470: Past Twelve: Aspergers

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I have to say that twelve was rather easy. I was still very much a child, almost fairy-like, or elven, always into innocent mischief and adventure.

The turmoil hit at the age of thirteen. That is when my hormones shifted and life suddenly became bleak, overwhelming and unmanageable. I discovered a new form of escapism then, a more ‘difficult’ escapism than before; I became more observant of myself and actions, understanding complexities in a new degree that felt unfamiliar and frightening. Before, I would leap into my imagination quite naturally and without pretense. Now, it seemed as if I escaped to get away from some pending danger.

Wherein my world once felt light and airy, full of possibility, and all things magical and hopeful, it now felt dark, dingy and doom-filled.

I didn’t have an active social life for most of my teen years, choosing instead one girlfriend to hang out with and one boyfriend to adore. I had the same best friend from seventh grade until I graduated high school. I never thought to have many friends. I hung out with her, copied her, adopted her taste in music and clothes. I think because I was pretty (but didn’t know it), I easily found boyfriends. I tended to stick with one boy as long as I could or until circumstances forced a breakup. I too, copied what I thought he liked. I tried to appease. But with young men, I found myself continually lost and alone with a separation between us I could not understand or explain. While having a significant other brought me this sense of being less fearful in public and the ability to go out and do more, the relationship also brought me this deep seeded feeling of being complicated, misunderstood, too emotional, and never kind enough.

I could write a full book on the challenges of my teenage years. Here I have attempted to summarize some of the key points:

1. Suffering with feelings of extreme isolation and oddness, but not being able to understand or articulate why I felt this way.

2. Wanting to be like my peers but not wanting to be like my peers. Recognizing their character traits disturbed me, particularly manipulation, game-playing, deceit, cliques (groups of children that didn’t allow other children into the group), lying, cruelty, pretending and gossip.

3. Not knowing why, for most of my childhood, despite circumstances, I had felt happy and content, and that now all of a sudden I felt a deep sadness and a disconnection from the rest of the world.

4. Developing an over-analytical sense of self that encompassed all areas, including how I looked, how I moved, how I spoke and even how I thought and reasoned.

5. Developing a hyper-critical awareness of my appearance, wherein before I could care less. It was an extreme shift from being comfortable in my skin to wanting to change who I was. Along with this intensity of dislike towards my own image, I also did not recognize my own face in the mirror. I had no idea the size of my eyes, my face, my nose, or lips. Nothing seemed distinguishable, and every time I looked in the mirror the image seemed unfamiliar. I consciously did not realize this was happening. I did not understand why I looked at my image so much and analyzed it. I thought I was vain and self-centered, even as I hated how I appeared and assumed no one liked my looks.

6. It did not matter how many times someone told me I was beautiful on the outside, I couldn’t see it, and didn’t believe it. I twisted compliments in my mind. I took a sincere compliment about my appearance and truly believed that the observer was lying, blind, misinformed, tricking me or not educated.

7. I did not trust life. I began to see the unpredictable nature of adults and teenagers. No one around me changed, but suddenly an invisible barrier was lifted and I saw reality more clearly. I had seemed to be coated before, protected in some shield in which the world appeared wonderful and filled with love. I had trusted everyone and believed in everyone; yet now, I believed the world was a scary place, and thought that I had been born on the wrong planet.

8. I didn’t understand my own emotional intensity. I loved deeply. I longed. I was passionate. I was a poet. I was this exploding young woman filled with romantic intentions and the want to get married and have children. I didn’t have any interest in being a teenager. Some part of me wanted to skip from young childhood straight into adulthood. I saw young men as a means of escaping the destitute of reality. I jumped into a fantasy land of tomorrow, when I would be raising a family, and far beyond high school and all its pains.

9. I still trusted everyone. I trusted strangers. I trusted anyone who was an adult. I trusted children. I trusted my peers. I shared from the heart. I told my deepest secrets. I cried openly. And people did not respond in a manner that was beneficial to me. I was preyed upon in all ways: physically, emotionally, spiritually and logically. People could sense I was innocent, naive, and inexperienced. I was very much a victim without knowing I was a victim. I couldn’t tell right from wrong. Because I assumed everyone was good at heart, I assumed everything anyone did was ‘normal’ and ‘okay.’ I didn’t understand that concept of boundaries or self-protection. No one taught me. I didn’t know boundaries existed. I believed people.

