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. 

14 comments:

  1. This post speaks to me very personally. We've talked about my Aspie-like symptoms, and for my also being "picky" about my men, I fall hard. I sorta stalked my high-school crush (although in my defense, he worked 2 blocks away from my house!) I never had a shot with him, and I knew it, but it still didn't make the feelings go away. I eventually learned that if there was a guy that I liked in that way, then it would never happen. The relationships I have had never started that way. I scared some guys off, but most recently, I was so very relieved that the object of my affection recognized that I was going through a tough time (just divorced), and stayed my friend until I got past the weird stuff. Says a lot for him. I can definitely look back on those experiences like an addiction. It's been safer when I focus those energies on hobbies or celebrities, because than it's more "normal," and manageable in that I don't have to worry about hurting anyone or making them uncomfortable.

    Speaking of obsessing over celebrities, why is that considered normal? I was never able to relate to my girlfriends who did that, but then when I obsessed over something, it was odd? Just because it wasn't Brad Renfroe or Tom Cruise. Silly hypocrites!

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  2. Yeah I really don't get it. I've never had a crush on a celebrity. When I was 13-14 I was obsessed with Alan Arkin but not in a sexual way (he's old enough to be my grandpa ::shudder::). However, I think my mom thought I had a crush on him. I just basically liked his movies and thought it was very interesting how many talents he had and how determined he was from a young age to become an actor. It was a bit comforting, actually, because I had wanted to be an animator/writer from an early age but everyone else around me just cared about social crap and didn't seem to have any interests.

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  3. I've had many ... I had hoped I would grow out of this tendency but sadly, this appears not to be the case. I still have them and am in the middle of one now. Rationally, I know this is just another crush but they don't get any easier to deal with.

    I have never stalked anyone or crossed the line behaviour wise, only pined from afar. It seems to be something I do when an emotional need is not being met at my end.

    I have been reading a lot about projection and realising that when I have a crush on someone, what I am doing is putting a lot of my own expectations of the perfect partner onto them. It is telling for me I think that the less information I have about them, the more attractive they are. My mind is only too willing to fill those gaps.

    I thought for a long time that perhaps I was better off being unattached. Maybe that was my default state as clearly I couldn't relate to others properly if I kept pining after people I could never have. I've also realised that it is a safe option for me ... perhaps my mind is choosing the unattainable ones so that I don't have to take any real steps towards forming a relationship.

    I have never been diagnosed with Asperger's but my child has. I see a lot of myself in him. I wonder if I was a child today whether I would get that diagnosis. There are certain elements of my personality I have been able to moderate over the years but this obsessiveness is very hard to live with at times.

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    1. oh my God, thank you for writing about this. I thought I was crazy.

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  4. Thank you for your post. Are you a man or a woman? At any rate, I hear you...

    Julie

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  5. Female - sorry I should have made that clear.

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  6. obsessive crushes that can become a form of stalking (relentless calls, emails, etc until told to stop) during the teen years is very much typical for girls with asperger's syndrome. fortunately, people with asperger's learn when their behavior is inappropriate and change it. it gets better as you grow up. :)

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  7. Not typical just for girls, and not limited to the teen years. And "changing" such behavior is easier said than done.

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  8. Thank you so much for posting this! In truth, I've been going through a lot of this recently... And feeling horrible about it! Goodness :). Anyway, while we have a sense that we must approach all situations with care (yes.). I think Aspies can need a lot of mercy in this area especially. :). I think we have a genuine desire to "be a part of".

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  9. I can kind of relate. I didn't have my first real crush until about 6th or 7th grade. The circumstances of my crush were a little odd seeing as the kid was a jerk to me at first and I started off hating him and he was already dating another girl. However we did end up on better terms by the end of 6th grade. He could still be a real jerk to me every now and then but I'd learned to ignore it. It was hard to not reveal my feelings to anyone. I never told anyone. The only one who knows how I felt is my brother and even I don't want him to know.

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  10. Have you ever considered karate classes?

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  11. I've been experiencing something similar to this indirectly. My boyfriend's old college female friend seems to have retained a slight obsession with him and we strongly suspect she has AS. According to my boyfriend, this behavior is new since they split ways in college and she has admitted to be lonely where she lives now. Without much sustained contact, she will drive hours to see him at random and always ignores everyone else but him, while being physically touchy/flirty. It makes both of us very uncomfortable, but the more my bf moves physically away, the more aggressively she tries to be near/touching him. As the girlfriend, the past few times she has been around us in groups, she has made us very uncomfortable by showing up at places without a formal invite, ignoring all others to speak to him, only talk to me when I physically block access to him, and overall just wanting to touch him and remain very physically close to him. I am sure she is a nice person, but this kind of behavior would normally warrant me being harsh/forward back to a girl I perceived as being inappropriate/rude. However, since she seems to have difficulty picking up on social cues, I do not want to be overly harsh with her while still being clear that she needs to stop. Due to this, I unfriended/blocked her from my facebook feed so that she could not use it to show up to events we are at uninvited. This has caused her to reach out and ask why I would do such a thing and impied that I'm now not a nice person. I feel like I've been more than nice considering she is blatantly all over my boyfriend in front of me, including making inappropriate passes at him in front of me. I genuinely believe she is unaware that she is being so transparent and is confused as to why I might be offended. I am having trouble understanding what is going through her head. In the end, I genuinely don't want to hurt her feelings, but my first priority is protecting my bf, myself, and my relationship from these stressful interactions.

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    1. Are you friends with her? If so, do not block her. That's "fuck you!" in Internet speak and it is very painful to the recipient. Tell her you need to have a serious conversation, and lay everything out on the table, so to speak. Is she still friends with this guy?

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