Living With Asperger’s & Learning It’s Okay To Be Different

Sometimes I look back on my adulthood and ask myself why on earth I ever got married in the first place, much less three times and struck out.

Had I known what I know now, I would never have married. But I kept thinking: Get married, have a family, and you will begin to feel normal like everyone else.

That didn’t happen.

I spent half a century being diagnosed with a plethora of mental illnesses. Had I gotten an accurate diagnosis I would have accepted my limitations and lived a more solitary life, which I have learned is how I’m happiest.

Then a cousin I had been relatively close to all my life said to me on the phone one day: “I’ve always thought that you have Asperger’s Syndrome.”

At first I tossed the thought aside. No, I thought, because I have all these other diagnoses written down in my medical chart. Then I started reading up on the topic and began to wonder if she was right.

Reading about Asperger’s was like looking in a mirror. Finally it all began to make sense. The failed relationships, the failed jobs, the failed endeavors.

I began seeing a psychologist who specialized in that field and was tested.

For once in my life I scored high on a test. The revolving door of various mental illnesses being floated closed abruptly.

People assume you are capable if only you could drop your emotional baggage. But neurological baggage cannot be dropped. It is pervasive and it is for life.

Once I accepted that I began to function much better. I learned that a routine is vital to my well being. Luckily I finally found a way to support myself that didn’t involve an outside job and being around people.

All my life I had felt like a failure for not being able to do what everyone thought I should be able to do. I learned to forgive myself for my inabilities.

People sometimes ask me how I can think of something to write everyday. Well, it’s just part of my normal routine. I don’t really give it all that much thought. I just follow my routine.

I have learned that I can’t deal with a lot of stimuli and thus sensory overload leads to frustration and isolation.

Who wants to talk about the weather? It is what it is. Why beat around the bush about things? Just say what you think. Instead of cloaking what you truly think, why can’t people just say what they think?

But that’s not how the real world works.

Saying what you think gets you into trouble, I’ve learned. I can’t seem to help but be honest about things. My world is black and white in that regard.

Ask me a question and I will answer it. I don’t mean to sound brutal. The answer is just obvious so I’m not quite sure how to make it more palatable.

Unfortunately women with Asperger’s can fly under the radar for much of their lives because they learn to camouflage their limitations.

I remember standing in front of a mirror when I was young trying to figure out how to act and talk like everyone else.

I wanted to fit in because I knew that was supposed to be what every girl wanted. Yet I found that being around people after a certain amount of time was for me tedious and unpleasant. I needed a good block of time to myself.

Thus had I known all this I would never have married in the first place. Because the success rate for marriages where one spouse is on the autism spectrum is low and divorce rates are quite high.

But I kept trying to get it right. I thought I just needed to find the right kind of man and I would just know how to be normal. And that didn’t happen.

I have learned to embrace my strengths and to forgive myself my inabilities. I am not as anxious. I try not to put myself in situations where I know I won’t be comfortable.

I have accepted who I am.

27 Comments

  1. I don’t know about Asperger’s but I am a lot like you. I would love to live as you do now. Sounds like a lovely life. Oh to be alone with one’s thoughts. To do what you want when you wants. Sounds like heaven to me. Congratulations on surviving your past.

  2. When you write about things like your Asperger’s, your childhood, or your marriages, it can be a help for other people. I have found new ways of looking at my own experiences or those of people close to me through reading such posts.

    By the way, I have a relative by marriage who, as a teen, regularly babysat for a little boy with autism. It caused her to be so interested that she ultimately earned a PhD in an area of study connected to autism. She works on developing testing and research methods to better help diagnose children and find ways to help them. When she got married to my husband’s nephew, she had the little boy with autism and his older brother in their wedding. The boy with autism insisted on wearing an adult-sized cowboy hat, even though it was much too big and also, nothing connected with the people and the wedding had anything to do with cowboys. But, this young woman on her wedding day was happy to let the boy wear his big cowboy hat in the wedding and the photos. She loved and accepted him for who he is.

  3. How awful that must have been until it got figured out and you “knew” why you were feeling the way you felt.
    We have a step-grandson that has Aspergers One of the things we love about him is that he has a wicked sense of humor which is so unexpected. Not slap-stick funny but knows how to make a funny remark at just the right time..

