Monday, January 31, 2011

I am me.

My sister has always been a bit, well, different. She never understood certain things the rest of us did. As Mom has said repeatedly over the years, she marches to the beat of her own drummer. Not a different drummer, but her own. She was, at times, just as confusing to us as we were to her. When she was diagnosed with Aspberger's we all went AHH! Everything makes sense now! And it did.

But where does the woman end and the Aspie begin?

For most of us, that primordial question of Who Am I, is asked sometime during puberty. We understand that we are not our parents nor do we want to be. So who are we exactly? For many of us, this constant search of self is a life long journey and if we're really lucky, we'll find someone to share it with us. It would be unfair to say EA never had this existential moment in her adolescence as she did. Only her question would have been shaped differently. Instead of asking who am I, she'd more likely to ask, why don't people make sense? And for her, making sense out of the nonsensical has been a lifelong journey.

It has been painful, laborious, frustrating and filled with anger and rage and doubts and sorrow. Sound familiar? As has been mentioned frequently already in this blog, she has had to learn everything most of us take for granted by rote. The world doesn't make much more sense to her as it did when she was thirteen but she understands it better and she has learned to fit into it better. Just like, for many of us, we may not really understand ourselves or know who we are perfectly, but we've gotten some idea as to who we would like to be. Well, some of us.

For EA things are much different. Now that she knows why she marches to the beat of her own drummer she can focus on learning more about fitting in her Aspberger's with the regular world. This will continue to be something she will be concerned about and worried about making sure she doesn't mess up. Only now, she has a new question, one that has plagued the rest of us since we first started puberty, Who Am I?

She knows who she is for she too has taken the journey of self-discovery and she has come to accept herself for herself. And, like most of us, she's learned to change the things she doesn't like and to accept the things we're too lazy to change. But more than that is the question of who is the woman and who is the aspie? Am I doing something because I am EA or am I doing this because I'm an aspie? Do I get frustrated because I'm waiting in line or is it because aspies don't do lines very well? Or is it both? How can I tell when I'm being Me or when I'm being an Aspie? Is there a difference?

There are certain characteristics that the two of us share. We get them from our mother. People will frequently remark that we walk the same or we look the same, some even remark that do X the same way. I have a very bad habit of playing with the ends of my hair. As a consequence I always have split and dead ends that drive me crazy. I come by this naturally, Mom does it as well. My sister does not and, not so consequently, she has perfect ends. I don't need to think, do I fiddle with my hair because those on the autism spectrum have a tendency to stem, or is it because this is a character trait I inherited from my mother? My sister does.

For EA it comes down to wondering what part of her Being stems from who she is as a person and who she is as an aspie. Does she hate, hate, hate, hate waiting because she's EA or is it because she's got something wonky with her brain? Or is it both? Mom hates waiting, I hate waiting for things. Mom hates talking on the phone and so do I. Chances are EA comes by these two characteristics naturally. EA hates waiting because she is, at her core, impatient. If the purpose is to get from point A to point B then she wants to do it as quickly as possible and she hates being slowed down. She doesn't want to wait. If something's due Monday she'll have it finished by Saturday. It's the aspie part of her brain that gets frustrated when no one else seems to get as impatient as she is.

For example, if she is going to turn into a shopping center off to the left she can either make a turn at the light or go through it then make an eventual left hand turn when the traffic's clear. If there is a green light she always takes it. Sometimes her way is quicker. We've timed this and she has, on occasion, beaten me to the front door. But not always. She goes for what appears to be faster than being patient and waiting for the light to change in the left hand turn lane. She doesn't take into account that it's much safer to wait and turn at the light than it is to cut across three lanes of traffic to make a left.

My sister has also made mention that she hates talking on the phone. Granted, chatting on the phone is annoying. Sometimes it's more expedient to have a phone conversation than it is to send emails back and forth. But she really hates it. I can simply accept that there are few people in this world I can talk to for hours on end without wishing I could just hang up on them. Very few. I am, not, however conflicted with the question of what part of me hates it. For EA, she knows that, as an aspie, she doesn't handle phone conversations well and, as an aspie, she can learn tricks to having phone conversations in which she needs to cue in to what the other person is saying.

But what about other aspects of her life? EA hates silence. She has to have noise, be it music or conversation. She likes to have music playing even when we're in the car talking. But why? Is it because, as a person, she hates having lulls in conversation, or finds the emptiness of a room without sound annoying? Or is it because she's an aspie and she cannot function without this sort of stimuli in the background? These are aspects of her personality that she now gets to figure out. If she, as a person, doesn't like silence then she needs to deal when others need a few minutes of quiet time. If it's the aspie in her that requires a constant source of background noise then she needs to learn how to cope during those times when silence is absolutely required and it's driving her batty.

But no matter the personality quirk that will undergo this new phase of self-discovery, there will most likely be tears and rage and frustration and confusion and anger and sorrow and confusion and drama. As a family, all we can do is help her the best we can, offer guidance and support and love her-the rest is up to her.

Sound familiar?

Next up: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses


  1. And this is SO not the right time in my life for this.

  2. We don't get to pick the right time. :)