I'm an aspie not a Star Fleet Captain

Aspergers, it's just so selfish and demanding. Whatever you want to do, it has to come first.


You wanted to be a high-powered business man? Go on then, try it with aspergers running ahead and kicking people up the butt while you're not looking. A surgeon or a fire-fighter? Same thing; aspergers pushes ahead, trying to put you off, no matter what you do.

Scale it back and all you want to do is get ready for your exams, or an important job interview. Cue aspergers, bustling in at the door, acting like it knows best, making it seem like a great idea to concentrate on only this part of your upcoming trial, and not look at the whole thing.

Or perhaps aspergers clashes the cymbals and bangs the drum so you can't concentrate on anything at all? That's worse as you know exactly what you have to do and can't make your brain work long enough to get it done.

Scale it back again and all you have to remember is to pick up your mother from the train station. Aspergers lives for moments like these, because they come along more often than the massive job interviews or life-changing career decisions.

Somehow, while you're not looking, aspergers sneaks in and puts the kettle on, letting you get settled with your tea, looking at your emails and ordering that set of Star Trek firgurines on eBay. Great news! You won them and at a fraction of the price. You can't wait to have them set out in the space you already made in the bedroom.

Bad news: that annoying noise in the background, the one that kept interrupting the eBay auction, was your mobile phone on vibrate. Your mother is also vibrating, much more loudly, on the freezing cold steps of the train station. While you got on with your important work, she watched all the other commuters hurry home or get picked up. One by one they left until it's only her, waiting for you, as usual.

It's no good apologising, then trying to make it better by telling her about the figurines. It doesn't even work if you tell her about the figurines as if it all happened on another day. She will know. She'll know that you spent the time bidding on eBay instead of collecting her from the cold station. She'll know that the figurines were more important to you than your own mother. Yet again, she'll despair of you.

Yes, all of these lifestyle complications are caused by aspergers, that jester at the feast, that syndrome with the sense of humour only a fool could find funny.

Aspergers as a great distractor is well-known - ask anyone who has had to live with an aspie for very long. But aspergers as the saboteur may not be so familiar, at least to the outside world.

I think this is because, as aspies, it's easier to explain to people if you can say that having aspergers makes you forget things more easily, or become distracted or simply focus too much on the wrong thing. All of these are true and can be imagined quite easily.

It's much more difficult to explain the idea of aspergers helping you to self-destruct. And here, I can't put all the blame on aspergers, as if it's an annoying uncle who thinks it's funny to poke you in the ribs as you take a drink. It can be like that, but when aspergers enters the sabotage mode, it always needs an accomplice.

I can honestly say I didn't know that myself and aspergers were saboteurs until a few years ago. It's a surprise to discover that so many of your misadventures were helped along by your own willingness to participate, or even instigate, events that caused everything around them to collapse.

It's a hard thing to admit, that you could have achieved more and done better if you had only ignored some of your impulses and gone on, as planned. The number of times I've seen something good on the horizon - and fill in whatever positive life event you like here - and then found myself working against it in some way.

A simple example would be that all-important interview. You need the job, the money and, more to the point, would like the job itself. What do you do? Well, you know what you're wearing, but don't check it's all okay. You know what time you have to be there, but don't give yourself the extra half hour to get ready. You know you need to look your best, but decide to leave washing your hair until the morning.

Anything and everything can be scattered in the path of success. You only need to stand on one sharp tack to stumble and fall, but with aspergers you can guarantee you'll throw a few down, just to be sure.

Assuming you make it past all these obstacles and get to the interview on time, it still won't be what it promised because you're now flustered at having to fight to be there. The answers you might have given are subtly changed, lessened by the distraction of the morning's events. You're not looking quite as smooth as you should and you forgot to polish your shoes.

Now, I don't know if any of you are grumbling about it yet, but don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the aspies who find their niche and become brilliant successes. I haven't, honestly. Where do they fit in to this scenario of the sneaky aspergers making things go wrong? Surely they have no place as the self-saboteur?

I believe there is only the barest, most subtle difference between these successful people and the aspie toddling along with only one shoelace. The successful aspie recognised aspergers for what it was years before the rest of us even realised it existed. They saw that they were different and they factored it into their lives. They also never lost their self-belief.

How did they do this? What is their secret? Each one would have a different story, but I think it lies in them having a more positive view of themselves, which then made them see their talents in a good way too.

If you believe you are a good and worthy person, it's much more likely that you want to share your talents with the outside world. You believe in yourself so you believe in them.

It doesn't have to be this simple, but if aspergers can be spotted creeping in and if you have the self-confidence, you can quickly jump up and slam the door so it can't get all the way through. Better still, let aspergers creep in then jump up and offer it a seat. Make it part of the equation.

How you do this is a pickle, to say the least. Again, it's different for everyone. I think it's brilliant if you can bring up your little aspies to think this way. If little Tommy can't get his ideas down onto paper, don't study the textbooks or consult specialist teachers for ways to pry the information from his brains. Take him out to play in the leaves instead. If that information needs to come out, then it will, but only when he can let it pass.

Build up little Tommy's confidence and self-belief, let him see his aspie traits as a difference and not a disability. Let him know that you're there to help and not to push. Tell him it will all be okay in the end, that you love him and he loves you and it's a good day for a walk in the park.

If you're an older aspie, only now realising that you're up to your eyeballs in sharp tacks, take a step back and have a big, ponderous think. You know you love doing that. But this time, think about your role in life in a different way. Don't use the F word (failure), consider things in new ways.

What did you really do when the money ran out? Were you really being stupid and irresponsible? Possibly, but were you also thumbing your nose at the world and saying, 'I can spend it if I want! No one is telling me what to do!'?

Look at your motivations - the ones that power you to behave in a certain way. It may be the aspergers at work, it may not. Sometimes, it could be you at work, making sure you're not set up to fail again, by stopping things in their tracks before they go too far towards success.

There is no magic solution for side-stepping the difficulties caused by aspergers and fulfilling your potential. This is one of those areas where other people can play as pivotal a role as you do. For young aspies, it is essential to help them gain self-confidence and inner happiness. For older aspies, working it out for themselves is more important, because the defensive structures are already in place and they won't be as ready to believe what other people say to boost them up.

The main thing I would say is, be self-aware. See what happens and why, even if you have to go away and work it all out later. Even if the later is years down the line, still take the time to work it out.

And believe me, I'm not saying aspies can't do any and all of the jobs they want. It just may take a different route to get there and they may need to be a little more careful along the way.

We all need a clear view to see where we're going, otherwise we'll keep wandering into the same dead ends and side alleys, and bumping over the pot-holes as we go. Take your time and think about what happened the last time and what you really want to happen this time.

It could be that you're telling yourself you don't want this high-powered job interview, that what you really want is to get out the old guitar and re-visit a time when the music flowed, unbidden, into the world.

You see, aspergers isn't just a jester or a saboteur. Aspergers knows us so well and it remembers the music of our childhood, when anything was possible and the world didn't seem so big. Sometimes, you need to read between the lines and see what it is you're trying to tell yourself.

This is how you find the right road.

Amanda

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