Someone once labeled me Anti Social. I was puzzled by this because I certainly was not against people being social. I have always held that being social was a good thing, and that people should socialize more often. Most of the world’s problems seem to arise out of a lack of socializing. I know I don’t socialize as much as I should, but that was not for lack of wanting.
Evidently, that was not what he was talking about. He called me Anti Social because I was strongly opinionated and argumentative, and because I found making my point during a discussion more important that protecting a person’s feelings, because they may be offended by my own opinion.
No doubt I was hurt by having this negative moniker thrust upon me. The person who said this was popular among a group of people I attempted to socialize with, and so I assumed the group all had similar feelings about me. I then retreated from my attempts to befriend them. I understand that my argumentativeness – 99 percent of which occurred in an online chat room – offended some, and that others were offended that I had offended their friends. To say that I lack interpersonal communication skills would be an understatement. I think that’s the crux of the problem.
When a person displays a lack of proper social skills, no one ever considers why the person is behaving the way he does. All they want to do is distance themselves from him. Yet my argumentative nature was not due to anger towards, or a disliking of, the people I talked with. I just did not know how else to communicate my ideas.
Wanting to understand myself, and why I behaved the way I did, led me to the discovery of Asperger’s Syndrome. It was quite the epiphany, it answered so many questions. When I surveyed the significant events of my life in light of Asperger’s, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.
There are two main paths a person’s life will follow if they have Aspergers, either they go on to do great things in life, by way of the peculiarities of Asperger’s, or they live lives of complete despair – the difference depending primarily on how the parents responded to their child’s peculiar Asperger influenced behavior.
For those who did great things, the thing they all seem to have in common is that they came from families of educated, intellectual people. Temple Grandin’s mother was a Harvard graduate, John Elder Robinson’s father was a college professor. They were raised in environments were their eccentric behavior was not belittled, insulted, considered “bad” or a source of contention.
My parents found my behavior to be disconcerting and soon labeled it offensive. They responded by belittling and insulting and embarrassing me. I assume they believed that treating me this way would motivate me to act “normal.” Being chastised by my parents became a daily routine, which eventually became contagious so that my extended family and neighbors soon treating me the same way. Eventually I lost the motivation to talk to and do things with other people. I was about 8 years old then. My only solace was vegging out in front of the TV for several hours a day. This treatment had the effect of stunting my already dysfunctional social skills.
My parents were not intellectuals, they certainly were not well educated. They had their own insecurities, and inabilities, which made life for me that much more confusing to me. My mother also suffered from depression and other neurosis. She had created a small world unto herself where everyone who wanted to, or had to, interact with her knew they could only approach her in one certain way, otherwise she’s flip out. She turned our family into her own little protective cocoon, where her ideas and thoughts about herself and the world never went challenged. This led to even more social isolation for me. Even today I don’t have the social maturity of someone my age.
Needless to say, I was unprepared for life on my own in the big world when it came time for me to leave home. And I resisted as long as I could. But at the age of 21 my father told me I had to move out. I did, and within a couple months, if even that, I was homeless.
There is nothing I’d like more than to be accepted into the social circles I encounter through life. But even now, I lack the skills to make it happen. The loneliness used to inspire thoughts of suicide. But as much as I wanted to die, I just could not kill myself. Now in my 50s, I’ve grown accustomed to living alone.
As families gather for the holidays, as friends meet up at bars and clubs, or go on outings together, visit each other in their homes, entertain each other, talk to each other – the bonds of friendship strengthening, I’ll be on my computer, trying to keep myself busy.