(This blog post was originally published on the Mumsnet website as a featured blog post and later blog post of the day)
When I first heard that Susan Boyle had been diagnosed with Aspergers, I had to stop and remember that this was something new, that she hadn't been an aspie before. To me, she has always been 'one of us', in her way of speaking and presenting herself, her difficulties with the world and her unique talent. The public Susan seems very much like the private one would be and this is the first place we stumble, as the public aspie is only what we have learnt to show the world, no matter how honest and direct we might be in all things.
In many ways, being an adult aspie is like being a ping-pong ball in a tennis court. You know you have the shape about right, you know you have to be batted about by life and bounce back, but somehow you don't quite fit. You get thwacked with a racket and find yourself shooting out of range, lying in the corner with the dead leaves and a lost shoe while the proper tennis balls whizz about, making it look easy.
Being an adult aspie can be a very lonely, isolating experience, especially as a woman. Women in general are good at holding things together; they manage their lives and the lives of their families, they do jobs, school runs, care for relatives and make everything all right in time for tea.
All of us have extra stresses which make life complicated and I would never want to diminish what other people have to go through. It's just I know I speak for many other aspies, men and women, when I say that managing life is hard enough without any of the normal stresses, let alone the extra ones that life occasionally throws at us all.
On a good day, I could run this country or figure out a cool and exciting way to populate Mars; on a bad day I can't open the door to the postman without feeling like sandpaper is being rubbed across my psyche.
Getting a diagnosis of aspergers can be a very important first step in understanding why you feel the way you do; it can be the vital push you need to help yourself cope with life and become the person you always wanted to be. Fulfilling your potential begins with knowing where to start looking for yourself.
Sometimes, what we all need is information which tells us it's okay, it's all right, we were meant to be this way. We need permission to love ourselves, to see in our quirks and eccentricities the kind of light other people have always seen in us.
In her interview, Susan Boyle says "I think people will treat me better because they will have a much greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do." This is what she hopes will change. She does not want to change herself and thinks the diagnosis will not change her life - she simply wants other people to treat her better.
I hope she gets what she wants, I really do, but in my experience people see the adult first and the aspergers often somewhere else down the line. We are fully grown, we are expected to behave like we know what we are doing. And often we do!
How awkward we are, looking like adults and usually acting like them, only to go on and have a meltdown in the middle of Tesco because that old woman pushed past me again and hit my bag and the lights are too bright, the self-service tills are making too much noise and where on earth was I meant to be going after this?!
What adults with aspergers need, above all things, is just what Susan says she needs - other people to be kinder and more understanding, so that we feel safe to break down and then be picked up again. For all the days when I have the sun shining on my face, I would give an awful lot to have someone near on darker days, when my hand shakes as I go out of the door.
We can learn to work with our aspergers and grow as people but might always have that sensation of being spun away from everyone else. We need to feel that even as we are spinning and the world is flying out in every direction, that we will come to rest and be able to stand up, dust ourselves down and try again. And that someone will be waiting nearby, to make it a little softer and a little kinder while we live our glorious lives.
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