Better Understanding SOME of My Struggles

There are certain things that have always bothered me in the back of my mind. You know, the thoughts that cause you to be uncomfortable, so you just push them back and try to keep busy to override them?  I have had certain issues and questions related to experiences from my past, but I’ve never been able to get any kind of peace over them – up until now.

Actually, this happened last September, I believe. We went to a Women of Faith conference and those background thoughts moved prominently to the forefront of my mind as I was sitting in the very back of an suv, leaning on the luggage.  Visions of my childhood came streaming past my eyes – lonely wandering around the playground in elementary school with no one to play with. Kids tagging me with cooties, and one child trying to straddle the fence of being my friend but also wanting to be friends with the kids who were on the swings making fun of me.

Why, God? Why did that happen?  Why did I have no friends? Why did they say I should have skipped 3rd grade, but I wasn’t emotionally or socially ready for that?  What was it that people saw (or didn’t see) in me as soon as they looked at me that made them dismiss me as they did?  This baffled me and fed my lifelong fear that there was just something WRONG with me all these years, and that whatever it was beamed like a neon sign on my forehead EXCEPT when I looked in the mirror.

A random phrase floated through my head as well – a statement I had said throughout my life about how I always felt like I was a highly functioning person with autism.  I never researched it, but I just had some a sense of familiarity when I heard about or saw people with autism.  The fact that I would rock myself when standing since I was a child was one reason.  I always felt like a stranger in a world where everyone else seemed to be getting along just fine.

Aspergers.  That’s what came to me.  One word. So I took out my handy blackberry and googled it.  I read through the description. I took the test.  I remembered my relating to the male character in Mozart and the Whale, a movie about 2 people with Aspergers and their relationship.  It all became clear.

I believe I have Aspergers.  I also believe my son does, too – which explains why, no matter how hard I tried to prevent it, his childhood was a carbon copy of my own.  Our childhoods are textbook Aspergers.  Neither of us could make friends.  Both of us were highly imaginative with high IQs and photographic memories.  Both of us were supposed to skip grades. I learned how to cover up my socially bereft situation by making people laugh in 9th grade, but my son has not gotten to that point.  He retreated into games like World of Warcraft and now Star Wars.

I started looking at my life from an entirely different viewpoint.  My inability to understand people and why they acted the way they did made sense.  My mother telling me not to run after girls in the neighborhood to be their friends, because they didn’t want to play with me, also became clear.  Classmates weren’t jealous of me, like my mother had said to me years ago.  They treated me like I was weird because, honestly, I was to them.  I had no sense of social behavior EXCEPT for the fact that I was constantly OUTSIDE of everything social.

Now, fast forward to today.  I’ve come up with hundreds of ways of compensating for my social limitations and inability to focus on more than one thing at a time.  I am obsessively organized when it comes to “to do” lists and tasks.  My biggest fear is that my Outlook or Blackberry will go down and I’ll not complete the flagged emails or scheduled events.  No, correct that – my biggest fear is having to talk to people about nothing, make small talk. THAT will cause me to want to hyperventilate.

However, I believe that small talk fear fueled my obsession with learning facts about things that interested me, so I could have something to contribute to conversations.  I read books on how to socialize and have conversations with people for business, but it helped in everyday life.  To look at me from the outside for a short period, I look almost normal.  However, as someone close to me recently shared, the people that know me love me – they just don’t understand me.  That’s the story of my life.

But at least now I UNDERSTAND the story of my life.  I don’t know how other people see the world (obviously much differently than I do), but I know I don’t see it like them.  I have limitations that stop me from doing all that they do, but I’m not as bothered by it now, because I also know and appreciate my “genius.”

I’ve had bosses who looked at me quizzically and said, “I have no clue how you do what you do,” meaning my programming skills.  I have truly amazed people with what I can come up with and what I can accomplish.  Unfortunately for me business-wise, that means I can create things, but don’t have the social skills to continue to market myself in front of people.  But at least I know I have accomplished things no one else ever did.

The purpose of this article is that sometimes, one tiny little sliver of light can break through our depression and illuminate some truth that God thinks we’re finally ready to receive and understand. It can re-color everything, from our past to our present.  That goes for forgiveness as well – when we are able to forgive someone or ourselves, it changes how we view everything and everyone.  Knowing that there is a real reason why things were the way they were allows me to let go of some things that were eating at me, but it took 48 years to get this far. I am praying that God will reveal to you the answers to the questions you are asking yourself, and until He does, that He will give you peace to keep going.

Penny Haynes