I Have Asperger’s Syndrome. Don’t Hate Me.

pic of lonely teddy bear on the gravel road

The Internet is filled with articles on Asperger’s syndrome, or more precisely a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here’s one written by someone who actually lives with it. Welcome to my world.

‘Everyone in my family hates me!’ I sobbed my heart out. 

‘They don’t hate you… they just don’t get you…’ said Mr Wow, cradling me tenderly in his arms. 

That night, I cried and ranted on and on about my family for at least three hours. Mr Wow, as ever, was the voice of reason throughout the entire episode/meltdown.

I love my family to bits but we don’t get along. Everyone, in particular my dad, seems to have a problem with me, or more specifically the way I talk. It’s true that my mouth often gets me into trouble. I know I’m not a very likeable person but it still hurts when my family misunderstands my intentions and draw conclusions about me.

That my personal relationships are filled with stress, misunderstandings and quarrels frustrates me immensely. Thankfully, I have Mr Wow. I’m so glad I married him as he is truly the only one in this whole wide world who understands me. We love each other deeply and I cannot imagine life without him. However, I worry at times that he would give up on me and tell me that it’s too difficult to live with an Asperger’s spouse. 

I only learned that I have Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), in my adult life. My first reaction to the news was relief. I’m not crazy after all! I was eager to learn more about my kind, so I spent countless hours reading up on ASD and discussing my findings with Mr Wow. But as things began to make more sense to me, all my past ‘sins’ came flooding back and I felt like I was on a major guilt trip. I cried on and off for weeks before finally snapping out of it.

I only learned that I have Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), in my adult life. My first reaction to the news was relief. I’m not crazy after all!

As you might have guessed, I was extremely problematic when I was young. I gave my family, especially my long-suffering mum a lot of shit. Nobody suspected that I might have Asperger’s; they just thought that I badly needed a personality transplant. I was definitely at my worst in my early teens (very capricious and cantankerous, like I was always out to pick a fight), partly because I was bullied in school. I was accused of staring at a girl, and consequently she and her minion terrorised me for two years. Truthfully, I was indeed staring, only because I liked her hairstyle. I didn’t know it was such a crime to stare. The bullying affected me so much that I eventually transferred to another school, but those two years continued to haunt me for a very long time.

Nobody suspected that I might have Asperger’s; they just thought that I badly needed a personality transplant.

Anyway, since finding out that I’m an Aspie, I’ve been striving to overcome my challenges while building on my strengths. Sometimes, it feels like an uphill struggle just to be more mindful of my speech but I will keep working on it because I want to be a better person for my loved ones. If there’s someone in your life who has Asperger’s syndrome/high-functioning autism, I hope reading about my experience will help you understand him or her better.

My Challenges Living with Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. I Am Brutally Direct and Hopelessly Tactless
  2. I Don’t Like People in General
  3. I Go Berserk When My Routine is Disrupted
  4. I Have Difficulty Regulating My Emotions
  5. I Am Very Sensitive to Motion and Smells
  6. I Have OCD

My Strengths as an Aspie

  1. I Am Kind and Empathetic
  2. I Entertain Myself
  3. I Have Remarkable Focus
  4. I Am Insanely Disciplined, Driven and Determined
  5. I Am Incredibly Meticulous
  6. I Excel at Crisis Management — Surprisingly

Note: Asperger’s syndrome is a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It used to be a separate condition, but in 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) changed the way it’s categorised. These days, it is often described as high-functioning autism (meaning ‘level 1’ on the spectrum). A person with Asperger’s syndrome is known as an Aspie. 

My Challenges Living with Asperger’s Syndrome

1. I Am Brutally Direct and Hopelessly Tactless

All my life, my smart mouth keeps getting me into trouble. Here are a few incidents that I’m not proud of: 

► In secondary one while allocating tasks for a project, I told a group mate matter-of-factly, ‘You shouldn’t be writing the report because your English sucks.’ She was really offended by my remark and told everyone that I was arrogant. A few girls in my class stopped talking to me after that.

► It was my 16th birthday and I was in the neighbourhood park with a suitor. (I actually liked him a lot and was just waiting for him to ask me to be his girlfriend.) He had bought me flowers and a cake. How very sweet! Everything was wonderful until he started singing the birthday song. I cut him off suddenly and said with deadly seriousness, ‘Has anyone told you that you are tone-deaf?’ I then proceeded to teach him how to sing while the candles on the cake continued to burn. My attempts proved futile and I was quite exasperated. I only realised my mistake when he told me that he felt hurt. Surprisingly, we did eventually become an item but not for long.

happy birthday puppy dog eyes
Mrs Wow’s wounded suitor on her sweet 16

► My next boyfriend was not happy that I always slammed his car door, so he told me off one day. (Of course I didn’t do it on purpose — I was trained from young to close the heavy door of my dad’s BMW forcefully.) ‘I’m sorry if I’ve only sat in BMWs my whole life!’ I retorted, upset that I was being chided. ‘You sound like a spoilt rich girl!’ he barked, looking appalled. ‘What the hell! I was just stating a FACT! And no, I’m NOT spoilt. If I were spoilt, you wouldn’t be my boyfriend.’ All hell broke loose after that.

