The Hidden Village of Aspergers

July 27, 2010

“But you can’t have Aspergers!”

Filed under: fuckwittage,stereotypes — kankurette @ 5:47 pm

I think I missed some kind of meeting. Apparently I am supposed to look at the floor, flap my hands, mutter strange nonsensical things, talk in a stilted monotone about trains or volcanoes, be a maths genius and a savant, and possibly have a quick one off the wrist in public or drool over myself or something. When I tell people I have Aspergers Syndrome, generally the reaction is “no way, you can’t have Aspergers.” In other words, gor blimey Charlie, we have a normal person here. My normal reaction is, “you’d notice if you lived with me.” To be fair, if someone very briefly met me, they can’t be expected to know all my quirks and eccentricities and habits which drove my family up the wall. But it does, if I’m honest, annoy me a bit.

When I was in my first year of university, doing a degree in German and Spanish – the latter from scratch as I only knew some rudimentary Spanish from a night class I took in my gap year – I went to the campus doctor to get, I don’t know, a morning after pill or something. I forget what. He was asking me about my degree and he may or may not have had access to my medical records, but the subject of Aspergers came up and he said, “I don’t believe you have Aspergers Syndrome because you’re doing a languages degree. People with Aspergers normally do maths or science degrees.”

WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN.

Yes, some people with Aspergers are indeed maths and science experts. Daniel Tammet, for instance. (He apparently can recite pi to 22,514 numbers, whereas I can only remember three. Jammy git.) But not all of us are. Being surprised that I am actually not that great with figures is one thing, but outright telling me that I can’t have Aspergers because I’m doing an arts subject is, frankly, bollocks. I had been diagnosed with it by at least two different doctors by the time I came to Manchester.

I really do not like being shoved into a box by people who ought to know better and can’t see beyond the stereotypical view they have of people with Aspergers or autism as the number-crunching, statistics-remembering, socially incompetent savant. We are not a hive mind, we are at various different points on the spectrum (if you’re thinking of it as a rainbow, some of us are red, some of us are blue, some of us are green yellow etc.), and we can and do deviate from the stereotype.

“You can’t have Aspergers, you’re outgoing!” No, I’m not. I’m actually quite shy. There are situations where I have to be outgoing, such as when I was at the Freshers’ Fair trying to entice fresh meat into joining the Rock Soc, or at a job interview, but it doesn’t come naturally. It is something I really have to work at. I can schmooze, but it’s a total strain. I’m certainly outgoing when I’m with my friends as I feel I can totally be myself, but around people I don’t know, I’m more reserved and the part of me that I don’t want them to see doesn’t come out. I force it back down and hope it keeps quiet.

“You can’t have Aspergers, you have great eye contact!” Again, it’s something I’ve had to work at and does not come naturally, and when I get nervous, my eye contact falters. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve looked at my supervisor’s table when I’m in his office, or I’ve looked at the floor or the wall when talking to people and not being in a good mood at the time.

Maybe this is my paranoia talking, but sometimes I wonder if I even look like a stereotypical person with Aspergers, whatever they look like. And I’m not just talking about having two X chromosomes. I wash my hair, my posture is no worse than most people’s, I don’t stand a nanometre away from people when talking to them or get all up in their personal space, I don’t smell funny (I hope not, anyway – thanks to my mum kindly pointing out whenever I had BO as a teenager, I’ve had a bit of a thing about not smelling bad), my clothes are generally clean(ish), I don’t flap my hands etc., although I do wear glasses, due to crap eyesight being hereditary in my family and doing a job that involves sitting in front of a a computer. Are people actually thinking, “Heavens to Murgatroyd, she can’t have Aspergers, she washes and stuff”? Probably not, but sometimes I do wonder.

Maybe I’m being a total bitch. After all, I suppose I should take it as a compliment that I seem neurotypical (and yes, I know that word is annoying to some but it really is less of a mouthful than ‘people who have not as yet been diagnosed with a mental disorder’). On the one hand, perhaps they’re saying I cope pretty damn well with my disorder and that I’ve managed to suppress some of my more unsavoury characteristics in order to get ahead in life. On the other hand, it does feel as though a big part of me is being denied. I am not Aspergers and Aspergers is not me, but it has made me who I am.

