This week has been a tough one for me. Actually it all started accumulating a couple of weeks ago when I really started struggling at work – it was all suddenly getting very overwhelming as I was forced to do things I hadn’t done before, work with people I hadn’t worked with before, and a certain situation just pushed me over the edge. One aspect of my Asperger’s is that I really struggle learning to do things with my hands or use any kind of tools, and it is almost impossible for me to repeat a motor task someone shows me. I actually recently learned that I almost 100% have dyspraxia, which is a developmental co-ordination disorder that affects co-ordination, spatial awareness and sensory perception, and it is closely related to my ASD diagnosis, meaning my brain just isn’t wired like the ‘normal’, neurotypical brain. I was told that since I already have the ASD diagnosis, there wouldn’t be much benefit in getting an official diagnosis of dyspraxia, as these issues can be considered part of my Asperger’s, but I feel like having gotten a better understanding of dyspraxia a lot of things in my life are making much more sense now.
My childhood wasn’t easy when it came to learning tasks like tying my shoe laces (I still do it the ‘children’s way’, apparently), riding a bike (I still struggle with some aspects of it), throwing or catching a ball, doing any kind of craft work (my teachers used to say they can’t leave me without supervision for one minute) or trying to open doors or windows.. There are so many times I remember feeling absolutely clueless and embarrassed when I couldn’t complete a task that others made look so easy. One comment by another pupil has stayed on my mind to this day: someone was knocking on the door to get into the gym hall, and I tried opening it, but just couldn’t figure out which way to turn the lock. So someone else had to come and do it, and the kid behind the door was asking what took so long, and the other went ‘that one couldn’t open the door.’ It has stuck on my mind, because I was ‘that one’, not even worthy of being referred by my name, but rather just that embarrassing kid who couldn’t even open doors.
To this day, I try to avoid situations where I am walking in front of someone towards a door in the fear that it will have a confusing lock. There are many other things that I prefer to avoid doing when someone is watching, like getting on my bicycle because of the awkward way I do it, opening cans using a can opener (I recently had to google a video to remind me how to use one) or any kinds of tools I am not very familiar with.. There are so many things when I think of it, and it is not until now that I am so aware of this. In the past I thought I was just stupid, and later I thought it must be my anxiety causing my inability to perform some simple-looking tasks, but reading about dyspraxia just opened my eyes. In a way it has helped me accept myself a little more, but at the same time I have become more aware of the challenges and limitations I am likely to come across during my life, particularly when looking for work. It is very hard to explain to someone that working as a waitress wouldn’t only be challenging because of my anxiety and social difficulties, but also because of having to listen and write things down at the same time, having to balance a tray or pile plates on top of each other, having to pour down drinks without spilling them, and trying to manage doing all these in some sort of organised order in a professional manner. Or working as a cashier when I need to recount my coins several times even if I am only holding 4 one-pound coins in my hand.
Sometimes I feel hopeless thinking how difficult some simple things can be for me. At the same time, I have to remind myself that it is not because of I am lacking in intelligence. Surely if I was that stupid I wouldn’t have survived university, let alone graduated with first class honours, and surely I wouldn’t have been able to learn to read Hebrew in just a few months. Surely I should be proud of myself that despite of having a brain that is wired a little differently, I have still managed to achieve a lot of things. The best thing I’ve found out is to laugh at things I can’t do. I’ll say things like ‘These bloody can openers are way too technical these days’. There’s not much else in those situations that you can do. I am tired of worrying of looking stupid, and would rather just joke about it. The worst, of course, are people who just have no understanding and no sense of humour. I think they are the ones that make the world a difficult place to live, not the can openers, or the door locks.
I am currently very scared of the future, and how I will cope with ‘the adult life.’ Life is certainly not fair for someone on the spectrum, because everything is designed for ‘neurotypical’ people. I have added pressure from the fact that I am living abroad, and as Brexit is looming, I am afraid of what this means for me. Going back home is not an option for me. I have been trying so hard to build a life for myself, and thinking that someone will come and tell me I have to leave, is terrifying. From my experience, back home people are less accepting or understanding.
This week has just been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I am trying not to be too harsh on myself, but at the same time I don’t want anyone to take pity on me, and I often feel guilty for ‘asking for understanding’ because of my diagnosis. At times I feel like I am asking for too much, but really I just want what most people do. I want to be able to cope in my life, mentally and financially, I want to feel loved, build a home and a family and be able to do the things that I care about. Right now, all that seems very distant, and rather than just barely coping, I wish I had more faith and strength to carry on trying and believing that despite my struggles, I can be in control and create that life for myself.