10. Concepts that came naturally to other girls did not come naturally to me. I did not understand or follow fashion. I didn’t think to. It never crossed my mind to try to fit in and assimilate to the teenage world. I was still very much twelve inside, even as my body changed. I didn’t start dressing like my peers and learning how to apply makeup until I was ostracized, ridiculed, and singled-out.

11. I didn’t understand sexuality. I had a cute figure and was well-endowed. I did not understand how different ways I walked, sat, or bent over could be perceived as flirtatious and even labeled ‘slutty.’ I didn’t know that I had turned physically into a young woman who men found attractive. Even as they called out names at me, or shouted inappropriate comments about my body in the halls of high school, I didn’t connect the dots. I didn’t know what I had done. And in not knowing what I had done, I didn’t know how to make changes in an attempt to stop others’ behaviors.

12. I copied television and movie stars. I acted like my favorite stars. My role models were a brunette from Gilligan’s Island and a brunette from Charlie’s Angels. And I moved and acted like them, or some other dark-haired daytime soap opera actress. I didn’t know I did this, but I did it nonetheless. I needed a role model, and I found mine on television. Mimicking the traits of sensual and sexual adult females did not add to my ability to fit in; my actions instead served to highlight my inadequacies and oddities. I did things halfway, some very awkward child trying to catch up to her peers and changing body, and not knowing how to even begin, and not recognizing that her subconscious chosen methods were damaging her chances of fitting in further.

13. I didn’t understand my bodily changes and the monthly menstrual cycle. The change had been explained to me in various classes at school, briefly by a parent, and in review of some books, but that information was not enough. I think, in retrospect, I had needed someone to walk me through the process daily for the first year. To explain and reexplain, to reassure me I wasn’t dying or sick, to comfort me when the new and unfamiliar body pains and sensations came, to give me more advanced biological descriptions of what was happening to me. I didn’t do well with change. Change scared me. And here, my entire body was not my body anymore. It was terrifying. I didn’t understand the entire concepts of sex, of the ways I might get pregnant or how to tell if what my peers said was truth or lies. I didn’t understand how things worked.

14. I didn’t understand the concept of holding back. I said things like I saw them and felt them; that is until I was so shamed in school, I clamped up and hid in the corner writing song lyrics in pencil all over my desktop. I didn’t understand social rules and social games. I came across as overzealous, as immature, as goofy, giddy, and somewhat of a ditz. I didn’t understand most jokes. I laughed a lot, out of embarrassment or discomfort. I developed a nervous giggle. I seemed fake to other people, when ironically I was truly myself. People questioned me, especially my facial expressions and body language, and worse they criticized me. If I walked with my head down, with my eyes glued to the floor, my peers claimed I was rude and stuck up, too good for them. If I smiled, I was a flirt. If I avoided eye contact, I was showing disrespect or further showing I thought I was hot stuff and ‘all that.’ I didn’t know how to be. I wasn’t given the tools or the freedom. Everything I did was judged or deemed wrong. I quickly began to surmise the world was a terrible place in which no one was allowed to be herself. And then I concluded I didn’t even know who my self was.

15. I cried a lot. I isolated myself a lot. All the traits of Aspergers were triggered as puberty hit. I was overwhelmed with entirely too much for any child. Not only was my home life unpredictable and chaotic, not only was my body changing, my peers suddenly my enemies, but my own mind was turning against me. I couldn’t tell who I was, what I wanted, and had no idea where to go for help. When I tried to tell adults I was afraid to live, they claimed I was seeking attention, that I was fine, or that I was creating drama. When I went crying to the school counselor, he told me plainly that I was a beautiful attractive and intelligent young lady. And questioned what I could possibly have to complain about. I was attacked on all fronts. No one believed me when I said I felt different and alone. No one believed the deep pain and shattering of my life I was undergoing. I became suicidal, never able to go through with any attempts, but always wondering how it would feel to escape this life. I became more and more of a recluse and found small ways to make my life more manageable. I ate the same lunch every day. I kept the same routine. I knew what path to walk in the halls at school. I knew how to hide. I learned how to pretend to be someone else in mannerisms, dress and behavior. I became that which was nothing but a ghost of me, and I lived that way for most of my days.

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Everyday Aspergers the book available in 2016. Join our Facebook Clan or follow the blog for newest information on book release, including contests and give aways. 🙂 ~ Sam

poetry from my teenage years

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28 thoughts on “470: Past Twelve: Aspergers

  1. Hi Sam,

    I’m wondering. Did it help you to write these things about your childhood? I made similar experiences during this time of my life but I’m not sure if I want to reclaim those memories. What do you tink?

