Learning that I’m autistic after 38 years of wondering why I was so different from everyone else was liberating, heartbreaking, joyful and devastating. Those conflicting emotions are a good representation of what it’s like for me to live with Asperger’s on a daily basis.
Some days, I am overjoyed to have the unique strengths that accompany Asperger’s. I love being able to deeply analyze things and present an unusual viewpoint in most situations. My creativity and sense of social justice are also some of my favorite personal qualities, along with my loyalty, lack of prejudice and unique type of love. In fact, one of my friends once said that I love the few people I allow into my life with a fierce and loyal intensity, and that’s definitely an accurate statement.
On the other hand, there are days when I would give almost anything to not be autistic. Dealing with emotional regulation issues, sensory overload and the frustration that accompanies knowing that I’m never truly 100 percent understand by anyone, and probably never will be, can be overwhelming and very sad.
It’s also devastating to know that some of my issues make life more difficult for my fiancee. I wish more than anything that the emotional regulation issues would disappear because I absolutely hate crying all the time and having inappropriately large reactions to everything. Even when I’m happy, my emotions are too big and too intense for most people. It’s no wonder that when I’m sad, my Aspie way of emoting all over everything causes problems.
The worst part is that the big outpouring of emotions isn’t even an accurate reflection of how I really feel most of the time after I have a few moments to process things. For example, I can feel very emotional, sad, insecure and even unsafe when something disrupts my usual routine or an expectation that was put in place. This is exacerbated if the unexpected change happens in the morning.
However, after I calm down and examine my true feelings, I’m usually nowhere near as upset, insecure, etc. as it felt like I was during the few minutes of panic. But by that time, whoever had to deal with me has taken the brunt of my emotions. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to stay centered and remember not to take my initial burst of emotions personally. It takes an extraordinary person to keep seeing past this stuff again and again, not to mention being willing to rebuild each time after it gets to the point of burn out.
I have found an extraordinary person, and that’s what actually gave me the push I needed to finally face my Asperger’s, get diagnosed and begin getting help from a social worker and some anti-anxiety medication. Now that I know what causes my meltdowns and sensory overload, I have been able to start taking better care of myself. I can also more easily identify and ask for what I need. As a result, I feel more clearheaded than I ever have before, even though I definitely still have my challenging Aspie moments.
My social worker says that the challenging aspects of having Asperger’s can become less and less intense over time as long as I keep utilizing a sensory diet, taking my medication and working through things with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). I know that I will never experience the world like others do. I will never stop hearing electronic noises from two floors down, nor will I ever be able to go to the mall or a grocery store without taking in way too much sensory input.
Having said that, I do believe that it’s possible to live a more comfortable and “normal” life, and that’s exactly what I’m working so hard to achieve. I want to get to a point where my strengths are the primary thing that people notice. I want my fiancee to not feel the burden of wondering when I’m going to have my next meltdown over seemingly nothing (although it’s never about nothing — it’s just usually not about the event that finally causes me to meltdown).
I’ve read about other Aspie adults who have gotten their emotions more under control and who have meltdowns once or twice a year instead of once or twice per month or even week. That’s the world I want to live in. That’s the world I want for my fiancee. I have enough trust and faith in myself to know that I can get there. Just like everything else in life, though, it’s going to happen one step at a time, and there are going to be backslides from time to time. In those moments, I question whether or not I’m worth it. I hope my fiancee keeps answering that question with a yes long enough for me to get there.