► I was a newbie at work. A few of my colleagues loved to gather at the empty cubicle next to mine to chit chat. I was extremely irritated by the noise but I kept my cool. One day, one of them asked me to join in the conversation. Instead of saying I was rushing a report, I blurted, ‘No thanks, I don’t like to gossip.’  It took them a long time to like me.

Everywhere I go, I make a strong first impression. I have striking verbal skills and I’ve often been told that I sound intelligent. Many people, especially men, find my forthrightness amusing and refreshing. Unfortunately, I also come across as utterly tactless to some people. When it comes to work, people fall under tasks, so I might be accused of being aggressive, bossy, insensitive or harsh. I also have the tendency to repeat myself like a broken record when I think people ‘don’t get it’. I get profoundly annoyed when people don’t see what I see. I think they are stupid although I don’t tell them. Sometimes, people find what I say rude or offensive but I don’t understand why. I actually think I’m a very nice and polite person but I often make enemies by accident. Secondary school days were the worst period of my life because I had so many friendship problems that I lost count. (This major flaw of mine is the reason why I didn’t dare to start this blog for the longest time. To find out how I got over my fear, read my article Why I Started a Blog.)

Sometimes, people find what I say rude or offensive but I don’t understand why. I actually think I’m a very nice and polite person but I often make enemies by accident.

2. I Don’t Like People in General

I’m decidedly anti-social. Although I carry myself pretty well in social situations, I don’t particularly enjoy them. I don’t like meeting people — it’s exhausting. Buying gifts for them is even worse. The activity carries an element of risk in that I might buy something they don’t like. I find it very stressful. Receiving gifts is no better. First, I don’t like surprises. Second, even if I like the gifts, I simply DO NOT SEE THE POINT. Why can’t everyone just buy their own stuff? The joy is guaranteed in this case since no one will buy useless shit for themselves. Why risk buying the wrong thing for another person? Seriously, I really don’t understand why exchanging Christmas gifts is so important. I think people attach too much meaning to it (hope I’m not offending anyone here). Anyway…

If I absolutely have to socialise, I will make a concerted effort to put on my best behaviour though people might find me very loquacious and opinionated. Sometimes when I’m really not in the mood, I will just shut down and give everyone the ‘go away’ look. Most people can sense the negative energy and will leave me alone, thank God. I don’t have time for insignificant people, so I’m extremely selective about the people I hang out with. At present, I only have two true friends (three including Mr Wow) because I don’t bother to keep in touch with the rest. Do I feel bad? Not at all.

3. I Go Berserk When My Routine is Disrupted

Mr Wow always jokes that I should have joined the army because my life is all about order and structure. I love routines and I don’t like surprises. No, I HATE surprises because they disrupt my perfectly organised life. I’m obsessed with planning. I have a daily schedule and a detailed to-do list and I do not appreciate interruptions. I go crazy when I cannot do what I have set out to do. I will kick up a stink and complain about it non-stop until I can get back to my tasks. Mr Wow learned this the hard way. He thought like most girls, I would react well to surprises and spontaneity. SO WRONG! Now, he doesn’t surprise me. We plan all our activities together and he lets me choose my own birthday present.

to do list
Mrs Wow plans for everything

4. I Have Difficulty Regulating My Emotions

Certain events trigger my wrath. For example, I’m very sensitive to change and my initial reaction to most changes is usually bad (changes are only okay if I’ve planned for them). I will always adapt, but I will most likely have a fit first. It’s just how I cope with it. At work, I will repress my feelings and act professionally, but once I get home, I will let go and have an emotional outburst. Think nuclear meltdown — it’s like the ‘switch’ in me has been turned on and I can’t be deescalated. You do not want to come near me when this happens because it will seem as if I’m scolding you even though I really am not. Then suddenly, the ‘switch’ will turn off by itself and the sea is calm once again.

Certain events trigger my wrath. For example, I’m very sensitive to change and my initial reaction to most changes is usually bad (changes are only okay if I’ve planned for them).

When Mr Wow and I first started dating, I warned him several times that I was very hot-tempered (that’s the impression I give most people). I forgot to add the word ‘erratic’. The poor guy was very perplexed by me in the early years of our marriage. One moment, I would be cursing and swearing about a change in dinner plan. The next moment, I wanted to hold hands and cuddle. If he reacted coldly or angrily, I would do the ‘right’ thing and apologise although my mind couldn’t fathom why he took it so personally. I wasn’t even scolding him; I was just upset about the situation. Why can’t he see the difference? Most guys would have run for the hills, but not my Mr Wow. He had a hunch and did some research online. Then one day, he sat me down and asked me if I was familiar with Asperger’s syndrome. I would never forget that fateful day.

