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An ageing Aspie!

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I am at a bit of a loss, so am posting my story on a couple of forums to see if it resonates with anyone and where it leads me!

I am aged 69. Following a suggestion by my (third) wife, based on my marked problems with socialising, I did the AQ questionnaire wo or three years ago and scored 35 out of 50. At that time it was just a relief just to have an explanation for the fact that I have no real friends, except for my wife, and going into my cave during social events was acceptable behaviour.

Recently I have felt moved to look into Asperger's much more deeply, and have come up with all sorts of revelations. I discovered the Empathizing Quotient (EQ) questionnaire, and scored 13, showing “a much lower than average ability for understanding how other people feel and responding appropriately". I also re-did the AQ questionnaire, and scored 39 - an indication that when I first did it I was censoring my answers so as to appear more "normal".

I had previously got my eldest brother (since deceased) to do the AQ questionnaire and he also had a positive score. He was 76 at the time. I also have a third brother who I have little contact with but who I thought was possibly also Asperger's. He declined to give me the result of his questionnaire, but the form of his response strongly implied that it was positive too. My third brother had normal social relationships, though he was quite eccentric, but I think he must have been neurotypical.

In my recent extensive Asperger's reading I came across the story of two parents who were both Asperger's along with both their children. I had always blamed my poor socialising skills on the poor example of my mother, who had no friends except for girls she had known at school as a teenager. No-one ever “popped-in” to visit us at home! The justification for this lack of friends was said to be that we were a doctor's family and as such stood apart from the rest of society, which of course is nonsense – other doctor's families have friends! I therefore suspect that my mother too was Asperger's.

I then started thinking more about my father. He was always described as being very shy, and on reflection I am sure he was Asperger's as well. He, like me, was a GP and although one might think that being a GP might exclude such a diagnosis I have realised from my own case that in fact being a GP creates a very handy artificial social structure and a lot of superficial connections with people which could well hide Asperger's tendencies. Another fact about my father is that the only events in my life that he attended, apart from my weddings, and presumably my birth, was my graduation. He never ever came to any school function. The excuse was apparently that he would be embarrassed if he met one of his patients. - more nonsense! He was also unable to discuss anything but readily slipped into monologue mode.

My understanding is that to have 3 out of 4 children with Asperger's makes it highly likely that both my parents were affected. Neither of them were outgoing or loving and I can now clearly see the main reason for the strong sense of emotional neglect I have long realised was present in my upbringing.

Looking through various books on Asperger's, I have come across many issues with which I strongly resonate. The biggest is social awkwardness and clumsiness, and social anxiety, with the resulting high level of stress and anxiety. Other resonances were:

  • That we are not naturally talented in the art of conversation, and that the one language that is invariably difficult for us to learn is social language.

  • That I have quite a small "social bucket" that reaches capacity relatively quickly, so that socializing quickly becomes exhausting for me.

  • That I have difficulty reading body language and facial expressions, and also don't know how what I am doing (or saying) affects the thoughts and feelings of others, leading to a risk of being tactless or socially naive during conversation.

  • That I much prefer to communicate by email or letter rather than by speech - I feel I am much less likely to "get it wrong".

  • That I cannot see the point of superficial social contact, social niceties or simply passing time with others.

  • That I have a problem with white lies – it feels uncomfortable to reply "fine" when someone asks me how I am when I'm not. Also I am uncomfortable when saying goodbye to people when they would say "see you later" back, even when they weren't going to!

  • That I am guilty of having “conversations” which are prolonged monologues of my own interests or problems, and that when in conversation with others I tend to talk about myself, even though I know other people like to be asked about themselves, because I can never shake myself free of the feeling that if I asked people about themselves I would be seen as being intrusive!

  • That I tend to be perfectionist (and liable to mild obsessive compulsiveness) and am good at noticing mistakes (I edit our local Parish News).

  • That I can be said to have developed a compensatory self concept as someone who is superior, and can therefore be quite arrogant (a feature I now have to admit I shared with my eldest brother which when he was alive I complained of bitterly!).

  • That I have "quirky thinking", which also ties in with my tendency towards monologues and arrogance.

  • That I have been prone to making bad relationships and being taken advantage of, hence I am on my third wife!

  • That I have a lack of concern about my appearance – as my wife and children would agree, having complete indifference to being fashionable or trendy.

  • That I have numerous sensory difficulties - sensitivity to loud noise, difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise, sensitivity to special TV effects with flashing lights, lack of body awareness, a poor sense of where the various bits of my body are at any given moment in time (in other words, motor clumsiness and poor coordination which led to a huge sense of self-consciousness).

  • That I am always terrified of doing the wrong thing, of not getting things right, of not being good enough, so tended to try and merge into the woodwork at school.

  • That I am definitely most happy when I am alone.

  • That I had very poor eye contact - I was able to remedy that, but I still find it tiring.

Quite a list! It feels somewhat of a miracle for me to have met and married my third wife, who doesn't take advantage of me, and makes up for the socializing skills I lack, but is also very happy to be quiet and still and just read a book.

One huge puzzle to me is how I got by as a child and was such a “good boy”. It has always surprised me as to why I was never bullied or really even teased. The only explanation must be that I was held slightly in awe as the son of a well-known local GP.

So, where do I go from here?

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There are lots of us with similar stories on this forum, some formally diagnosed, some not.


Are you looking to make changes in your life or just looking for an explanation of why thing are the way they are?

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I guess the fact that you say there are lots of folks with similar stories is reassuring. It has been a huge emotional shift for me to recognize the full extent of my discoveries, which I have spent most of my life thinking were simply emotional problems resulting from a very emotionally deprived upbringing. At least I now have a valid explanation. I don't suppose there is anything I can do to change things, but I suppose I wondered if sharing my story on the forum would help make me feel less alone. But then, given my steady and supportive relationship with my wife, I don't suppose there is much else I need - except perhaps for my children, to whom I have explained everything, to understand me better.

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