Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Introduction - Part Two (Teenage Years)

Following on from Part One, I'm giving a potted outline of my life with particular relvance to aspergers. Sadly, since I can't directly refer to aspergers in them, I'm leaving out many of my more exciting and creative adventures; such as the time I built a bomb (aged 11) and nearly wiped out myself and my neighbour, being hit by a motorbike and some interesting adventures with Sharks...

I didn't drop those hints simply to whet your appetite. I wanted to point out that a child's life can be quite dangerous and an aspie's even more so. Often we take more reckless risks, are alone (and unsupervised). We also tend to be be resourceful enough to get ourselves into a lot of trouble.

My life changed aged about twelve when I changed schools and my parents moved house. I started secondary school with a bunch of boys from my previous school but by the end of the year, I'd lost all my friends - and my faith in humanity. The reasons for this are already documented here.

The Classroom
I've already talked at length about my friendships in secondary school, so instead, I'll cover my classroom behaviour.

My classroom behviour was weird and it got stranger as we left the single-teacher world and moved to periods, where we had several teachers every day. Rather than choosing a personality at the start of the year as I'd previously done, I used to choose a different personality for each teacher.

For example, I had something of a crush on my art teacher and I was sweet and innocent for her. Funnily enough, she disappeared for about six months to have a baby and in the interim and we got a "goth" teacher. I changed my personality to better fit into the vibe in her classes and produced some amazing but very dark artwork. I still remember our old teacher dropping in on us unexpectedly one day and not believing that some of my artworks were actually mine. In the end, I shook my head to suggest that they weren't. It was easier than trying to explain about the personalities.

Aspies quite frequently turn into very good actors because they spend so much time trying to mimic neurotypcial behaviours that they lose sight of what parts of their personality are real and what parts are an act. This certainly happened to me and today I find it difficult to find my real personality in amongst all the movie quotations and acts intended to please those around me.

One particularly funny incident happened in an Australian history lesson - my first with a new teacher. The teacher asked a question about what Aborigines ate, and I shouted out "Kangaroos!". He wasn't pleased with my shouting out of turn, particularly when he'd just given the class a lecture about not doing it. He pointed at me saying "detention!".

I began to argue and he said sarcastically, "Well, it's either a detention - or you have to go outside and hop across the oval, right to the very middle and get hit by an aboriginal's boomerang".

It's only now (20+ years later) that I realise that it wasn't funny because of my actions - it was funny because I took him seriously and actually did it. I thought he was giving me a choice because being a typical aspie, I took him seriously. I did the deed to howls of laughter from the classroom - and hopped right into the centre of the playing field to act out the drama. There were three P.E. teachers standing in the middle and I "died" about 2 metres away from them. They were completely stunned. Needless to say, the History teacher and I became very good friends and I still carry a lot of his influence throughout my life.

Towards my later years of school, I became more and more arguementive and difficult to intimidate. I was always good at my work and I always tried hard but I felt that school needed to be a place for fun just as much as work. Teachers always reacted in either of two ways, they'd either become friends and we'd support eachother or they'd try to intimidate me and I'd end up being a major issue for them.

Then there were girls. At some point in my secondary school life, I decided that it was "girl-time". I decided on the arbitary age of 16 for a massive personality change and ditched all my classical music, clothes and attitudes for new and I thought, more trendy, ones. They don't look quite so trendy now when I look at the pictures today. More like "dag".

It was a literally overnight change and I became a new "fake" person. It lasted for about five years and was a lot of effort.

At first, I did a lot more harm than good. My girl chasing activities were more like "staking" because I'd hang around and hope that they had something to say - because I sure didn't know how to initiate a conversation. I wasn't "frightened of girls" or afraid to talk to them. I just didn't have anything I wanted to say to them. Being an aspie, I had no concept of smalltalk.

I'm sure I frightened a lot of people off that way. Of course, when I finally did seem "attached" it would draw more females to me because my attitude would change and I'd give off less "hunter? vibes". That was always irritating because the only time I'd be attractive to the opposite sex was when I was unavailable. I was strict enough with myself that I'd never consider dating another girl at the same time.

Eventually, embarrased by my lack of available funds, I left my high school sweetheart. I never communicated my problems to her and in retrospect this was a mistake. She thought that I was "dumping" her because I didn't like her.

It wasn't the end for us anyway because we're now married - but I'll leave that for part 3.


Rachel said...

You married her? That's so wonderful!

And I really relate about the difficulty of untangling your Aspie self from all the behaviors you've taken on in order to pass. It seems like most of us diagnosed as adults are going through some form of that process.

I wonder whether it's the same for the kids diagnosed today. Do you think that your boys will have the same struggle?

Gavin Bollard said...

It's an interesting question. Will today's kids have the same identity struggle to untangle their aspie selves from their behaviours.

I'd like to think not but in reality, my children already do lots of things which are driven by the aspie sides of their psyches. One day, sometime in the future, they'll want to come to terms with themselves.

When that day comes, they'll have to think back over their past in order to separate their personality traits from their aspie traits.

StatMama said...

Wow, this post sure hit home! Wonderful writing, I'm hooked on your blog now.