(yeah, i know i’ve been gone for a few months. i’m going to ignore that fact and proceed with this like i’ve been blogging faithfully every day. by the way, i’m living in the kansas city area again, on the kansas side this time. we’ll get into the how and why that happened in future posts.)
just for fun i took this little (well, not so little – it was 50 questions) quiz on facebook, one that calculates a person’s autism spectrum quotient. the questions were of the variety where one is forced to pick a response, requiring that you choose whether you agree or disagree with various statements. a normal score for a female is 15, and for a male, 17. people with high functioning autism or asperger’s syndrome score at about a 35. my score was a 34.
granted, one could say that, it being a quiz on facebook of all places, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. plus, just because of the way i move through life, i knew i wasn’t going to score a 15. and, the questions were weighted heavily towards math, and social skills. still, such a high score came as kind of a shock to me. at the same time, it makes perfect sense, again looking at the way i’ve moved through life.
i don’t remember much about my childhood. rather, how i remember it is not through specific experiences so much, but as an overall feeling of being different, of always being on the outside. (at this point, i really wish my mother were still alive so i could ask her a whole bunch of questions about my behaviors during my first 10 years or so.) i went to speech therapy around the age of four, because although apparently i was developing normally in most areas, i wasn’t talking. i just wouldn’t talk, but apparently whatever therapy i underwent worked. and, i don’t know this, i’m just surmising, but i guess things were okay until i entered school.
actually what i remember of first grade was fine. i do remember getting in trouble for stuff like stealing a math workbook to take home and completing the entire workbook in a weekend, or getting a zero on a penmanship assignment because i stuck curly-cues at the end of each of my letters, or writing a dirty letter to this boy that i liked (‘dear d—–, do it to me. love, gail.’ seriously.). second grade was when my troubles began. after being in there for only a month, i was promoted to third grade, because the work i was doing presented no challenge. third grade was when the teasing and bullying began. i was an immediate target because of being moved up a grade, which supposedly meant i thought i was smarter and therefore better than everyone else. it got to the point where sometimes i would deliberately not do homework or do poorly on tests/assignments just so the other kids could see that i was ‘normal’, just like them. but it didn’t really matter. the die had been cast.
fortunately, in a number of ways, the school system in sedalia finally became desegregated my 4th grade year, and i went to a new school, which had the potential to be a new beginning. i made lots of new friends there, many of whom were white, something new for me at that time. however, some of the kids also came to this new school from the old school, and continued making fun of me, but now for an additional reason: they thought i acted white. part of it was the way i talked (very proper/’white’ – which actually happens to be a symptom of asperger’s) and part of it was that i continued to do well in school (except when i deliberately didn’t). then some of the ‘popular’ white kids got in on the act, and it was done. i spent much of my time in junior high and high school avoiding certain hallways and people simply because i didn’t want to be teased. i got made fun of because of my good grades and because people knew i wouldn’t respond to their teasing, other than to maybe run off crying. yes, i did have a few friends throughout this time, but i was always on the outside looking in. those friendships were genuine (and some have since been renewed through facebook), but at the same time, there were far too many people who were nice to me only because i would let them copy off of my tests (and i let them, because i wanted to be liked and this was the only way i knew how).
during high school, i was involved in a few extra-curricular activities like choir and yearbook staff. otherwise i didn’t really have a social life. i didn’t go to parties, didn’t go to a single dance, and didn’t even go to the school-wide party the night of graduation. it was too intimidating a thought to even consider. i knew that if i did attend such events, i’d be the one standing near the wall all night, or the one someone would play a practical joke on. it was better to just stay home and read a book.
going away to college at mizzou was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. (although, i must insert here that i did a really stupid thing my senior year in high school. i turned down a full scholarship to the university of chicago because it was ‘too far away from home’. and my mother let me. damn damn damn damn damn.) it got me into a new environment, where i could truly start over. i made a whole new set of friends who knew nothing about my past, and began to learn to socially interact. i was also introduced to alcohol and drugs, which were significant aids in my social education. i actually learned to interact so well that i stopped attending class and flunked out my second semester (but eventually did go back and complete a degree, after a few semesters at sfcc).
since that time and beyond, i think i’ve learned to appear ‘normal’ for the most part. but i don’t feel normal. i still have trouble looking people in the eye, especially those i don’t know well, and in certain social situations, i don’t know how i’m supposed to be or what i’m supposed to do, or at what point in the conversation do i say something. more often than i’d like, people wonder why i’m so quiet, and i know that some people do see me as being stuck up (which is so not true) or aloof. i would like to think that people are pleasantly surprised once they get to know me, that i’m really actually a pretty interesting person who has a lot to offer in a relationship, whether it’s business, friendship, or romantic. it helps that when i’m in social situations and drinking, i tend to be a happy drunk, for the most part, although surprisingly, i’m not an alcoholic. (um, my addiction is sugar.) i’m everybody’s friend when i’m drinking, but that doesn’t happen that often (which is probably a good thing). i realize that, overall, i’m a really hard person to get to know, especially in a face-to-face environment. i really do try to work around it, but at the same time, i’ve accepted all this and can live it.
which is why i don’t understand why the results of this autism spectrum quiz mean so much to me. but they do. it gives this all a label (although i’m typically anti-label, i think this can be an exception, as long as it’s not used as a crutch) and helps to make sense of why i behave in certain ways, why i feel the way i do in certain situations. i’m okay with going out to bars and to live shows, etc. (i even went to woodstock 99 and was fine there, as long as i was at the edge of the crowds), but i still am quite uncomfortable in crowds. i hate going to stores like wal-mart (not just because it’s wal-mart, although yes, their ethics are a part of my hatred) because i always feel so raw and exposed and annoyed by the end of the trip. my idea of a vacation from hell would be a trip to disneyland or disney world. this label explains all that and tells me it’s okay. it also explains why i may seem quirky and aloof to people who don’t know me well (or even to people who do).
i wish i could be ‘normal’ and know how to interact with people, without feeling freakish, but that’s not going to happen. that fact is illustrated to me every day during my daily commute, just by how i interact and try to avoid interacting with most people on the bus. it is a small comfort to know that there is some sort of reason i’m like this, but what to do about it is the big question. in most situations i do appear normal, and am able to fake it, to some degree. however i would like to be able to interact with people without it feeling forced. i suppose the next logical step would be for me to see a psychologist, to get some sort of diagnosis. as i work at an academic medical center, how hard could that be? today it seems pretty dang hard. i’ve been looking at a few sites having to do with adult asperger’s and hopefully they can help give me some insight as to what comes next.