An Aspie's Voyage

An alien in an alien land – an aspie's quest for a place in the world

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Aspies and Work (and the blessing of being married to my wife)

Adding to my previous blog post I conferred with my wife. She found a thread in the following forum:

One of the comments there very helpfully stated that “if there’s room for comment you could tick the box “yes” then write ‘by the definition of the DDA (disability discrimination act) I have a disability. However, it is well controlled with medication and does not affect my daily routine’.”

In my case this is the truth.


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Work and Asperger’s

So, today I got the form to fill in. On it they ask whether “I consider myself to have a disability.” That is somewhat sneaky. I *am* legally disabled, that *is* a fact, but they cannot really ask that. However, by asking whether “I consider” myself disabled they plan to circumvent the matter. Do I consider myself disabled? Yes, since in way too many circumstances I am. Will my disability affect my job performance? Not necessarily. In some cases it might even enhance my job performance. On the other hand, disabled people scare some employers, and Aspeger’s Spectrum Disorders are poorly known and even less understood.

In any case, I think I have to answer truthfully. I do not see why I should not do well in this job since it is mainly routine, I do not get bored easily and I will have the barrier of a telephone or e-mail between the person I communicate with. I do not anger easily, which is something that perhaps should be an advantage, but all too often in my past this has been abused by ruthless people.

In a healthy workplace where the manager sees to it that everybody focusses on the task ahead I usually thrive. In an unhealthy workplace where informal hierarchies and social connections become important, and work of only secondary importance, as an aspie I have problems.

I have both read and heard that employers nowadays seem to want young people with large social networks on Facebook and LinkedIn. Other that social net-working abilities I wonder what skills they bring into the workplace, really? And will it not be so that maintaining these networks will also mean that working time will be spent doing it? I don’t know. I am just opinionated, which many aspies apparently are.

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An aspie and work and life in general

Aspies do work. In fact, given the chance and in the right environment we can be very good workers. If the job is in the field of our special interest so much the better. Jobs that are repetitive do not bother me. I worked as a QC engineer, and did very well. At one point I helped interview an applicant, and noticed how they shuddered with horror at the job. I have also done well in positions where I have been given a problem to solve and left alone to do it. After a while I return from the shadows with a solution.

The problems that I have experienced with jobs almost always have to do with the social aspects. I am bad at writing CVs and do not always do well at interviews. I just read a recent article that narcissists tend do very well at interviews since they excel at the attention and do not care for sticking to the truth (my words). Then, when they have turned out to be not suitable for the jobs they have already established such a network that it is almost impossible to get rid of them. Needless to say, I don’t get along with narcissists. My mother might be one, and that might has burnt me. Narcissists also thrive on attention and in groups. A narcissist is interested in another persons ‘social capital’ to see how useful they are to them. As an aspie I do not have ‘social capital’ and neither will I pay attention to anyone when it is not warranted. Therefore, in groups dominated by one or more narcissists life is hell for me.

Neither do I go much for networking. All the jobs I’ve had I have got by just being competent and the right, more or less, person for the the job. That caused me a lot of angst now when after four years of being outside the work force caring for sick, distressed and disabled relatives I found myself broke and in need of a job, and quickly. At fifty, long term unemployed and with no connections the situation looked grim. However, I seem to have been offered a job at a call-centre, which was lucky.

I have also considered becoming self-employed. That should sound ideal for an aspie, but there are two HUGE problems. One is that we aspies have a problem with the decision making and executive functions of the brain. I can get overwhelmed with information and not being able to come to a decision. It can also be difficult for me to start and finish a project. Not good traits for a self-employed, are they? And then there is the networking thing… promoting and marketing my possible business would be very complicated for me. So, at least for the time being I am better off in low-paying but still gainful employment.

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A pause in posting

A friend of mine visited for a few days and I had no possibility of posting. When checking back I noticed that I’ve had eighteen views over the last few days! I am truly thrilled. Absolute strangers have read what I have written. People that don’t know me and don’t have any other reason for viewing what I have written other than for sheer interest – Thank you!

I wrote that a friend had visited. It seems to be another misconception that aspies don’t form friendships or make friends. In fact, the first question the diagnosing psychiatrist asked me was whether I had ever had any friends. I have had and have many acquaintances, but what is problematic for me is to actually form a friendship. It is only under very favourable circumstances that I have made friends. My friends tend to be very kind people, other persons who are not very social, and people with whom I share special interests such as creative writing, boardgames, RPGs and military studies. These are areas that attract people that are not necessarily mainstream in their outlook on life, therefore they can be very accepting of peculiarities and eccentricities.

Gaming is a very structured environment, where the participants gather to do specific tasks, and where social ability is not tested. Role playing games in particular seem to be a very good environment for me. While my social skills are limited I do have the ability to playact! I do hasten to add that in a traditional RPG it is the quest and not the social aspect that is central.

I also did fairly well in the army, where the ability to work together to achieve a common goal is tested and developed and not the social skills. Doing my national service was a watershed for me – I found out that I could function in formally structured groups and even thrive, since I turned out to be a good and reliable comrade.

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Life as an aspie

We have just returned from Dorset. A former colleague of mine is in the Dorset Opera Group an invited us to attend this year’s performance of Verdi’s Aida. It was superb, however, several people complained that the singer doing Radames was bad. For a reason which I can’t remember he was called at the last minute, so he had little time to rehearse. Then it struck me that there are similarities with life as an undiagnosed aspie. I acted normally, but I had not been given enough time to understand and rehearse the script and therefore my performance was sub par.

That is one way of describing life as an asperger.

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How to explain Asperger Spectrum Disorder to someone – 1

I did not know that my experience of the world differed from the way a neurotypical person experiences the world because I had nothing to compare with. Everybody familiar with Wittgenstein knows that we cannot share experiences, and that threw me. I was so frustrated with myself, and others were frustrated with me, because there were apparently simple things in everyday life that I could not grasp. I felt lost, lonely and betrayed by myself. I did not often bring this up with my counsellors because I did not think it important, and when I brought it up, neither did the counsellors!

I got some solace from reading Nietzsche, since of what I understand, everyone essebtially has the ability to create their own destiny. I would say Nietzsche can give solace to people on the spectrum because his philosophy is based on personal experience and creativity.


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Religion and Spirituality

Yesterday I posted that we, my wife and I, went to church. It is an odd experience for me as an aspie. The apparent feeling of communality, of being part of something bigger than myself, is so alien. I suppose that the blind belief of my fellow churchgoers also puts me off. It might be because of my aspieness, but I have difficulties accepting things just because I should. I would like to ask people why they believe in God and perhaps crack a non-pc joke or two.

I think it is a mistake to think that we on the ‘spectrum’ do not have a spiritual life, Some of us do, it probably just tends to be idiosyncratic and individual. I do believe things happen for a reason, but I just most of the time do not know the reason!

I do feel comfort from prayer and from being part of a community, even if they feel somewhat sceptical of me. I obviously do not believe in the way they do, and I do not act in the neurotypically prescribed manner. On the other hand, most people in church are friendly, which is nice.