Friday, April 12, 2013

Aspie or Not: Childhood and then some.

My last list consists mainly of what I can recall from my childhood. It was much easier for me to compose this list for my son because I could verify the memories I had of him with photos and videos that I had taken. For myself, I don't have that reference. I have some photos ( but not many) and absolutely no video. I have other people's memories of me. "You were just shy, but stubborn...quiet and content to be alone. A little quirky. Sensitive. Picky. You always wanted to be right and you were too smart for your own good. You were nervous, but you had a lot to deal with at a young age. There was nothing really wrong with you. The shrink said you were fine. You were very grown up for your age. You were a good kid."

Most of this is true. What "I had to deal with",  was living with an alcoholic mother, that I both loved and feared, for the first seven years of my life. And then being abruptly taken away from her and sent to live with strangers.  Based on that alone, I challenge any Doctor's diagnoses of  "she's fine."  That should have been a red flag right there, but it wasn't, simply because nobody wanted there to be anything wrong with me. Just like I don't want there to be anything wrong with my son. You will grasp onto those "she's fine/he's fine" comments for dear life.

Ironically, despite everyone believing I was mostly fine, the things that were wrong with me, were always blamed on my first seven years, and my alcoholic mother, and neglect. I've gone down that road myself more times than I can count. Not so much to blame ( although, sometimes that was certainly the case), but as an attempt to find answers to the question:  Why am I the way I am? You don't ask that question unless you know you are different.

Anxiety? Alcohol? Aspergers?

Here are some of the things I remember:

A. Up until age Seven:

1. I spent a large portion of my time in my own head. Adults called it daydreaming. For me, I think it was play. I specifically remember being able to stare at things until they became really far away looking and small. I did this a lot. I could look at things upside down forever. I spent a lot of time looking at things. I don't remember any kind of stims per se. I remember my mother making me walk for people and saying I walked funny.

2. I remember thinking that eyes were gross. Disgusting holes in people's faces and I didn't like looking at them. I didn't really like any of the holes. Mouths, nostrils, ears, but the eyes were the worst.

3. I was happy to go to school on my first day. I didn't understand why some of the kids were crying. I also didn't understand why they couldn't read.

4.  I only played games with rules or things I knew about personally. Hide and seek. Tag. Red rover, Red rover, or school. I re-played Romper Room or other shows I watched on T.V. I played anything with structure and clear, defined rules. My make believe consisted only of things I had seen.

5. I remember throwing all my toys out of our second story window because I just didn't want them anymore. I also remember getting frustrated and annoyed when playing with other kids and going in to get away from them. I refused to go back out for days no matter how often they would ask.

6. I was very literal as a child.  I always thought this was the case with all children, and I still feel that way to a point. My mother used to tell me I was the most beautiful girl in the world. And I believed her. I really thought that I was it...the one. I also could never understand how Crystal Gayle's  brown eyes could turn blue. I loved nursery rhymes or any other type of rhyme but I took them at face value. I remember drawing a picture of a woman sticking a needle in her eye, which really upset my mother. It was from... Cross your heart, hope to die, stick a needle in your eye. I never really understood why anyone would hope to die either.

7. My favorite song was Loving You by Minnie Riperton. I believe it was all the lalala's. I have a video of my son. listening to it when he was two years old. The lalala's got him as well.

8. I remember one the neighborhood kids had a toy toaster. I fell in love with that toaster and probably would have traded anything I had to get it.

9. I also loved chocolate water. In fact, I may have invented it. I would make it when my mother was sleeping or passed out. Each time. Every time. My eating habits were odd in general. I could only eat one thing at a time and my food could not touch. Ever. Although I never ate much, it took me forever. My grandfather was the only one who never gave me hard time about my eating. "Leave her alone" he's say."Let her eat the way she wants."

10. I remember being outside with the neighborhood kids and just not "getting it". I thought they were stupid, but apparently they thought I was as well, as they made up the song..."Hope the dope, ate a bar of soap. Bubbles here, bubbles there, bubbles in her underwear."

11. At four years old I developed a love of photographs.

12. At about age four or five I developed my first obsession. General Hospital. A soap opera. An odd obsession for a young child to say the least, but only recently have I realized it ended up becoming an important learning tool. Basically a life long teacher. So far, the interest has lasted for 37 years.

13. At six I developed my love of monkeys.

14. Besides cousins in my life, I had only one friend during these years. She lived downstairs from us in the last apartment I ever lived in with my mother.

B. After age seven:

15. My first toy obsession developed with Barbies. For probably the next 4-5 years that was basically the only "toy" I wanted or would  "play" with. Nine times out of ten my Barbie play consisted mostly of "planning" and "setting the stage" for what I was going to do, and the actual play fell by the wayside. However, when I did manage to get that far, my play was all adult themed. AS SEEN ON TV.

16. I had Baby Dolls as well, and while I liked to look at them, whenever I tried to play "taking care of baby" scenarios I quickly got bored with it. I even remember thinking I would never grow up to be a mother because I just didn't like it.

17. By this time my friends had expanded to include my two cousins in my new family. Not because we had anything in common, simply because we were together a lot. As much as I'm sure being with them was probably good for me in a sense, I was always relieved when it was time for them to go.

