Monday, October 18, 2010

Aspergers & Asshats

I have Asperger's. My close friends know this. If they don't, they haven't been listening or perhaps they just haven't been around when I've explained it. Having Asperger's makes it hard for some people to understand me sometimes. It gets really frustrating when you explain things to them & they just discount it, ignore it, don't believe it & continue harassing you. This makes things worse. One of my reoccurring issues is with my facial expressions. I constantly have people commenting on my expressions. This generally happens most with people that are new friends or acquaintances. They sort of know me, have hung out a couple times, & so they feel the freedom to point out how weird or strange I am or ask me if I'm okay constantly. "Are you feeling okay?" "What's wrong?" I usually explain that I have some social anxiety problems & that I have a form of Autism called Asperger's Syndrome. I give them a brief explanation. It's not something I enjoy talking about unless someone seems really receptive. If they continue to keep asking me every day I start to get very frustrated & anxious about seeing them. I know they are going to ask me & I explained it to them once. YES! I'm OKAY! QUIT ASKING ME! GO AWAY!

Some of the main characteristics of Asperger's are: problems with non-verbal communication, including the restricted use of gestures, limited or misinterpreted facial expressions, or a peculiar, stiff gaze. Their facial expressions are not typical. People find their expressions and non-verbal communication weird.

At one of my past jobs, the facial expressions thing resulted in my manager constantly asking me, at least 5 times a day, if I was alright, ok, feeling ok, mad, doing alright, etc. I was constantly confused & frustrated by his continued need to ask me if I was alright. I was being efficent & getting more than expected done, so I couldn't for the life of me figure out why the hell he kept pestering me. It took me forever to figure out why the hell he pestered me all day. Finally, he mentioned that I looked mad or upset when I was shelving or merchandising. I realized that he was misinterpreting my "thinking" or concentrative look. I went home & talked to T & she reaffirmed that my thinking face is very similar to a typical persons frustrated or a little bit angry face. So when I am concentrating or working or thinking, people think I am pissed off. Great.

This guy at work has been dogging me for months now. It's pretty much what spurred on this blog entry. The guy got to sort of know me by knowing T & then I got a job in the department. We have spent less than 15 hours total together since I met him. On & off at various places. Work, a couple times at my house, & at a restaurant/bar. None of these times was it just me & him. T was always there. As soon as T moved to across campus, this guy started in on me & my face. He has continually harassed me about looking mad or grumpy or pissed off. I told him that I have Asperger's. I even explained it to him. So did T, but he refuses or is incapable or gets some cheap thrill out of continuously comparing me to the old receptionist who was always pissy & bitchy about everything. I told him it wasn't funny, but he continues.

I can't fix this. I'm 35. My expressions are my expressions. Most people tend to understand, once I explain to them. I still have many that do not. People constantly think I am angry with them. It gets both tiring & frustrating. Some people are so insecure with themselves, that they just can't handle it. I think that is part of the problem with this guy at work. He constantly self-deprecating & self-hating. I've never met someone who constantly hates on themselves that way. It's sad really. He usually one a week comes into my space, calls me buddy, and tells me to "SMILE!"

Asperger's people don't generally smile. It's not that they aren't smiling on the inside, it just that being happy doesn't fire those little neurons that tell the facial muscles to lift & show teeth. I seem to always get along fairly well with non-Americans because they don't put so much value on constant smiling.

Here's another Aspies take on his experience with facial expressions: FACE

I'm not sure where to go from here with this guy. I liked hanging with him this summer, but the more I've gotten to know him the more negative, pessimistic, & bullying he seems. I really just don't want anything to do with him. I have no idea what to do. I have to see him almost every work day.

Another characteristic of Asperger's is: peculiarities in speech and language, such as speaking in an overly formal manner or in a monotone, or taking figures of speech literally. Asperger’s people tend to take your words literally and make interpretations concrete. They tend to use phrases they have heard and committed to memory, although they frequently use them out of context. Speech peculiarities - they are not so expressive in their tone of speaking. They are monotonous, i.e. without any pitch or tone, rigid, cheerless and can be unusually fast or loud.

This is also something that causes me quite a bit of embarrassment & frustration. I almost always take everything literally. I talk very monotone & also tend to mumble quite a bit. I constantly have to repeat myself. When I am excited or happy about something I lose my volume control. I have no idea I am speaking loudly. Most of the time people ask me politely to lower my voice, but every once and a while someone will shush me like a 3 yr. old. I hate that. I understand it, but I find it terribly rude to shush an adult. I get so embarrassed. People also misinterpret my excitement for panic or fearfulness. I get told to calm down, not to worry, stop freaking out, etc. This always causes awkward confusion for me. I can't understand how they don't understand that I am not panicked, simple extremely happy & excited. Oklahoma storm season always brings this one out. I get so excited when it gets all tornadic outside.

The happier & care-free I get, the more animated & a little loud I get. This generally tends to embarrass people I am with. Their embarrassment usually ends up causing me to feel ashamed & weird. So being extremely happy always seems to come with some sort of consequence. Except when I am with my brother, or when I am with Turayis. She gets me & she has learned how to deal with me without causing me to feel ashamed or embarrassed. I'm so lucky that way. The guy from work never seems to understand this & has made fun of me for what he calls "overreacting" or getting freaked out or tweaking. I get his POV, but for the life of me, T nor I seem to be able to get him to understand. And I'm the non-typical one here?

Many children with AS are highly active in early childhood, and then develop anxiety or depression in young adulthood. I think this is due to the lack of understanding by friends & peers. It gets depressing when people constantly think I am angry or frustrated & then when I am happy I get made fun of for my over animated responses or excited volume & am told to stop or shushed in front of peers or friends. I get compared to children & people laugh & make fun. It sucks. It sucks that adults can't find a nicer way to express or relieve their embarrassment. It sucks that this is part of my condition. Still, Turayis NEVER makes me feel any negativity when it comes to my Asperger's. She really is the reason I am not constantly depressed & a complete hermit. She makes me be social & helps explain to people when I have my Aspie moments. I am so fortunate for all her patience & understanding.

So, I guess I just wanted to express some frustrations & try & help some people out there to understand Asperger's. Every Aspie is a little different here & there. Honestly though, T is a freakin' WONDER WOMAN. Thank you T.


ChromePlatedGirl said...

First of all, I am so glad you wrote this. It's incredibly interesting to read even if I didn't know you. I knew you had this, but didn't really know how it manifested with you.
Second of all, some of the things you are talking about I have noticed before, but have not really attributed to a syndrome. They are things I love you *about* you, not *in spite of.*

My friend and I were just talking about our "neutral face" the other day. Her talent manager told her she needs to work on hers. She always looks a little grumpy...I always look a little sad...he admitted to always looking a little judgmental (which I think is a particularly funny neutral face. I wish I looked more pleasant naturally, but it's hard work!!! I, too, am often told to smile, so I understand your annoyance.

And, lastly, bless you and T for your each-otherness. So glad you have it.

Jen Tucker said...

Aw, thanks so much Chromey. Judgmental is a funny neutral face. Apparently I just have a "pissed off & might kill you" one. This might be why doctors never prescribe me pain pills. They look at me & always say, "Just take a whole bunch of Advil".

The asshat I mention in the blog just walked in & said, "Tucker" & I replied back with his last name. His comment was that I sounded very robotic. *sigh* Asshat.

ChromePlatedGirl said...

He is clearly socially awkward in his own right. Plus he's an asshat.
Please start talking like a robot on purpose. But only on Thursdays.