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Friday, January 03, 2014

Aspies are loners, but don't want to be alone

Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate. ~ Germaine Greer 

Usually, I put some sort of insightful, thoughtful quote here, but today, I decided to combine the image with the quote.  I think Robin Williams either has Asperger's or understands it completely.

The older a person with Asperger's gets without a diagnosis and therapy, the worse they get.  It's as though they lose their filter.  Most Aspies, though, learned at a younger age to "straighten up and fly right" in order to fit in.  These are people who are MASTER chameleons.  They are able to quickly read any social situation and immediately become the person they need to be.  However, there are signs:

He was the student who "never reached his full potential".  He's the kid who was bullied by his peers for being "odd".  He's the kid who spent ALL his time playing video games.  He's the kid who never had many friends, nor does he have them now.  He's the guy who excels at science, computers and math, which isn't to say all people good at these subjects has Asperger's, but these are also the guys who are engineers, doctors, lawyers and other highly successful careers.  These are also the guys whom as adults everyone thinks is WONDERFUL.

But they don't live with them.

They don't see the rigidity of their lifestyle.  They aren't the ones being ignored, day after day after day.  They're also not the ones who get to see the meltdowns, the temper tantrums, the extreme anxiety that comes with any emergency because they simply don't know what to do.  They're not the ones to be standing there when you've walked up behind your Aspie to given them a quick hug or peck on the back of the neck and are sent sailing across the room because they can't stand to be startled.  And while you're picking yourself up off the ground, injured, you get to listen to them rant on just how stupid, thoughtless and uncaring you are for making them hit you like they just did.  They're not the ones who are there to see him ignore you when you're sick because they can't stand the thought of taking care of another person and they'll treat you as though you have leprosy or some other communicable disease.  They're not the ones to see him hit you, giving you a black eye, because your vomiting in the middle of the night woke them up and they need their SLEEP DAMN IT!  They're no the ones to see you crammed into the back of the closet or shower stall to hide from the kids your crying your eyes out because of the pain you experience every day of your life because your Aspie has, once again, ignored you for another day.  They're not the ones who are there to watch the kids come home with some major accomplishment and see their crestfallen faces when they run to their father, excited and thrilled, sharing their big news and his response is either, "That's nice" or "You could have done better and this is how..."

Aspies really don't want to be alone.  The would VERY much like to have friends and a social life.  But they just can't.  It's not that they don't have the skills, they just don't have the confidence and self-esteem.  They're SO desperate to be liked, it terrifies them to approach a social situation, any social situation, because they've already run through all the possible scenarios in their head and the result is always the same there - they'll hate me and think I'm a dork.  Because this is the only scenario they can imagine, they refuse to engage in any relationship of any kind, even romantic ones.

With my STBE, much like what I've heard from every other Aspie wife out there, he wanted to sit next to me on the couch each evening.  He simply wanted me to do it while he sat there with the iPad in his lap, earbuds in his ears, while he watched either videos on YouTube or movies on one of our accounts.  A typical day in our house went as follows:
  1. STBE would come home from work, usually around 5:00, 
  2. give me a quick peck "Hello", 
  3. go change clothes, 
  4. eat dinner if it was ready, fix dinner if it wasn't (with my RA, I wasn't able to stand up or chop anything for long...Not much anymore), 
  5. sit at the dinner table with me and rush through eating his dinner saying absolutely nothing to me at all. If I would try to talk to him, his responses would be either hostile (as in, "I'm eating!") or monosyllabic, to the extent I'd just stop trying
  6. Put his dishes in the sink (maybe...) and precariously pile them on top of the rest because he can't be bothered to empty the dishwasher (one of his three "chores") for four or five days at a time.
  7. Walk to the den
  8. Pick up the iPad (mine, which he took over the day it came into the house)
  9. Put the earbuds in, 
  10. Find a video to watch
  11. Sit there and watch it
If I wanted or needed to say something to him, I'd touch his leg.  This would be followed by a loud sigh, his going through the exaggerated motions of pausing his video, taking his earbuds out, then looking at me with the rolling of the eyes and saying, "WHAT?"  At this point, after all the histrionics, would generally respond with, "Oh, terribly sorry for bothering you with my need for human interaction."  

Oblivious to the sarcasm, he would put his earbuds back in and turn his video back on.

If I decided I'd had enough of this and would get up to go to the bedroom to watch television or read a book, he'd do one of two things: he'd either take out his earbuds, put away the iPad and start watching TV on his own (thus sending me the message it was ME he didn't want to interact with, not the television) or he would get upset with me for leaving the room for anything more than going to the bathroom or getting something to drink in spite of the fact he's been ignoring me for a couple of hours or so.

The bottom line is, it's not that I'm really there so we can spend some time together, talk, laugh, get to know each other again after so many years of focusing too much on the business of raising a family, but because he doesn't want to be alone in the room.

And I should say, by the time I got to this point, I'd already experienced several months of trying to engage with him and being unsuccessful.  Although, to be fair, this had been going on for years, it just took me this long to really notice it.  In the beginning, when we were still in marriage counseling, I would bring this up, that I was feeling ignored, more like furniture than a person.  Mark would poo-poo this, tell me it was all in my imagination and that I was delusional (his word) and then tell me how hurtful it was for him to hear me say this to our marriage counselor and to try so hard to make him look bad, thus turning it around onto me while making it about him at the same time.  He wouldn't address my hurt, he just made it about him.  Always about him.

