I'm 44, I've struggled through life in such a way that everyone always thinks I'm okay. Last year I finally figured out I've got Asperger's having had a pretty severe crash which pretty much took a solid 4 years out of my life. The predominantly resulted in some self medication, huge and destructive meltdowns at home much to the distress of my wife and 2 daughters. I am at times a complete nightmare for anybody to live but I am still living with my family.
Its 6 months since I first saw the doctor, I've had metal health assessments, I think I'm in a queue for ASD assessment. I've more or less shut down my business and started and I started a job at another company in an effort to simplify my life and separate myself from my total inability to do the admin or stay constant enough to run my business.
I'm unusual for a male aspie, I was quite a gender confused child in my early years and most of my good friends were girls, as a result I do a great job of fooling the world that I'm doing okay, that I'm in control of the situation. I'm a pure chameleon and present whatever picture I think the person I am talking to will receive best. I lie a lot, these lies are nearly always meaningless and inconsequential, often just in order to steer a conversation in a certain direction.
Starting a new job, is making me worse, as well as the challenge of intermixing with lots of new people, I constantly doubt my own ability, which is nuts because the work itself is completely trivial by my standards but I'm constantly blocked from making any progress due to extreme frustration that just boils up. I have had multiple meltdowns in the office, so I think I will be fired, it's just a case of when. The company is joined is too modern, it doesn't agree with chains of command, management, job descriptions or job titles, in fact when I asked for a more detailed job description I was given a chance to retract the request because they would end my probation for asking for something so culturally backward.
The stress of all of this change is making things even harder at home, I'm too stressed for anyone to live with. My wife is angry with me for blaming my Aspergers and thinks I'm treating it like a crutch for failure. She cannot understand how complex and stressful it is for me to keep up the act, maintain all the lies and complexity. I'm definitely ruining my kids life and my wifes.
So I feel low, and I don't know what to do. All I have is a bunch of helplines to call, and there's very little that makes me more stressed than the idea of a phone call with anybody, especially when the subject is me, and I want to be honest and not just morph into superman.
I am too drained, stressed and distrusting of my own ability to even consider applying for another job. But I have a big, complicated life and I can't cope with it. I just want to find a small dark room and sit in it until the world forgets about me. I feel really trapped, guilty and pointless, I will not ruin my children's lives by ending mine. But I am completely stuck out of ideas for how to avoid ruining their life just by being a depressed and beaten soul in their midst. I have nor want friends, my parents, brothers and cousins mental health is universally in a similar or worse state to my own.
Somehow, because I have no financial security at all without work and having to move out of our perfect life in a desirable area of London would certainly be the end of my marriage and my relationship with my kids.
As I write all this, it's how I feel every day, all the time until I manage to force myself to keep busy. I can eventually distract myself from these thoughts but they just keep coming back, and the older I get the worse it gets.
I can relate to all of this, although fortunately for me, when it first started happening, I had already left my home where I had raised my son and I ended my relationship with my partner, because I knew I needed solitude to get my mind back, not because I was blaming anything on the relationship or the other person, but because I was experiencing something like what you described and I knew I needed solitude, so getting it for me at the time was easier because I didn’t have a family to consider.
I recognised in me, thoughts and feelings and behaviours that I had had way before I even knew my partner existed. So I knew it was nothing to do with him but I needed him out the way so I could get clear in my mind what was happening to me.
However, because I had no other clues, I used the relationship as a way of trying to understand me. So for example, I would ask myself, why did I do that, and then I would ask why, to that answer and so on and so forth.
This got me out of the depths of the ocean. But during that time, I had managed to find myself in a beautiful old remote cottage in the Lake District. Even locals didn’t know my ‘village’ because it was basically a long dirt track with a few farms dotted along the way. I had total solitude. During this time, I cut off all contact with my family, including my son and I refused to move forwards in my life until I figured it out.
I got many answers from this period of self exploration but evidently, not enough. Because three years later, I found myself again, wanting to go to that room you talk about.
Instead of going to that room, I prayed to my alien brothers and sisters, to give me a clue as to why I’m here on this earth, or I was out of here. My son is settled etc, my family don’t need me, I can leave this earth. I didn’t mind but if I’m supposed to be here, give me a clue as to why.
I got more than a clue. I was told I’m autistic. My life changed in that instant. I had never in my life considered I was autistic and neither had anybody else, but all of a sudden I knew I was.
My only mission in life from that point on was to be assessed, officially, to see if I was.
This explained everything but the journey was still not over.
I was exhausted, burntout, done. I had tried a job that some would consider, way below my capacity but I loved it. I even paid more than £300 to improve my skills. But I soon found out I couldn’t work with other people.
I left, before I, probably literally, wiped the floor with these people. I was very close to doing that.
For me, and I can only speak for me ~ but for me, I had to give up everything. My business’s, my work, my identity, my dreams, everything. I needed total rest and solitude but this time I also knew that when I got my official diagnosis, if I got it, you can never be sure, I knew my life would never be the same again ~ and it hasn’t been.
It hasn’t necessarily got easier but I’m getting stronger and I’m fully committed, from now on, to live life on my terms. This is taking me on another journey of self exploration and in a different direction but the confusion stopped, when I made the decision to be true to me and to take the consequences of that.
I knew it was a big risk, that I would upset a lot of people and provoke comments such as, you’re using autism as an excuse for failing or for bad behaviour. But I didn’t care and the more I gave to me, the stronger I got and I have noticed, the more open I got, the less negativity I got from others, even if they didn’t like or understand what I was saying. I am slowly but surely letting the world know I’m autistic. It’s not an excuse, it’s a major part of who I am and the stronger I get, the more accepting of it other people are and I feel that in time, together, we can grow in knowledge and awareness of each other and all benefit from that.
I first feared telling my son. I thought he would be embarrassed but I had to get over that, and it seems to be the very thing that’s now bringing us closer together. I honestly thought it would push him out of my life. I’m not the person I was before. I don’t have all the money I had etc, but I’m still me and after a period of uncertainty, it’s bringing us closer together than we ever were and he has never once indicated that he’s embarrassed, or that it changes his love for me. It took me a while to see that because of my fears. But I feel we talk to each other on a different and somehow deeper and more honest level now. I still tell the silly lies, but I know they’ll come to an end as well sometime. They’re getting less as my need for them reduces. As I get stronger in who I am, I need them less.
And of course my relationships are growing stronger and more authentic, I’m finally being me. I’m starting, with very small baby steps and with the help of my support worker, work coach at the job centre, my psychiatrist and my doctors, friends on here, my autism group and my autistic friend, to begin to build real relationships with my family and friends. Not that things will look that much different on the outside, once I get back on my feet, but what is on the inside, of all of us, is changing.
I am being myself therefore I can also see others much clearer. I knew I was risking losing my friend’s and family forever, but instead, it’s bringing us closer together. Not in terms of physical locality, although now I’m coming out of burnout, I do see a little more of them, but in the heart, where it matters.
I had to make the decision, to be true to me, knowing the risks and potential consequences, but I had to be me and I needed that time alone to find me.
I’m not suggesting you do any of what I did, far from it. I’m just saying, when you start to be kinder to yourself, you might be surprised to find that the people around you will be kinder to you as well. You are a huge success, as any adult aspie who went undiagnosed knows. You simply need a bit of time out from the big and busy life you successfully created, which is going quicker than you can process just now. This is only temporary. What would be of most help to ‘you’ right now. Your family are ok. You're the one that needs some support and maybe guidance and when your needs are met, you can be there for your family again.
I also had anti depressants for two months which didn’t seem too much help at the time but looking back, I wouldn’t have got this far without them. They shut off my thoughts and my imagination and feelings for a while, which is what I needed. So don’t be afraid of trying meditation in the short term. I’m an ex heroin addict and I was terrified of taking these anti depressants. I didn’t actually feel depressed. But I’m glad I didn’t let my fears stop me from following the advice of my doctor. I figured they were worth a try, after I had declined them several times. Just try and look after yourself. Everything else will take care if itself one way or another. I’m not advising you to be reckless and not acknowledge your situation, but to accept it and do the best you can while taking the best care of you that you can. Get some help. I’m so glad I started to be honest with people and tell them how exhausted I was etc, but it took me a while. It’s a process.
Hi NeuralSoupKitchen, you'll find that your story is mirrored by a lot of us on here. More and more adults are being diagnosed with Asperger's later in life having struggled on for years without knowing why we felt different and never quite 'fitted in' or 'got it'. I was diagnosed with Asperger's just a couple of months ago, aged 44, after a similar story.
The reason so many of us are being diagnosed later in life, apart from recent improvements in diagnostic criteria, is that after a lifetime of 'Masking' (putting on an act, being a chameleon, to fit in) we get to a certain age and are simply exhausted with it all!! It's no wonder when you consider how much constant effort we have to put in, day in and day out, just to appear 'normal' and keep working out how we're supposed to 'be' and 'act' every minute of the day. It's a huge stress on the body, and the mind, and sooner or later that's going to catch up with us. Time to "Pay the piper", as it were!
A lot of the lying you mention will be a necessary part of that Masking technique that has gotten you through life so far.
@BlueRay is right in that you need to listen to what your body is telling you and from what you've said above you have been trying to do that by changing your work situation. I'm sorry that hasn't worked out as well as planned, it does sound like a highly unstructured environment to work in! You say yourself that it's only making things worse, is there any way you can find something else? Perhaps part-time? Something that is either more self-directed or more structured?
The stress of changing jobs right now isn't ideal, is there any way you could continue your own business part-time?
The meltdowns, as you know, are a sure sign of stress overload. Probably built up over the years as most of us have found. It needs a release eventually and unfortunately our nearest and dearest are in the firing line. Been there!! Would your wife be open to learning more about Asperger's, to help her understand what's happening? Asperger's isn't a "crutch for failure" but a real reason for why you're now crumbling under years (a lifetime) of sustained pressure.
You're anything but a failure. You're a successful businessman, husband and father (and much more besides, as we all are) and you've hit a crisis point in your life where (probably for the first time) you are the one who needs support for a change. With that support, you can get through this! Hopefully that support will be forthcoming upon assessment and diagnosis.
In the meantime, most of what I've found helpful has been from others here and from reading up on Asperger's (I know, decent information IS hard to come by! But it IS out there.). I know how you feel about the helpline. Are there any Asperger's groups in your area? (There should be details about local groups nationally on this website.) Could you approach your GP about crisis counselling? It might really help to have someone to talk things over with while you wait for your assessment.
Your family know you well enough to know that this is an unusual situation for you compared with how you've previously coped with things. Your children will see that for themselves. Our kids are used to us parents being invincible and it can be difficult for them to see us going through times like this. From my perspective, although I wish I could take back some of my Meltdowns, I think it at least allowed them to realise that I'm not infallible. I'm not perfect. I do have problems sometimes. I think that's ultimately been a good thing for the kids to learn, it makes us human. They'll know that you'll understand when they too go through difficult times, because we all do. Far from ruining their lives, it's a learning curve for them too.
I hope that any small part of this overly long reply might be useful but even if not, this forum is an excellent resource and one I hope you get as much out of as I have. It's allowed me to see that there are many many others out there going through similar trials and tribulations and to hear about some excellent resources I would never have found on my own.