    Love
    Anja

  2. Samantha, this had me in tears , bringing back vivid accounts of my own past.And though a painful time for me, I am finally , as an adult of 40 something, gaining the acceptance, and validation I so desperately needed as a teenager. I feel it my lifes calling to now help those up and comming aspies navigate though their years. I hope I can help them.Thank you for sharing this with us, putting into words, what many of us cannot. xx

    1. You are most welcome. I have written of these things separate before but not all in one post. I thought I’d moved past all of it, but I guess there was more inside that needed to come out. I love that you are motivated to help others. What a blessing your experience can be. Much love.

  3. I wonder if writing about my memories would serve as a healing aid or just hurt even more. I learned to block mine out and tune out the world was my only way to sanity during my teenage years. All of your experiences I can see in myself 100%. . . I cant make myself recall the memories without wanting to cry again. I was bullied for my differences. The kids I think could sense it. I was even physically whipped by them using tree branches and now have a couple scars. I dont think I am ready anytime soon to start remembering and trying to write out my memories. Maybe someday Ill find another way.

    1. I can only speak for myself. I wrote my memories out of three years… three drafts. The first I was extremely sad and depressed. The second time through Angry and resentful…blaming. The third draft forgiveness and acceptance. It helped me, but we are each on our own path. I am so sorry for your pains and sufferings.

    2. Oh, Amanda, I’m so sad for you that you experienced such trauma 😦

      I sometimes “play with the past” where I’ll think of a situation that hurt, and I will tune into the sensation in my body of how it felt while imaginatively creating a “preferred outcome”. For instance, I used to hate sitting in the loungeroom of my childhood home in the evening. My father would come in from work, grumpy as usual (he was very unhappy and had no way of being able to do anything about that). I was terrified of him. He traumatised me and I am still dealing with the effects of living with him. We were to remain silent while he watched his news and TV shows. I took myself back into that loungeroom, and as I was a Christian I took Jesus with me. I asked him what could we do, and then he took me in his arms and we danced around the loungeroom. I had the same fears as when I was a child of doing something to anger my father, but Jesus said to me, “It’s okay. They can’t see us.”

      There was something about that experience that was profoundly healing for me. It felt like I went back and “finished off” that situation in my body somehow and felt like I gained a smidgeon more proper central nervous system function 🙂

      Don’t know if that helps you or anyone else. I just felt like I wanted to write this. Feel free to completely disregard it if it’s unhelpful. But I think we CAN heal from these experiences. It just seems to take us a lifetime sometimes.

  4. Thank you so much for talking about this time of your life, Sam. It really helps me as a non-Aspie understand a smidgeon better each time I read something you write. Because you know us neurotypicals, how mind-blind we can be at times – I tend to sort of forget how much I take for granted that is evident to me but not to other people. Your writing helps me immensely.

  5. I
    I remember feeling very lonely and not a part of what all the other kids were doing in high school. When I looked back many years later I saw how I never fit into any of the cliques. There were the smart ones, I got along with them because I made mostly good grades, but never really knew more than “hi” or a quick comment maybe. Then the “bad girls” that were sooooo into boys doing things I thought was gross with boys, they wore alot of make up and had nice clothes, and they didn’t make very good grades but I got along with them also because I so wanted to be able to do all those girlie things like make up etc. And then the ones that you knew were really different, I remember just watching them with curiosity, they seemed pretty confident, like I don’t give a blank attitude. So I was the sweet girl that didn’t really fit in anywhere. I even had a boyfriend and we never kissed!!!! we dated for several months and then I broke up with him and he started dating someone else, one of the smart girls. They definitely were close, and kissing, and talking and laughing. I was so jealous. Now I see how I have never been very good at being close to people. We never talked either or joked….the same theme has continued my whole life as I have looked back. My mom and I don’t remember ever hugging all the years I was growing up, I never even thought of it. Until later in life I realized this was really weird. Then my ex husband of 13 years told me after the divorce that he felt I never loved him and that I never hugged him. It’s true, he would hug me and I remember my arms just hanging down loosely at my sides. I remember once thinking about how I didn’t hug back but didn’t think any further, only that it felt honest to be myself. I don’t even think I thought this was odd not to ever hug my husband of 13 years. Well, he always made my skin crawl, he was one of those choices I made that no one could believe, and I just didn’t see how I see now. But I always felt uneasy with him.
    I have rambled on…just so amazed to read about others like me. I never knew anyone like me, so I thought I was just really odd and broken. I wonder why we don’t know good from bad, and wrong and right?

