How an Asperger’s diagnosis helped me turn my life around
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult in 2011. It was a relief because it explained my shyness and my behaviour as a child at school and as an adult at work and home. Now I have this explanation, I am learning how to cope and make the most of my attributes. Here is how:
I now know that I find it hard to make friends easily because I have problems communicating with others. Realising this, I try to network and socialise more effectively in groups. I also find it hard to keep eye contact when talking to people, so when I’m in company I try to look at the person talking to me without appearing as though I’m staring at them (which is hard). Also, I tend not to look at people all the time that they are talking to me, so I am learning to make sure that I am looking like I’m listening all the time, especially with my mum.
Tone of voice
On regular occasions when I was working, my supervisor would tell me off about speaking abruptly to students. I know why now. I have also done this with my mum. I am learning to speak in a much calmer and softer tone to my mum. I know I still do speak abruptly sometimes but I am learning to spot when I do this, and to apologise afterwards.
I learnt to drive and passed my test (at the fourth attempt) when I was undiagnosed. When I was first diagnosed, it made me very aware of my condition whilst driving, and I felt that this made me a worse driver. But now I believe that, realising I have Asperger’s, I have become more aware of what is around me. I recognise that I can’t drive when I am distracted by noises, so I never have the radio on. I also know that I have to concentrate on driving all the time and not let outside thoughts enter my mind. All in all, realising that I have Asperger’s has probably made me a better driver after all.
Sometimes when I was at work, I felt that my brain couldn’t cope; it would shut down leaving me unable to concentrate on anything. It would shut down the rest of my body too, so that I found it an effort to walk home from the station. I have learnt to spot the signs of when this is about to happen, as my brain goes all foggy. When this happens, I just rest and go to bed for a while. It upsets me when this occurs but I am learning to calm down when it does.
When I was at work, I went to lunch at a certain time to coordinate with my colleagues. Now I’m at home full-time, I am learning that I don’t have to have lunch at that time, and it doesn’t matter if I eat a few minutes later than planned. Also, I don’t have to work at a particular time after lunch. I know it is not worth getting het up about.
All in all, knowing that I have Asperger’s is making me a better person. I feel calmer at home, and more relaxed when I am out and about and whilst driving. Most importantly, I am still learning all the time.
Julie Day is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction about Asperger’s syndrome for adults and teenagers: