Monday, January 4, 2010

No. More. Autism. Websites.

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???


Lady-Light said...

"Atypical Pervasive Developmental Disorder. Ah, so that explains why my hubby is the way he is...

Seriously, I feel for you. I can empathize, because,when I was much younger, I had really serious social (and other) problems which were never 'diagnosed.'

Much had to do with my early childhood and the way I was raised, but I'm sure I am genetically disposed to the problems that I had, which had to do with bi-polar and other...

Please forgive me for suggesting, as you probably know these already-but have you tried registering on J-Date or "saw You at Sinai" (even though you are not religious; I believe some of them, at least, are for anyone Jewish)?
I've also found that one of the best ways to meet someone מתאים is through a mutual friend, who knows both of you.

Ok, again--we don't know each other, so please forgive me for making these suggestions (don't bite my head off); I just wanted to express my empathy and try to help.
You sound very intelligent and capable (and I saw you at the JBlogger's convention, virtually, that is)and you look just fine, so there is someone out there for you. You just have to 'seek...and ye shall find...'

Unknown said...

Sometimes when I am at a party and want to turn around and go home, but I know I will feel like a failure if I do, I ask myself what a very sociable and outgoing friend of mine would do. And then I try to do it a little bit. It helps. Oh, FWIW, this particular friend was shy when she was a child, which is very hard for me to imagine since I met her when she wasn't shy at all!

tafka pp said...

I am so sorry, I was supposed to be at the party, but have a Cough From Hell. I would have thrown popcorn around with you.

I second your FFS (one of my faves as well) - go have fun with the CBT!

Mongrel said...

Being eccentric, is a gift from He...

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

How shall I put this delicately? I believe Gila has been somewhat... disillusioned... by the dating web site, not to mention those of us mutual friends who don't know any single guys.

Anonymous said...

I am your age and a fellow single sister, without the pdd diagnosis. I would never have lasted at that party, that is, if I had even gone in the first place. Of course you were miserable. You are just a normal single woman. No one understands how hard/painful it is unless you have been through it. There are worse things than being lonely and alone, as you know better than anyone. There is plenty to still enjoy while single. But being single, feeling emptiness and isolation, aging alone no one to share life with, being evaluated by others, is quite massively difficult and painful too. I am considered very socially "normal" and appealing. I was consistently found to be attractive/ pretty by single men. I am capable. I am in the exact same position as you. Go for the therapy. Why not? It certainly can't hurt. It is good to be self refelctive (to a point) and make changes where needed. But maybe it is not YOU. Like you are broken. Maybe you are just another single woman , whom for whatever reason,partnership/ love has eluded and IT IS NOT ALL YOUR FAULT! You think every married woman is married because she never made mistakes? Or because she did everything right? I have smart, stupid, gorgeous, obese, nice and mean, happy, depressed friends, plenty of them with very human or even some negative qualities--all married. So don't take all the blame like it is because you are not x y or z. It may very well be you, but not necessarily. Accept who you are and appreciate and care for yourself and enjoy yourself. All this easier said than done. I know. I hope you will meet someone with whom you can build and find happiness and a future with.

mrs. Gudrun Johansson said...

I love coaching like a shrimp but practical

wat does she mean with the shrimp/?

Danny said...

WTF...stop bitching about not finding a guy. Your a gem of a girl, honestly. Muster up some confidence & self esteem and put yourself back on the 'meat market'. Of course if your not really intent on finding a guy..., well then continue bitching.

For what its worth, your a spectacular girl with a truly genuine personality. I'd marry you in a heartbeat.

Lady-Light said...

WHOA, there you go, Gila--Danny's the MAN! Better grab him while he's still available...!

michele said...

Hang in there. I don't seem to have PDD and it still took me till 40 to get married (I'm incredibly awkward at most social gatherings), and till 43 to have my kids (twins). I'm writing an article write now on "middle-aged" moms -- mostly women who married in their 40s and 50s and still managed to have a family (fertility treatments, adoption and, occasionally, the old-fashioned way). Best of luck.

Ronijoy said...

ok first of all, the comments are great here and i will put in my own two cents.
Gila, you are such a fabulous person. Fun and kooky( as am i...) and with a sincere heart, a deep soul. Diagnosis or not,
it's a bitch trying to find a suitable partner and well, other than "Danny"(has he given you a ring yet?...;)
there just ain't a heck of a lot of decent men out there who have yet discovered your unique and loveable sparkle.
I have a "history" too but after many years on the analyst's couch, I finally appreciate who i am and what i have been through has made me special and deep. You are my friend and i don't actually like people in general so that says something about you. You are a burst of sunshine and that is a rare trait.
lots of hugs and encouragement sent your way

RivkA with a capital A said...

"toss a pile of clothes on the floor every night... toss them back on my bed in the morning...promise myself that, really, from tonight, I am going to start putting my clothes away..."

I have this disoreder too (except the my pile never goes away... it just grows larger....)