5. I Am Very Sensitive to Motion and Smells

This incident took place when I was in secondary three. It was the mid-morning recess and I was having a snack in the canteen when something disturbed me considerably. 

‘Who is shaking her leg!’ I bellowed all of a sudden. (By the way, I have a thunderous voice.)

Everyone at the table turned and looked at me — flabbergasted. 

‘I know it’s one of you!’ I stared daggers at the four girls who were sitting on the same bench as me. ‘STOP IT! I can feel the bench shaking and it’s giving me a headache!’ I snapped.  

Yet again, I made a few more enemies, but I’m still my worst enemy. 

I’m hypersensitive to motion and smells. Please don’t shake your leg if we are sitting on the same bench or couch. I won’t scream at you (I’ve learnt my lesson), but I will stand up and walk away. The smell of certain foods (I shall not list them lest people get offended) also gives me a terrible headache. My sense of smell is frightfully acute. Once a student forgot to flush the toilet in our enrichment centre and I detected the stench of urine even though I was standing about five metres away. Mr Wow was mightily impressed.

6. I Have OCD

I struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) a great deal, and it really drove a wedge between Mr Wow and me when we first got married. 

I’m not a germaphobe but I’m quite particular about hygiene and cleanliness. If I think your hand is dirty, I will still shake it when we meet (out of courtesy, no choice), but I will be dying to wash my hand after that. Yes, I’m constantly washing my hands and I’ve not touched a lift button for almost 30 years. When Mr Wow first met me, he thought I was ‘high maintenance’ as I refused to eat in hawker centres*. ‘They just don’t look very clean to me,’ I explained to him. Nonetheless, love conquers all things including OCD. Ha! I do eat in hawker centres now (I know I’m the problem), but I never put my arms or things on the table.

*In case you’re not familiar with Singapore — Post independence, the Singapore government set up hawker centres to bring street hawkers under one roof (no more pushcarts and makeshift eateries). Today, there are more than a hundred hawker centres islandwide selling all kinds of local delights. On 16 December 2020, our hawker culture was successfully inspired on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Cool, huh? As I said, I know I’m the problem.

I’m obsessed with patterns. I used to drive Mr Wow nuts because the candy jars in our enrichment centre must have four different flavours of sweets — grape (purple), strawberry (pink), apple (green) and mint (blue) — all in the same quantity. If I suspected that there were more purple than pink in one of the jars, I would pour everything out and count. That happened several times a week. I also like the numbers ‘7’, ‘11’ and ‘13’, so I tend to sort things in these amounts, e.g. 13 items and nothing more in my pencil case. 

jar of colourful candies
Mrs Wow fusses over candies

I’m even more obsessed with symmetry. I’m constantly making sure that objects are in the ‘right’ position. It’s like my full-time job. I feel stressed and exasperated when things are not aligned correctly. At home, plants, photo frames, table lamps, diffusers, etc. must be placed and angled a certain way. Items in the fridge must be lined neatly, logos facing out. Eggs on the tray must be arranged according to their shades: from the lightest shade of brown to the darkest. My home is so neat and organised that I deserve an award from Marie Kondo. Yes, I’m super house-proud. 

I know, my behaviours are bizarre and you must think I’m a total nut job. I bet you feel sorry for Mr Wow too — ‘That poor chap! Living with her must be pure hell!’ Before you write me off and send Mr Wow your message of sympathy or worse still, tell him to dump me, please know that I possess many distinctive strengths and positive attributes too.

My Strength as an Aspie

1. I Am Kind and Empathetic

To tell the truth, I feel misunderstood. Just because I often say the wrong thing doesn’t mean that I’m nasty or lack empathy. I don’t suffer from a terminal lack of manners. I can be polite and I’m kind and compassionate to people in need. 

I’m not made of stone. Like neurotypical individuals, I have a broad range of emotions and I do feel hurt when people make incorrect assumptions about me, which happens a lot. The few people who are close to me know that I care about how they think and feel. I feel extremely guilty whenever I piss them off or hurt their feelings. When I say or do something wrong, I always show remorse and apologise. I love and treasure my family very much, and I feel bad that they have to put up with an oddball like me.

I also want to add that I think men with Asperger’s have it slightly easier than women. If they say something insensitive, people are more likely to be okay about it as it is ‘typical of men’ to be insensitive. In contrast, women will be judged more critically because we are supposed to have more social sensitivity and empathy. Just my view and something for you to mull over.

