Long before I’d ever heard the term Asperger’s, I learned to accept my bright, shy uncle for who he was. He was funny and soft-spoken, and even though he was nervous in social interactions, he always came to our family gatherings, where he’d take up residence in the perimeter of the room.
By Eryn Segal
As I get older I am facing more and more challenges. But that’s part of growing up.
My biggest challenge is that most of the time it is hard for me to express my feelings and emotions. I wonder why other people are crying, and I get confused why I’m not. Sometimes when I hear sad stories of people I care about and things they go through, I get emotional but they may not realize it. It is difficult for me to understand what I am feeling when I am feeling it. It’s not like I’m an emotionless person. I have feelings. Understanding body language and facial expressions are also very confusing for me. Sometimes I can’t understand what emotion someone is trying to express or what their body language means. It is extremely frustrating. I am trying to get to understand and learn more about emotions and expressions. It is also hard for people to understand my body language and facial expressions because my face does not match the emotion I am trying to express. I get angry very easily and act out a lot. It drives everyone crazy and most of the time I try to calm down but I always end up screaming. It just feels like no one is listening to me so I scream because I want people to hear me. This is how I usually show or express my emotions. Managing reactions is extremely hard for me because I react without thinking, and just lash out.
Time is also a big challenge and always seems to be moving faster than it is. In a timeline of events, it is hard for me to place when something has happened. Months can seem like days and 2 hours can feel like 2 minutes. Managing time is very hard for me because I need a lot of time to get ready when I go out. I always make sure that I have enough time – if not more – to get ready, but I still get nervous that I won’t have enough time. Otherwise I freak out that my hair isn’t dry or my makeup isn’t right. If I make a mistake I need the time to correct it to make sure I am looking my best. I also need to make sure I have the right outfit on, and that takes me a while because I am indecisive. Not only when it comes to clothes, but also many other things. I usually ask other people to make decisions for me, and wait until the last second.
A good friend of mine told me, “You have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable”. That is something I try and remember every day.
I tend to get obsessed over a lot of things. When a certain idea pops into my head sometimes it sticks and there is no way to get rid of it. I just need to think about it all the time and ask about it. That is very annoying for other people, and they can get very annoyed. It causes my family a lot of stress because it is the only thing I will talk about until it causes a fight.
Speaking in front of people also terrifies me and makes me so nervous. Getting up in front of a crowd makes me shake. I never know if people are looking at me weirdly. I am scared that I will mess up and scared of being judged. It terrifies me. I know a lot of people have a fear of public speaking and it makes me feel “normal” because I do, but I also feel different, because I’m me.
Meeting new people is very hard for me. I get awkward, shy, and freeze up. I never know what to say. It doesn’t make me feel good at all. I feel like people don’t want to get to know me because I am so quiet and shy. That makes me upset because I want to have a great social life. This summer I am going away for 3 weeks to Colorado. While I am there I am going to be learning how to live alone in a college setting. This is the first summer program or any new adventure that I am going on without my sister with me. I know it will be hard at first, obviously the first day I will be freaking out and crying but by the third day I will feel more comfortable. I was nervous to be so far away from my parents but they happen to be traveling on that side of the country. So now I know if anything happens, they are close enough to get to me. That’s also a big reason why I am choosing to stay in Florida for college.
I am switching to a new school again this year, for my senior year. I am very nervous to be in a new place and not know anyone again. Having new teachers also scares me because when I struggle, or am in an uncomfortable situation, it is hard for me to ask for help. A good friend of mine told me, “You have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable”. That is something I try and remember every day.
Eryn Segal is a high school junior, almost senior, with a different brain. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a year ago. She is very interested in football and the Miami Dolphins.