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I am pretty good at putting on my game face
March 19, 2008 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there something wrong with me or is this all contained in the spectrum of normal?

I feel like I operate at a very differnt plane than most people I interact with, but maybe not. I have always been a little off, even when I think I am acheiving the appearance of complete normalacy people will say something like "you are much weirder than you even know" out of no where or a classmate, "Do you know who you remind me of? Carrie."

It all started when I was very young, before vocalalization on or even language came for me. The world would all of sudden slant, like everything was skewed as in a fun house, or I would walk outside and the sky would be on the bottom. I fell over a lot, I still do. My mom took me to eye doctors, but that of couse is not the issue. I am often non-language oriented in my head. I get caught up in rhythems and motion. Like stopping the middle of the street and getting absolutely stopped in time by the geometric fall of leaves falling from the tree, one time I walked by a door swinging shut and the world went into slow motion, I was transfixed by the arc. I felt like I almost fainted after I got out of it and kept walking.

I spent a lot time in speech theraoy and handwriting therapy. I still have trouble writing out all those letters with sticks, p d g q b, they often get the stick on the wrong side, thank god for keyboards. All my teachers thought I was slow because I didn't care that my shoes were on the wrong feet or that my dress was on backwards. It seemed to really upset them on a deep level that once they pointed it out, that I was dressed "wrong" I still didn't care. They sent me to special ed where I was given all the tests. When they gave me an IQ test I scored 158. So I was put in the other special ed for the "gifted".

I have trouble with letters and language, but have worked with myself long enough that obviously I do fine. I become something close to aphasic when I am tired or stressed. My doctors thought I could see forever because I would do horribly on eye exams. It turns out they were throwing numbers in the line up, how unfair, that's not what I was looking for and therefore I couldn't recognize it. Its still that way at eye doctors, sometimes I flip out and tear up and they have to give me the baby exam with all the E's facing different ways. I can do that.

I am pathologically messy and every little bit of personal hygience, interpersonal relationships etc are a very studied approach based on what other people do rather than any real notion on my part. I don't feel weird if an ink pen leaks on me, others rush to clean it. I have no sense of shame or guilt. Mostly I think because I don't do things that I would feel guilty about. I am like a 8 year old, perpetually content, eager to please, and for the most part incapable of extended periods of anger or malice. I don't understand pettiness or cattiness. I interact with everyone as a peer, old, young, men, women, powerfull, powerless. That in general has served me well.

I have no attention for things I am not actively thinking about. If I am not thinking hard about what I am doing I will drop a glass of water I was holding. I will fall down occasionaly because I am so wrapped up in some grand bizarre idea that I forget I am standing. ADD meds help a lot of this.

Overall, it doesn't affect my life that much. But that is only because I am very selfaware and work on quirks as they present themself. Since I have always been labled "high functioning" its been a struggle to get any kind of medicine or even any understanding of how this relates to the normal spectrum.
posted by stormygrey to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are more choices than being within the spectrum of normal and something being wrong with you.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:53 AM on March 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


High functioning autism?
posted by konolia at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2008


Your tags say "Asperger's" - have you received a diagnosis? You mention ADD meds - have you not discussed your other concerns with whoever prescribed those?

Are you asking whether you might have a disorder, or asking whether others would notice your known disorders?
posted by Miko at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2008


Some of this--visual field "tilting" or distortions, lapses into aphasia, powerful emotional affect surges, etc.--sound a bit like some forms of temporal lobe epilepsy to me. Have you ever consulted a neurologist?
posted by Drastic at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2008


Well, you are awfully self aware, so that counts for something bending towards 'normal', doesn't it? Normal doesn't seem to me to be a place on a map that you can mark with a pin, and you seem to know that. Normal is a state of flux and more importantly, perspective. It's an interesting mental exercise to try and place yourself on the normalcy spectrum, but ultimately won't really bring you any closer to 'normal' itself.
posted by msali at 10:57 AM on March 19, 2008


You aren't normal. But you know that.

Either you have a problem with being weird, or you don't. I suspect you have a problem with it, or else why post a question which you have answered yourself?

If you don't like being weird, then you can take some pills - you've tried that - and maybe that gets you all you want out of the process.