  4. I feel certain, Brenda, that many folks are somewhat on the asperger’s spectrum…still not convinced myself that it is a part of autism…but that is another subject. Our oldest grandson was diagnosed at age 2. He is like a walking encyclopedia…anything he reads, sees, hears etc he can say back to you verbatim!! Since he could talk, and that came early, esp. for a boy. He is one of the most helpful people on the planet too. He recently got his first job (working in a grocery store while going to college…within a few weeks he was made an assistant manager…which sure was a surprise as that is a rare thing when you are less than a year someplace). Since he was diagnosed, I have read many books and articles on this. What I think is that A LOT OF KIN have this too…plus since I heard more of some other parts of asperger’s, I realize it is likely I have the kind that affects the hearing (certain sounds drive me batty, like a badly running truck engine…or a lot of excessive drums, or STOMPING of neighbors upstairs, etc). My youngest simply cannot stand a lot of smells, including that of food cooking. When she is visiting me, she eats a lot of things, but at her house, it is mostly things that were precooked (canned, frozen etc…and that list is very short due to all her food allergies). Mostly she eats raw things like fruits and veggies. I happen to think if you had married someone who had more understanding of you and asperger’s etc, things might have gone ok, Brenda. In my view, there are many out there with serious mental issues…like sociopaths and psychopaths…both of whom I feel are among our kin here and there, most married into the clan. I also see mostly in black and white and do not mince words, tho’ often I simply do not voice what I think. My Mama used to tell me that a person does not need to SAY everything they THINK…and it is true. So true. Our thoughts are special to us…and often I think the main ONE we ought to voice them to, is GOD and HIM ALONE!! Don’t take too seriously this “forgive and forget” business either. Part of life is to learn…learn well enough to avoid future pitfalls and traps if we can. We forgive so that it enables us to live in peace…and leave the rest to GOD. Too many folks have not read enough of the WHOLE of Scripture, frankly…not that I am a genius…but learning some things like yes, forgiving, at least within ourselves…and doing nothing to try to get vengeance…yet to forget what happened leaves us open to more sorrow and pain. For those of us who have suffered abuse…and in my opinion, especially physical abuse, it is impossible to forget, even with GOD’s help. So many things can trigger memories. Without any participation in that from us. And it also helped me to learn that some people frankly, just do not have much to give to others…sadly when that is a parent…there is no human way to totally forget it. I appreciate your candor because some of what you write can easily be taken as a warning to others!! THANK YOU!! Keep writing…I am sorry you have suffered so much…but you know you are not alone either.
    Your fellow traveler on this path, Elizabeth

  5. Brenda, thank you for sharing so much of who you are with us, your readers. You are a brilliant writer, a wonderful gardener, a kind and loving Mom and Grandmother and a compassionate pet-lover.
    Your sensitivity is to be honored and treasured. I’m so glad you have figured out a way to live your life that allows you to flourish and express the wonderful parts of you. You needn’t be or act like anyone else on this planet to be loved and valued for you uniqueness. If only all of us could come to your point in life and be as comfortable with our unique selves as you seem to be.

    I speak for myself but I think for all your readers too, when I say we all appreciate you for exactly who and how you are. Many blessings to you, dear Brenda.

  6. Knowledge definitely is power in your situation. It has freed you to understand why you think the way you do, and know it is the way you are made. It allows you to live in the best way for you. I know you have helped many others understand Aspergers better!

  7. Brenda, I think you’ve done wonderful with what life has handed you. Your girls are wonderful and I hope you’re proud of that. Curious do any of the girls have asperger’s? Any of the gkids? Is it something that can genetically be passed down?

    Lucy

    1. They don’t seem to have the same traits. My youngest daughter deals with a lot of anxiety. I’m pretty sure my mother and her mother had some form of autism that was pretty that I think was pretty extreme. They could barely function at all in the world and though I only met my mother a few times, it was quite evident that something was very wrong.

  8. Another brilliant and touching post, Brenda ~ As someone above commented, it has been wonderful to ‘see’ you blossom since your diagnosis.
    You are such a gift to us all ~
    Hugs ~ bobbie

  9. HIndsight is 20/20 as they say. I admire your contentment!! That is such a tough thing to acquire for some. Your creativeness is amazing! I read your blog daily and am glad you have learned so much about yourself. Routine is so important for us all and you are such a great example for all of us. Thank you so much for your blog and sharing! Blessings

  10. You may not be able to give the gift of yourself in social situations easily but you DO give the gift of yourself to your readers. There are so many people who can do neither. Your ability to write beautifully is greatly admired by many of your readers.

