad for autistic people. Many people on the spectrum are made to feel as if there’s something wrong with them. Or they might feel inadequate because they can’t achieve what neurotypicals their age can. Being dependent on another person can deepen lack of self-confidence, even if the caretakers are caring and kind.

There’s nothing like having your own place.

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Of course, not all people on the spectrum can live independently, and not all people on the spectrum are the same. There are some autistic people for whom independence is simply not realistic. However, before deciding a person cannot live on his own, it’s probably a good idea to encourage him and see what he can or can’t do.

Asperger on the job by Rudy Simone is full of interview tips and job maps, based on Rudy’s experience as an aspie and the experiences of more than 50 aspies around the globe. This excellent book covers the problems of bullying, sensory issues, and more. Click to learn more.

 

Do aspies lack empathy

It’s a common misconception that people on the spectrum lack empathy. I believe autistic people have more empathy than the average neurotypicals. Here are the reasons I believe that.

                  My experience with aspie forums and blogs
I’ve read many blogs written by autistic people who were on a rampant about social injustice. I’ve been on aspie forums where members went out of their way to encourage and help other members.

                                           My own experience
I’ve taken quite a few sick feral cats to the vet, paying with money I barely had. That’s how I ended up with three feral cats living in my home. The others I had to put back in the street where I found them because I can’t take them all in.

People seem to think aspies have more empathy toward animals than humans. But I think that’s a myth. I always try to help people. I’ve seen a man throwing up in the street and went over and asked him if he wants me to call an ambulance. He said no, he was OK. I’ve warned kids and grownups to get off the road and walk on the sidewalk. Not that they always listen. I crossed the road to ask a man limping badly if he needed help, even though I was in a hurry.

When I see a sad movie, I fee nothing because I know it’s not true. But seeing a real tragedy on the news affects me for a long time afterward. I always flip channels quickly because I know the effect can be depressing and long lasting. Reading about child abuse makes my blood boil. Some details get stuck in my head years later, and I keep trying to forget them.

So why do many people believe autistic people lack empathy?

                        We show our emotions differently
An aspie may not know how to comfort a grieving person because he may not have the right words. We don’t always know how to express ourselves. I’ve also been told my face is expressionless, and I know many aspies have a flat voice, I do. People may believe an aspie lacks empathy when he uses this kind of voice and a neutral expression to describe a horrible event that had happened to someone else.

An autistic person might act totally casual at the time something horrible happens to someone, and then lose it completely later. We process our emotions slowly. Or else an aspie can go into shutdown model, which makes him appear aloof.

It’s not that aspies don’t have empathy. It’s just that we show it differently.

‘The Rosie Project’ is a hilarious book about an aspie genetic professor who’s looking for a wife in a scientific manner and then finds out love isn’t something one can plan. This happens while he tries to help Rosie find her biological father. This is an amazon affiliate link. Click to view.

How to tell your child he’s autistic

Here are ten tips that will help you tell your child he’s autistic without making it sound like a tragedy and scaring him.

                                                           Be calm
Your kid is less likely to get upset if you aren’t. The best way to tell your child he’s autistic is in a calm and optimistic manner.

                     Don’t make the diagnosis sound like a disability
Explain in terms of thinking differently instead of not being able to think like everyone else. ‘You do your own thing’ instead of ‘You can’t do what other kids your age do.’

                                      Draw attention to the gifts
When you tell your child he’s autistic, highlight the advantages and gifts of autism, the ability to communicate with animals, to see small details and patterns others don’t, the fact that many aspies are highly intelligent, the super focus, etc.

                  Don’t say it’s impossible, find solutions instead
Try to avoid telling your child he can’t do something. Try to come up with ways to help him achieve his goals.

Example: don’t say, ‘You can’t make friends.’ Say ‘You have your own way of making friends.’ Don’t say, ‘You can’t learn martial arts.’ Say, ‘You can learn with a private teacher, in one-on-one sessions in a quieter environment.’

                                                      Give examples
A great way to explain to your child he’s autistic is to give examples from your child’s point of view. ‘Remember that time when your friend was joking, and you thought he was serious?’ ‘Remember the time you were upset because of the noise in the supermarket?’

