Out of Sync Annette DeWit
Some one asked, “How does my Aspergers affect me? What does it mean to me?
When I was a kid we had a set of Encyclopedias in which the ‘human body’ section had several layers of transparencies detailing the different body systems. As the sheets were layered onto each other a complete diagram of a person was revealed. I found that fascinating, and spent hours lifting and lowering the different sheets to compare the resulting pictures. What I noticed then was that until the layers were flat and smoothly together the diagrams didn’t work. They would not come into focus and make a complete picture.
Do you remember setting the station on the car radio by turning a dial? And how sometimes you just couldn’t get it to tune right, and there was always just a little bit of static, no matter how you twiddled with it? The signal was always just a little bit fuzzy.
In hind sight, those two sensations, of blurred incompletion, and fuzzy partial communication, were fairly central to my perception of reality. I often quote “normal is what you live in/with” or “…what you are used to.” While both of those statements are in a way true, I was also always conscious of a sense of abnormal. I have always been aware of being different.
I would comment at times that I ‘didn’t get’ my classmates. Or that I wasn’t the same kind of person. That I wasn’t part of the group they made, ‘not one of the girls’. As I grew, I phrased it as ‘being tuned to a different wavelength, not speaking the same language,’ or ‘looking at [life] from the wrong angle.’
There were times when I embraced these differences. I could read faster, retain more, memorize more. I didn’t get into silly immature scrapes, didn’t have crushes that left me in tears over being “dumped”, didn’t get bored, wasn’t interested/obsessed with silly things like makeup.
I could build entire worlds in my imagination, populate them with characters drawn from any story I knew, and play with them in any way I chose. I told and wrote stories. Easily, even obsessively. I wrote and like poetry, and recited it on stage. I wasn’t chicken about being in front of an audience. I took care of animals, and gardened. And I looked things up.
But I hated parties, girl talk, very confusing boy talk, people whose minds didn’t match mine, teachers who “were dumber than me” (arrogant little me), rules for no reason, homework when I already knew the material, homework that was work, scheduled demands on me… Also, I was weird, and bullied. More than I understood at the time, actually, for which I am grateful. I wasn’t the nicest of kids either. A fast mind, large vocabulary and over-strong contempt leads to some very mean things said.
Mostly though, I just didn’t fit. And I knew it. And it hurt. I believed I would never have real friends, never understand people, what they say, what they mean, how they think and feel. I believed I would never be a whole person, that I was somehow lacking, or defective, because I didn’t really care most of the time. Most of the time, I didn’t even really want all the things I was ‘lacking’ in. I usually preferred to be left alone.
But I still said “I would trade ¾ of my brain power just to be normal.” My understanding of myself was profoundly negative, despite a superiority complex. I am edging on genius range after all. (In a few areas) [that’s mostly sarcastic]
No one knew I truly wasn’t normal. I was just weird. Finally, people, except for an amazing few, did leave me alone; they mostly ignored me, and I mostly ignored everyone else. It worked, after a fashion. Eventually, I got through. I got through several years of work, and then tried a year boarding and attending university. I crashed. It was disastrous. I was completely unprepared and totally convinced I was no good. I questioned my faith; accused God of screwing up my design. I begged Him to just let me die already, since I wasn’t any use or value.
With time and anti-depressants I recovered, (mostly). I worked more, attended college, gained a diploma… Then I couldn’t hold down a job since I couldn’t recognize poor work situations, and suffered repeated communication failures. I crashed again and more or less gave up.
Then, a profession development series about students with disabilities undertaken by my mother, who is teacher, led to some serious conversations around the table, and the Question.
“Have you ever considered you may have Aspergers?”
I was diagnosed at age 26. No one knew. No one saw. I was just normal enough that no one even thought to look. Not anyone’s fault, just the way it was.
It was a huge relief. I got some counseling, religious and secular and learned some coping strategies and better ways to think. I learned to be conscious of my mind, self aware in a way I had never been; to monitor my emotions and thoughts. It helped.
I still struggle. It’s only been four years. I take my pills. I have a steady job. Not my dream job, but I have worked there for three years and counting. I am good at it. And I can hope again. I dream. I can rest safely in the knowledge that God has a plan for me, just as I am. Because I am not broken, or defective, or uncaring or lazy, or even (especially?) wrongly made. Just a little out of sync with the others.
Sadly, my story isn’t all that atypical. Until very recently, no one had ever heard of Aspergers and Autism meant idiot’s savant, or screaming non-communicating savages. The sort-of-normal fell through the cracks, functioned just well enough in school that they never received extra help, and struggled horribly in the unscheduled, unprotected real world.
Thank God, things are looking up. Those diagnosed today look for a better tomorrow.