Hi, My name is Paul Freedman. I recently discovered I have many AS traits, so I started reading about it and watching educational videos. Here is a short introduction of myself:
I am 46 years old and of British nationality, but through some sequence of events in the 1970's my parents migrated to the Netherlands when I was age 3. I have lived in the Netherlands ever since. I am bilingual (English and Dutch fluently). Despite that the Dutch culture has a fair rooting in me, my English blood has always been stronger and my preferred nationality. I therefore remain a British citizen. So far the intro.
Back to business. My mind has been a blender these last couple of weeks as I have only very recently realized that I very likely have ASD, more specific Aspergers (With a dash of ADD in the mix). DSM IV does not specifically classify Asperger Syndrome anymore (Not just past of the spectrum), but I am just going to use the term Aspie from now on and for the moment, assume I am an Aspie. Before I go see the doctor I need some solid support and recognition for my self esteem, it’s been very low lately. I'll sum up some of my obsessions, difficulties, abilities, inabilities and disadvantages or experiences:
- Social contact. I used to be shy as hell, over the years I learned more confidence which made me much less shy. I will tend to shy away or hide though, if I know the person in question is someone who can change moods quickly or be irritated quickly. I hate confrontations, I will do nearly anything in my power to avoid them. Unexpectedly confronted I can explode in (harmless and mostly shouting) anger.
- Atrocious ability to read body language. I have the body language of a potato, if you ask me.
- Failure in many cases to handle things chronologically. Also the near inability to tell a story chronologically. A story doesn't unfold in my mind, I see the whole story at once as if it is timeless. If I need to cite something I focus on a certain point in the story. Bit like photographic memory but without fine details. But in my case the timeline doesn't move by itself, I have to move it myself and I then tend to skip things and go back and forth. Hard to explain such an abstract, really. In essence a pretty useless gift if you ask me.
- Inability to just get things finished. I start one thing, then another, then another, result - nothing gets finished. I rarely truly finish something, but usually just up to the point where the result is minimally functional. This is directly related to the previous point.
- Total fascination of space and the universe and everything related. Not a total geek, I don't collect, but I do ingest massive amounts of information about it on scientific websites, and follow many space related channels on YouTube. I've even gone deep into Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity. My math skill are not worth mentioning but somehow I grasp those concepts visually and very accurately. In essence I have a visual view of the structure of the universe from small to large. Albert Einstein pictured special relativity in his mind in 1904 before even a word was put on paper, his math skills were not so great which is why someone else (cant remember who) actually created the formula from his visual descriptions. It wasn't until he worked on general relativity when he brushed up his math a lot, but he always needed some help with it. I visualize much like Einstein did, though I suspect he was far better at it than I am. It takes up a LOT of my spare time. I'd just about call it an addiction. And yes, given the chance, I'd be on the second BFR to Mars. I'm not that crazy to take the first one. And yes I love Sci-fi movies and series, and both Star Trek and Star Wars.
- As far as OCD goes, I think I jumped the gun there. I have some things that I like to have structure in, but besides that, I tend to get really messy. I have a bad ordering skills...although...maybe my skills are fine, but I just can't be bothered. My physical sorting skills, by the way, are fine, just laziness i guess.. On the other hand I have a mind capable of logical step by step analysis without bias (I am an IT Engineer, no surprise there!). I do tend though, to feel the urge to speak my mind when I sense a dishonesty. I still pick my fingers (from childhood), my thumbs are half eaten drumsticks from time to time. Although it has become less over the years.
- I had no difficulty in learning at school (wasn't a genius either!), but my achievements at school were impaired partially by my social awkwardness and partially by my desire to just be left alone. I had that very strongly during my teens/puberty. My mother always found me to be special and true of heart, she always knew I couldn't stand unfairness. Unfortunately both my parents died roughly ten years ago. I think my trait of being able to set aside emotions for the good of the moment, really helped there. I was able to handle both funerals professionally. Afterwards I broke down.
I have no idea if this is a typical Aspie trait.