It didn't take me long to decide I'd had enough of that, too.

To Aspies, the people in their lives are there for a purpose and it's a purpose that's decided on by the Aspie.  And the sole reason for having this person in their life is to fulfill that purpose, whatever it is.  Whether it's to listen to their problems, do their laundry, tell them what a wonderful person they are, whatever.  But everyone is expendable and interchangeable, based on the needs of the Aspie.  Should you require anything in return from the Aspie, such as when a parent dies or you're told you have a serious illness, forget about it.  They won't engage and will, in fact, become VERY angry with you over needing them.  They will turn tail and run from you as fast as they can and when called on it by you will make it your fault they turned their back on you.  And they'll do it in some clever ways, leaving your head spinning.  And you'll also find yourself apologizing to them for having the audacity to need them to support you, for a change.

My father died in 2001 from cancer.  He'd been diagnosed about 18 months earlier and when he was diagnosed, his oncologist told us all, there's no cure for this.  The best we can do is give him chemo and offer him a few more good months.  This weighed heavily on me and it was during this 18 months I found out I had cancer, too.  In fact, my dad and I were in the same hospital at the same time having procedures done to try to improve our conditions.  I was completely alone in all of it.  My husband went with me to the hospital for the procedure, but once it was done, there as no chance for recuperation because he went back to work the next day.  I had a house full of kids to take care of.  

Also during this 18 months, we were going somewhere as a family.  By this time, my nephew was living with us and we had two of our own in the house.  Everyone had gone to the car but I had to backtrack to get something from the house.  I'd stepped into the silence of our home and was suddenly hit with it all in one fell swoop. The rush of emotions that came to me out of nowhere forced me to sit down at the kitchen table, put my head in my hands and lay them on the table, crying my eyes out like I hadn't cried in years.  At some point, my nephew came into see what was taking me so long.  I barely registered his being in the entry of the kitchen when he went outside to tell my husband, "Aunt Nancy's in the kitchen and she's crying.  I think she needs your help."  What was Mark's response to my nephew?  "What am I supposed to do?  I can't make her dad healthy again."  He never came into the house and I walked outside to the car, eyes finally free or tears but puffy and obvious I'd been crying.  He didn't say a word to me.  Everyone simply pretended it didn't happen.

Finally, the day my dad was rushed to the hospital for what was his final admittance so he could be transferred to hospice, my siblings and I rushed to the hospital, me locally, my sisters and brother from other states, to be there.  The only person who wasn't there was my STBE.  I started calling him immediately because a.) I wanted him there with me and b.) someone needed to pick up our youngest from the school bus so this seven-year-old boy didn't come home to a locked house.  For three hours I tried to get hold of Mark.  He wasn't answering his cell phone.  He wasn't at his desk. The receptionist at his workplace couldn't find him.  His supervisor was looking for him.  There were people searching the building for him and his car wasn't in the parking lot.  They were paging him every few minutes because I was a crying mess on the phone.  No one knew where he was until he seemed to have magically appeared at his desk.  To this day, he'll swear he was at his desk the entire time and people must have just been missing him whenever he got up to go to the bathroom or to get a cup of coffee (to understand this, see Gas Lighting - and once I write my tale of woe in relation to this, I'll change the link to that posting).  However, it also came out later he was in the midst of his cheating with one of his sluts.  I'm guessing he was with her during that time and was refusing to answer his cell because (and here's the strangest part of his affairs) he refused to cheat on his girlfriends (yes, multiple) with his wife but was okay cheating on his wife with his girlfriends.  Once he got to the hospital, my sister tells me all he could talk about was how inconvenient it was Daddy was dying when he was because Mark was on a project with a deadline coming up at work he needed to get back to and finish.

Just to be clear - cheating with your girlfriend during the workday is just fine and dandy.  Father-in-law dying during the workday causes major problems and is inconvenient, thus causing major stress.  Once again, it was all about him.

I found out several months later, during the last year of my father's life and the six months or so I was dealing with my own cancer, my husband was having an affair with a piece of trash he worked with, a graphics design artist named Pam. Adding insult to injury, she was also the wife of someone I grew up with, his mother being my Girl Scout leader for several years.  Once the affair was discovered by the husband of this POS, Mark's reasoning for it was, "If you hadn't ignored me so much, I wouldn't have had to find someone else."  Terribly sorry my cancer and my dad's dying got in the way of me paying attention to you, you selfish prick.

And to put the nail in the coffin that is your life, it's not enough the Aspie is ignoring you, they will work to separate you from anyone meaningful in your life.  Your friends.  Your family.  Your children.  Your job.  Anyone who might take your time, energy or attention away from them is fair game and they will work to get in between you and these people, even lying if they have to in order to make it happen.  And it happens so subtly, you don't even realize it's happening until it's too late.  You stop one day, look around you and see no one but you and the Aspie and then it'll hit you what they've been doing, all along.  And you cry.  But there's no one there to give you a shoulder or to hear your sobs.

To close, and I can't say it any simpler than this, being married to a person with Asperger's will be the loneliest months, years or decades of your life.  And you'll be told it's all your fault.