I am told that I have something called Asperger’s Syndrome. Wikipedia defines it as: “a developmental disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication…” In other words, I don’t play well with others. I’m kind of like Sheldon Cooper on the television show “The Big Bang Theory,” except that I don’t have a genius level I.Q. I don’t get a lot of the social norms or rules of behavior that other people seem to have been born knowing. I understand sarcasm, but many people with Asperger’s don’t. We take people at face value. If you say that you think or feel a certain way, we will believe you. We are not rude, but we may be perceived that way, because many of us say what we feel without filtering it first.
I take medication to manage the depression and high levels of anxiety that my condition brings along with it. Although sometimes I feel as if the medication is so that the world can manage me. If it were up to me, I would never have been put on this poison to begin with. I experience a great deal of sluggishness of mind and body; side effects of many psychiatric medications. Yet these medications are addictive, very much so, and even recovered to the peak of mental health, you don’t just stop taking them cold turkey. I tried reducing and then eliminating my psych meds last spring and summer, with my doctor’s help, but couldn’t cope. I had been on the stuff for so long, from adolescence to adulthood that my brain didn’t know how to function without it. I remember being angry for the better part of last year, wanting to scream aloud at everyone around me. So I had to go back on it.
Getting up and starting the day is one of the most stressful things about my Asperger’s. If it were up to me, I would face no more obstacles in getting out of bed and dressed each day than any other man. And yet, I am a woman, with all its encumbrances and feminine expectations; bra, shaved legs and underarms, long hair and makeup. “Just don’t wear a bra” my old therapist told me when I complained that wearing a one felt as if I were being suffocated and choked. Really? When all I want is to blend in and feel as if I fit in. These garments feel as if I am being choked or strangled. Same with the long hair. I think I look better that way, but the feel of it loose around my face is irritating, as is the feel of a hair tie or headband. And yet I am not Transgender; I have no desire to live my life as a member of the opposite sex. I just detest the expectations put upon my gender. Many people with Asperger’s experience something similar. It’s called sensory overload. It’s different for everyone. Not everyone is bothered by the same sensations. For some, light and sound are magnified. For me, anything tactile is bothersome. Hence the struggles I experience with dressing and grooming. By the time I am dressed each and every day, I am often too exhausted to even think about leaving the house.
My apartment feels like a prison. I am one of the youngest women here, and one of the better looking. Yet I have to dress down just so I can walk to the store or to the library right up the road. The offers, the suggestive leers and glances I receive from the men in my building are too much to bear. I can barely step outside my door without wearing anything but long pants and a heavy long sleeved shirt. Or at least that is the way I feel. It’s the only armor I know of that helps me feel safe enough to even attempt to be physically comfortable stepping out into the world.