I think that one of my New Year's Resolutions is going to be to never, ever, EVER look at another website having to do with autism.
The story goes like this. Last week I had a chat with a woman who is acquainted both with my perennial single and dateless status and my diagnosis as being on the autism spectrum (PDD-NOS). Of course, this could describe virtually anyone who knows me, and quite a few random people who do not, but who have happened upon the relevant posts in my blog. No matter. Anyway, THIS particular person is also well-acquainted with autism spectrum disorders in general, and as such, it occurred to her to put both tidbits of information together. You know, she said, it could very well be that the dating woes are linked to the autism spectrum disorder. Perhaps I might be helped by cognitive therapy. Had I considered that?
The truth is that I had not considered that. This is due, in no small part, to my having not the foggiest idea of what the hell "cognitive therapy" is. (I Googled it. From what I can see, it is coaching. I love coaching—like a shrink, but practical.) But it is also due to our having very different perceptions of the PDD-NOS. She views it as something I have. I view it as something I had.
As in, I do not have it anymore.
I was fucked up. Now, I am normal. Granted, I am a bit eccentric. But apart from that (and really, eccentricity can be quite nice, no?) perfectly normal. And well adjusted. And a productive member of society. With friends and everything.
But, admittedly, without a love life. And now that she had mentioned it, I supposed she might be onto something. Maybe I was having problems making connections or reading signals or something. Why not give this a try? I made an appointment with the cognitive therapist she recommended. And then, just to get the therapy ball rolling, I decided to read up a bit on autism spectrum disorders, so as to get a feel for where I am falling short. I pulled out my medical records from the Center and read over and marveled (for the zillionth time) just how badly screwed up I was at the time I was admitted. Then I entered the official diagnosis into Google: Atypical Pervasive Developmental Disorder. A list of websites popped up. I started to read.
I read over the symptoms, compared them to my life and evaluated which ones could be applied to me. People with my disorder have troubles fitting in. We act differently; we seem to lack social skills. We have trouble connecting to others and establishing relationships. We are detached from the feelings of others and find it difficult to "read" people. The reading and transmission of non-verbal communication and body language are not our fortes. We do not know how to handle feelings of anxiety or anger; we will go off if frustrated. We are obsessive and have a profound attachment to schedules, routines and order.* In short, we are weirdoes. Loners. Clueless. And (this is key) many of us do not succeed in finding a partner or establishing a family. We are the ultimate dateless wonders.
Suffice it to say that by the time I was done reading, I had managed to convince myself that I was still suffering from the disorder, was not cured at all, was a complete social misfit, hopelessly disabled and a good candidate for a sheltered care facility. Finally, and most importantly, I was doomed to be single.
Saturday evening, I finally shut off the computer and went to a party at a friend's house.The guest list included several million people I did not know, all of whom arrived with spouses and children. I did not enjoy this party. Based on the day's reading, I attributed my lack of enjoyment to the PDD-NOS. Had I been normal, I told myself, even though I did not know and (apparently) did not have a lot in common with anyone there, I would have had a swell time. I would have been wandering the room, striking up conversations and getting to know everyone and their children. Instead, I spent most of my time hiding out in the corner by the popcorn, nursing a killer headache, and biding my time until I figured I had been there long enough that I could leave without causing offense.
So that was the weekend. Sunday was no better. I spent the day fighting off gloom and envisioning my sad and loveless future. I wrote off ever having a husband. Really Gila, can you handle a relationship? Would that not be just too much for your fragile psyche? Are you not just too…well…different to ever get a guy? And children? Oh, out of the question. Completely.
Families are for normal people. I am not normal. I am on the autism spectrum. We do not have families and relationships. Therefore, I will not have a family.
This went on ALL DAY. I sat in my office, working on the Report From Hell, imagining my desolate future, envying the Normal People, and trying not to cry. Finally, at 8:30 PM (did I mention it was the Report From Hell?), as I was leaving the office, a rather irritated voice popped up inside your head.
Oh for fuck's sake**, Gila, have you lost your mind? You read the websites, yes? How many of the things that you have done were you "supposed" to have done, based on the websites? You did them because no one ever told you that you couldn't, and you just assumed you could, if you worked hard enough and long enough. Now some random website is saying "oh, people with autism spectrum disorders rarely end up in relationships", and you are buying that? Yes, it is probable that the woman is correct and the disorder has handicapped you in respect to dating. It makes a lot of sense, fits the facts and is even good to know; you do not have to continue beat yourself up over your failure. But, self-pity? Despair? This is helping? Knowing the cause of a problem means you have a chance at solving it. Cut the crap, go to the cognitive therapist or a coach or whatever, fix whatever the hell needs fixing—all these skills can be learned—and gamarnu. Nu, get OVER yourself, already!
Ahem. My brain, she has a tendency towards crankiness. She does not handle irritating situations well. I think she is a bit disturbed.
Right, so, I am off the websites.
*My order includes a daily ritual in which I toss a pile of clothes on the floor every night and toss them back on my bed in the morning, at which point I promise myself that, really, from tonight, I am going to start putting my clothes away after I am done wearing them. I do this every day but Saturday. On Saturday morning I put the clothes away. Saturday night, I start a new pile. In my opinion, this counts as order.
**New profanity, picked up from my friend Natalie. Is it not the best profanity ever???