Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reflection: Differing Abilities

More than a decade back, when I first heard the term 'Aspergers Syndrome' I was struck by how half the symptoms sounded just like me and half sounded exactly the opposite. That feeling has persisted.

There are several well-known members of the Squidoo community who claim the label Aspergers. One, a woman with high-functioning autism, is such an excellent writer. She vividly described some things I do not have personal experience with -- like being overstimulated by eye contact or having to struggle to read body language or understand nonliteral verbal expressions. Her webpage didn't describe her monotropic tendencies, but she stopped by my monotropism page, and said she identified completely with what was written therein. She said that once she was working on a project for a client and fainted because no one reminded her to eat. More interestingly, she reported that when she doesn't have something to plug into, she 'freaks out a little'. She depends on having some 'one thing' to plug into. Ah, yes -- and that type of dependency is one that would simply not occur to most people!

I have been known to shut people out who, it would seem, could bring me comfort or provide me with support. I shut them out because of a fear they will bring news of loss. I cope very poorly with loss; I suppose one reason I cope so very poorly with loss is that, in addition to all the other things (love and the usual suspects) , loss can deprive me of the obsession that I depend on to function. It's not comfort, but rather obsession that runs my reward system. Something that isn't obvious to most people on the surface: that this woman who copes so poorly with loss copes quite well -- better than the average person -- with tremendous levels of demand.

I commented to a friend years back that I experienced very little anxiety in situations where the outcome depended on my own actions: I experience anxiety only in situations where the outcome is out of my hands. Another thing of course that people miss: that very high sense of personal competence -- that "Well, maybe you can't, but I can" tendency. If anything, it's probably a bit too high. It's not entirely unfounded: When a person focuses narrowly on one or two things, they tend to get good at them.