making sense of my life

“Woman at Writing Desk” by Lesser Ury

If I could, I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(The Life of Charlotte Brontë)

I’ve acquired many labels in my sixty years: highly sensitive person, introvert, obsessive-compulsive, painfully shy, homebody, bookworm, social phobia, agoraphobia, chronic depression, chronic migraine, chronic anxiety. But none of them got to the crux of the matter more definitively than autism.

Feeling like an odd-duck for all of my life I started suspecting autism (or Asperger’s syndrome) a few years ago. Little hints in the occasional magazine article. (Caring for elderly relatives for most of my adult life I’ve spent countless hours in medical and hospital waiting rooms reading magazines.) But last October I read an autobiography written by someone who had been been “diagnosed” late in life. His experience compelled me to read a few more books on the subject. And then a few more. My curiosity finally led me to consult with a neuropsychologist who confirmed my suspicions in December, one month shy of my 60th birthday.

Talk about a paradigm shift! The news actually came as a huge relief. So many things about my life until now are finally making sense.

It can be harrowing to see life through the surreal lenses that warp and tangle and convolute the most simple of activities; activities that the neurologically typical consider ordinary, things like shopping and driving and studying and keeping a job and paying bills and visiting with friends. It can be sad to find that no matter how deeply committed the effort, tenuous results may be all that follow.
~ Liane Holliday Willey
(Pretending to Be Normal: Living with Asperger’s Syndrome)

Reading the above quote for the first time deeply resonated with me. I’ve often tried to figure out how most people can simply hop in the car and run out to the store. For me it is a major and exhausting expedition that needs careful preparation and planning and a lot of recovery time afterwards. I’ve never been able to explain why this is to anyone — and still can’t. For me, so many things don’t respond to the ‘practice makes perfect’ philosophy. Now I know why. Now I can make the allowances I need without feeling so badly about it.

No doubt I will be writing more about this astonishing discovery in the coming months.

17 thoughts on “making sense of my life”

  1. You are a noble , generous, good-hearted, sensitive woman… wish you all the best in life… and forever… thank you for the inspiring posts…

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words, Sadok. I’m so glad you enjoy my wandering posts… Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Barbara, a thought occurred to me after reading this, (which I will try to explain using as few words as possible!). I have a close friend who has a daughter who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when she was very young and she is a sweet and lovely girl who has moments of brilliance, so I’m sure now you will find peace of mind in this explanation which clarifies why you have felt like an ‘odd-duck’…lol. However, it’s the searching for answers that made me think of something – is that why you have wanted to trace your family history, you have been looking for answers for your own life? I know that finding out who my family is has been monumental for me but my situation differs from yours. Being born in one country and raised with the standards and attitudes of another has made me feel different all of my life and I needed to find out where my own idiosyncrasies, which differ from the average Australian, came from. In my family tree I have discovered people who are like me! My questions have been answered, and I couldn’t help but wonder, whilst reading your post, if your desire for family history research could have been triggered by your need for answers, which you ultimately found through a medically related situation.

    Regardless, you have your answers which will bring you peace, and your blogging friends love you (and will continue to do so) for the Barbara we know. And that won’t change. <3 Thank you for trusting us by sharing a very personal situation. xx

    1. That’s a thought-provoking idea, Joanne. Apparently having an intense interest in something is a core feature of Asperger’s and I’m guessing genealogy, which I’ve been at since I was a small child, fits that description. What you suggest may well be a subconscious reason for pursuing the “hobby” with so much devotion.

      The explanation I had settled on over the years is that I was trying to understand the cultural differences in my mother’s family of origin from my father’s. My mother’s relatives were very prim and proper, reserved old New Englanders, but very affectionate, warm and loving. I fit in because I could understand the “rules.” My father’s relatives were as opposite as could be, a raucous bunch with no social guidelines whatsoever. At least not ones I could discern. I was helpless to understand the endless raillery so I dreaded any and all visits and could find no way to fit in.

      You wrote, “being born in one country and raised with the standards and attitudes of another has made me feel different all of my life.” Yes, yes, yes! – I have felt the same way, even if for slightly different reasons.

      I did spend a few months trying to decide if I should share this news but finally decided to go ahead, of course after sharing with my non-blogging friends and family. Since they have all been wonderfully supportive I felt sure my blogging friends would also be. 🙂 Thank you so much for your love, support and friendship, Joanne.

  3. Do write more – uncomfortable questions will only accept uncomfortable answers, but now that they have dovetailed together, I hope you can take some comfort in the link they have formed. Even the oddest of ducks have beautiful, creative personalities.

    1. Thank you, Aubrey. I have definitely taken comfort in the answers, the explanations that finally fit the nagging questions. I’m even starting to like being a unique duck. 🙂

  4. Oh what a joyful thing to understand this about yourself. What a confusing journey you have been on and what a mighty struggle to do things that many of use take for granted.

    I look forward to learning more as you continue to learn more about yourself.


    1. Pretending to be normal has been so exhausting! The journey has definitely been confusing and the struggle mighty, as you say, Sybil. To think, the fatigue that has plagued me for my whole life was probably caused by the endless efforts of my wired-differently brain to keep up with “regular” people. *hugs*

  5. How wonderful that you’ve come to understand yourself better! This resonated with me: “For me, so many things don’t respond to the ‘practice makes perfect’ philosophy.” I’ve often kidded around that I have Aspergers, but have failed to look into it with any seriousness.

    1. Thanks, Robin! It’s nice to know someone else who understands that sometimes practice does not improve some endeavors, no matter the effort spent trying. I’ve been driving and food shopping for over forty years and it’s never gotten any easier or less complicated. If you do decide to look into Asperger’s I suggest reading a book by a woman with it ~ I was surprised to learn that autism presents differently in men and women.

  6. love you Barbara, thanks for writing this article, there are many labels out there but to understand yourself is the most important aspect of being, god bless you in your discovery, Tai xx

    1. Love you, too, Tai. I was thinking this over for a few days and I’m pretty sure you are my oldest internet friend. I remember trying to figure out some of the features of Gaia Community and you responded to one of my bewildered queries. So happy we connected and so inspired by your poetry! *hugs*

  7. I am happy that you can finally make sense of lots of things, Barbara. You will be able to shine even more as the beautiful person you are. A huge hug to you!

    1. Thank you, Tiny! You brighten my life with your illustrated stories about the fascinating birds in your neighborhood. And Dylan’s adventures, too. 🙂 I hope you know how much I look forward to your posts. *hugs*

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