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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

How to Deal With the Negative Aspects of Asperger’s?

Reader Benoni left the following questions:

I hope you don’t a mind a very personal question about autism, but could you give some advice about coping with the negative aspects of asperger’s syndrome? I’m a very recent diagnosis, was told by my psychologist two weeks ago. From most of what I’ve read about asperger’s syndrome, aspies in general object to the idea of an “autism cure” because they feel autism is part of what makes them who they are. But I feel like if I had the option of “curing” my autism, I’d go for it.

I’ve had people difficulties my entire life, and I know I feel isolated socially but can’t open new social boundaries because I cope those kinds of situations at all, which utterly ruins my confidence. I feel trapped by it. Now that I have a name for my problems, I feel especially anxious to get rid of them. Is this normal for newly diagnosed aspies? Will I naturally learn to accept it, or is it something I’ll have to work towards? I hope none of this offends you, but I’m kinda desperate for advice.

First of all, I wanted to address the issue of the diagnosis. I believe that the diagnosis only makes sense if you feel that it enhances your life in a positive way. I know several people who were diagnosed with autism but they decided to forget they ever were because they didn’t feel it helped them to refer to their way of being with this term. I support them completely because it’s their business how to refer to their way of being. For me, the diagnosis was a very happy event because it came quite late in life (I was 30) and I’d been convinced for all those years that something was deeply wrong with me and I had to conceal what I was really like from everybody. The realization that there were many people who experienced reality in a similar way, people who I could talk to and share my experiences, and that there was a scientifically recognized term for who I am was an enormous relief.

I’m one of those people who’d never want to be “cured”, but I completely understand those who do. We only have one life, and it’s nobody’s business what we find helpful or unhelpful in that one life. People are different and if you perceive this as something negative, something you want to get rid of, that’s completely normal and there is no reason to beat yourself up about this.

Now, the really good news about Asperger’s is that it gets better with time. When you are in your teens, it’s a curse. When you are in your twenties, it’s a burden. But as you get older, it becomes something that starts to work to your advantage.

The not so good news is that you will have to find a way to manage the negative aspects of Asperger’s and then continue to manage them constantly. This is not as bad as it sounds because once you get into the habit, it gets easier. I suggest making a list of the negative aspects (don’t you dig making lists?) and then look at them and see how you can manage them. Everybody manifests differently, so I won’t try to guess what your negative aspects are. I’ll just provide my own list and how I managed the points on it.

Since this isn’t necessarily of interest to everybody, I will place the rest of the post under the break.

1. Being around people is exhausting. – Chose a career that gives me a lot of alone time.

2. Feel bothered by the neurological side of Asperger’s (poor balance, low muscle tone, clumsiness, being accident prone). – Developed a hobby (cooking) and found a physical activity (walking) that gently help me to correct these issues at least to some extent.

3. Can’t drive. – Still haven’t figured this one out.

4. Am incapable of interpreting body language and facial expressions. – Decided to stop stressing about that. If people are incapable of expressing themselves verbally in a way that would make them understood, that’s their problem rather than mine. Decided to proceed from the assumption that everybody likes me and only has positive feelings towards me. If that isn’t true, who cares? In my world, it is.

5. Find it extremely hard to make friends. – Spend time talking to people I like online. Some of the relationships I developed online are a lot more profound than many people have in RL.

6. Suffer during parties and social occasions. – Avoid them. Who said that everybody needs to be a social butterfly? If socializing is unavoidable prepare for it. A planned social activity is much more bearable than an unplanned one. Make a detail plan for what you will do at the party to avoid suffering alone in the corner. Identify people you will be able to talk to. Provide opportunities for taking breaks during parties. I usually a) explore the host’s library (this also offers a chance to ask the host about his/ her books, so there is a conversation topic right there) b) pretend I have an important call from my sister and go outside to “talk to her.” Sometimes my sister has very huge imaginary issues. “We are very close,” I say apologetically and go outside several times to “talk to her.” If that gets old, I have a ton of cousins who can all suddenly become hugely problematic, as well.

7. Feel completely different from everybody else and misunderstood. – Hang out with other autistics. They speak the same language and process information in a similar ways.

If you have some items on your list and don’t know how to manage them, why not share them here, and we can discuss them collectively. Maybe even work out a strategy of handling specific situations.

And remember: it totally gets better.

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25 thoughts on “How to Deal With the Negative Aspects of Asperger’s?

