Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Aspie - In the Closet

So... in college today, everybody waiting to get their first set of results, major stress all over. I was trying not to get stressed, but when surrounded by all that anxiety - difficult not to join in.

Yesterday I had a very typical, for me, aspergian lapse of manners, there were two of us supposed to have a tutorial straight after work with our personal tutor, she arrived late, and asked if we had figured out who was going first. There was a pause, and my friend looked at me, I immediately jumped in and said "I'll go first, you can go first next time." Completely forgot that her husband works night shifts, and she had to leave early. Went straight into the tutorial, and came out to find her, coat on, face all red, obviously upset. That was the point at which I realised I had screwed up. Apologised in person briefly, and by text later on, twice, and I think that we're OK.

I hate it when I get stuff like that wrong. That's when the word Disability starts looming in my mind. I feel quite helpless. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of the time, I pass as Normal/Neurotypical, although people think I'm eccentric, they see me as clever, and articulate. I got voted in as class rep on my Nursing course, not my idea at all.  I have been consciously trying to keep a low profile, as I am suddenly aware that doing this course could seriously expose my social deficits. I try not to talk too much in classes, not to answer all the questions I know the answer to, just a proportionate number, like everybody else. I consciously ask other people how they are coping with the stress, and I have banned myself from indulging in special interest monologues. (I don't always manage it, but I have cut down a Lot.)

I've been reading the posts on Social Rules on Wrong Planet, and it's really interesting and helpful. I can see from the posts that lots of us aspies are social anthropologists, learning social rules through observation and bitter experience of getting it wrong. And some people are asking 'should we be doing this?' Should we be trying to pass as N/T? Shouldn't we be proud of being Aspie?

I only have my own answer to that, which is a huge fudge. I am proud to be Aspie at home, and I am totally proud of my Aspie kids, and very public about their status. But when it comes to my new career, I am afraid that if I 'come out', I will be subject to prejudices around my ability to be empathetic, or read body language. In fact, I have had years of experience of watching body language very closely, until my conscious readings are usually as accurate as those of an intuitive N/T. While I don't see any issue in becoming a nurse, I suspect that there may be many people in the NHS who would be very quick to say that my disability disqualifies me from working in that role.

What do other people think about this? Should aspies be working in 'caring' professions? Should we be 'in the closet' at work?


  1. This is the first time I have read your blog, Callie and I can relate in so many ways. I have a fairly new "official" diagnosis, having been self diagnosed for quite some time prior. Now that I know that I am not NT, it has changed my retrospective view of my life in so many ways. I had struggled with mental health diagnoses for many years prior and now believe some of that should really have been attributed to my being Aspie, and/or my way(s) of coping with being an undiagnosed Aspie trying VERY hard to be NT my whole life.

    Finding out that I fit into the ASD realm has revolutionized how I view life-past, present and future. However, I must admit some days I have far less awareness than others.

    I was led to self diagnosis after seeing my oldest and youngest sons go thru the process and had done tons of reading. Then this last year, when I still had insurance, I finally found a practitioner who was willing to work with an adult female to help me find out for sure.

    Having said all that, when I was 22 I got my LPN certification in Texas while graduating with a 4.0. Early in my career I worked in dialysis, Medical and Surgical Intensive Care Units, blood banking & pheresis in following years. At 33 I went back to college, single mother of 3 just after a divorce and move back to NY. I got my RN in 2 years at the state college, graduating with a 3.7, willing a number of awards along the way.

    Over the course of the next 10 years after that I started gradually unraveling. My health was an issue as my body was revolting with a significant case of fibromyalgia. A number of SUPER stressful (psychologically) positions created havoc with my psyche as did a tumultuous 2nd marriage. 2 1/2 yrs ago it all piqued and I hit my maximum saturation point with life.

    I say all of this to say -- hey it is possible to do all sorts of things and I encourage you and applaud you for doing it. As far as being in the closet, I have so far been very selective with whom I tell, mostly because in many ways life has felt very cruel & I just am not up to much more rejection. So my "advice" is to sense out each situation and person.

    I believe Aspie's can thrive in the caregiver role for many reasons. I know without a doubt I was a much more caring and compassionate caregiver than many people I have worked with over the years. To many it was just a job. Another thing that made me a good nurse is that wonderful Aspie quality of being a "rule follower" - protocol and following procedures was always very important to me and almost always resulted in better outcomes.

    I don't know if this has helped at all and I hope it hasn't been too much of a downer. Just being honest. And in case you're wondering, I am almost 49.

  2. Hi Cindy, thanks so much for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. It's really brilliant to hear about somebody else with these issues working in healthcare, and feeling fine about being in a 'caring' profession. I share your view that not everybody in such professions really do care!

    I think you are right about keeping my aspie status private, that's one of the reasons I'm not officially diagnosed, if I was, I would be obliged to announce it to my University, and also to my mentors. (might as well announce it in the staff room). I'd rather be judged on my own merits, and certainly so far I'm thriving in the role.

    I've always been attracted to caring roles in my own life, and it is a privilege to be starting a new career in this sector. I really enjoy my interactions with my patients, and treating them as individuals.

    I particularly loved your comment about being a 'rule follower', it made me laugh out loud! I recognise myself in there. Being a rule follower has defined my life, even though I like to think of myself as a rebel in some ways!

    It's so great to hear from you, and to know there's somebody else out there having similar experiences, I was starting to wonder if I was the only one! I'm 43 by the way, embarking on a new career relatively late in life, but I reckon I've half my working life still to go, maybe more if they keep moving the retirement age...

  3. If you don't reveal your A.S to your employer you have no protection should a melt-down or dyspraxia lead to loss of employment. There is no reason why someone with AS should not be a nurse but it is as well to protect yourself.

  4. I think I need to look up Wrong Planet for what these rules are! I have such a horrendous thing of just opening mouth without engaging brain.

  5. This is the link for the posts that got me thinking!