It occurred to me when reading a post recently that adult Aspies sometimes seem to have spent so many years masking, mimicking & changing their behaviour to fit in that their "real" self has become subsumed by a "fake" self, or they feel they no longer actually have a real identity. I think that by reading accounts of the traits of other Aspies we can identify with some of them, and this can help to rebuild a sense of self. So I'm going to start with a list of Aspie traits that are "me" and I hope others will join in.
I have a an good long term memory, good eye for detail and pattern recognition. I have an interest in language and could read and spell well from an early age.I've always been clumsy with poor coordination and struggled to write neatly at school, and I still hate writing now but I like typing.
I have a history of struggling in work situations and moving on to another job when I can no longer cope. I have had times when I missed work a lot due to stress. I have never enjoyed meetings and work social events. I get frustrated if I get too many things to do at once. I don't like talking on phones. I don't like being observed, photographed or filmed.
I have never had a lot of friends and used to be a people pleaser, while resenting the fact that other people took advantage of me. I am good in one to one situations but have difficulty in group situations and find it uncomfortable when there are several different conversations going on. I am often bored in social situations but can talk endlessly about a topic of my own interest. I have often "burned bridges" with family and friend relationships because I just don't see that I have anything in common with them and trying to continue just seems a bit of a strain on both sides.
I am very sensitive to strong emotions in others and can be influenced by them. I have a high sensitivity to touch and cut the tags out of clothes. Certain smells really affect me. I hate people standing or sitting too close.
I hate the word "disorder" in the term ASD and refuse to be classified as "disabled". My perception of autism is that it is a label which refers mainly to the difficulties created for Aspies by social constructs, both physical - busy roads, supermarkets, offices, public transport, etc - and relational - being expected to want to join in with small talk, group activities, etc. We do have different patterns of thinking, but everyone is different. When we're alone we're not autistic. We are unique individuals who add to the total of human experiences. I like Temple Grandin's observation - if it weren't for the creativity and innovation of autistic people, the human race would still be standing around in caves making small talk.
I like the phrase, 'When we're alone we're not autistic.'
The only way is to be your core true self. Deep out with and within. Some call your higher self etc etc. Qaks like to call it the ‘Subconscious’.. That’s a BS term though - the SUB bit. There’s nothing SUB or under par or bellow, when it comes to your true self.
Only autistics can focus enough to find thier true self in adult hood. That’s why I would never desire to be an NT. thier just asleep and angry and full of doubletalk and devious.
I agree with everything you've written. I've spent so long masking it's difficult to work out who is the real me. Being a people pleaser becomes a habit that's difficult to change.
I'm with you on most of this too, Pixiefox. I refer to myself as 'disabled' only as it suits for certain situations. But as far as I'm concerned I'm simply different. I'm in a minority, that's all, and as such I have struggles with the way that the majority construct society and work within it. Other than that, I'm simply someone doing my own thing my own way, and I seem to have managed alright so far - largely under my own steam. I'm pretty self-reliant, which gives me a certain degree of resilience. I just want other people to stop telling me I'm 'wrong' about certain things simply because I'm not following the usual rules in order to do or achieve them.
I've wound up in life one month shy of my 60th birthday and I really don't have a clue as to who I am - not in a social context, anyway. I feel almost 'left behind' by the other people I meet. By myself, though, I'm fine. At work, I'm becoming far more conscious of my differences as I age. That is until I'm with the service users. Learning disabled they may be, but their world still makes far more sense to me. Like the world of a child.
I started counselling 3 weeks ago - weekly sessions. The counsellor has experience of ASC and has stipulated that she's certainly not in the business of offering 'corrective' input. So far, in just 3 sessions, she's heard most of my history: the problems throughout schooldays, the emotional disturbances at home when I was a young child, the sense of being adrift in the world, the difficulties with friendships and relationships (most forms of emotional attachment, in fact), the need for aloneness in order both to feel safe and to have access to my imagination. I almost feel that my life has no meaning, so I have to strive hard to give it meaning in order to keep going. My work with special needs and my writing are vital there. At the moment, it's work that's taking precedence because my imagination seems to have dried up. I put everything into my day with the service users, then come home... and more often than not go to bed early. At least my dream-world is still rich.