  1. I have some of these issues. I don’t feel uncomfortable with people, but very, very bored, in situations that I enter from necessity rather than choice. I then feel embarrassed by my boredom and should I try to affect an interest in something that doesn’t automatically appeal to me, my attempts fall flat. I really can’t focus on what the [boring] person had said to me last time we spoke. If it has to do with their relationships or family, I can’ t remember it at all, although if the person is intrinsically interesting to me, I should be able to remember. Sometimes boring people all look the same. I can differentiate them by what they are wearing, if they keep wearing the same clothing, but otherwise not easily. I don’t remember their names unless they happen to be someone quirky and attractive to me. I also have difficulty keeping track of my siblings offspring, what their ages are and their ages. For a while, last month, I became confused about how many children my sister had. Was it three or four? I can’t seem to unscatter my scatter brain, when it comes to necessary social relations, but my mind always alights upon abstractions and picks up on patterns in social relationships really well. It’s not the people themselves, but their patterns of behavior that stand out to me. This is part of why I am reclusive.

    In fact, I’m not socially awkward in that I rarely feel embarrassed about anything I might do that is strange, eccentric, or in any way different from other people — but I feel deeply bothered that I can’t take an interest in something despite the fact that my job or my career depends on it. I have no regard for other people’s opinions about me, but I wouldn’t have minded if I had been socially observant (in both meanings of the word) automatically.

    People who are zany, eccentric or independent do seem attracted to me, though. I have no trouble making friends whenever I want to. It just has to be with the right people — people like me.

    As a side note, these apparently contradictory characteristics of mine have tended to confuse therapists and make them sharpen their knives against me. I sound like an idiot savant who both desires and despises socializing. That’s not true. I just desire to do what I want, and can’t stand boring people. When I do what I need to, I always do it effectively.

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    • “I don’t feel uncomfortable with people, but very, very bored, in situations that I enter from necessity rather than choice.”

      – Somebody like you, with such an active and profound intellectual life, with so many original thoughts, would have every reason to get bored with most people.

      “I just desire to do what I want, and can’t stand boring people. When I do what I need to, I always do it effectively.”

      – I feel exactly the same. 🙂 People often think that autistics are people who don;t know how to socialize. I, however, know perfectly well how to do it. I think I have better communication skills than many neurotypicals. However, I often don’t care enough to use these skills precisely because I feel bored. And it’s the kind of overpowering boredom that I can’t fight against. This is why I like my blog where some very profound people come by and I can discuss with them things that matter to me.

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      • Thanks! So it seems autism really is a mode of adaptation that provides some advantages as such.

        I would say my mode of adaptation is from living in very stimulating environments. My childhood environment was especially intense like that, with the war going on, so people didn’t really get into the normal apelike behavior of too much preening or sending irrelevant information around the gossip mill. The news we dealt with was always pretty serious.

        But then with my father’s semi-emotional breakdown, which became more serious as time went on, it became advisable not to express any emotion at all, for he would misinterpret it inevitably and overreact with violence. Those were my teenage years, when I learned to be very stoical.

        Now, I find I have always been at odds with the roles I am expected to play, especially with regard to gender, because I don’t do the grooming behavior of picking fleas out of the other apes’ fur. This is precisely what bores me and drives me crazy. I find it insane when people touch me or comment on what I’m wearing as a way to suggest I ought to make myself more comfortable, or make me hold an infant. I consider the people around me, sisters in law in this instance, who make me do this, to be out of their trees.

        In all, I don’t identify with the community of apes, which doesn’t bother me at all, except when it is the requirement for getting on or getting ahead in work.

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  2. Evelina Anville on said:

    I loved this post. It was so compassionate and hopeful. Also I just wanted to say that I am neurotypical but I use a similar strategy to manage my anxiety (make a list, ID a coping mechanism etc. etc.) This isn’t to discount Benoni but I just want to emphasize that we all have our weird quirks and we all have negative traits. Sooner or later, we learn to embrace those “nasty bits” because they help make us who we are. As Clarissa said, things will get better. You aren’t alone. 🙂

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  3. Kyle on said:

    You know Clarissa, what I find really neat from reading your posts is that you sound so much like me (or I am a lot like you). Every time you write a description of Asperger Syndrome, your descriptions fit me perfectly 🙂 (please do not be horrifed by this) 😀

    The thing I have found about having Asperger Syndrome is that it makes you wonder just what the hell is wrong with everyone else (even though to them it’s you who is the weirdo).

    One of my worst facets is when people are saying one thing, but expressing a different emotion via body language or some other method of improvisation and I am expected to pick up on it. While I can sometimes pick up on implied things, I really tend to be very bad at this (and I think this happened in the debate we were having where you were implying you were offended by what I was saying and I was as blind as a brick wall with regards to it until you told me, so even in conversation via text, I won’t necessarilly pick up on implied things).