  11. I taught one boy in high school who was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He was socially inept, however, he was also brilliant. He went on to college and is successful in his field of engineering. He would explain so many scientific principles to his fellow students and my homeroom was very good to him and praised his expertise. All our gifts are not packaged exactly the same but still gifts .

  12. It sometimes takes a lifetime to figure out who we are what we should be doing I learned at an early age I enjoyed being alone at times reading and listening to music playing my piano but my parents always worried I was unsociable but I enjoyed ME! It’s great when we learn who we are and enjoy our time! I love your Blog!!

  13. I have lived a hard life as have many others and many much worse than mine.
    My Dad beat me as a child and my Mother did not love me. I divorced my first husband, my second husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack after being married for 30 years. The Love of my Life. Several years later my oldest daughter died unexpectedly.
    God does not promise us a perfect life but he does promise to be there to walk with us through the sad hard times and disappointments of life if we will ask him.
    As we grow and mature we can one day look back and be able to see the good that came out of all those tears and heart aches. Your husband and or husbands helped give you your beautiful daughters and from that your amazing Grandchild. Be thankful and move on not only in actions but also in mind and thought. It’s hard but with God’s help, I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve been following your blog for a long time. I enjoy seeing your beautiful apartment, plants and fur babies. You will, however, come back again and again to your marriages, how you were treated, how you shouldn’t have married etc etc. The past is just that….in the past. I’m not saying we don’t have occasional thoughts and wish we could have made better decisions but let those thoughts be fleeting ones and enjoy the blessings we do have. The best is yet to come!! One day we will leave this sad wicked world and be with Jesus forever to enjoy all the great wonderful things he has in store for his children. No more tears, no more sadness and no more regrets!! I would say that’s worth waiting for! :))

  14. You have Aspergers, but many of your behaviors are not singular to Aspergers and it makes me wonder about myself. Different components make up a person. You have mentioned that you enjoy being alone and not having so many sensory elements around you. I feel the same way and never feel lonely, but enjoy being alone, which is ok. I am positive that I don’t have Aspergers (haven’t figured myself out yet), but I understand how difficult it is to take so many different components and behaviors and sift them all down to one category. One thing no one has is the ability to predict the future and you are not alone in wishing you knew then what you know now. I’m certainly in that group. You can now recognize your strengths and weaknesses and work around them. Good for you. By the way, your ability to write is seriously one of your strengths….and decorating!!!!!

    1. I have some of the same characteristics too, Eileen, and I don’t have Aspbergers. I am introverted – an INFJ, if you’re familiar with the personality types. Also a HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). I am happily married, but I need a lot of alone time. I spend a lot of time with friends and family, but then I am depleted and have to have that alone time again – usually the entire next day or even two. I can’t stand noise, crowds, and bright lights, anything with scent (unless it’s essential oils), or any rough or itchy material.

  15. I have watched you blossom since you were correctly diagnosed. You are now able to do so many things that you didn’t used to do. This is an important message for all women. We are all different. We don’t need to fit in a box that society has said is “normal”. We should enjoy our uniqueness and find a path that is right for us. You found yours, and that makes me very happy. xo Laura

  16. It is a shame that as we are growing up we feel like we need to be like everyone else to be accepted, but as we get on in years we finally accept ourselves the way we are and finally start living our lives the way we want and stop trying to please everyone else !

  17. Without your marriages you wouldn’t have been blessed with your 2 beautiful daughters and your granddaughter,recently reconnected with…
    We all bring baggage throughout our lives,I lost my Dad at 14, devastating, consequently,I married a man 17 years my senior when I was 21,we had a good marriage,raised 2 great kids,weathered the ups and downs.
    He passed in 2006 and I spent some really rough years,emotionally and financially but what I came away with was a clearer version of who I am,what I like and how I want to spend whatever time is given to me.

  18. Hi Brenda,
    I read your blog every day and I’m so glad you know what you want/need and are living an authentic life. I think all women can learn from your example whether we have Asperger’s or not. Too many of us live our lives according to what someone else wants or a magazine article tells us we should. We are all so different and it’s a lesson to all of us to live according to what our souls need. Thank you for being you.

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