I had suspected I was different since I was very young. I just didn’t know what kind of different I was. When I went to kindergarten, I didn’t play with anyone. I usually just sat and read books. I thought life was going to be fun—you know, with all the reading and learning and being alone. To quote a Bible verse, I was “cut off out of the land of the living”, but I didn’t know it, and I didn’t care.
As I got older, I started noticing that I was feeling only two emotions: fear and frustration. I felt them only when they were extreme. I heard other people talk about all kinds of other emotions that they were feeling, but I had no clue where these emotions arose, died, or existed. All the humans I worked around positively “gassed on” about feeling this way or that way, but I never really wondered about it. To me, it was all some fictive reality that they conjured up for their sanity.
Then I met a woman who seemed to have an instant attraction to me. The only reason I knew there was an attraction was because she told me, “Hey, I like you. You’re interesting.” I had never had that happen to me before. I didn’t feel anything, but I trusted her for some reason, and we got married.
The cruel joke, however, was that Michelle (my wife) then spent the next few years realizing that she was married to an eccentric, brick wall of a human being. I had trouble figuring out why she liked me so much. I would constantly ask her, “Why do you like me so much?” Her answer was usually something platitudinous: “Because you’re interesting to me!” or “Because you’re you!” What I wasn’t realizing was that she was communicating her feelings about me through words to explain why she was attracted to me. I didn’t understand that emotional attraction alone could be enough to hold someone’s attention. I would continually annoy her with the query, “Are you going to leave me?” because I didn’t and couldn’t “feel” her attraction.
I struggled with college and had trouble finding employment. I became concerned that something was really wrong with me. I happened upon the Adult Autism Spectrum Quotient test and decided to take it. I scored 37 out of 50 (74%). I went to a psychologist who diagnosed me with Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive–compulsive personality disorder. After getting a proper explanation, my life, past and present, started to make a little more sense.
Having been recently diagnosed with ASD at the age of 48 some things suddenly made a lot of sense to me. Childhood behaviours, tendencies, inabilities to cope, and the immense stress resulting from that. I can certainly identify with what Mark Hedges lays out here, especially the fear and frustration. It seems in hindsight that when I wasn’t lost in a book or otherwise avoiding interaction I was condemned to be in a state of either. I did have certain mitigating factors but fear and frustration probably are the reasons which contributed to my eventually suffering a Major Depressive Illness with severe Anxiety in my late teens. Once that illness was dealt with, the underlying ASD became so obvious to my then-fiancée that I was forced to face it and seek diagnosis.
I have seen many arguments made that there is nothing wrong with having Autism, and the differences should be celebrated. After all, according to some, aren’t we all geniuses who represent the next stage of Human evolution? The thing is, It’s an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the middle bit is telling. I have worked with people whose Autism made them much less able to function independently in daily life, to form overtly affectionate relationships, to live what would be called a “full” life, never mind make an intellectual contribution to Humanity. ASD does not make anyone inherently lesser nor does it make them greater, it’s a collection of symptoms as well as abilities and in situations and controversies like these I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer. Sometimes the problem is knowing not just what can be changed, but whether it ought to be. This depends perhaps on whose ‘what’ it is, their experience of it, and what choice they have in the matter.
There is also the issue as to what causes this condition, and whether it can be prevented, modified, or even ‘cured’ to whatever extent. Many causes and mechanisms have and will be presented by researchers, some with more merit than others. It may not be any one cause, but from my own experience it seems to me the observations of the people whose research made my Mental Health problems so much less would warrant investigation. My own radical change of lifestyle including diet would be compatible with what is described in the article I’m sharing. I see many parallels in his account with my own experience, although it’s difficult to separate much of my own Mental Health issues from the ASD. These ran concurrently most of my life, and they share much of the same Biochemical markers according to this paradigm of brain disorder nutrient therapy.