I can't help but have a sense - perhaps natural at my age - that things are beginning a wind-down slowly. This makes me question the full purpose of my life up until now. What has it been for? What have I done with it? I've (once again) stopped drinking. I'm hoping that'll revitalise me and keep me clear-headed enough to see a way through. The lure of it is strong, though, because it numbs me and makes me at least feel carefree for a while. Trouble is, I never know where that might lead.
I don't like to demarcate things by anniversaries, years, ages, etc... but I hope that hitting 60 will be the start of something new - of different horizons opening up, and a renewed sense of self. The last 20 years have been very turbulent. I think I've done a lot of growing in that time - and, if I'm honest, found a few answers. The diagnosis, of course, was a big part of that. I still admittedly struggle with the two sides of diagnosis. I identify as an autistic person first and foremost because I find that helpful. It gives me a sense of reassurance, because it's given me so many answers - or at least clues which can enable me to figure out the mystery and work towards a proper resolution. I hope the counseling will also help me there, too.
Good post Pixiefox!
I definitely relate to having spent decades modelling others as best I could, which has provided success for me at work. Also the paradox of being a people pleaser & "thoroughly nice chap" but having no friends.
I have a metaphor in my mind for how these personalities grew on the bare structure of "me"; imagine an evergreen tree growing year after year and gathering more and more foliage, perhaps with leaves and blossom and paper bags blown on the wind sticking to the tree over the years. That was me until the weight of all of the leaves became too much, and a nuclear bomb happened to go off nearby and blow *all* of the foliage away, leaving just the trunk and branches; the real me again. There were no mirrors nearby though, so I couldn't see myself. But I did catch glimpses of myself in various shiny things that came by in the form of ideas generated by people on forums like this.
I'm beginning to see my real self. Some of it isn't pretty. I'm also re-growing my foliage, but carefully choosing the buds that take only a little energy to grow but have the most benefit.
Who am I *really* underneath? I'm a person fascinated by learning, who loves to invent and test theories, loves analogies and "schemas", has little interest in social traditions & relationships, reacts to people according to what they do and say to me rather than what someone else says about them or what their "position" is, will share almost anything about myself with almost anyone, rejects the traditional macho masculine stereotype, has struggled with depression and anxiety for 20 years or more, and believes that ASD explains my life better than anything else that I've heard of. I too see patterns and connections, and I have an inherent sense of logic, but my knowledge is very specific to certain things so I'm not a polymath. I'm middle-aged but parts of me are still 18. I'm slightly demand-avoidant, especially where traditions are concerned. I struggle with alexithymia, and yet can sob in reaction to films like Titanic and A Star is Born & even Disney animations. I have a good long term memory for things that interest me ("The state of maximum multiplicity lies lowest" - remembered from Chemistry A-level!) but can forget who's related to who in my own family. I have poor working memory, I think. I might also have aphantasia.
I'm fascinated by grammar (that's not to say that I don't make mistakes!) and etymology, but have little interest in literature. Seeing "Your, you're, their, there, they're" misused almost hurts!
I could go on - and that's another trait!
I had a similar idea to yours by the way in that all of the effort that's been put into studying the impacts of autism (at least the stuff that I'm aware of i.e. commonly available and discussed on the web) has been around diagnostic criteria. But I don't know of much around the *impacts* and how these might relate to common profiles. So for example, is social communication difficulty a primary cause or is it a result of sensory and cognitive differences? How might such things be grouped into "primary causes" and "secondary effects"? How might profiles look if we all took a survey and rated the huge range of sensory, cognitive, social impacts for e.g.? The closest I've seen to this is the Aspie Quiz at rdos.net - but that doesn't really give an understandable and relatable profile. I guess what I'm thinking of is something like Myers Briggs but for ASD traits & with a bit more finesse than 16 character types.