2. I Entertain Myself

Even though I’m ‘retired’ now, I’m always busy. When I’m free, I spend time with Mr Wow (my favourite person). If he is busy, I self-entertain. I have limited interest — I only like to read and listen to music. I read widely because I’m hungry for knowledge and I love learning new words. I have numerous playlists on Spotify and I’m still in the midst of arranging the songs in the ‘correct’ order. (DO NOT EVER SHUFFLE MY PLAYLIST.) I’m a loner and I enjoy my ‘me time’ a lot. No one bothers me and I don’t bother anyone. That’s why blogging suits me cos’ I don’t have to face people. If you like what I put out into the world, that’s great. Thank you for reading. If not, it’s fine. Have a nice life!

I think people who self-entertain have a high boredom threshold and the ability to self-heal (just one of my many theories). Every time I experience emotional distress, I am able to identify negative thoughts soon after the initial outburst and do things to bring myself back to a state of calm.

Spotify app on laptop
Do not ever shuffle Mrs Wow’s playlist

3. I Have Remarkable Focus

Once I’ve identified an interest or set a goal, I become obsessed. I will channel all my energy into it and nothing else matters. I have laser focus and my passion knows no bounds. This has helped to advance our aim to achieve Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE). For a decade, I ate, breathed and slept FIRE. Look at where we are now.

4. I Am Insanely Disciplined, Driven and Determined

I don’t have any special talent, but I’m a highly motivated and persistent individual. I work very hard to achieve my goals, many times at the expense of my health. I’ve only slept three hours in the last 47 hours because I’m dead set on finishing this article. In my younger days, I could easily last 60 hours. Now my head is groggy and my eyelids are starting to droop. I know I need to moderate my obsessive behaviour. Mr Wow says I have no discipline — no discipline to stop work — and I take his feedback seriously. For the record, I think he has no discipline to start work. Ha!

5. I Am Incredibly Meticulous

People who suffer from Symmetry OCD are naturally meticulous. We pay attention to detail, to things that others do not see or give a shit about. This has worked both for and against me. On the one hand, I spend/waste an inordinate amount of time trying to arrange things and improve them to a state of perfection. On the other hand, I apply care, precision and thoroughness to every task I undertake. I take great pride in my work (even when I was an employee and I didn’t even like my job).

6. I Excel at Crisis Management — Surprisingly

As I hate change with a vengeance, I’m constantly trying to anticipate and plan for unforeseen circumstances. This makes me a natural at crisis management. I’m also very level-headed during major crises, maybe because I do not react the same way as neurotypical individuals. I know I have a quick mind (Mr Wow says I have higher intelligence than ‘regular’ folks) and I have proven time and again that I can respond swiftly and appropriately when the people or the work I cherish are being threatened. And thanks to my Strength 3, 4 and 5, I don’t quit until the problem is fixed.

As I hate change with a vengeance, I’m constantly trying to anticipate and plan for unforeseen circumstances. This makes me a natural at crisis management.

Ok, I’m finally coming to the end of my article. Frankly, I’m really glad that I decided to write this article even though I know some readers might judge me harshly. It’s been a very therapeutic writing, musing and ‘purging’ session, and I couldn’t have done it without Mr Wow. Just having him near me gave me a deep sense of assurance that I would be able to produce an honest piece that’s true to myself. 

I know understanding an Asperger’s spouse can be tough at times. Mr Wow says he is still trying to figure me out, but I think he holds the key that unlocks my brain. I’m so fortunate that he has the patience of a saint and that he accepts me for who I am. I value his opinion more than anyone else’s and I know I can always count on him to give me useful, unfiltered feedback and fair, constructive criticism. He makes me want to be a better person. And I think he is more than qualified to conduct a masterclass on how to deal with people with Asperger’s. Ha! (After this post, you should read Mr Wow’s article on 5 Rules to Stay Happily Married to an Asperger’s Spouse to get his perspective on living with someone with ASD.)

Note: If you’re an Aspie and are blessed enough to have someone like Mr Wow in your life, please do not take that person for granted. Asperger’s explains a lot of things, but it’s not an excuse for all your bad behaviours. Try to regulate yourself, please.

Without question, people with Asperger’s syndrome can be a real pain in the arse. Hopefully, my story will help you understand us better; perhaps make life a little easier for you. Nevertheless, do note that our characteristics and tendencies vary widely, e.g. not everyone with Asperger’s has OCD, so please read up on your own and do not assume anything. Ultimately, it’s about seeing the person for who he or she is and finding your own rhythm with that person. And remember: Aspies have feelings too, so you might accomplish more by gentle persuasion instead of rebuke. I wish you happiness in all your relationships.

Check out: I Am Autistic and Love ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’

Mrs Wow

Mrs Wow (aka Lynn) achieved Financial Independence with Mr Wow in 2019. She believes in staying invested even if there’s a level-5 shit storm. A homebody, she spends her free time reading, blogging and listening to music. Follow her on 𝕏 (@wowpursuits).

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