- I'm a gullible fool, always have been, always will be. As soon as I meet someone who seems nice (male or female), I tend to drop my social mask (Big mistake Indy!). Although every time I get burned, I learn a new lesson and I take those lessons learned at heart. Trust me it wasn't always the other's fault. Some things I simply deserved. To continue on this trait, I suspect ASD brains have dropped some basic instincts (like gut feeling distrust) to make room for the larger visual cortex that every ASD brain has, to a more or lesser extent. I also read up on darwinian evolution and basic genetics, it is another interest of mine, albeit to a lesser extent.
- I have never had many friends at one time in my life. Moreover currently I have fewer than ever. I can now count them on one hand. Life is quite lonely right now. Tears roll down my face as I write this.
- A knack for meant-well brutal honesty (often at the wrong moment!)
- Although i can enjoy a multitude of music genres, one genre always soothes me: Instrumental music, specially mellow trance. No lyrics and so no cluttering of the music (not that I don't like lyrics, but when my mind is full I prefer instrumental).
- When there's background noise I immediately have trouble understanding people. This can be super frustrating having to ask people up to five times what they are saying, not to mention annoying to the other. This while others heard him first time. I can hear most of what they are saying but they are strange words to me. When the background noise dies down I can understand them perfectly again. I have difficulty understanding most lyrics in songs if the vocals aren’t crystal clear, but I can analyze each instrument and focus intensely on each of them. The bass line, guitar, everything. That said I cannot read a single music note although I want to learn to play bass. That should not be a problem as I have fantastic hand-eye(-screen) coordination. The screen part is because I am a gamer, I play extremely fast first-person shooters games.
- I need at least five revisions of something I wrote, be it an email, or sometimes even something as simple as a whatsapp message, to be sure the grammar and spelling (the builtin checker isn’t perfect!)is correct and that what I want to say has been expressed properly (I mostly get it completely wrong!). In some revisions I will rewrite a whole paragraph just because I think some meaningless bit hasn't been phrased properly, bit of a perfectionist there. By the time you read this this text will have been revisioned at least 10 times I think. Even worse, I am constantly reading back, over and over. When I print something on paper, and it doesn't matter how many pages it counts, if even one thing is off to my taste, I will correct and reprint the whole damn thing wasting paper in the process.
- When I was in the United States (I was 37 at the time), someone walked by and I said "Hi", then he said "How are you?" Meaning "hello". I automatically responded with "Fine". Seconds later I stopped walking because i was confused and it took me most of a minute to comprehend what just happened. This is something that I recently remembered when searching for memories with indicators of ASD. Dumbfounded is the correct word. Which normal person stops to dedicate his whole brain to such a thing? They shrug it off, done.
- That same trip to the States I stayed at someone's place who had been an online friend up to that point. I was so happy to see her that I became too comfortable with her too quickly and that made her put up her walls, which happened in a fashion that kicked me in the teeth. She suddenly yelled out not to keep following her around and such. It's understandable but the aggressive reaction blew me away. From that moment I felt rejected, and left that place as soon as I could. I spent the remaining 8 days in a motel until my flight back was up, mostly just watching tv or on the internet, and just feeling generally unhappy but just sucking it up and waiting it out. And of course playing the scene over and over and over endlessly trying to figure what went wrong...sad moment. I never saw her or spoke with her again, although I did try to contact her years later, after I realized what I had done. Yes, It took this long..-UPDATE: at this very moment I am deleting another friend, turns out she's a feminist who believes men can't have any excuse for behaving badly. I used my brutal honesty for this one. Bye-bye, have a nice life. It hurts but it's necessary for a happy future.