                                      Dismiss myths about autism
Such as the refrigerated mother theory, all autistic people have savant skills, autistic people don’t have empathy, etc.

                 Show examples of famous people with Asperger

                             Make sure you know about autism
Learn everything you can before telling your kid he’s autistic. Search the internet, get into forums, and read books.

                               Let him know there are others like him
Tell your kid there are other kids and grownups on the spectrum. If your child is old enough to practice in forums, introduce him to forums for teens with Asperger or autism.

                                           Avoid the victim thinking
Let your kid know the reason why some kids may not want to talk to him is because they might think he’s not interested because he doesn’t make eye contact, or because they don’t know how to talk to him, not because they’re mean or because everyone hates him.

Tell your child bullies pick on him because they believe he’s vulnerable, not because everyone hates him. This isn’t a conspiracy.

Tell your child he’s not weak, and he can defend himself against bullies.

‘All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome’ is the perfect book to give a child who’s just learning about his/her autism. It describes Asperger in a humorous and optimistic way, using beautiful pictures of cats doing something a little aspie might do, accompanied by a short explanation. This is an amazon affiliate link. Click to view.

What is an aspie shutdown

An aspie shutdown is when an autistic person loses touch with the world around him. An aspie may become unresponsive in a shutdown. He may lose the ability to talk and might not understand what is being said to him. He may start walking with no destination in mind and be unable to stop. People can get lost this way. Or sometimes a person on the spectrum can’t move or responds. He just freezes.

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                     What are the triggers of aspie shutdowns

Sensory overload, mental fatigue from having to socialize more than we’re capable of, anxiety, a change in routine or a change in plans can lead to a shutdown.

                    What does an aspie shutdown feel like

Numbness, confusion, surrealistic. Inability to form a coherent thought. The person may be unaware of his surroundings and what’s going on around him. There’s no fear, no embarrassment. It’s not a pleasant experience, but at least I didn’t find it too horrible. Maybe because it didn’t last more than a few minutes, fortunately.

                                          My own experience

I went with another lady I knew to talk to some friends of hers. I thought it was going to be just one ride on the train. I was mentally prepared for this, but when we got off the train, she said we have to take another bus.

After getting off the bus, I was expecting a short walk straight ahead, but the walk proved to be much longer than I’d expected and with turns right and left. I was beginning to space out at that point.

When we got to her friends’ house, someone shook my hand and greeted me. I couldn’t speak or move. I just stared into space. My friend told her friend that I’m just tired from walking too much.

                  How to help an aspie during a shutdown
Best thing to do would probably be to take the aspie to a quiet place, with as few people as possible. Some aspies may not respond, and someone just has to take them by the hand and lead them away.

‘Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s’ is John Robison’s story. He loved to take radios apart. He loved electronics and video games. he couldn’t communicate with other people the way he desperately wanted to. Bullied as a child, living with an alcoholic father and a mother with mental problems. This is an amazon affiliate link. Click to learn more.

What is a home sleep study like

What is a home sleep study like for an aspie? Here’s my experience.

My doctor gave me a referral to a home sleep study. I had picked up the devices and had taken them home with me.

I was given an explanation on how to use them, a watch around your wrist that monitors your heartbeats, something that looks like a heart monitor that I had to place at the base of my throat, and a finger clip.

What is a home sleep study like for someone with sensory issues? The finger clip put horrible pressure on my finger, and I had to take it out before it drove me crazy. I had a choking sensation from the monitor and had to take that off, too. There was no way I could’ve fallen asleep like that. I only left the watch on my wrist

I got a call from the sleep study office. They told me not to bother showing up for the results. That was my experience with a home sleep study.

It’s probably easier for neurotypicals because they don’t have all these sensory issues to deal with. If it weren’t for these problems, the home sleep study would’ve been very easy and comfortable because it’s done at home. All you have to do is simply put the equipment on and go to sleep.

‘Say Good Night To Insomnia’ is a guide to curing insomnia drug-free by using cognitive behavior therapy, a program that was developed and tested at Harvard medical school and had lessened insomnia in 80 percent of patients. This is an amazon affiliate link. Click to learn more.