If you've got a 158 then you've got another choice. You can turn your mind on itself and rewire. This means like learning to like what you don't like. Learning to do what you can't do. Retraining your muscles and your curiosity and everything in between. Pill advocates don't like this answer, but then they don't have 158's either.
posted by ewkpates at 10:58 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have a brother who is high functioning autistic, he thinks in waves, its fantastic, he majored in physics and french horn performance

My doctor doesn't seem interested in talking. "How are you doing" "fine". That's about it. I guess I could push it, but I went with the intention of getting ADD meds because I knew they would help after using some obtained from a less conventional method, and that was that.

Miko, I guess I am asking is this something could progress into something that should be more thoughly regulated, or is it just am awesome little glitch that is not worth over thinking. I feel like Asperger's is just a word that might describe a somewhat overlapping cluster of symptoms, but I haven't bothered trying to get diagnosed because I am not sure what benefit it might have.
posted by stormygrey at 11:01 AM on March 19, 2008


You behave differently from the average person.

Take that as a compliment. You come across to me as upset at all the things that you do "wrong," versus all the things that set you apart from the rest of the dull, monotonous world. You notice all of the world's awesome details that so many people overlook. You don't get bogged down by petty details. You don't stay angry, petty, or malicious, and you treat everyone as a peer.

Seeing a counselor / therapist / etc. may help you diagnose exactly what about you is different, and medication, as you mention, may help fix anything that actually poses a problem. But please, don't ever think that most of these deviations from "average" are a bad thing. Without meaning to come across as pretentious, I've come to the realization that the average person is dull, boring, and awfully ignorant and foolish. You come across as none of the four.
posted by fogster at 11:05 AM on March 19, 2008


Sorry, but not normal. I have to say that the tone of your entire post has a oppositional undercurrent to it that is probably separate from the autism or Aspergers that you are being treated for. There's a lot of self-awareness in the post, i.e. a lot of insight into your own thoughts and conditions, but there's an undercurrent of you doing some things perhaps deliberately as a way of expressing yourself.

All my teachers thought I was slow because I didn't care that my shoes were on the wrong feet or that my dress was on backwards.

Start with asking yourself why you so frequently put them on the wrong feet. By accident, meaning that you didn't notice they were on the wrong feet until someone pointed it out? Or did you do it on purpose for some reason?

My doctors thought I could see forever because I would do horribly on eye exams. It turns out they were throwing numbers in the line up, how unfair, that's not what I was looking for and therefore I couldn't recognize it. I don't understand this. You can't recognize a number or letter on a chart unless they tell you to look for it, but you can use a keyboard?

The fact that it sounds to me (not a psych) that your are aware of what your are doing and do it anyway is a problem that is different than whatever they are treating you for. For this, you need a therapist/psychiatrist.

The answer to your question is no, it is not normal. It may be a medical condition that prevents you from putting your shoes on the right feet, but it is a question of personality and attitude that makes you unable to understand why someone else thinks putting shoes on the wrong feet is unacceptable. You aren't seeing other people as separate people, you are seeing them solely as reflections on you. You say the "doctors thought I could see forever", I assure you they never for a second had this thought. They thought either that they screwed up the test, or that you were being difficult or had some problem preventing you from performing the test. That you think they you could see forever is something that you are projecting onto them, probably to prevent you from realizing that you are being difficult or uncooperative.

Finally, I'm having some difficulty reconciling this question, with this previous question you asked. So I'm not sure what's going on here. Maybe you should see a psychiatrist in addition to the doctor you're already seeing for the other things.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Stormy,

If your doctor isn't interested in talking, and what you need is more talking and someone willing to respond to your questions, then you may need to look into another doctor. Did you have a neuro-psych evaluation to establish an ADD diagnosis? Is your current doctor a psychologist or psychiatrist?
posted by canine epigram at 11:11 AM on March 19, 2008


Who's to say what normal is? You are you and worrying that you should be someone different isn't going to change things much.

It seems like you have a good awareness of what some of your struggles are and that you're actively working to manage those challenges. I say more power to you.

And, most "normal" people feel totally crazy on the inside, anyways.

This world would be a better and happier place if we all stopped worrying about who we should be and just decided to be the best us that we can.
posted by missjenny at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2008


"My doctors thought I could >(this was supposed to be couldn't ) see forever because I would do horribly on eye exams. It turns out they were throwing numbers in the line up, how unfair, that's not what I was looking for and therefore I couldn't recognize it. I don't understand this. You can't recognize a number or letter on a chart unless they tell you to look for it, but you can use a keyboard?"