What really does grind my gears is when people tell me to stop labelling myself, that Aspergers is just a label, that it’s no different from social awkwardness. No I won’t, no it isn’t, and yes it is. It is not a question of sticking a dirty great label on myself to remind whoever is stacking the shelves in the supermarket of life that I am to go in the Aspergers section and not, say, the wheat-free section. I am not a bloody tin of food. Aspergers is not a label; it is a part of me, it is as much a part of me as my mad hair, my wonky eyes or my toenails. And as much as it seems like that part of me doesn’t exist, it does. I’m not asking you to put me on a pedestal; I’m asking that it be acknowledged and accepted as one of the parts that makes up my identity.

25 Comments »

  1. [...] “But you can't have Aspergers!” « The Hidden Village of Aspergers [...]

    Pingback by Employment Tribunals advice from Just Employment solicitors | EmploymentSeek.info — July 27, 2010 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  2. Great post, thank you for shedding a bit more light on another part of the spectrum.

    Comment by liveotherwise — July 27, 2010 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

  3. ?But you can't have Aspergers!? « The Hidden Village of Aspergers…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Trackback by Mental Disorders 101 — July 28, 2010 @ 2:35 am | Reply

  4. Excellent post, I have know you long enough to know that while you can appear neurotypical it can take more work than it does for a normal person. I think that’s the crux of it, it’s not that people with AS can’t socialise etc but it’s a lot harder and the skills that come naturally to a lot of neurotypical people (though I’ve my fair share of utterly socially inept nuerotypicals, and hell I am one half the time) have to be worked on by others, like those with AS.

    I am really quite sick of people with no medical knowledge whatsoever (or no knowledge of said condition) acting like they know everything and then persist to diagnose someone, or suggest treatment or insist said person doesn’t have said condition becuase you’re not a walking simplified stereotype of a complex medical condition,, on the basis of some article they read in the Daily Mail or some other renowned journal of medical excellence.

    Comment by Chloe — July 28, 2010 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

  5. You know, if I were single (which I’m not – a good thing, coz my GF is fab) and if we’d ever actually met, I’d ask you to marry me. FACT.

    Comment by fivelongdays — July 29, 2010 @ 7:06 pm | Reply

  6. Fantastic post! I’m Catherine who asked about AS on Mutual Madness :)

    I flap my hands, have unusual posture, wear glasses, do a science degree and mumble to myself incomprehensibly and I still get comments like “Are you really autistic? You seem perfectly normal” so God only knows what you have to do to seem autistic to some people! I hate the ‘normal’ comment especially – I don’t want to be ‘normal’! I would not be ‘normal’ even if I weren’t autistic – I have hair that’s generally described as ‘multicoloured dreadlocks’ and sometimes say “Do you think I’d have hair like this if I wanted to be normal?”

    Although I have been told I’m not normal, and people have accepted it when I say I’m autistic, and one psychology student actually asked me if I’m autistic, so this isn’t a problem with everyone. It’s just very annoying when it happens.

    Also, I love that this is tagged as being about ‘fuckwittage’.

    Comment by Squitchtweak — July 29, 2010 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  7. [...] explains why she can’t have nice things Aspergers. I think I missed some kind of meeting. Apparently I am supposed to look at the floor, flap my [...]

    Pingback by This Week in Mentalists (Lazy Sunday Edition) « Mental Nurse — August 1, 2010 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  8. I think this article sums up 90% of males with Aspergers. For the most part we are pretty normal people and although the symptoms are always there we tend to learn to hide them pretty well.

    Comment by zenemu — August 1, 2010 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  9. It’s always interesting to read stuff like this (not that I often do…) because of all the little things that I can identify with. And also the big things. People who don’t really know me generally don’t believe that I’m an Aspie, and the people who do know me well (i.e. family, long-term teachers, close friends…) initially were like “No, you’re just…oh wait…” or “Well, we always thought there was something, but…”

    I was well-socialised from being a kid, which doesn’t mean “They should have ‘detected’ it earlier”…if you’re a kid talking enthusiastically about your collection of gemstones and reciting their various properties, adults will tend to say “Aren’t you smart/clever?”, be impressed (if bored…) and leave it at that. If you say/do anything inappropriate, or if your gestures/reactions are a bit off, nobody notices. Because you’re just a kid and you haven’t ‘learned’ yet. When it carries on into your teens, well…you start learning how to put on an act, although you inevitably make mistakes sometimes and get misunderstood/misjudged/corrected.