- Nasty one: anything hurtful that has happened in my life stays with me a long, long time. Everyone I ever knew, and especially ex-friends, the good times stay with me including all the hurt accompanied with ending friendships. Sometimes I try to re-establish contact but most are bitter and I have to leave it for what it is. This is one that can sometimes really get to me. Another disadvantage I have in that respect is that I can't help memory floods when I am calm. I can be lying in bed ready to go to sleep, and suddenly start weeping, or get mad, or plain embarrassed from something that happened donkey's years ago, and as a bonus my night's sleep is ruined. Sleep is a commodity for me, I have never ever had a stable sleeping pattern bar a couple of stints of a few weeks at a time and I rarely sleep longer than 4 hours on end, I wake up at least once per night. My body/brain constantly wants to make me nocturnal because at night I have the least sensory input and the least distraction. Even now I am writing this at night. Cannabis helps me by reducing the overactive reminiscing a lot. In other words it puts a brake on my brain in the corner controlling and accessing memory, while creativity is boosted. (figures as you have less examples from memory so you must think of new things).
- Up till a couple of years ago, I thought everyone else was being the dick.
- I cannot stand dishonesty. Had I mentioned this before? Never mind, it's worth mentioning twice. I have been dishonest to others in the past, I truly regret that and I hope to redeem myself on that one.
- Romance is not a strange concept to me, But it just isn't me. Me being romantic is like Patrick Stewart playing one of the three stooges when asked out of the blue. I have no skill in it whatsoever.
- Can talk endlessly about subjects that I am knowledgeable in. Not to show off, but with the desire to share knowledge for the good of mankind. For an NT that sounds comical, not to me.
- If someone talks too long about something that doesn't really interest me, I cannot stay focused long. I have had people say many times that after a while I look away and start staring, meaning that I am gone..off on my own visual adventure in my brain, which is much more interesting of course. Over the years I have refined the ability to remind myself to keep focusing, I am at a point where this is no longer a big problem. But it can be worsened if my bucket with current worries/frustrations gets too full, they distract tremendously. I mean, even an NT would be distracted a lot with the worries and problems I have at times with some matters(I leave official business untouched far too long, I don’t like so I don’t do. When I do it’s because someone got mad or I got a letter in the mail stating I am on the verge of being visited. Then my motivation is borne out of necessity. I tend to leave just about anything that I am not interested in or don’t like, till the last minute and necessity becomes the prime motivator.
- Ability to visually construct things in my mind, sometimes in staggering detail. I regard this as my blessing. Especially when smoking weed, and my creative side kicks in, its bliss. It's this ability that made it possible for me to hatch a new business plan for something completely new and unique, in my mind and complete it within 5 days (Not continuous of course). Putting it on paper cost me 5 weeks to translate my thoughts to words, I think in pictures and rarely in words.. Longer if you count the necessary revisions just to get it to my liking. After all, if you want cash for your plan it has to be on paper. If I'd had the cash I'd have set it up completely from my head. In a business respect my organizational skills in my head are fairly good. But not excellent, enough for the job at hand.
- I am not an atheist. I like to keep my options open when something isn't falsifiable, so I am agnostic. I am of Jewish descent but my grandfather denounced Judaism at a young age. Coincidentally the ASD comes from the same family branch. My father had it and his father before him, there's no doubt about it. Thinking back they also had a huge number of Aspie traits.
- Clumsiness isn't a big deal, but I can be sometimes for no reason and with the stupidest things.
- Frustration can get so bad sometimes when something is not going as planned that I can start hurting myself as if that will make me do it right next time. Worse than that, I cannot let it go so I get even more frustrated. Sometimes I end up destroying whatever I was working on. This was worse in younger years, with age comes a bit more wisdom.
- Often thinking something is normal while it is very abnormal, this has gotten me into trouble more times than I can recount. This one will screw with me for the rest of my life.
- Not incapable of being in large crowds, but I prefer to avoid them. And when I've been in a crowd(festival etc) for longer than a few hours I am exhausted. In my early 20's I did go out with friends from time to time, but I could never pull an all-nighter, the sensory input and processing (mostly interactions with others) would exhaust me after just a few hours. Sometimes I'd just toughen up and keep going a little extra, it's not that I never had any fun.
- On the subject of visual or auditory sensory input, I never have actual overloads that send me into anxiety or anger. For some reason I am quite capable of processing my sensory input to a level that is sufficient. That said there are certain sounds that can make me feel different or that I simply cannot stand. I have however learned to a mild degree to filter out unwanted sounds and/or not to bother myself as much with them. This does not improve my ability to understand voices properly in noisy environments.