  6. “8. I didn’t understand my own emotional intensity. I loved deeply. I longed. I was passionate. I was a poet. I was this exploding young woman filled with romantic intentions and the want to get married and have children. I didn’t have any interest in being a teenager. Some part of me wanted to skip from young childhood straight into adulthood. I saw young men as a means of escaping the destitute of reality. I jumped into a fantasy land of tomorrow, when I would be raising a family, and far beyond high school and all its pains.”

    This. I was also raised in the Quiverfull homeschool movement, and this was hammered into me even more. I fell in love at 11 and love the same man today, 20 years later, even though his parents pulled him away from me, and told me he was dead. I tried to move on, got married, and found out that I never really did.

    “10. Concepts that came naturally to other girls did not come naturally to me. I did not understand or follow fashion. I didn’t think to. It never crossed my mind to try to fit in and assimilate to the teenage world. I was still very much twelve inside, even as my body changed. I didn’t start dressing like my peers and learning how to apply makeup until I was ostracized, ridiculed, and singled-out. ”

    It didn’t help that I was not allowed to wear the common fashions or makeup. I was grudgingly allowed a heel of 2 inches and lipstick within my natural hue at 16, but since nobody in my family wore it and by that time I had no female friends, I never learned how to wear it.

    At 31 I am still awkward, a combination of my Asperger’s (I was put up for adoption by my birth mother because I was labeled as “severely autistic”, somehow that diagnosis never made it into my adoption records and I didn’t get a diagnosis of Asperger’s until I was 27) and the fact that my family had a tendency to believe that everything in our culture is demonic. Aspies don’t like change, and it’s been very difficult now that I am out to change my ways, start watching TV and movies (I can barely manage cartoons and animated movies, and yes, those were also condemned in my family) and have something to talk about. I’m an odd girl. I’m a gamer and chainmailler, had an obsession with Lord of the Rings long before the movies came out (I’m trying to get to 100 times, I’m currently on 97), and barely managed to include Harry Potter in my obsessions (I first read it three years ago and have read it about 7 times a year since.)

    Anyway… sorry for the tome.

  7. #9 Really resonated with me. When I was younger, I trusted everyone completely, wholeheartedly. Like you, I believed all people were good and just needed someone to believe in them. I was taken advantage of time and time again and now I fear it has made me suspicious and untrusting of people. Unlike some Aspies who struggle with sarcasm, I know it when I hear it. I sense the venom in the words of others’. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the simpler me who saw good everywhere. Like Flowers for Algernon. Once you have that knowledge, you can’t go back to being ignorant. Thank you for sharing. ❤

  8. I felt so much of this, only from a male perspective. And like others, I wonder if writing it out will heal or just open the old wounds. I still dont understand so much of my pain so I fear that not knowing why will make reliving it painful more than theraputic… one thing that KILLS me is the TERRIBLE FEAR that my children are experiencing ANY of the GUT WRENCHING TRAUMA that I did…

  9. I could have written this about that time period in my own life. I’ve not found the resources to get diagnosed yet but as I continue to run into the same challenges despite identifying them clearly I know I need to do something…because I am undiagnosed I always have the voice of the counselors you described in my head — you’re seeking attention, you’re fine, you’re creating drama. It’s confusing and painful.

  10. Another “thank you” as my aspiegirl is 11 1/2 and just started middle school. I especially thankful for your paragraphs regarding the puberty changes. You’ve helped me know to offer extra help to her as long as she needs it from me. I know I am much more accommodating and comforting than my own mother was able to be with me. 🙂

  11. Adolescence was painful! I had a somewhat different experience from yours, with some parallels. So I’ll share my story as it might offer another insight into an Aspergers adolescence, for anyone interested! (n.b. I’m only self-diagnosed.)

    Yes, things changed in high school, from age of about 12-13. I had been odd as a child before that, sometimes a massive show-off without recognising that I was actually probably making a fool of myself, sometimes extremely quiet. I remember my brother once told me I was like Mr Bean, and I think I would have appeared awkward, but didn’t think that way till later. I was generally happy, except for my bullying brother, whom I never seemed to know how to fight back. My best friend in late primary school and I used to sit together at lunch time, happily not talking most of the time – maybe she had Aspergers too?

