My Diagnosis

Jen Brett (age 35; Dx age 27)

I have always known I was different from everyone else. I see things in black and white and there is no gray area for me. From ten to twenty-seven years of age I felt out of place as if I didn’t belong. I have always had a few close friends but it’s hard for me to make friends or be in social situations. I always felt awkward and didn’t know what to do. Once I received my testing results and started coaching things started to change for me and my self-esteem started to get better. I prefer to be alone and with animals than people.

At twenty-seven I had some testing done. The results showed that I have Aspergers and all of a sudden everything started to make sense. I now knew why I had trouble socially. It wasn’t because I was doing things wrong on purpose but because it is a social disorder. I had no idea that the things I was doing unintentionally were making people not like me. I was doing things that annoyed them without knowing it.

Once I had my diagnosis I started seeing a coach once a week. It was hard work. At first I thought I’ll try this but it will never work for me. I had homework assignments to do and would start to panic as soon as I heard what it was. Asking a co-worker if they would like to get a cup of coffee with me sometime? No problem, right? I was so panicked I thought I was going to be sick or not be able to ask the question. I had other assignments similar to that over time. It never got easier for me but I realized that if I asked someone the next day then I wasn’t panicked for a whole week.

As time went by I went to coaching every other week and then once a month. At one point I asked if I could stop for a little while and see what happened. After a few months I went back. I needed some more helpful hints on getting along in social situations. Now I can talk to people without shaking and make eye contact for brief periods of time. The coach also helped me to keep my mouth shut and not blurt things out which I tend to do sometimes. Since I see things in black and white if it’s not the truth then it’s a lie. I’ve learned that people don’t want to hear the truth all the time so I just smile and nod.

I’ve reached a point where I don’t go to coaching anymore. I try and do the socially acceptable thing but it’s not easy for me. Sometimes I just want to be myself but that’s not acceptable in most social situations. I work as a substitute teacher and am quick to pick out the students who are having trouble. I know how to help them because I had to learn how to help myself going through school.

Now that I know I have Aspergers, life makes more sense. I can talk to people and eat in the teachers’ lounge without feeling weird. Sometimes I come home and just want to be alone. After being around people all day and watching what I say I just want to relax and be with my cat. I’ve only known about my diagnosis for eight years but it’s made a difference in my life. I went all the way through school without knowing and started the master’s program before I found out.