I don't know who I am. I have an identity crisis.
As a child I was obsessed with the film Dumb & Dumber. When everyone in class was asked what we wanted to be when we grew up along came the answers: marine biologist, doctor, builder, then me. I said limo driver because that's what Lloyd was in the film. I even bought a coat yesterday that looks like one he had on because it made me feel some kind of identity.
Sometimes I'm obsessed with TV shows and I won't go into the details but at one time a few years ago I changed my name by deed poll to one of the character's names because I felt I understood his life and what happened in the TV show better than the real world.
I went out for the night drinking once with a suit on and pretended to be an American TV psychologist who does shows similar to Jerry Springer etc. and I was dishing out ridiculous advice to random strangers in an American accent. I found it easier to play that character than to talk to people as I ordinarily do.
When I watched the Walter Mitty film it's like a bell rang in my head. I got it. Why he made things up. Because the whole system, the social universe that exists, discriminates against people who are different. So he wasn't allowed to be interesting or worth listening to, so he started making stuff up that he couldn't have actually done, as people kept pigeon holing him, so in the end he created an alternate reality in which he could finally be free.
I think there is a deeper wordless part of me that knows but since most worldly activities haven't really involved listening to that part it does need freeing up. The closest I come to a sense of a "real self", if there is one, is when I'm walking or sitting almost meditatively in the garden. I suppose these are the times when i feel safe enough, which also amounts to saying that in many other circumstances i simply haven't felt safe enough to be myself. At times it has genuinely felt as though I was being circled by sharks who had the scent of blood and were waiting for me to make a wrong move. So it's as if I've always needed a strong, protective "top dressing", with the uppermost question in my mind being not, "What do i want to do?" but "What am i supposed to do in order to survive here?"
The tree analogy appeals strongly. In office work i always felt like an imposter wondering what I had to do not to be found out. Over the years the mask built up and when i finally left I kept getting mental images of massive branches and the whole upper part of a huge tree crashing down, withered and dried in front of me. You could say that accountancy was the graft that never took. What I had left was a stump. But it was ALIVE. And so much of the past few years has involved nurturing that stump and any new growth is seen as precious because it's real. I'm still not sure I can put who I am into words though. I simply see new green shoots and feel more aligned with myself. i also have the vague impression of a very tall tree waiting to form.
JennyButterfly said:So it's as if I've always needed a strong, protective "top dressing", with the uppermost question in my mind being not, "What do i want to do?" but "What am i supposed to do in order to survive here?"
I'm similar - I spent my whole life guessing what I was supposed to do to fit in. I excelled at my career because I'd never considered doing anything else. I was completely hollow and concentrated on being perfect for everyone around me. I minimised myself out of my own life until it all came to a crashing halt with meningitis.
I've had to re-evaluate my priorities since then. I physically can't be the person I was so I'm having to work out a lot of things about priorities and who I am and what and why I'm doing things.
JennyButterfly said:I think there is a deeper wordless part of me that knows but since most worldly activities haven't really involved listening to that part it does need freeing up
I have a shadow of a self, it is there but as yet I am not yet able to fully "articulate" it. Going forward I hope to be able to experience life in a safer and freer way which I hope will give more definition and form to who I truly am. x
I'm intuiting that we're all somewhere on a process, and many of us in this forum / this thread are in various stages of rebuilding ourselves. Another image - putting on new clothes but wandering through a hall of distorting mirrors trying to find the mirror that allows us to evaluate our new clothes, recoiling slightly at some of the glimpses we catch.
Maybe it's just me doing the recoiling; I've done things over the last few years that I would have called others an idiot for, and I still do some of them.