    But in high school I became much more conscious of my differences. I went to a private school with a strict uniform code, so no one wore casual clothes or makeup or jewellery, except on rare ‘uniform free’ days and on school camps – that was when I realised I stood out like a sore thumb, everyone else in the latest trends and me in something very basic. I never really understood fashion or felt comfortable in makeup. I experimented a bit with it, to try to fit in, but it just felt wrong, I felt silly painting my face or wearing designer clothes just because they had a particular label.

    At about the same time, the people I had been hanging around, whom I thought of as friends, one day started running away from me, avoiding me, saying horrible things when I came near, not letting me sit with them in class, etc. So as you can imagine I was very upset. Another group of girls took pity on me, and I started sitting with them. The same thing happened a few months later. Though they gave me more warning perhaps, I remember them asking why I didn’t talk much and giving me suggestions how to make conversation with them etc. But they gradually got colder towards me, before eventually suddenly one day, running away and telling me straight to stay away from them etc . Again, I was devastated – why was this happening? I guessed (only years later) that their coldness was them giving me hints to stop spending time with them, though at the time I did not understand. I started sitting with another couple of girls, but then in time it happened again with them. It happened at least 5 times, with different groups of girls, each time I would feel so lost until another group took pity on me. Until in the fourth year of highschool aged 15, it happened for the last time, and I was hardly upset at all, I decided I could do without friends. I would be a loner, I would spend lunchtimes in the school library. Crucially, I stopped caring that others saw me by myself. From that time, there were certain people I would sit with in different classes whom I was friendly with, but I never spent time with them outside those classes.

    Even now, I don’t understand why it happened, what it was about me that they so objected to, except simply that I was quiet and didn’t really know how to join in with the joking and messing around, and they must have found my presence uncomfortable, and maybe they thought I deserved to be ostracised as I wasn’t “pulling my weight” as a friend.

    I became suicidal too, not that I would have followed through, but the idea that “if it all gets bad enough I can end my life” was actually a comfort back then (though now I would not consider this an option, as it would be devastating for my family).

    In my teens, at home, I would easily become completely engrossed in making lists on our computer. I would spend days compiling lists of names and their meanings and origins, or the popularity of different baby names in the birth announcements, or the popularity of each letter in samples of written English, or whatever, and sorting and organising the data. I also had some unusual collections, for example I would cut out certain advertisements (for collector’s plates and collector’s dolls) from my Nan’s old magazines, and organise them, for example. I was also quite artistic, and crafty. Making things and drawing and painting and organising things, or reading, or doing other things alone, was how I would spend most of my spare time – I spent hardly any ‘unstructured’ time with peers, and I didn’t want to anyway!

    I never had a boyfriend in high school, or indeed till I was about 22 years old. (I was very naive about relationships even then – that’s another story.) I had crushes from the age of about 15, deep and longing and very painful crushes, I felt even back then that I would much rather have done without those feelings. I remember my first crush, I would stare at him, whenever I could, whenever I thought he wasn’t watching. I couldn’t stop myself staring.

    I have a very hard time trusting women as friends, even now. I have never really had female friends my own age since primary school – no not quite true, there were a few while I was studying at uni, but more like frequently seen acquaintances than friends, we didn’t really do anything socially together or even chat much about anything except study. I was fairly close to a very chatty female flatmate too – I have always gotten on well with people who like to talk a lot and don’t expect me to reply much! Then I have a few much older female friends, but again none I am very close to. My friendships since adulthood have mainly been either superficial like these I’ve described, and my closer friendships have been with men or boyfriends (I’ve not had many of those either, though I’ve got a most beloved husband now, who is my best friend).

    Adolescence was painful, I’m not sure I’ve yet fully recovered, now in my 30’s!

  12. I’m 42 and have only just realised (last week, self diagnosed but after 5 full days of research I’m positive) I’m AS. This post, along with several others have been weirdly both devastating and wonderful as I’ve understood that I’m not crazy and as alone as I thought for my whole life, but also that I’m going to be like this forever. Sort of a surrender and my whole life playing back before my eyes, and the immense grief and the penny dropping and the relief, very overwhelming. I’m still in shock, and want to send everyone I know this info but am too scared at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing, this could have been me. I would never thought anyone out there could possibly have known what it felt like.

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