The Hidden Village of Aspergers

May 18, 2010

The obligatory introduction

Filed under: introduction — kankurette @ 9:43 pm

Well, here we go. I hate doing this bit, but it’s only fair readers should know what they’re getting into.

First, I’d better explain the name. People with Aspergers have a reputation for obsessing over stuff, such as volcanoes or Harry Potter or, I don’t know, spoons or something. Obsessions I’ve had in the past include: Sonic the Hedgehog, Asterix, buttons, the band Space, and people who I will not name. One of my current obsessions is a manga called Naruto. It’s somewhat of a guilty pleasure as it’s a shounen manga, i.e. aimed at pre-teen and teenage boys, but it’s also popular with older fans. It’s based in a village called Konohagakure, which means ‘village hidden in the leaf’, and which is responsible for producing ninja, including the title character. Hence the name of this blog. I was going to call it Aspiegrrl, but that title’s already been taken. It’s also where I got the name ‘Kankurette’, a feminised version of my favourite character’s name.

There are two things that inspired me to write this blog.

Firstly, I was inspired by an article in the Guardian in 2009 about how more and more women are being diagnosed with Aspergers Sydrome – and yet, it’s always been the case that fewer of us have been diagnosed with it than men because of the way women are socialised. We’re told to keep our heads down, to not make a fuss, to fit in and be ‘good girls’. We suffer from peer pressure. We cannot be too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too clever or too stupid. We must wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, have the right hobbies, the right image, the right sexuality. Deviate? Well, as I found out the hard way, you’re screwed. Having Aspergers Syndrome, a condition which affects the social skills you so desperately need when you’re a teenage girl – indeed, that you generally need as a human – really does not help.

Secondly, I came across a website that had stories written by people about their experiences with Asperger’s, and me being into writing (and a bit of a closet attention whore), I thought, “Hey, maybe I should write something for this.” So I did, and you can read it here. I thought nothing of it at the time, but what I didn’t really consider was how people would react. I received a good few emails from people with Aspergers thanking me, telling me how much me sharing my story had helped them. One that particularly touched me was from a teenage girl called Abi who also has Aspergers. I won’t share it here as I respect her privacy, but reading it really brought it home just how much writing can help.

That said, I don’t really know what I want to achieve by writing this. Maybe it’ll become clear in time. I do know that there are other Abis out there, and if I can help them in any way, then that would be pretty awesome. I also, I suppose, want to look at the relationship between Aspergers and gender and socialisation and all that jazz. Maybe one day I’ll talk about it at a NAS conference or something.

(By the way, this is not an academic blog. It is not a project. I won’t be interviewing people or anything like that. However, I do have a friend of a friend whose daughter has Aspergers, and who is interested in women with Aspergers, so hopefully this blog will help her.)

Other things about me: I also suffer from depression (which runs in my mum’s side of the family) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the latter caused by a particularly nasty incidence of flu in the summer of 2009. It may or may not have been swine flu. The depression and the Aspergers are intertwined at times; they feed off one another, so to speak. Sometimes the symptoms overlap and you can’t always tell which is which. I am bisexual. I have a BA in German and Spanish and an MA in Translation Studies, both from the University of Manchester. My best friend is from Belize and likes drawing birds and insects. My favourite band are the Pogues. My favourite colour is green. I look a bit like a cross between a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Alan from Modern Toss, and I’ve been compared to Eeyore and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

I come from a loving, eccentric and close-knit family. Dad’s side are Scottish; Mum’s side are apparently Jewish. My mum works in the cafe at M&S in Chester, and spent a lot of my childhood raising us alone as my dad was in and out of hospital. We had a very up-and-down relationship when I was a teenager, and it took her a while to come to terms with me having Aspergers, but we’re a lot closer now, thank G-d. From her, I inherited migraines, neuroses, feminism, being crap at sport, and music taste.

My dad was a journalist, activist and one of my heroes, and died in 1993. I like to think I get my writing abilities from him, and also my love of language, although I’ve also inherited bad skin, migraines, and a tendency to put on weight. And a dislike of porridge, which is pretty ironic as my dad was Scottish.

I also have a younger brother who is 24 and doing a Masters in something music-related at Goldsmiths. We also had a pretty turbulent relationship when we were kids, and that’s putting it mildly, but again, we’ve become much closer over the past few years. The fact we don’t live together really helps now.

I should note that there will be a lot of swearing. Apologies. There will also be some content which is potentially triggering or painful to read. I self-harm, although thankfully not as much as I used to, and I have had a lot of issues with eating in the past, not helped by anti-depressant-related weight gain.

So there you go.

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