18. Play continued to exist of copying or doing something practical. My interests expanded to drawing, reading and writing. I had very little interest in being girly and wearing skirts or dresses, and yet I was not a tomboy either. I rarely even thought of myself as being one or the other. I was just me.

19. My mother learned early on that sending me to my room was no punishment, because that is exactly where I always wanted to be.

20. If given the choice to go play with other kids or stay with adults I would choose the adults more times than not. I was "shy" and people were always trying to get me to come "out of my shell", which always made me think they thought I was a turtle or maybe a clam. Sometimes they would let me stay with them and   give me paper so I could draw. Sometimes, however, they would force me to go out, which would result in me standing around and watching all the other kids play. This was especially the case if I didn't know the kids well. If I did know them, again, I could join in on tag or hide and seek.

21. By this time, school had started to bore me. I didn't like it. I didn't like having to read out loud in class and the teachers were always telling me to speak up. I was a good student and got good grades, but I just didn't like being there and having to do things with the other kids. Each year from first grade until fourth grade I would have only one friend. That friend changed from year to year, and we were only friends in class. There was little to no play with these friends outside of school until fifth grade.

22. By fifth grade my first extroverted friend "adopted me" so to speak. She decided I was her friend and that was the way it was. This was the beginning of some sort of social life...sleepovers...amusements parks...etc. It was pretty easy for me because all I had to do was follow. I was a good at following.

C. The teenage years:

23. School not only continued to bore me, but also overwhelm me. I always felt like I was in a dream when walking the halls with all the people rushing by. I could never get used to it. Staring at the floor while I walked was the only way to keep from getting dizzy. Lunch was awful. It stunk and I hardly ever ate what they had. At home, my time was spent in my room reading, listening to music (mostly from the seventies...later country) and writing poetry or in my journals. I remember my mother would make me go grocery shopping with her. I would have given anything to just stay home, but she'd never let me. I hated the grocery store and all the people. I would avoid the laundry detergent aisle complaining that I could taste it. Statements like this would always result in the "You're weird." comment from my mother.

24.  My friend situation continued, with that one friend, who also continued to be the extrovert, the boss, the leader. I don't think it was because other people didn't like me, but simply because they didn't know me. I was hard to get to know. I offered nothing. I had nothing offer. Wanting a lot of friends was a concept I never fully wrapped my brain around. It always seemed too hectic and confusing. Never the less, I ended up in a sort of group of friends simply by default.

25. By eighth grade I had gotten my first boyfriend. Purely by accident. He was interested in me, but I had very little interest in him, in fact I ended up breaking up with him and setting him up with my friend. By the end of the year, however, I needed a date for the Dinner Dance and decided he would be the best option and then I could just break up with him again before summer vacation. Despite my well laid out plans, we ended up falling in love and staying together until our Junior year in high school. This relationship was where I developed my next obsessive interest. Sex. I suppose I'm lucky that first experience was good or I could have developed an aversion to sex instead. However, I do think, it set a precedence, and probably created a monster.

26. My next obsessive interest ended up being people. The first was Marilyn Monroe. This interest lasted for about 12 years. It wasn't her movies, her beauty, or her stardom that intrigued me. It was her words. Her story. I bought the book Marilyn Monroe, My Story and that was all it took. I think I read it at least five times. In a row. I've read it more than that since. The person who wrote that book wasn't the person in all the posters and pin ups. She was more than that. And her words were something I could relate to. Next was Sylvia Plath, who to this day, I still enjoy reading.  I remember my mother saying it was sick. That there was something wrong with being obsessed with women who committed suicide, like that was why, I was obsessed with them. But she didn't get it. It was mostly their words that I was obsessed with. Because they made sense to me. Because they described what it felt like to be me. It wasn't until recently that I found out that both of them are suspected to have been on the Spectrum.

27. My relationship with my first love, inevitably, ended and I was lost. Not only because of the breakup, but because he had been that One Friend, for all of those years. I was back to not fitting anywhere again. My anxiety/nervousness increased and I began experiencing panic attacks, although I had no idea that is what they were back then. I thought there was something wrong with my body. I would twitch, shake, and my heart would beat like it was trying to break out my chest. I couldn't eat in the cafeteria. I started skipping school and spending my days at the library, simply because I couldn't get out my car and walk in the building. I froze, and the only place I wanted to be was some place quiet and peaceful. I started therapy my Senior year (against my parents wishes..."Hope is not crazy" they insisted) where I received a tentative diagnosis of BPD. The anxiety wasn't even addressed and she seemed more interested in getting me to stop drinking and skipping school than anything else. Instead of seeing the school skipping as what it was, she instead decided it was impulsive behavior. The insurance ended up running out after about 10 visits so I stopped going. Luckily, it didn't take long before the next extrovert saw something of interest in me. With her by my side, and the help of alcohol I made it through the rest of High School in one piece. Drinking, partying, dating. Just like a normal girl.


As extensive as this last list is, it's a pretty basic timeline. I'm leaving out some important life details like the death of my mother and my parents move to NH. However, I don't really feel that either of those things played a huge role in who I was.

Hope, who is pretty sure my current interest in Autism/Asperger's Syndrome would be considered special... 

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