    For some years I tried to be “normal” and it didn’t really work out, and then at around 22 years-old, it hit me, “Why am I trying so hard to be ‘normal’?” Looking back, I wish I had just embraced me for me back in high school. I could have made my high school existence a lot easier had I known then what I know now about things, but that’s experience for you, i.e. you only get it right after you need it 🙂

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    • ” Every time you write a description of Asperger Syndrome, your descriptions fit me perfectly (please do not be horrifed by this)”

      – There is nothing horrifying in this. 🙂 If you somewhat recognize your way of being in the descriptions, that’s good news because you can find and share information on how to handle this. I find it very helpful to communicate with people who are like me in this sense.

      “For some years I tried to be “normal” and it didn’t really work out, and then at around 22 years-old, it hit me, “Why am I trying so hard to be ‘normal’?” Looking back, I wish I had just embraced me for me back in high school. I could have made my high school existence a lot easier had I known then what I know now about things, but that’s experience for you, i.e. you only get it right after you need it ”

      – I know! Unfortunately, it is the nature of the teenage experience that all we want is to be popular and not to stand out in any way that our peers would not find acceptable. The good news is that those years do end. 🙂

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  4. Interesting post. Funny thing is, I know numerous people who own most of those traits and they arent even Autistic. I think I might email some the list. 😉

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  5. Re anxiety, it is a good example. I have it but it is not free floating. I think people like to say it is so as not to address the causes. Having observed it I can now see micro symptoms of it starting and name the kinds of events that cause it, which are events one should avoid anyway … and which, if I don’t avoid, I start feeling anxious. So I learned that feelings of anxiety mean I am doing something I am not comfortable with, and ignoring this.

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    • These days, when I feel out of my element or anxious I say, “So be it. That’s how it is.” I don’t withdraw on that account.

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      • Oh, but the reason I do is that I should. Out of element, I thrive on that, and anxious as in worried or nervous or in some sort of adrenalin requiring situation, I can totally handle. When I get genuine anxiety it is always because I am in some situation I do not want to be in because it is a bad situation, but that I do not feel I have the right to notice as bad — let alone leave. Or when I am doing something because I am motivated by guilt and not interest, or real need, or genuine willingness. When I have let someone overpower me and refuse, out of deference or something like that, to acknowledge to myself that this is what has happened.

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  6. Lamestllama on said:

    3. Can’t drive. – Still haven’t figured this one out.

    Your such a capable person in every other way 🙂 I am sure you will learn how to drive soon 🙂

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  7. I have two friends with Asperger’s. They have learned in the years I’ve known them to cope better with their condition. One of them gets along very well with animals, and she has horses. She is independent after getting out of a terrible relationship and is really happy these days.
    I’m so glad we know more these days about this condition.That is a good list you have drawn up. Best to you.

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    • Thank you! When I was growing up, we didn’t even know the word autism. In my family, autism is hereditary and all those people before me just suffered in silence, not knowing why they were different. So I’m also glad that people are getting more educated about autism.

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  8. Benoni on said:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I’m having trouble finding the right words to say in response, and I’d love to ask you more, but I can’t really articulate it. I just wanted to say thank you for the help, Clarissa. c:

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  9. I am one of those interesting cases that always scores very high on the Autism Spectrum tests, but is actually, as far as I can tell, not noticeably on the spectrum at all. However, I have an Aspie partner who has (as far as I can tell) totally accepted what this means for him, and I find it fascinating to watch him try to navigate social situations, even just one-on-one. There’s definitely some stuff that aligns with this list (he usually picks a role at parties and sticks to it) and some that doesn’t (he drives, sometimes better than I can).

    He has an interesting theory (which may explain my weirdness) and I wonder if anyone else thinks it may be applicable: beyond the age of 13 it does not really matter if you were born with the brain chemistry of ASD or socialized/raised by someone who was; the behaviors are pretty much going to be the same.

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  10. I have the 1-3-4-5-6-7 “problems”. The #2 is not great but not as problematic.

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  11. And now, I can confirm officially that I’m an Aspie. The diagnosis came up today. Thank you for inspiring me to try the Aspie Quiz. 😃

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  12. I too have Asperger’s & I have been told that I have a very strong opinion, have hurt people with what I have said & I don’t like being nasty, so goodness only knows what I said. If someone tells me not to do something I will do it, I am not bossed around by others,

    http://i0.poll.fm/js/rating/rating.js

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