Life has a habit of showing you patterns, especially if you make use social media.
Some years ago, I was admittedly going through a rough patch where I was angry about a lot of things. Some of it was depression and some of it was social isolation, I guess. I don’t know, the timeline is a bit fuzzy for me; my memory has never been that great, anyway. There was a patch of time where I would get in constant arguments with people who called themselves my friends. These were people I sat up talking to, people I lived with, advised through relationship issues, and shared meals with. As life moved on, so did they, but they all seemed to start harboring a lot of anger towards me and the way I expressed myself. I didn’t understand it then and a large part of me is still really confused about what happened to turn what I thought were good relationships into online squabbles over nothing; in most cases it was because I am, in fact, very blunt about a lot of things.
This was all pre-Asperger’s diagnosis.
Life has a way of changing people and I understand that very well. I’m nowhere near the same person I was even two years ago. Stress, illness, loss, isolation, insomnia, and many other factors have played into the differences I see in myself when I look at the luggage I carry under my eyes. I know people get married and have kids and everything changes. They move and everything changes. Change is hard to deal with and I deal with it very poorly, even moreso now than ever. I have anxiety responses to surprises and changes in routines that I didn’t used to. For instance, I’ve been working so much overtime the last few weeks this morning I felt like something was wrong because I was going into work at my normal time of 9:30am instead of 8:00am or earlier. I live a very weird life.
That’s not really the point I’m getting at.
What I’m getting at is a lot of people have been less than kind to me over the years because I have a way of communicating – and opinions as well – that apparently inflame the sensibilities of most of the people who haven’t been around me for the last 5 years or so. I noticed a trend after reviewing old posts in the wonderful “on this day” feature on Facebook the past few days and a very explosive conversation I had with someone who had the same overall message I had seen years ago and it has me questioning myself despite people telling me I should just brush it off and realize there are always going to be people who react negatively to what I have to say. I tend to agree with this sentiment but, at the same time, there’s this nagging sense of doubt telling me I’m doing something wrong.
Over the years, I have been accused of using my mental health diagnoses as an excuse to be terse or for being perceived as a bully. Even when I was still being treated as Bipolar II, I can recall a very heated back-and-forth with an ex-roommate and now ex-friend, I guess, about things I had to say about political conservatism. I don’t really know where the conversation went wrong but it ended with my being accused of “playing the victim” because I would say I was dealing with something or that I would claim I was being attacked when I was being completely civil and expected the same from other people if they were going to express their opinions.
Rewind even further back when I was ratted out by someone who was on the outs with someone we both knew. I had the “audacity” to call him a drama queen. Some time later I would get a series of three voice mails in a row berating me over and over again and then accusing me of using my then almost consistent bouts with depression and anxiety that came along with Bipolar II disorder for my behavior. I was incensed, of course, and left a voicemail of my own with some very unkind words.
Fast forward to a few days ago when someone, seemingly out of nowhere, blew up at me for posting an opinion about an article that I thought presented a shoddy argument. I said as much and thus ensued a verbal onslaught I was not expecting. Let me be clear: I don’t hold anything against this person because he’s entitled to his perception though I detest the idea of “perception is reality”. My communication style online is short and to-the-point just as it tends to be in my day-to-day. I don’t like to waste words (except when I blog, apparently). Many have interpreted this as my being hostile or argumentative. Granted, there have probably been times when that was the case. I have my bad days just like everyone else and I had to learn some self-control when it came to deciding to respond to certain things or not.
It’s at this point I start asking questions because, apparently, this has been an issue for this person for 3-4 years and only now am I finding out this has been a problem through what ended up with this person being very angry and my being very confused. It’s difficult now to explain to people whom I have not seen since before the beginning of last year the difference between living with what was believed to be a chemical imbalance controlled by an ungodly amount of medication like Bipolar II and a pervasive developmental disorder that affects the processing of things most people take for granted like sensory information.
It’s even more difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t want to listen and thinks you’re using your diagnosis as an excuse which is interesting considering part of the conversation had to do with the stigma of mental illness but that’s not really the point I’m aiming at here. What is puzzling to me is that I can explain until I’m blue in the face that my means of communication is part and parcel of being an Aspy. Especially without all the medication I was on to slow me down, the words come out as I think of them a lot of the time. To me it reads as polite and diplomatic but it seems to inflame the sensibilities of a lot of people. I’ve been accused of insulting multiple members of someone’s family and bullying them for their views. For the record, I do know I’ve had some disagreements with people and I’ve tried to keep it as civil as possible, but I have very few memories of getting in to verbal sparring matches with those mentioned. As I said before, though, my memory is terrible.
At this point, I realize I can’t win. Part of me wants to give up communicating with people altogether because, as frustrating as my daily life can be as far as communication is concerned, I don’t really enjoy being berated even when I apologize and try to explain myself. I’m actually really sick of having to explain myself. If I’m really problematic I wish people would be kind enough to tell me, “Hey, that came off kind of rough,” right away rather than sit on it until the most opportune time to explode. People have their right to be angry because I have no control over their emotional state and, to some degree, they will read what they want to into the things I say. That’s just how language works.
So, just to make it easy on everyone:
Hi, I have Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s a form of Autism Spectrum Disorder and, among other things, it affects the way I communicate. I have difficulty reading emotion in any form of communication. I do not generally notice non-verbal or social cues. Sometimes, I say things that sound or seem like I’m being rude, terse, or condescending. This is generally not intentional. I have difficulty making eye contact and I gesticulate a lot which can make me seem like I am aloof. This is also not intentional.
Hi. Stop fucking telling me I’m using my neurodevelopment as an excuse because, and I’ll make it real simple: