Late diagnosis and loss of identity

It is a fact that humans are social beings.  It is through being together that we support, protect, nourish one another and thrive.  It is said that the main difference between us and our closest ancestors, the apes, is our development of culture and society.  Every animal is born with the genetic make up for survival, whether that is distinctive plumage to attract the best mate, or a social brain.  It is through social communication that we ensure our survival; subtle body language, touch and eye contact includes or excludes individuals in a group, indicates the ability of someone to lead or protect the pack.  Any genetic weakness in these areas means an extra mouth to feed, rather than an extra pair of hands to hunt.  It is in this way that those of us with Aspergers can be ‘socially disabled’.  Many Aspergians are able to ‘learn’ social skills and can appear successful in an NT world, however for none of them will this be ‘natural’ behaviour.  The AS brain will not naturally initiate the social body language required in the split second of opportunity required by the NT brain to confirm ‘belonging’ and ‘acceptance’ in the social group.  As a result, growing up with undiagnosed AS can lead some individuals, especially women, to spend a huge amount of time imitating the social behaviour of their peer group, in order to try and fit in.  Unbeknownst to me this is exactly what I did.   In fact, I have become quite an expert and find myself mimicking accents, feigning interest in unlimited topics of social ‘chat’, altering my clothing according to company.  The problem with this ‘social learning’ is that inside, how you see things, how your brain interprets the world, will always be different to someone without Aspergers and you are aware of this difference, even if you cannot explain or describe it.

At the same time you leave yourself behind.

Swing

For many aspies who cope through imitation, this mechanism begins at a very early age.  I became aware during primary school that I was different to the other children and I knew that this difference could be seen and was not accepted by my social peer group.  The need to belong socially was so strong that I believed this was the most important thing in life.  I didn’t know why I was different and what I was doing wrong to make the other children reject me.  Initially I went into myself and studied hard, but when the time came to discover myself as a teenager I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing.  If I found someone who would accept some kind of friendship with me then I would try my hardest to like what they liked and do what they did, rather than developing my own interests and meeting likeminded people.  Spending so much time trying to be like other people makes you lose sight of who you really are inside.  I feel like I left that person behind as a seven year old child in the playground, I rejected her in the same way that I felt rejected by most of the other children.

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