    And people get too hung up on the maths/science thing. I was never bad at maths or science, but I would get frustrated and freak out/cry if I couldn’t do something right. Music and languages were always less ‘awkward’ for me, and I believe that they’re related.

    It’s funny you mentioned the hygiene/BO thing because I had to be told about that as well, and for quite a while I did nothing about it because to me it wasn’t a big deal and I wasn’t remotely self-conscious about it. I still have issues with not feeling shame when I apparently should.

    I don’t know what the heck an Aspie is supposed to ‘look’ like, I just know that, for example…if I make video logs, I seem (to my eyes) to appear quite lifeless and monotonal, and there’s something awkward or not-quite-there about my expressions and my eyes, compared to other people. I have to try very very hard to make myself sound alive. Even comes across in photographs sometimes. Then I watched an interview with Heather Kuzmich, who was an Aspie contestant on America’s Next Top Model, and suddenly I recognised certain things.

    …long comment is long.

    Comment by Simone — August 2, 2010 @ 11:38 pm | Reply

  10. Also, appearing to be NT isn’t always a good thing. In the past I generally haven’t told employers about the Aspergers, and I did get dismissed from one job for apparently being self-absorbed and unable to deal with frustration. My boss at the time was an idiot so I don’t think she would have understood anyway (and she might well have been making it up, because I tried so damn hard with that job…) but my point is that a lot of people simply conclude that NT-like Aspies are just rude/ignorant, because there’s little to overtly suggest anything deeper than that (i.e. no hand-flapping, etc.).

    Comment by Simone — August 2, 2010 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

  11. What do you mean by flapping your hands? I wave my hands when I’m alone. I used to do that and imagine I was casting magical spells, but it really excites me. My parents always told me not to do it when I was a kid, because everybody thought it was weird.

    Comment by Alex Leibowitz — December 31, 2010 @ 5:49 am | Reply

  12. That’s perfectly normal dude! You are just like us! Or from the psychiatrist: “You seem to fit in some of the autistic’s traits but I don’t think you have aspergers”. I need to every once in a while go to the psychiatrist to treat from anxiety. I don’t find anymore the psychiatrist who diagnosed me back some 10 years ago, so I have to face that crap all the time.

    Nobody knows what I have to go through in my daily-basis, nobody knows my feelings and struggles and not being able to express them to the outside world doesn’t help me at all making things clear.

    I liked the way it was put, that by denying me being an aspie, is like stealing a part of my very being. I’m not sure why I get so upset at that, but that’s probably why, because it’s part of my identity and I feel angry, very angry and frustrated when I get that.

    Comment by claudio fernando maciel — January 11, 2011 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

  13. I really like your blog. You’re very open about your feelings and what you’ve been through, and I like that.

    The eye contact thing struck a chord with me. I can make eye contact when someone is talking to me, but when I’m talking, I’ll look at the floor, or at someone’s hands, or at anything. I have to be careful where my eyes are, and I’ll look at something for awhile and not even be aware of what I’m seeing. I’m overcome by nervousness and I can’t think about anything else, not even my own physical reality.

    I don’t think I seem normal to anyone. It’s so hard sometimes. I don’t even want to try to appear normal and just let everyone think I’m a freak.

