1. “It looks like you can make eye contact and smile at the correct times.”
“I look at eyebrows and I memorize social cues,” I say quickly, shrugging one shoulder. Ok. now she is going to think I memorized when to smile.
We look at each other. Well, I look at her eyebrows and she looks at my eyeballs. I am wearing makeup and I blew dry my hair and I’m wearing my new suede heels. I’m trying to look like a professional tech whatever.
2. “You have learned many ways to overcome your disability. You are doing great.”
“But I can’t function. I have no executive function.” I am almost in tears. “My closet is a mess. I can’t do dishes for some reason. I can’t go to sleep.”
“Is your house a mess?”
I think for a second. “Not really,” I say.
“Alright.” She says. She steers the conversation to another topic that I’m not interested in.
“I have no executive function,” I say again.
3. “You can create a schedule. Do dishes every two days and laundry a once a week. If you have a routine then you won’t need to rely on executive function.”
People with Asperger’s struggle with executive function, meaning self regulation and organization. Following a schedule requires paying attention to the tasks and organizing them in the order to be done. Which is what I am bad at in the first place. Creating a schedule like this is just a reminder of things I suck at doing.
4. “Set alarms 10 minutes in advance so your transitions are easier.”
Here’s another thing I learned about Asperger’s: switching tasks, meaning transitions, are hard, because you need executive function to stop doing one task and pick the next task.
But I already set alarms 10 minutes in advance. I figured this out myself in elementary school.
Then I don’t bother bringing up the fact that I can never remember to eat because I already know the advice is to set an alarm. But this doesn’t work. Do I set the lunch alarm every morning? My schedule is different everyday. Do I need to set a daily morning alarm reminding myself to set a lunch alarm?
5. “When you are older, and have made more money, you can pay someone to pick clothes for you. You can pay someone to clean your house, to style your wardrobe, to do all this other stuff. You can outsource it.” This makes sense. But I need help right now, not help in ten years. And I hate when strangers touch my stuff.
6. “You can make connections and have meaningful relationships and fall in love. A lot of people with Asperger’s can’t express emotion.”
in highschool, my friends and I aimed for a 90% average test score. Once, someone got 84% and she was upset.
As we were walking along the hallways, I said, “At least you got a B. It could’ve been worst. A lot of people failed this test.”
She said, “That doesn’t help me at all. Telling me I could’ve done worst doesn’t make me feel better.” And she got upset.
This whole therapy session is my therapist saying I could’ve done worst at Asperger’s.
7. “You are on time for every therapy session. You kept the first appointment and you were able to tell me in advance that you couldn’t make it to the last one.”
She is trying to convince herself that I’m not a total and complete idiot.
I almost always make it to appointments. It doesn’t mean it’s not stressful. I just make it happen anyways.
8. “I’ve worked with a lot of clients with Asperger’s. Many of them don’t have the ability to make an emotional connection. You do.”
We are forever talking about the fact that I could’ve been so much worst off. Maybe if my parents dropped me as a baby a few more times I could’ve gotten there.
9. “If you were neurotypical, you wouldn’t be as smart. You’d struggle in other areas. I have clients who struggle with not liking their team or their work.”
I have also struggled in those areas. Are people with asperger’s only allowed to struggle with cliche topics?
10. “Piano is great. But I want you to do more activities with other people. Get out of your apartment.”
11. “That’s a workplace issue, not an Asperger’s issue.”
12. “Do you want to schedule the next session?”
I can’t say no when I’m put on the spot. I don’t know how to decline.
“Okay,” I say. I already know I’m going to cancel it, but through email.
I check my schedule fast and then eject myself from the sofa when the clock hits half past.
People don’t believe you’re broken unless you look broken. I changed my appearance to look like a functioning adult and now I can’t get help because I don’t look like I need help.
I figured out how to fake everything. The hair that I blowdry every morning, the makeup I splash on, the non-scratchy clothes I paid lots of money for. People at work pay more attention to my ideas when I look like this. I’m also breaking all my pens and my drawers are stuffed with papers. My bra strap is falling down my shoulder all the time. I’m fraying at the seams of socially acceptable behaviours.
I am forcing myself to look like the version of Grace that everyone expects to be successful in the workplace, and perhaps I am succeeding. The more I am succeeding at this, the more it’s breaking me inside. I feel like I am being erased and the only part of me that is still me is the fact that I can come home to play piano.