Monday, July 11, 2011

Figuring It All Out—What brought about obtaining a diagnosis.

Hello folks. It’s been a while. Since I last wrote I’ve been married, started school for Holistic Animal Massage, was let go from a job for “lack of work,” learned how to take apart and fix a lawnmower and much, much more. Each of these items are, in my mind, “blog worthy,” however, I will save those topics for a later date . . . once I’m able to get my head wrapped around them.
It seems I’ve been approached with the following question from several people lately: “What made you look into a diagnosis at the age of 35?” It’s tough to answer that without going into a signature Aspie dialogue, but that’s what’s so great about blogging! I can write, you can read (or not), no awkward moments!
I always knew as a little girl that I didn’t quite fit in with others my age. I was never one to be attracted to groups or cliques, group sports, Chinese Jump Rope, or playing with baby dolls (I admired dollhouses, but really was only interested in the technical aspects, such as how they were able to so precisely scale a house down (the beginning of my fascination with movie set miniatures).
When not imitating a dog, I preferred to play on the swings where I could be alone and think—figure out the Universe as it were. There I would conjure up stories in my head about how I could be a hero—save the world, fight for the underdog. I would silently converse with myself about the facts I had read the night before in the Encyclopedia Britannica because I had learned the hard way that my classmates had no interest in the fact that Oxnard (the town I grew up in) was named after the Oxnard brothers who grew sugar beets or that the Potato Bug is actually a Jerusalem Cricket even though they don’t originate in Jerusalem, nor are they related to crickets.
I enjoyed playing in my head over and over again the images of Steve Martin (have I mentioned I was in madly in love with him?) doing his “King Tut” and “Wild and Crazy Guy” skits. After school I hung out with my grandfather, a computer engineer—to me the smartest man alive—or younger kids such as my brother and cousins, as I only felt comfortable in the student or teacher role, never the peer (wow, just realized that still applies . . . I’ve got some work to do!). I didn’t know anything about Autism back then—I just knew I was a little different. I believed I must have a special purpose, I must be linked in with some higher power . . . and maybe, just maybe, magic.

Dec. 1976. 1 1/2 years old, no doubt pondering
the aerodynamics of Santa's 8 tiny reindeer.

As I grew older things didn’t change much. I began at age seventeen locking myself in my bedroom after school so that I could read the entire bible and completely ‘figure it all out’. If that book was ‘the truth’, it was a must read. Seeing that the King James was the only version we somehow managed to have in the house, it wasn’t easy to translate (as intended). At age eighteen I completely involved myself in a church and became a celibate monk until hitting my late 20s. While others my age were dating, socializing with co-workers and learning to be “grown-ups” I was spending hours in prayer, fasting, and studying. It was never a challenge. I loved the discipline of it, the rules were easy for me to abide by and I felt I finally had a chance to be a “hero”. Until I stopped.

I attempted to “socialize” with others my age once I left the religious life behind. I went to a dance club with friends. A guy grabbed my arse. I instinctively punched him hard in the stomach, then realized how illogical it was for me to be at such a place. I wasn’t looking to know any of these people! So I left, never to return. I went to a bar with a friend. I took three sips of a Corona, then began to psychoanalyze everyone in the room (which is one reason I don't drink today): 

“He walks hunched over because he was criticized by his mother all of his life. He’s speaking to that older woman because he’s looking for a woman to be the mother he never had.”
“She is still trying to get her daddy’s attention she never received as a child so dresses provocatively,showing as much skin as she can get away with even though for California standards, it’s considered freezing outside.”

Terrible! My friend wanted to flirt with the guys. I thought one was attractive—in fact, a Television actor I’d had a silly crush on for years. He approached me. I began a conversation about my recent journey down the path of Tibetan Buddhism, studying Taoism and my most recent book purchase, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. That was the end of that.  I had no clue as to why I was so awkward. I would watch my friend act strangely —what I suppose you’d call “flirting”—and didn’t have the slightest idea on how to do it, nor did I feel inclined to. I figured if you want to get to know someone, you should be direct and just tell em’. Stop the game playing. There’s got to be somebody out there who doesn’t want to drink, get high on illegal substances, and intimately touch strangers. Is there a human in Los Angeles that knows anything about humanity, psychology, real spirituality, oneness with the Universe?! Conversations became increasingly difficult with women and men alike.

