I want to share something personal with you, as I have now been blogging for a little while.
Two years ago, I had an amazing experience. I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome which is one stop on the Autism Spectrum. This finally explained the many unexplained challenges I have faced all my life.
But over the last two years, whenever I mention my diagnosis to others who have known me for a while, their response is...I would never have guessed. Maybe you can be a little intense, but that's all!
And when I mention some of the symptoms I deal with day to day, they often say...oh that's normal, everyone feels like that sometimes.
So does this make me feel good? No! It seems to negate all the difficulties I have. I feel like an idiot because I can't control something that others can easily cope with.
Having thought this over, I think the truth is that we older women Aspies have managed to learn to copy others so well, we can camouflage our symptoms, so we just seem a little quirky. Often we are paddling like mad underneath, trying to just stay abreast of the world.
I also think our symptoms lead out from normal symptoms on a continuum. They are just extreme versions of normality. E.g. Everyone finds the supermarket difficult, and they want to scream by the end of shopping...but not everyone has to block their ears to keep out the incessant music and announcements and people's conversations so they can remember what they were supposed to be buying. Not everyone's brain is so overwhelmed by the visual cacophony on display that they phase out or burst into tears.
When people make these supposedly supportive comments we often feel negated and dumb and belittled.
I suppose I should see it as a compliment that others don't notice my struggles. But it often just feels like they are calling me a liar, someone trying for attention.
The other tricky thing for me is knowing when to disclose my diagnosis to others. Will they think I'm retarded, will they take me seriously, will it help in any way?
Some of the difficulties I have involve being sensorily overloaded, so I end up tensing to ward off whatever I am dealing with. Often I end up exhausted by the end of the day, due to my bodily tension.
This means I find it hard to commit to things, as I won't know until the day whether I will have the resources to do it.
I have to prioritise my family so they get the best of me, and then one or two extras like helping with craft group at school, and teaching singing from home. Then anything else like catching up with friends, helping further at school, or helping out with voluntary organisations I'm involved with, have to wait for the energy resources. And I certainly can't hold down a full time or even part time job.
It's hard to know when to tell people, sorry I can't help out, not because I'm lazy, just because I have an invisible disability. I don't want to seem like a drama queen!
I tiptoe along a tightrope of commitment, constantly making decisions about my ability to cope.
If I make the wrong call, I tip to one side madly scrambling to gain equilibrium. Commit to too many tasks, and I could end up a day later flat on my back with neck and headaches and feeling nauseous.
Or I could be so jumpy, with my senses so stretched, that all the sounds in the world seem suddenly amplified.
All my tasks seem impossible to organise and with my brain reeling and feeling out of control, all I can do is scream at it all.
It is often only then that I notice what is happening, due to habitually living in a minefield.
I only notice how rabid I've become when I hear myself shouting, and so I shut myself away in my room under my weighted blanket and pray I've done no lasting damage to my family.
I don't want to end on a negative note. There are many positive things in my life and I don't think I would be nearly as competent or enriched if I didn't have my Aspie focus (obsession)!
I have music with the piano and singing because I used to disappear into these worlds to escape.
I am competent at many art and craft practices because my attention to detail assists me.
My senses which are so finely tuned bring me many beautiful moments which I can share ...hence BeautyScope :-)