Sunday, June 30, 2013

Asperger's Conundrum- Feeling Younger while getting Older

Talking on the phone to a fellow Aspie I was hit with a sudden realization. I NEED to have this validation sometimes. I NEED to know I am not alone in my strange ways of perception. "Do you ever feel like you are getting younger as you age? At seven I related to the adults but now past my early twenties I am once again relating to the teenagers."

Yes! I was often referred to as the 'professor' or 'guide' to my peers throughout school. From grade one to twelve, I had a sense of maturity and wisdom around me. I knew my favourite subjects with intellectual superiority. I asked profound questions and found unique answers. I was not into peer pressure on most days and I happened to be popular enough (sometimes by association, sometimes because I was sweet) to get by. Overall, those years were a grand success because I knew what I wanted and what I loved. But then I entered adulthood. The place where spiritual intelligence does not matter as much as physical capability. The place where I am expected to know how to shop at a grocery store or drive myself into a new city without a meltdown. Adulthood, I am finding, expects all the little physical menial tasks I find incredibly hard, to be the "norm." If I can't remember to have lunch with three little ones, I have failed. These "simple" daily tasks are enormous accomplishments to me. At the end of the day I am exhausted...just from "normal" living.

My sister is nine years younger than me. I helped take care of her growing up. I taught her all she needed to know about every genre of music. I made sure her education was well rounded, fed her snacks and let her hang out with my friends and I. She adored me and looked up to me. At about age seventeen for her, I found myself weeping to my husband. I sensed a change. She suddenly did not want to watch the movies we used to view together. Her social life changed as she became who she needed to be. Independence meant everything to her...and even though I was twenty six with three little children...I had never quite been at the point of full independence. I had lived on my own with three close friends while attending college for a year before marriage, but I still liked dancing to Abba at sleepovers. In every sense but the spiritual and intellectual areas of expertise, I had not "grown up" according to the world's standards.

At my current age of thirty, my little sister  STILL drives me to the city. My sister takes my children and I to the Health Unit to get shots. My children will obey my sister at bedtime more than they will me...and she will be firmer and more capable at following through on most days. I have other gifts. My children are understood and I have helped them overcome many of their own issues by introducing cognitive therapy into their lives, but I can't seem to manage any executive functioning skills like driving, meal time or events that require massive amounts of socialization.

Feeling like I was being surpassed in many areas happened with my younger cousins too. They passed eighteen or nineteen and suddenly it seemed over. Up until that point my house was the place to be. They had tons of sleepovers, we chatted for hours about life, and they looked for my advice on everything. But they grew up and I grieved. Pre diagnosis- I wondered if this would happen with my youngest son. I thought he would surpass me at a certain age and I would never quite catch up. I have to admit that I was relieved when he was diagnosed with ADD and a slew of other issues...It meant he still can relate to our spectrum family. In fact, I suspect he is on the Spectrum too but more social. You can have an extroverted Autistic and I think he may fit into that rare subtype.

My sad mental image of feeling younger while getting older is something akin to the Tale of Benjamin Button (which I could  not watch because it hit too close to home in my mental capacities.) It's an odd concept to grasp. Michael Jackson was speculated to have had Asperger's Syndrome. After his death I went through a brief obsession with the artist and read anything I could find on him. I observed his gestures, his interviews, his friend's words about him and I do think he had A.S.D. I can relate on so many levels. I think I understand why the media tortured him. He was misunderstood. He could be very awkward yet so talented. Most of all, I think the law suits against him having younger boys over for sleepovers were taken the wrong way. I really believe he was just an Aspie who could relate to his younger peers and wanted to have INNOCENT fun. (I could be wrong but this is how I choose to interpret it all.)

I can relate to enjoying innocent fun. Luckily, I am not in the spot light and I grew up in a community that has known me from birth. All who know me, know I would never commit any sort of crime. I did have my sister and her friends over for many sleepovers. I would rent whatever movies they loved
(Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen or whatever) and purely enjoy being that age. Perhaps this was more acceptable because of gender? Unfortunately, this is an area where boys suffer more scrutiny.

I needed the outlet of expression to be youthful in my mindsets. I needed to giggle over frivolous silliness and dance to my favourite music. 'Adults' are not comfortable (for the most part) expressing this inner joy in such a way. 'NT Adults' define maturity as stifling emotion and acting proper in the correct channels of appropriate behaviour.

I love having my children around. My children at their young ages allow me to once again live in that youthful mindset. I can watch their cartoons with them if I want. I can turn up Michael Jackson and they will yell with delight and try to moonwalk. It's fun and I love that they are not thinking about appropriate appearances. They are simply thinking of LIVING purely in the moment.

As I am approaching thirty I am finding that I am LESS capable than before (regarding everyday experiences.) I can learn. I can act (oh boy can I act), and I can mimic my way through the routine...but I know inside it should be easier than it is. Sensory Overload (see ) and Executive Functioning (see ) issues are the main reason why these every day moments are tough. Lack of fine motor skills is another. I am a horrid driver and I do not think practically. I think logically but logic is actually not always practical. With this logic comes the youthful obsessions and wonder of my interests. It makes an interesting paradox.

POST EDIT: To hear about the consequences of what happens when we try to "grow" our Aspie friends/ children up to reality please read this:

This song was made for the show Adam (showcasing a bit of hollywoodized Asperger's Syndrome) but it really does hit home for a lot of Aspies:


Anonymous said...

This is an interesting post & is not something I would have thought of on my own.

As a kid, I did feel MUCH older. I was precocious (Aspie-style) and adults commented on it a lot. I started to fall behind by high school

I would say that now I feel younger than my peers, but not because I have childlike exuberance. It's more because I find adulthood difficult to navigate. I have trouble keeping up with adult responsibilities and get overwhelmed in the workplace. I also have a lot of trouble doing adult things that involve strong negotiating skills such as buying cars, interacting with the staff at my son's school, fighting for my own health with doctors...that kind of stuff.
K from Quirky and Laughing

Kmarie Jones said...

Oh yes, me too...The physical menial tasks of adulthood...
I would say the youthful exuberance only comes out with those I am really comfortable with and I need to have that outlet somewhere as I think I have a spiritual and intellectual "Old soul"...So sometimes i need to dance or sing or get excited over my favourite hobby in a way that has me literally jumping for joy...but it does not happen often and only with people I know will get it. All my friends are at least a decade older than me ( other than my best friend) in my core group. I often give to let down my hair (so to speak) and relate to my younger relatives- is so important:)
Perhaps my kids ages have something to do with my friends but I have always attracted the older set. Most of them are in their forties ( even mid to late forties.) It was funny- the other day one of my good friends said the age she was turning and I said, "Oh my dad is turning that this year too." And then we both looked at each other shocked and started laughing.
I am good at fighting with Doctors for health but it took years of practice and draggin my hubby along for awhile. As for school systems...I hate them..thus home schooling:)