"I don’t need to buy shoes, I already have 2 pair. Let’s watch a documentary about blood diamonds instead!"

“No, I’d rather not go dirt-bike riding. Why would anyone want to take a boisterous, oily contraption such as that into the beauty of nature and scare all of the wildlife away? Makes no sense!”

I gave up on socializing with twenty-somethings and took a stab at stand-up comedy, something I had dreamed about since I was four years old, staring at the Steve Martin poster on my bedroom wall, watching "Saturday Night Live" and Eddie Murphy's "Delirious." Boy, this was good times. I’d write, get on stage, do my thing, then slip into a quiet corner in the back of the Comedy Store, just observing. All us comics were freaks so I finally sort of fit in somewhere, with some of the guys at least . . . until I did enough self-work to realize I no longer needed applause to be happy. Eight years later, on to the next special interest.

I began working in the feature film industry.  What I learned here was that there were two kinds of people on set:
a) those that spend their per diem drinking, getting high on illegal substances and intimately touching strangers

b) other freaky geeks like myself

I have met some of the smartest people working in the film industry. Some geniuses that had invented special cameras, some that could build anything in a matter of minutes, creativity at it’s best. Amazing. On some shows I thrived socially, mainly because I was able to do what I do best - learn. On some, I flopped. A few years prior, a friend suspected one of our crewmembers had something called “Asperger’s.” Wow. All I could think of was how funny “ass burgers” sounded. Terribly amusing, the name appealed to my earthy, childish sense of humor. She then wrote out by hand what Asperger’s was, at least did her best at listing the diagnostic criteria and what not, and though I laughed like a child at the name, I was humbled by the familiarity. It was as if she was writing about me! Since that time I researched and read books and asked questions and speculated. It was a situation that occurred during the last movie I worked on that led me to finally look into a diagnosis.

I discovered that eating lunch alone on this show really worked for me as I loved to read and just revive myself by getting away from the chaos for a bit and breathing. A few of the girls in the production office had asked several times if I would join them for lunch. One day I finally gave in and decided it would be a “good thing” to get to know these women. They were sweet enough to ask, why not? It won’t kill me to put down Autobiography of a Yogi for one lunch hour! We all sat down outside on a warm Philadelphia spring day. They each began sharing updates on their favorite reality TV shows – who cheated who, who slept with who, who was pissed at who . . . and on and on. I had no idea what they were referring to, as the only shows I would watch on Television (if I watched at all) were 'The Dog Whisperer', 'NOVA', and 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'. A few days before I had begun writing a research paper I was doing for myself on the affects of alcoholism on indigenous people, so when they asked me what I had been up to, I began to share with them my amazement on how entire countries have been taken over with alcohol being the force and weapon.  

"Aboriginals in Australia, Maoris In New Zealand, Native Americans, the Native Alaskans . . ."
silence hit the table, you could hear a pin drop. 

Until one of the girls looked at another and said, 

“Are we getting drinks tonight? Where do you want to go?” 

Then I realized, "You know, I just can’t seem to hold a 'normal' conversation it seems." So I found a psychologist in the Philadelphia area who began observing me, asking me questions and giving me tests. I wrapped the show, returned to California and was referred to an amazing doctor in Santa Monica who specializes in Autism. I then received my official diagnosis which helped me to get a grasp on the “whys” of my social quirks.

Though in my blogs I discuss the differences between myself and Neurotypicals (those not on the autism spectrum) I want to share that these stories are all a part of my journey toward understanding self, how my brain works and ultimately seeing that though my brain is wired differently than some, we are the same. I am finding more “sameness” each day in others and myself as I study more about my overactive amygdala and asking questions as I go along. All in all, acceptance is the goal—acceptance of differences, because I believe love is a child of acceptance as well as the wellspring of life. 

My definition of Asperger’s for today: A gift of leaving no stone unturned - ever. ;0)