    Comment by C — January 21, 2011 @ 6:05 am | Reply

    • Good for you….i love freaks….am a freak myself…and they are far more real than nts…wit their appearance..plasticity…games…false personas…lies and bullshit…egos…telling us they are superior…we are real….be true to you…i love you for you….as is feeling different to the majority of arseholes…as is logic…that nts dont get…i put them down like they put me…i would be. Lobotomised or burnt at the stake if they had their way…qvestion who the nts did these inhuman things too…ppl like us…thats who….its crimimal and political…im angry too babe…one life and they ruin it…you cant change us…and we dont want changing…just acceptance..leave us alone…we have our way they have theirs..i wish theyd change…but they are the powerful group..i often hate them…i like myself and im happy my way…their way just causes all my problems and suffering….freaks are evolution..x

      Comment by debby james — December 16, 2011 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  14. Yes..yes..Yes…your so right…it drives you insane…how do they know how it feels…they dont…im sick of everyone thinking they are the experts of something they dont have and dont ever fully understand…do they exist within our heads…no….they are not us….they dont feel the inner stuff as we do…i dont get them…but am forced to…theyre way must be like them. .must learm the nt way…they are right i am wrong…im blamed…im wrong…im not as…well i am…i suffer everyday…and i know…i know why…people….people drive me insane…i dont think the same…i think they are wrong and weird…they ruin my quality of life.

    Comment by debby james — December 16, 2011 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

  15. Love your post! Just recently realized I have aspergers. So many things in my life now make sense.

    Comment by Coast — August 5, 2012 @ 2:47 am | Reply

  16. An excellent article. Perhaps your doctor should look at this website: http://www.stephenwiltshire.co.uk/ as Stephen is an excellent artist.

    Comment by Alessandra Parsons — September 20, 2012 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  17. I know that this is an old post but I want to comment. My academic advisor doesn’t believe I have AS because I am not low functioning enough. It used to annoy me since learning and accepting that I am on the autism spectrum, but all my life I have just wanted to be accepted as a “normal person” and if lots of people don’t believe me when I tell them I have Autism, then I must be doing something right in my life.

    Comment by Lex Prometheus Adieu — November 25, 2013 @ 5:35 am | Reply

  18. OK, I get it – you can be Aspie and not be interesed in math. But can you be Aspie and be bad at math? On the one hand, Aspergers syndrome would explain a lot (like being unable to make friends despite wanting to have friends, strong need of routine, tendency to be obsessed about something, etc.), on the other hand – I’m lacking “mathematical imagination” – I don’t understand mathematical equations, I can’t remember numbers (I need to write them when I count) and sometimes I don’t see sense in numbers (that’s why I failed some IQ testes – that reminds me some quote about fish and climbing a tree…). Despite that I am interested in science, mostly in biology.

    Comment by qwertyuiop — January 20, 2014 @ 1:49 pm | Reply

    • I mean – I undestand basic math (I’m not that bad at it), I don’t understand academic math. You know – the equations with fork, overturned “M”,
      integrals and such.

      Comment by qwertyuiop — January 22, 2014 @ 10:17 am | Reply

    • I definitely think so. I’m not rubbish at maths, but it’s not something that comes naturally to me. I only got a B in GCSE Maths cos I revised like crazy. I think it runs in the family – we’re all into arts and humanities.

      Comment by kankurette — January 29, 2014 @ 9:48 pm | Reply

  19. I believe I fit a lot of things in the spectrum. However, many don’t believe it because I’m an actor. For some reason acting comes easy for me, but socializing before or after it does not. I’m able to make eye contact, but it does make me uncomfortable. I’ve made a few friends, but most were the odd people in school (who I think now may have been aspies) or the few nts who accepted and didn’t try to change me. I can socialize, but it’s extremely hard for me, but to everyone else it doesn’t seem that way. Some say they don’t think I’m autistic, just eccentric or quirky. I’ve always tried to accept people for who they are whether they be what people consider “normal” or not. I think that’s what helped me make the few friends I had. Plus, I really don’t like the word normal because what is normal anyway? However, as I get older, I find it harder to socialize and I end up staying by myself most of the time. I do have a girlfriend who also thinks she has Asperger’s, but hasn’t gotten a diagnosis. I tend to be very exact, I’ve been that way since I was a kid. Now, I can recognize sarcasm (most of the time), but what’s harder for me to recognize is innuendo or figures of speech I haven’t heard yet. I can recognize some things by using context clues, but in other things I can’t and I fear I may look stupid at that moment. I’m also more into the arts than math and science, though I was good at math and bad at science. However, with math, I went from beginners to advanced, missing the middle; therefore, I could do algebraic equations before I learned how many inches were in a foot. As you can probably from that last statement and my spelling, I’m American. I’m an actor, but I still have a “regular” job where I must socialize with co-workers, but it is extremely hard for me and I don’t always look at them when they are talking to me and they take it as being rude. Just yesterday, I zoned out while trying to do something and all were calling me even my team lead and I didn’t hear them. Anyway, thanks for this post because I know I don’t fit the stereotype, but I think I may be an aspie and I’m going to see someone about it.

