Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"I Admire You For Being Able to Live Alone!"

Sorry for the lag in posting. Life has been pretty stressful. I'm getting laid off and the blog just hasn't been my first priority lately...

Anyway, I find it amusing when I tell people that the only roommate I have is my cat and they say that they admire me for being able to live alone. There they have made an assumption: that the norm is to want to have a roommate and that I am "strong" for being able to live alone. I think this assumption may be especially true with women. Even if just subconsciously, we think of men who live alone as "bachelors" and women who live alone as "lonely." 

Unless I were in a situation in which I had a boyfriend, I cannot see myself living in any way but alone. At summer camp group living was fun, but that's another situation entirely. When living with a roommate in an apartment, both parties inevitably have their own habits that annoy the other person. When I live alone, I can watch Back to the Future over and over. I can say stupid things to my cat. True, I can get an apartment in which I have my own room and nobody can get annoyed by my odd habits, but sharing a bathroom is never fun. It's through the bathroom that you learn how even people you like very much can gross you out.

So what it comes down to is this: Like many Aspies, it would only make sense to admire me for having a roommate, not living alone. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Asperger's Crushes: When the Brain Gets Hijacked by Neuro-terrorists

When I was just a few months away from my fourteenth birthday, I still hadn't yet experienced my first crush. Quite frankly, I didn't want to even though it was something everybody expected of me. My mother nagged me about it relentlessly. I watched as girls, some of whom used to be fun to hang out with, seemingly dedicated their lives to snaring Cute Boys; it truly bordered on obsession. I had a history of stepping well over the border of obsession in terms of movies and television shows. Given how perversely aware I was of my obsessive nature, I was certain that once I got my first crush it would not border on obsession but would fall well over the border.

I was right. 

I had no idea how right I was. I got my first crush the following summer on one of my counselors, Jonas (not his real name), at overnight camp. It was my first year at camp, and Jonas reached out to me when he saw that I was struggling. I had a history of being bullied, so naturally I was paranoid at camp. If not for Jonas, I doubt I would have returned the following summer, let alone looked back at my camp years as among the best of my life. Jonas knew I had a crush on him and, fortunately, he was very understanding and patient about it and remained my friend and mentor for many years.

After Jonas, I developed crushes on a total of 8 other people. I am not attracted to people easily, but when I am it's overwhelming. With the exception of one person, Hans (not his real name), a friend from Germany from whom I got my first kiss, nobody reciprocated. They were generally either taken, older, or both. Sometimes my relationships with these people started out as friendships or positive acquaintanceships only to end in disaster with the person shutting me out entirely. I always assumed the person in question was not interested so I did my best to hide my feelings. I could not do it. I tried my best to figure out how to keep a low profile while still remaining friends/positive acquaintances with these people.

Sure, and maybe while I was at it I could enjoy the smell of a bacon cheeseburger without trying to eat it. 

While I have conquered many aspects of Asperger's syndrome, this is one that I still struggle with, probably because I'm not attracted to people easily and thus haven't had much experience controlling it. Like many people with AS, I always became intense with the person on whom I had a crush without meaning to. Once, I was even accused of stalking. This accusation is apparently very common for people with AS.

Why do we get obsessive crushes? Why is it that people with strong feelings can generally keep theirs hidden and we can't? My guess is this: We tend to have tunnel vision. We get hyperfocused. Getting hyperfocused doesn't end with a hobby or favorite movie. It manifests itself with people we find attractive. I read that the same chemicals in the brain that are involved in drug addiction manifest in the beginning stages of a person experiencing an infatuation. This is true with a person with a neurotypical brain. What, then, does a brain scan reveal in an Aspie who has a crush? 

I don't know. I don't have answers or advice to other Aspies who have struggled with this as much as I have. As far as I'm concerned, my otherwise rational brain gets hijacked by neuro-terrorists. But I want you to know something that I didn't until very recently:

You are not alone.