Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thoughts on things students ask me; an unofficial diagnosis

As it is probably known by readers of this blog (such as they are), I have a tattoo on my wrist. It's Arabic. It says "الحياة جميلة" and that translates to "Life is beautiful." This is an aspirational statement on my part. I acknowledge that life is not always beautiful, but I would like it to be and it's a good goal. It's good for me to keep in mind. The weird thing is that a surprising number of people, students/young people especially, ask me if it's my name. I don't know why anyone would tattoo themselves with their own name. In case you forget it? Preparing for traumatic brain injury and the possible amnesia that follows? Because your name is just so cool that you can think of no other words to eclipse its awesomeness? It's such a weird thing to ask. I really don't know why that's the go-to guess.

Students and children at circus also ask my age fairly often, which doesn't bother me. However, there seems to be a class of people who, when I state that I am in my mid 20s, follow up with "Why aren't you married?" or an equivalent (do you have a boyfriend? don't you want to get married?). If I say that I'm not married sometimes they'll even go on to say "but don't you want kids?" I think this may just be a cultural divide, usually when I get this question it's from people who weren't born in the US or whose parents weren't, but I somewhat resent the expectation that at 25 I should be married and making some babies already!

An unofficial diagnosis.
It was suggested to me that I have Asperger's syndrome by someone whose opinion I value and I decided to look into it. For the uninitiated, Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder on the high functioning end of the spectrum. People with Asperger's (Aspies, as they seem to be affectionately called) experience distress and difficulty with socializing. They (we, I suppose) have strict routines and devotion to their own narrow interests. Most of the people diagnosed with this are men. The more intelligent you are, the less likely you are to be diagnosed. Apparently, most psychologists are not very good at spotting this unless they are experts in autism.

Here is a list of traits for women with Asperger's.
I read this and sort of freaked out because I have essentially all of these traits. So then I bought three books about it, obviously. I won't go into the specifics, but reading about Asperger's has made me almost 100% certain that I have it. I felt weird about it at first. Somewhat relieved, but also distressed. A number of friends reminded me that I am still the same person and I appreciate their support with this. In the last month or so, I've been letting this simmer in my brain and I'm comfortable enough to make it public (such as 6 people reading my blog can be public) on the internet.

I am somewhat on the fence about pursuing formal diagnosis. I'm pretty settled on this in my mind. Getting a diagnosis of Asperger's as an adult means finding a specialist. Inevitably, one's parents are interviewed, which is something I would like to avoid at this juncture (they're not really in the loop on this). Also, I'm worried taht with a diagnosis I might have trouble getting insurance because this would be counted as a pre-existing condition. 

I am feeling better about this now. As long-time readers may recall, I periodically feel like I'm going insane and I wonder what the hell is wrong with me and why I am not like other people. I feel that this explains it rather neatly. I am not a crazy person. I have Asperger's. I experience things differently. Knowing this helps me order things that have happened in my life and make some sense out of some of the bad parts. Some of the good parts also, I suppose. I feel like now I have a clearer idea of what makes me feel crazy and what I can do about it, which is really positive because I've never felt that way before.

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