Having Asperger’s Syndrome myself, as well as having raised two children who have Asperger’s, I know firsthand just how overactive the Autistic brain can be. Many people who’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome were first misdiagnosed as either having ADHD, OCD, bipolar, or other mental illnesses. The big difference, though, is that those are all chemical imbalances within the brain. Asperger’s is a physical — or rather a neurobiological — condition of the brain. While some of the same symptoms as those other maladies might exist, they occur for different reasons, and as such, they cannot be managed as effectively with medication as those others can. The bottom line is our brains are almost always in high gear, and we think. A lot.
When my son Jeremy was less than two years old, I was positive that he was hyperactive. I spoke to his pediatrician about it and shared my concerns. The doctor, who was very familiar with Jeremy due to his frequent hospitalizations, told me, “Rachel, I can guarantee you, your son does not have ADHD.” I asked him how he could be so sure. His response? “Yes, Jeremy takes stuff apart all the time. But that’s where ADHD ends. Jeremy then puts it back together. Correctly. He not only remembers the order in which he took it apart and is able to reverse his steps, but he is on a mission. He wants to know how stuff works the way it does.”
As it turned out, Dr. Aime hit the nail on the head with my son. It was another six years before he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, but once he was, it answered so many questions I had about my kiddo and the way his mind worked.
It’s not just finding out how things work that motivate the Autistic brain. Just like other people, we don’t all think the same things or have the same interests. But some examples of how my particular brain works overtime are as follows:
(First, please let me say that if you’re guilty of any of these things, I apologize if I come across as offensive. I’m just being honest with the way I think.)
When people pass gas, either via belch or fart, I find it particularly disgusting. (I can guarantee all Autistic people don’t feel this way because my son thinks it’s hilarious.) The reason I find it so offensive, however, is not because of where it originates as much as where it goes. For example, if you rip a big, stinky, methane-filled toot, and I smell it, that means the very substance that originated as gas which resulted from fermented food in the pit of your bowels is now in my nose, my sinuses, and my lungs, and from there, it goes to my liver and other organs. How disgusting! Sometimes when I explain my theory, people try to assure me that it doesn’t work that way. But think about it… If we can inhale chlorine fumes and burn our lungs or get cancer from continued exposure to other chemical gasses, then why is this any different?
Have you carried a pack of gum in your pocket and then you go to chew a piece of it, and it’s slightly warmer and softer than when you purchased it? Right. So that’s exactly why I don’t carry gum in my pocket, and I will never, ever accept a piece of gum or candy (or any food item) that’s been in someone else’s pants pocket. Because their crotch warmth is what warmed it! The heat from their groin penetrated the gum’s wrapper, then they expect me to put it in my mouth? No thanks!
When people sleep naked, all I can think is that it’s no different than their bed sheet being a gigantic panty liner. Would they be as likely to sleep on a heap of dirty underpants? Why not? There’s not much difference.
I get irritated when my cats are finicky and turn their noses up at certain foods. They lick their own butts after they poo, but they won’t eat a piece of turkey or salmon? Come on!
I refuse to eat birthday cake if someone blew out the candles. There are all kinds of airborne particles of microscopic saliva that just landed on the cake with that blow.
When I used to eat meat, I refused to eat poultry or pork because pigs and chickens are carnivores and will eat all kinds of nasty bugs such as crickets and roaches. (Pigs will eat a human body if they have the chance!) Fish is just as gross. They eat not only other fish, but worms. Even when I was a small child, eggs grossed me out because I couldn’t stop obsessing over the notion that they are essentially chicken ovum.
When people use the restroom and don’t wash their hands and then say something like, “Why should I wash them? I didn’t pee on them,” all I can think is, Okay, you might not have peed on them, but you touched the flush handle after someone else who might have! Why are you so afraid of a little soap and water?
And as my last example, I know this is probably the furthest thing from politically correct, it is rude, and maybe it’s even mean, and I’m almost embarrassed to share it, but it’s honestly the first thing that pops into my brain when this happens… So please accept my apologies in advance if this offends you:
When the commercial for one of the Life Alert buttons comes on… you know, the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” company, in one particular commercial, CLICK HERE TO SEE, a lady falls. Then she proceeds to tell us that she couldn’t move for eight hours. And now here’s where my mind wanders… She then tells us that as she lay there, she couldn’t help but think of her kids and grandkids having to go on without her. Notwithstanding the fact that she’s not even old, the thing that gets me is that she did not say she had a stroke or any other debilitating malady that paralyzed her. Yet, in eight hours’ time she’s already given up and decided that she was at death’s door! Moreover, she defied the normal human will to survive. As such, she’s obviously the weakest link in her family! What does she mean they won’t be able to go on without her? What does she do that is above and beyond what the family could do in her absence if she can’t even get up off the kitchen floor in eight hours’ time? If she simply means that her family loves her, then I feel that she’s coming across as vain. I’m pretty much the only family my two kids have, but I’d never dare to presume that if I died an untimely death, they wouldn’t be able to get over it and live full lives without me. Furthermore, she already told us that she lives alone and rarely has visitors. So if her family cared so much about her that they were truly unable to carry on without her, why didn’t they set up some form of check-in system if she was prone to accidents? When I moved out, I called my grandmother every day. And if she didn’t answer, I panicked and kept calling until she did.
I guess my brain simply doesn’t understand the logic in this commercial. Why can’t she just say, “I fell and I couldn’t move for hours. I was scared to death. After that, I got Life Alert, and now I’m much more confident living alone.”
I understand I’m over-thinking this, but that commercial drives me crazy! A long time after other people have forgotten the commercial they hardly paid attention to in the first place, my Autistic brain is picking it apart and finding everything wrong with it.
(Please understand that I know this is a scripted commercial, and she is an actor. It’s not the actual lady I’m complaining about, but rather the Life Alert script she was given.)
So anyway, that’s just a teeny bit of the continuous ramblings that go on inside my head. Sometimes I recognize that because of my Autism, I have a gift. Because I can focus continuously on a project and work so diligently that I complete it far sooner than other people might be able to. But that’s where the gift ends, and the curse begins. Because later, when it’s time to relax and sleep, my brain keeps working overtime. It picks apart every single conversation I had throughout the day and gets me questioning people’s motives for their choices of words or voice inflections or body language. I think about the upcoming projects I might have the following day. I even obsess over my schedule for the entire month and worry over what days I might get less sleep than others.
Anyway, I’ll be back on the first Sunday of next month to continue our discussion about Autism and how it affects my children and me. And of course, I’ll be here tomorrow to announce my August blogging theme. Thanks for stopping by.