Do I Know You?

I need to catch someone after Meeting to give him a cheque (I am the treasurer). Let’s call him David. I sit in Meeting, distracted, looking over at the person that I thought might be David. If I go over to him thinking he is David, and turns out not to be, that is so embarrassing. It’s probably less embarrassing to ignore this person who may or may not be David, and post the cheque to him. But then he might be David and then he’d wonder why I didn’t just give the cheque to him.

After tea and coffee, I go to Local Meeting for Business. More agonies. I’m irritated that a small working group has formed, bypassing the authority of LM and the process of Nominations. Am I being too rule-bound and pedantic? I know I often am. But no, it seems others feel that same way as I do. I find it very hard to know when it’s my turn to speak, and for how long to speak. I have so often in the past been told that I butt in or talk over people. I go home feeling rather low. I wish I could explain to people why I find these things so difficult, but years of trying to hide my condition inhibits me.

My life is full of these little agonies. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and have very poor facial recognition (prosopagnosia) which some, but not all, Aspies suffer from.

Asperger’s is referred to as a “spectrum disorder”. In practice, this seems to mean that there is a wide range of symptoms and most Aspies don’t experience all of them. I can only describe those that affect me.

Like most Aspies, I tend to focus on detail rather than see the bigger picture. I recognise people, for example, by usually one or at most two characteristics. That fine if it’s their nose, but if it’s their hairstyle or their glasses, I’m in trouble if they change them. I have poor social skills and find it difficult to make friends. I can’t judge whether the wording of a Minute is good enough and it’s tempting to niggle over a word or two. Because I know this is my weakness, I often over-compensate and don’t say anything even when I want to. I am a poor listener, and can come over as cold and lacking in empathy. I like structure and don’t cope well with change. I can go to once-a-month Meeting Lunch in winter because it’s held at the Meeting House and is structured and I know how it works. In the summer, it switches to a picnic in a nearby park and I find that too scary and unstructured and I don’t go.

My actions or words can seem rude, when I don’t at all intend them to be. A party is my idea of hell, and I haven’t attempted one for years. I think in pictures, not words, and it can be hard to translate the pictures into words. I often feel ignored or overlooked.

If you met me, it’s most unlikely that you’d realise I have Asperger’s. A lot of people have a preconception about autism and Asperger’s from the film Rainman. I’m not at all like Rainman. Asperger’s is a lifelong condition and back when I was a very disturbed and distressed child, there was no awareness, even amongst the professionals, of Asperger’s. I’m now in my late 50s, and it was only recently that I was diagnosed. Years of struggling with undiagnosed Asperger’s has left me with low self-esteem and depression. I now know that I’m not mad, bad or defective. I just have a brain that works differently to most other people’s.

At least now I can explain to people what my problems are, and why…. if they’ll listen.

And yes, it was David and I gave him the cheque. I used one of my usual ploys. “Have you seen David here today?” I asked another Friend. “Yes, he’s just over there” came the reply, pointing towards him.

Chrissie Bligh. 06/05/2013.