- The need to know how the things in my everyday life work. Right down to the technical details. Google is my best friend.
- Have had three long term relationships, all failed. Not all my fault, but mostly. First one I was married for 18 years! My ex always had and still has a soft spot for me (not that she was aware of my condition, neither was I until a few weeks ago! - We met in our teens). Our breakup was not one of lack of love, she just couldn’t cope with me anymore and we split up on a friendly basis. In the final days of my last relationship I withdrew and spent many hours per day in the garage (Peace n quiet!), But it was mostly because my GF had developed Rheumatism and fibromyalgy which is a painful combination. I did realise she was in pain, and in the beginning I was often trying to comfort her, but the pain was through her body and in bad times, I couldn’t touch her much or even at all. This went on for a while and eventually I started withdrawing. This went on without proper communication for nearly three months when finally my GF just told me one morning. In essence she needed me gone within the month. Not that I was physically aggressive towards her(all I did was kick a plastic stool. I tried to stay calm because I knew I was at fault, but the emotions bubbled over a bit), but it caused an escalation and she started putting on a façade about being scared because I kicked objects around. I never laid a bad hand on her. This escalated to the following within two hours: She called her parents and her son, and the police. So there I was, four people who had been my family that I had loved immensely for well over six years, standing in front of me. I wasn’t even conscious I think because I just stared blankly when I realized what they were doing. I remember my B.iatch in law grabbing some necessary stuff and giving it to me. I sobbed once or twice, turned around and left without looking back. It was the last time I ever saw them, my heart was in shreds. One week later I picked up my stuff which they had thrown out on the street. From loving family to this..This was March 2017 and when I think back I still break down. That scar will never fade.
- Incredible sweet tooth, as bad as when I was a kid. Even if sugar became classed as a carcinogenic I’d still load myself up on sweet . I fear old age diabetes somewhere along the line if my heart hasn’t given out by then. By contrast I like cooking and I often make things that are neutral or healthy, with little saturated fats. I have tendency for high cholesterol (heart attack at age 35), but I have lost all my overweight and now weight a perfect 67kg for my 1.70m height.I weighed up to 83kg at one point in time.
- I can probably go on for a while more, so I am stopping here.
To conclude I have included the checklist of criteria from DSM-IV :
A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.
3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people).
4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years).
E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.
Judging myself in total honesty these are my results. 1 or more exclamations denote experienced intensity:
A1: check. Had it been 2008 instead of 2018, I’d have put down three !!! but since I have learned a lot.
A2: check! In general I get on great with people a generation younger. I also have a super close bond with my NT daughter, while my eldest daughter most likely also has AS. I have a bond with her too, but way less strong as with my youngest.
A3: check. Mildly.
B1: check. I do have this but mildly, It doesn’t happen often or I have learned to curb my fascination.
B3: uncheck, I do have a couple of minor tics but they are not impairing in any way.
B4: uncheck, I do not think I have this, although I can be impressed by some things for a while, and can want to know more avout it, It rarely dominates me to the point of failing schedule or other tasks.
C: check. My life is in tatters, and if you read the above, you know why.
D and E: check. Also, to be honest I still feel no older than 30 in my head.
F: check. I investigated schizophrenia for a while but soon discovered the symptoms matched ASD much better. Furthermore I don't think I have ever had a psychosis, although I may have been close to one in the past. 0 conclusions on schizophrenia. Total contrast with the ASD criteria.
I haven’t been diagnosed yet nor have I even spoken to a doctor yet, I want this to be clear when I go there, no hassle, no bullshit. Just give me the Aspie test, get it over with, and stop wasting my time
Some things I drum up may seem conflicting so please ask for elaboration on that if you do not understand. Can be that I’m still not wording it correctly.
I’d like to know your thoughts, and as always please be brutally honest. Questions? Please ask!
Up until a couple of weeks ago I felt very alone. Now, not so much
Kind regards from a potential fellow autistic .