    Comment by Stephan — March 15, 2014 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

    • Good luck!

      And I have the same problems with zoning out as well, especially when I’m at work and I’m busy typing. My attention span is crap.

      Comment by kankurette — March 15, 2014 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  20. I recently found out i too have aspergers and i get the same reaction and think the same thing, if you lived with me. Maybe weve gone on so long trying to be ‘normal’ that we can pull it off to an extent. I had someone tell me id never go out in public. Where that idea came from i dont know. I go to bars by myself and once i know regulars im comfortable with them enough to talk to them and i consider them friends, but they dont understand the first 3 years i was getting to know them i hated every second of conversation they would try to start. People dont know how we can feel inside cause we look normal for the most part. I love museums and often take my child to the horse races, but i always drive and never plan to go with other people. I can often meet people places as long as its on my schedule but dont care to. I want to have people around me and be social but i dont enjoy the feelings i have when i do. My kiddo, my dog and bearded dragon are all i need. I wish we could travel as a family all the time. Peoples misconceptions and shallow ways of thinking make them feel compelled to not only not try to understand us but not care. In this i feel they are so absorbed in their own lives they dont care about anything or anyone else. Thankfully i have a boyfriend who is very independent and travels a lot, hell make time for my quirks and schedules. He knows i wont do something till im ready and he respects what a weirdo i can be. In fact hes even said he likes learning about me when we have time. Its nice and i hope it lasts and that all of us find someone like him that goes with the flow, understands and cares. Thank you for posting this, its alwaus nice to hear were not alone.

    Comment by stephanie — April 28, 2014 @ 7:46 am | Reply

  21. Hi there, I’m Robert. I can really relate to this post. Especially because I’m seeking answers. A couple of weeks ago I was at the point of despair and frustration that I took a large overdose of pills. I ended up in the hospital in ICU and was intubated and on a ventilator. I could have very easily died. I’m not proud of what I did and the thought that I could have caused such pain for my family scares me. I’m 47 years old, am an artist, and I believed I had Aspergers, actually I still believe that it is a distinct possibility. When I say believed I had it (past tense) it’s because yesterday I had an appointment at the public mental health clinic here in Halifax, Nova Scotia (where I live) and at the end of the meeting with a Doctor (psych. who also said she specializede in childhood disorders), a nurse, and a young male resident, they told me point blank that I didn’t have it. They told me that my problems, more or less, were because I was a very sensitive child, emotionally sensitive, vulnerable, etc. and didn’t have a thick skin. I have to be honest, the whole structure of the meeting with them was extremely uncomfortable. I felt like it was an interrogation, a court martial or something. Basically, I’m sitting at a large table with them. They’re sitting a ways away, on either side of the table and I’m sitting on one side. It almost felt traumatic, it was that intimidating. Should one feel that way when meeting with people that are supposed to be there to help? I might not have a degree in psychology, but that doesn’t seem proper at all. The best they said they could offer me was this thing called a “Day Treatment Program” which usually lasts a few weeks and consists of group therapy type sessions. I said that right now I wasn’t interested in that and they said there was nothing else they could offer in terms of help or therapy. So I’m back to square on and the merry go round goes around and around. Basically they told me that there is really nothing wrong with me and there never was. I’m not saying that I want something to be wrong with me. However I’m totally not satisfied with the explanation I received, as if my life’s experience is being trivialized. Anyway how can it be determined after an hour and a half to two hour meeting that someone doesn’t have Aspergers? It seems fishy to me. One of the reasons the Doctor said in relation to why she “knew” I didn’t have Aspergers was because, she said, people with Aspergers typically appear flat and almost emotionless or something. I’m not sure about that. Please if someone could help me or direct me to where I can find answers or validation I would be most happy. Thanks, Robert

    Comment by Robert King — July 23, 2014 @ 10:07 pm | Reply


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