Just Me!

It was a Sunday afternoon in spring, and also my last year of primary school.  Everyone except from me were in bed.  Mum was watching a film and this was no different.  The film was called “Extremely loud and incredibly close”. It was about a boy named Oskar who finds a key in one of his deceased father’s vases and goes on an urgent search to find the lock it opens. Oskar struggled socially and found it difficult to make friends and when his father left him this puzzle, it became his new obsession.   Oskar suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome.

I became interested in the film and sat with mum to watch it. I liked Oskar’s character and I remember relating to him and thinking he reminds me of myself a lot.   When I mentioned to mum that I had done and still do similar things, she turned around and said “you probably will relate to Oskar because you have the same condition”.  I wasn’t entirely sure what Asperger’s was, I was just a bit dazed and confused when I found out, but part of my condition is not reacting to big things as expected.  The only way I can describe my reaction to the news, was a jigsaw in my head being pieced together.  Things made total sense. I am not the type of girl who asks questions and I just took mum’s news, stored it in my head until I felt the need to read up about it, which did not take long as I was too intrigued.   The same day I read up about Asperger’s Syndrome and the traits associated with the condition.   Most of traits I could relate to, like having the inability to read peoples body language or facial expressions, avoiding eye contact when speaking to people, being overly interested in things, not being able to maintain a conversation and really lacking empathy.

One of the positives about having Asperger’s, is I have a really incredible memory and I remember things from as far back as my nursery years, which were horrific for me.  There was just noisy kids everywhere and adults speaking in childish voices, I could not handle the racket and I spent all my days sitting near the front door waiting for mum to get me out of the noise.  I think the nursery teachers recognised that I was not very happy hanging around the other kids and they would setup little chores for me to help the adults.  This I preferred.  In time I did start communicating with another little girl called Maria. She was the only person I would play with and when other kids wanted to play with us I would leave and paint a picture. I despised it. I hated how some kids in the same age group as me would still drink milk from bottles and take naps after lunch. I also hated the kids that were overweight.  I could not understand why people could become so big, but I now realise the reasons for my thoughts.  I paid absolutely no attention to other people outside of my family and when I started nursery, this is when I was exposed to different people.

One of the downfalls about being an Aspie, Is literal thinking, which put me into awkward situations. I could never work out when the teachers were using a sarcastic tone. For example at lunchtime, whenever I heard the teachers announce that they “want clean plates from us all” I would actually lick the plate clean and then sit totally bemused to why nobody else’s plates were clean. Another example was when my dad picked me up from nursery to go home, as we were leaving the head teacher yelled “see you later” and I began to cry because I thought I was actually going back to that hellhole later on. This last example, I only just realised last year what was actually happening. It was when the kids would ask to go to the bathroom a teacher named Francoise would respond, yelling “no” every time they asked. It dawned on me, only last year that she was being completely sarcastic to them, at the time I just thought she didn’t like it when people asked her that question, so I would never ask.

If I thought nursery was bad, I was heading into Gaelic primary school again with no interest in making friends.  All the other kids had already developed friendships, as they had all attended the same nursery, which meant my first hurdle had already been created by being “the new kid”. But to be honest this was the least of my worries.   I cried before entering the classroom and I knew from that day that I would not be letting anyone hear me speak.  This went on for months. I basically did what was asked of me and went home.  But mum and dad had other plans, which included attending an after school care club. I hated the after school care even more because kids from other schools would be there too. I would occupy myself with my homework until dad picked me up. My parents eventually took my out they realised I was very miserable.  I felt safer not speaking to anyone, but I realised it was becoming a problem when the head teacher Mrs MacKinnon asked my parents if I was actually able to speak and if they could show them by filming me around the house.  My mum was asking me questions in Gaelic and I answered them because I was with mum.  But she then explained to me that the teacher thinks that I am unable to communicate and it would be a really good idea to let them hear my voice. Honestly I thought it was so stupid, I just could not understand why they would not just let me get on with things the way I wanted to,  there was no tangible problem.

In primary two I finally decided to start talking to people properly but my teacher would still take me out of class to talk about myself, it was pointless and I didn’t like missing out on my class work. In primary four I started developing habits that are all to do with numbers where if I touch something, I need to touch it four times with each finger or if I say something I need to repeat it four times in my head. Then around two years later the habits started getting a lot more complex and instead of touching or saying something four times I had to do it five times (I nearly made myself put it up to six times but fortunately that didn’t happen). I then started to reverse things for example if I tapped a table I had to tap it five times with each finger then do the whole things backwards and if I messed up I had to flick my wrist and retry it. I also started doing the same thing except with my tongue, if I tapped the roof of my mouth I had to tap twice on either side and once in the middle and then repeat that twenty five times because five multiplied by five is twenty five and I felt I had maybe tapped something to many times or not enough times I allowed myself to add a minus or a plus that could fix my mistake, then my eyes began to do it, I had to do the same things I always did now with my eyes. I hated it so much and I thought I had really bad issues but I know that this isn’t really the case; it’s just another addition to the condition.  Another trait, which does not bother me at all, but really annoys my parents and friends, is the speed I do things.  My brain works much slower and process things and thoughts much slower, compared to other people.  From eating, drinking, writing, getting changed, I have now been given the nickname “The family sloth”, which I don’t mind.

There are many things I can’t help, and probably one of the worst things is lacking empathy. I am an honest person and I don’t lie to people to make them feel better. If someone asked me if their hair look good when it doesn’t then I’m not going to lie and say yes and let them go out in public with bad hair, if you tell them the truth then you are doing them a favour. Mum has tried to explain about hurting peoples feelings by being too honest and I try to be more aware of it, but it really does go against who I am.  After an incident at the park where my cousin had fallen head first into a puddle, I ran over in his direction and mum apparently thought I was going to pick him up, instead I ran straight past him not even thinking twice about helping him, but picked up his football.  Mum spoke to me that evening and tried to explain about feeling sympathy and empathy towards people, especially my 4 year old cousin. I did listen to her and it does make sense but you can’t fix something that is not there.  There are still many times when someone  I’m with is feeling  sad but I just don’t recognise it.  Most of my friends understand, but it’s when I am going into new environments and meeting new people, I am aware that they will think of me as being rude and uncaring, but it’s just me.