Monday, August 1, 2016

Before getting diagnosed with ASD, I thought I was a psychopath.

It's true.

I'm unsure how many of you can relate to this; the ones who were diagnosed late, anyway. But prior to getting diagnosed with ASD, I really thought I was a psychopath. 

Granted, it was a combination of me being obsessed with serial killers and psychopaths — which has been topics of fascination to me for a long, long time — and people giving me comments about certain traits that apparently fit me like a glove and the checklist for psychopathy.

"You're narcissistic." 

"Ah, yes. I'm The One."

I've noticed that people on the spectrum receive this comment a lot. We, Aspies, tend to exhibit certain behaviors that come across as narcissism to other people. Often times when people tell me I'm narcissistic, I'm utterly gobsmacked for 10 seconds before I start revisiting every conversation I've had with them; trying to find where exactly I drowned myself in the proverbial pond while admiring my reflection.

But here's the thing. Narcissus would not have done that. He would not waste hours and hours analyzing a sentence to see where he had wronged someone. No, he would go back to admiring his reflection.

I realize that the reason why we come across as narcissistic is because sometimes, we're a bit... slow at reading people. We are desperate to connect with other people, we just don't know how. It's very much like doing a math test, knowing the answer to a question, but having no clue how to hold a pencil.

Here's a delightful sentence I've found floating on the Internet: "The Asperger's patient often wants to be accepted socially, to have friends, to marry, to be sexually active, and to sire offspring."

Why, yes, I do want to be accepted by other people. I do want friends, even though I'm an introvert. And why, yes, I do want to "sire offspring" provided that they're baby goats.

The point is that we value other people's acceptance and company just the same as NTs. We just have no idea how to go about it.

This also goes along the lines of: "you're self-centered" or "you're self-absorbed" or "stop talking about your scrapbook of Jeffrey Dahmer's Polaroids when we're on a date."

"You lack empathy."

Seen over here.

You saw this coming, didn't ya?

It was so predictable. But it's a comment that I have received from former friends (keyword: former) and even relatives. I admit that I do have trouble understanding where another person is coming from, and I have difficulties putting myself in their shoes. This is specifically difficult in real-time conversations and I'll tell you why.

NTs can intuitively read other people's emotions, so they don't need additional effort to understand one another. For me, it takes intellect and analysis to read emotions; this usually comes from collective past experiences and things I've read or watched. Which means I need additional time and effort, and this can be stressful.

It's like knowing 1 + 1 is equal to 2. It is so familiar to us that we don't need a calculator or count our fingers to know the answer. It's almost intuitive. 

However, if I were to ask you tell me the answer to 980 multiplied by 35, you'd need sometime to think about it. That's intellect, and that's what social interactions are like for me. And it's draining. And in the midst of this, sometimes I miss emotional cues, which I will realize a week later when I'm in the shower.

It's also important to note that empathy does not equate to compassion or sympathy. We say this in the Aspie community a lot, but it's not said enough.

"You speak in a monotonous voice. Stop that."

Maybe our ancestors were droids. I'm okay with that.

I can't help it. Sometimes I'm not even aware of my tone of voice.  And for me this problem has caused a lot of Artificial Intelligence comparisons and frequent unsolicited suggestions to "open the pod bay doors, Hal."

A lack of inflection in my voice  paired with an impassive expression on my face; I can now see why that would creep people out. I remember vividly back in 2006, mother pestered me about fixing my tone of voice. Back then, of course, I had no idea what she meant as I found nothing wrong with my voice. Sounding like a character Hugh Dancy would play doesn't really help with making friends either.

All of these comments collectively really made me believe that I was a psychopath. I had nothing else to go on. I was happy, too — in a creepy sort of way, that I was a psychopath. Because I was undiagnosed, I knew something was wrong, and I was ecstatic to belong to a category— any category, so I can tell people, "hey, that's my identity!"

But in the end, it didn't really fit. Because I am not manipulative, I am not a pathological liar, I experience terrible cases of anxiety which psychopaths don't, and as my psychologist so eloquently puts it:

"Oh, honey, no. You're not charming enough to be a psychopath."

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