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 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.
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.
Yes, the hall of mirrors is another analogy that often pops up unbidden. It's a theme that fascinates me as i think it's easy to become distorted by the demands of the world (both real and perceived).
I think I'm only now realising how idiotic some of my old behaviours were. Unfortunately they were the best i was capable of at the time so i have to view them with a degree of compassion for my former self.
JennyButterfly said:I think I'm only now realising how idiotic some of my old behaviours were. Unfortunately they were the best i was capable of at the time so i have to view them with a degree of compassion for my former self.
Totally - I can look back at some of my behaviours from a few years ago and I can see I was very foolish.
Unfortunately, those behaviours were the result of being mercilessly bullied in the workplace by my manager.
What scares me is that I would probably react the same way if I was put in the same position again.
Have I moved on? I'm not sure.
Yes, the same situtation would elicit some of the same reactions and behaviours in me too, I'm sure. My hope is that I will be able to steer well clear of such situations because I now know they're not for me. I would go so far as to say i'm almost allergic to corporate life. And unfortunately corporate life often seems to involve the kind of hectoring and bullying that pushes to the limits. i would break much sooner now because those wounds and scars are already there. It's a difficult one, i know. I can see now that I shouldn't have been there, but what other options were available to the 21 year old me? I'm guessing the "moving on" part might lie in greater ability to see and develop alternatives. In that way the description "foolish" is probably just a shorthand for underdeveloped and unaware of our limitations, and our strengths too actually. I've kind of found it a life's work though, as changing has involved carving out a niche in what might be considered to be a counter culture and going against the grain in terms of what is generally considered to be a "good job".
JennyButterfly said:In that way the description "foolish" is probably just a shorthand for underdeveloped and unaware of our limitations, and our strengths too actually.
Yes - in the same way an adult can manipulate a child. I know my strengths - my integrity, my technical abilities, my strength of character - but they count for nothing in a political, manipulative environment. I cannot fight my corner. When I get stressed to breaking, my vocabulary reduces down to just 2 words - **** OFF. And that stops me being able to communicate effectively. Those words are just shouting inside my head so I become mute.
Conversely, in a nurturing, fair working environment, I am seen as the best thing since sliced bread.
I kind of closed down in such situations and really there wasn't anything I could do to fight. Too much stacked against me and then my very closing down was construed as a performance issue and a fault on my part. I can't deny that those same two words were in my head while they played different cards in a game that was bound to see me out.
I guess my own foolishness lay in my inability to fully recognise how things were stacked and take steps to protect myself or escape such toxicity and damage. My limitations related to lack of understanding of what was really happening and an inability to act upon it or cope with it. My strengths became invisible, basically due to clarting things up because of extreme anxiety in such situations. And apologies for making a bit of a trite statement - I sort of meant strengths and limitations in surviving against the background of hectoring, bullying environments rather than our more general skills and abilities (which in my case seemed to get trodden underfoot anyway), but I expressed it clumsily. It may have been very different for you. But I just couldn't get the lie of the land and then plan an effective way out, nor see those qualities in myself which might have helped me in that process.
I'd really like to go back and tell my 21 year old self, of course, (and various older versions of myself too for that matter) but I'm not even sure that would have helped, bullying manipulative environments being what they are (one of them was an NHS mental health trust too so it should have been easy for them to see what they were doing). It all altered my ability to cope. And I still find it hard to believe that some employers can behave like that.
What I really needed to know was how to seek out nurturing, fair working environments.
I became a victim of many circumstances. I started a job and within a couple of months, the management announced the 3-year plan to close the place because of unreliable customer deliveries.
It was rather specialist and the machines were very unreliable so the company was going to cut their losses. The existing team had failed to sort out the problems.
The pay was very good and the was a large monthly bonus for meeting targets (which was never achieved)
I looked at all the problems and most were simple fixes - within 18 months, I'd got it so reliable that we got the bonus every month. My opinion of the others was dropping as I realised what a lazy, incompetent, badly managed bunch they were.
Then some external things happened that pushed my stress thtrough the roof and I developed a serious stress-related illness as a result.
This meant I'd have difficulty changing jobs because of my health (companies don't need to accept health problems unless you've been there 2 years or more).
Putting our daughter through private schooling meant I really needed the bonus every month so I became trapped.
The company was chuffed with our new-found reliability so there was an indefinite stay of execution on the business.
Then the manager came under pressure because he couldn't explain the sudden changes without looking like a complete idiot so he just covered everything up - and blocking my career progression so he would keep his job.
From there on I got totally used and abused - but couldn't walk away because of my health and my daughter. I just had to take it - and I got sicker & sicker.
This went on for many years until a director accidentally witnessed how I was being abused - I was removed from the department instantly as a safe-guarding issue.
I think that once health and economic factors pile on it becomes truly difficult. I can relate very strongly to that feeling of being trapped. Plus it's horrendous that it can depend upon someone accidentally witnessing what's going on before any action is taken. Even then the action might come way too late and not actually be what the victim hopes for or needs.
I've not experienced being removed due to a safe-guarding issue but have been in situations where I've not dared speak up for fear that the effects of bullying and manipulation on my mental health might lead to capability grounds being used against me. Bit of a nightmare to be honest.
And the getting sicker and sicker all the time - just awful and the end result of others' behaviours. It grieves me that said others often come out unscathed and often either uncaring of or barely aware of what they've done. :(
I managed to survive long enough to deliver on my obligations. Now I'm broken and a house-husband.
I'm mostly home-based now plus in some kind of recovery as well as readjustment in the light of my diagnosis. I hope to survive a good while longer though in order to see my sons into a better position in life.