Being Aspie for me has meant:
- having an acute sense of affective empathy, being a magnet for all the emotionally-needy people around, having strangers come up and unload all their personal/medical/etc. problems, noticing and seeing my young self in the lonely person on the edge of the crowd and being friendly to them only to have them stalk me because they’re not used to regular friendliness, getting drained as an emotional sponge when in a toxic environment of clingy people; but also, being able to comfort friends in their darkest times, just by being present and listening, and knowing where to find professional or pastoral help for them.
- being trusting, open and curious, making lots and lots of friends of all ages and backgrounds in young adulthood (I have 3,878 Facebook friends at present from countries all across the world, and I have probably met at least half of them in person, from kindergarten all the way through to working life); I joined many clubs and societies in university, probably compensating for my shyness and introversion in childhood, with select groups of friends who remain my true friends to this day, and I am ever so thankful for their part in my emotional grounding throughout life, particularly during a time when I felt like the majority of people around me were using me, not loving me – but that’s mainly because they never had real friends in childhood and didn’t know how to be a good friend, or to love themselves even.
- having hyper-focus and the patience to do things repeatedly until my aim is accomplished, like building a massive card castle, or creating a catalogue/directory/database.
- having an insane memory for details of things said and done, both the good and the bad. This helped me instruct my parents on where to locate a school history book on a shelf in Singapore so that I could use it in an exam in Sydney 10 years later.
- being nicknamed the “Walking Encyclopedia”/“Walking Dictionary” and feeling like people use me as the Yellow Pages [https://lmgtfy.com/].
- having everyone including random people who hardly talked to me, come up and ask me to proofread something because I swallowed a grammar book when I was 10. [Figuratively, of course.] [Yes it is possible for an Aspie to use and even delight in metaphors.]
- with my brain working at hyper rates due to lack of sleep and extreme stress, writing puns all throughout my History of Science exam (aced it).
- delighting in organising things into categories/lists/shelves/etc. It was healing to tidy a friend’s kitchen cupboards and bookshelves after a long period of insane mental stress.
- being hypersensitive to environmental stimuli – natural lighting is preferred, if not, warm yellow lights; not too much noise; can’t stand scented things, my brother used to spray his cologne around the room to annoy me; extremely aware of every fibre of my being; hair has to be tucked back from my face so I can read without discomfort (someone once exclaimed: “You’re too practical to be a woman!” – very odd, aren’t sound women eminently practical?)
- getting completely absorbed in books, finishing 20 per week when I was 10 (used my entire family’s library cards); reading 3 times as fast as others, and retaining much more of the information.
- was actually placed in special English class in early primary school because I was slightly dyslexic and behind most others in reading. Won first prize in English 5 years later. Mother got me to read everything including cereal packets, and I used to read during meals and even while brushing my teeth. Used to get up in the middle of meals to check the dictionary, so I often took an hour over lunch/dinner!
- my first memory is of dreaming about my family in a moving photograph, then awakening to my third birthday celebration.
- remembering everyone’s birthdays in school and creating birthday cards for everyone to sign, with the details of the significance of each birth date (birthstone, birth flower, Greek & Chinese zodiac signs).
- remembering obscure saints’ stories and which saint is the best patron for every situation (Saint Isidore for internet issues, Saint Ignatius for a game of pool!).
- when interested in something, MUST RESEARCH EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.
- waking up in the middle of the night feeling sad about a stuffed toy thrown out 2 years ago.
- a classmate, on glancing into my school diary at the age of 11, observing: “You’re more human on paper than in person!”
- being quirky/odd, and loving it; wrote a song when I was 14 with the lyrics “I’m zee Craziest Pancake/You ever did see!”
- when unhappy about working in a law firm, quit on the 5th day and ran away overseas to a convent, after first thinking about it for 2 years and trying it out for 9 days. (An aunt’s friend observed that I was running from a controlled place – my home – to another controlled place; but at least it was a controlled place I wanted to be in at that time.) [Some Aspies can be exceedingly controlling and difficult parents if they are not self-aware, and want to impose their idea of what is good onto their children.]
- not caring about make-up most of the time, because it is uncomfortable on my very sensitive skin!
- refusing to take part in whatever is popular at the time (Neopets, Harry Potter, social media, blogs), only to go full steam when I finally get around to it years after everyone. [well, I avoided Neopets at the age of 11 because I recognised that I would probably become addicted, and sure enough when I helped a friend look after her Neopets 10 years later, I did become addicted!]
- teaching myself HTML, after which everyone asked me to help with their blog designs.
- taking an expensive deportment course at the behest of a well-meaning friend, only to realise it was superficial, useless and capitalising on young women’s insecurities.
- having a very vivid imagination and intense dream sequences with exquisite detail.
enjoying writing from a young age and composing rhyming poems, mostly for fun and sometimes for catharsis.
- being told throughout my life simultaneously that I am “mature beyond my years” and “appear naïve”. Also, being mistaken as being much younger, even by fellow Asians.
- being told by the young female GP that I couldn’t possibly have autism because I can make eye contact and I have friends (I practised! And it doesn’t always work!) [very thankful for an excellent, experienced older female psychiatrist.]
- falling in love extremely quickly, very deeply, rather painfully and mostly quietly for years, until I finally fell in love with another Aspie who gets me, and whose silliness and sensitivity matches mine =)
- being fully human and fully alive!
Bio: Jean is a Singaporean who has lived in various Australian cities over the last decade. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Ignitum Today; she works happily in social media and disability care.
9 October 2018