A Day In The Life

I have Asperger's Syndrome (or ASC, or ASDs or Autism depending up your naming preference). I'm telling you upfront because you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at me.

I look normal. So, people tell me.

If you spend enough time with me, though, you'll probably sense there's something a little off.  It won't be apparent at first. That's because I am an expert at camouflage. I can blend in to any social or professional environment quickly and maintain my cover for... well, not for long, a few minutes... in short bursts.  Usually, that's long enough to avoid displaying any tell-tale autistic mannerisms.

It's a good camouflage. It's one that I've tried and tested over decades. No matter what my inner state is, my outer appearance will always resemble a happy, smiling, calm, slightly enigmatic guy with a twinkle in his eye and a sense of purpose in his stride.

Beneath the disguise, I am not happy, not smiling, not calm. I'm in a state of dread. I do not want to be out in the world. I feel vulnerable. I feel odd. I feel weird. Should I go back? Did I lock the door? I should go back. I can feel that it's going to be a bad day. But I need to attend this session. I need the company.

Just stepping out, closing and locking the front door, making my way to the end of my drive, is enough to fire up my anxiety cylinders send my heart rate galloping and make me gulp for breath. For the longest time, I didn't know why. Now, I do. It's because, no matter how much I plan, I can never really know what will happen whilst I'm out in the world. I can never know which people I may have to interact with.  For some, this might be exciting, stimulating. For me, it feels like I'm in a plane, waiting for my turn to jump out, not knowing if my parachute will open or not. 

I take a few steps along the road, heading towards the bus stop and it's as if someone has cranked up the volume of the world to maximum. A car beeps its horn and I freeze as if someone had fired a gun. Someone nearby shouts and I stiffen as if someone had lobbed a grenade. It's mid-morning and simply walking to the bus stop to catch a bus feels like being in the middle of a war zone. I'm supposed to look forward to going to this support group, and so... the smile stays fixed to my face, fixed so tightly my jaws ache.

I'll need to sit down soon because my whole body is tensed up, my calves are stiff are sore, and behind my dark glasses, my eyes are heavy, tired, dark with depression, and my mind is heavy, too, weighed down by the thousands of fearful thoughts that swirl around it...

Another day has started in the life of a guy with Asperger's.