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In the Aspie Closet

By Andrew Crippen

I’ve known that I have Asperger’s Syndrome for about 3 years now. At least, known to the extent that a person can know without a professional diagnosis. I suppose, at age 35, it wasn’t the life altering news it is for some of us who finally figure it out, but it certainly has changed how I look at myself. Things in my life, decisions I’ve made and interactions I’ve had which never made sense before now fall under a new umbrella that helps make up the landscape of my personality. Anyone who has Asperger’s knows that (or should know that) the line between where unique personality ends and Asperger’s symptoms begins is fuzzy at best, but having something to explain my childhood and adolescence besides, “well, I was just weird,” is quite a godsend.

All that said, I have no plans to “out” myself to those in my life who don’t know already my particular brain make-up. My immediate family knows, as well as my fellow Adult Aspie group members, that I’m an aspie. My friends and co-workers don’t. Often on ASD internet forums such as Wrongplanet.net, you’ll see an aspie ask, “Should I tell my friend/boss/new girlfriend that I have Asperger’s?” It’s often a difficult dilemma, given that the reactions can range from in-credulousness ( “No, I don’t think so, you just have stress”) to uneducated speculations (“So can you memorize the phone book like that guy in Rain Man?”) to outright cruelty (“Great, my son’s a retard.”). It’s likely much like telling someone you’re gay, except you don’t usually have to explain what ‘Gay’ is with brochures and Youtube videos.

So, for myself, I’ve elected not to tell my friends or co-workers that I have Asperger’s. I don’t do anything special to hide it, so someone armed with Google and Facebook could likely figure it out he or she knew what to look for. If someone outright asked me if I had it, I suppose I’d answer, “What makes you say that?” and decide from there. I’m not ashamed of my Asperger’s, not by a long shot. But we live in a world where I’m the exception, not the rule. And any explanation will have to include the answer to, “Why did you tell me that?”

Because when it comes right down to it, they don’t need to know. Everything my friends and co-workers need to know about me, they already know. My friends know me, hopefully, as a stand up guy who will always come when I’m needed. My co-workers know me as a quirky dude who works hard and is quick with a joke. And that’s who I am. I’m autistic, but more importantly, I’m Andy. And I’m not ready for anything to get in the way of that just yet.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “In the Aspie Closet

  1. Indeed, those who don’t understand how this label can be a godsend… need to open their minds.

    Posted by Autistics Aware | December 21, 2011, 7:47 pm
  2. I came to the realization when my son was diagnosed three years ago at the age of 3. Like you, things suddenly made sense to me. I’m not seeking a professional diagnosis – what good would that do me anyways? But it’s good to finally understand why I do some of the things that I do.

    I’ve told a couple of my real life friends, but only a few. I’ve mentioned it online, but most people who know me don’t know it. And that’s okay.

    Posted by Christina Gleason @ Cutest Kid Ever | December 22, 2011, 10:33 am
  3. You are still you so no explanation needed 🙂 In my son’s case he was struggling with so many things everyone including the school was looking for the why. The diagnosis is just that, the why. It doesn’t define him but helps us know how to help him. IE he doesn’t want to go to the pep rally because it is too loud and chaotic & there is nothing wrong with that.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Posted by AspieSide | December 24, 2011, 7:25 am
  4. “the line between where unique personality ends and Asperger’s symptoms begins is fuzzy at best, but having something to explain my childhood and adolescence besides, “well, I was just weird,” is quite a godsend.”

    I can really relate to this sentiment and I think it is why we who have always known we are different are able to identify with this “label” so readily. As I searched for the possible causes for my daughter’s severe autism, I realized that all my quirkiness could be explained in this genetically plausible way. I wonder, though, if I had been labeled with this problem as a young person, if it would have held me back in life. Not knowing, I just plowed on through life and managed pretty well.

    Posted by Catherine Cornell | January 23, 2012, 8:32 pm

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