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.
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
Yes, I actually think that just knowing it is there can be helpful, even if there's no voice associated with it or it only manages to whisper to you. I too hope it will develop more form as we go along with more knowledge and awareness of who we really are.
I personally spent far too long trying to make things work for me when really they were a poor fit and never could work out, whatever I did.
JennyButterfly said:I too hope it will develop more form as we go along with more knwoledge and awareness of who we really are.
As you allude to, a safe environment in which to do this is very key.
I look back and see my younger self struggling in environments in which I simply didn't feel safe at all. This actually began when i was 4 on my first day at school but then continued much later in life in the workplace too. In many ways I was forced "underground" as a person because my fears and lack of safety felt inadmissible. I didn't hear anyone else sharing such feelings anyway and if I voiced anything I was apparently being "silly" or "too sensitive".
In many ways a safe environment would be the opposite of what I experienced. Not sure, though, why acceptance and understanding seemed to be peripheral at best. Maybe it's improving but I still feel cautious out there in the world.