Pastabagel, Keyboard is muscle memory, like talking with my fingers. Its not the same as writing in my head. The sounds are what I type out, I don't think in typing letters, but whole words, its different. I can't explain it, and no I never did any of it on purpose, never have. two shoes, two feet, pretty good odds that they will go on the wrong feet if you step in them. Fifty fifty perhaps, its just not something I noticed, all though as an adult I very rarely walk out the door with my shirt on backwards or inside out, but it happens occasionally. I have never had people think I am being difficult like you seem to think. Perhaps face to face interaction dissuades people of this idea. I really do try and the adderall really helps with at least the organization, detail kind of stuff. I do try, I try to make people happy and not disturb people by exposing them to much of the stuff that goes on in my head. I am not sure how asking how to dress myself is at odds at all with this question. I do love pretty things, I want to look nice at the office, its something I struggle with. The attachment that other people have for boobs and legs is something I work on, so asking how to look appropriate fits very well with my personality in general.

He is a pyschologist, didn't have an evaluation I filled out a 20 question 1-5 scale questionaire, I went to him because I had heard from a friend that he would prescribe ADD meds without much trouble and my gp's had told me that since I got a scholarship, was in school, got my masters, whatever, whatever, that I was obvisouly doing fine and didn't need anything. Obviously they never saw my car.
posted by stormygrey at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2008


Well, thanks for the clarification. I think these are more than "quirks" and agree that you might want to pursue an evaluation by a psychiatrist. It sounds as though you have an extremely rational, intellect-based coping strategy and have adapted your life and self-image to accommodate your differences in perception, but they are unusual. Whether or not you wish to pursue diagnosis and treatment for them is a separate question. Also, it's possible to listen to a learn from a diagnosis without following any course of treatment at all. You might just want to opt for a consultation and see what the doctors have to say.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on March 19, 2008


I think I'm somewhat similar to you.

There's no Platonic "everyone else" to compare yourself to. You're probably not like anyone else, but that's saying almost nothing, as almost no one is.

If we could plot all the factors that describes people (whatever that means) on the various continua, and make that into some N-dimensional cube, yes, the area that you and I inhabit is not as populated as some other areas in the n-cube, but there's no region we can point to and say "this means normal".

I suggest that the word "normal" doesn't mean a lot. We like to cram things into categories, and when something can not fit in a box, we shoehorn it and ignore the overflow. Sometimes, (especially when there's more overflow than there is in the box,) it's best to step back and sweep all the boxes aside.

Maybe it's better to think in terms of usefulness than comparing yourself to something that doesn't really exist.
posted by cmiller at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Normal is such a loaded word. Are your "quirks" and neural twitches interfering with your long-term goals in life or your close personal relationships? Do they cause you emotional pain?

If not, you're doing better than most of us, and I suggest you don't worry about it.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:33 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


didn't have an evaluation I filled out a 20 question 1-5 scale questionaire, I went to him because I had heard from a friend that he would prescribe ADD meds without much trouble and my gp's had told me that since I got a scholarship, was in school, got my masters, whatever, whatever, that I was obvisouly doing fine and didn't need anything.

That sounds pretty inadequate. Why did you want ADD meds "without much trouble?" How certain are you that you even have ADD? That might not be the right med for you.

Also, achievements are not an indication that there's no underlying condition that is making life a little more challenging than it need be. A lot of people manage their lives quite effectively while working around a condition.

I suppose that if your differences were posing no problem at all for you, then there's no reason you shouldn't continue living just as you do. But if they're posing no problem at all, I wonder why you are posting to AskMe. I guess that if you are seeing problems or conflicts, or are uncomfortable with your differences in perception or apparent lack of affect, then it would be a good idea to arrange a chance to talk in-depth with a psychiatrist. You could even start by printing out this post, or revising it so it's more a list of things you think might help someone understand how you think.
posted by Miko at 11:33 AM on March 19, 2008


Not to be that metafilter person who diagnoses everything as being on the autism spectrum, but I agree that some of the affect you describe sound like some behaviours that are consistent with the autism spectrum. The part about the falling leaves put me in mind of this really interesting YouTube thing I found, a very intelligent, nonverbal austic woman describing and demonstrating her perceptions & interactions with the world- it's called In My Language". Look around on YouTube while you're there- other people have posted some interesting reactions to SilentMiaow's original post.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:36 AM on March 19, 2008


This question can only be answered by people giving opinions about your behavior and It's unclear what problem you are trying to solve by asking it. Are you looking for validation? A diagnosis? AskMe can give you neither.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2008


Oh, I meant to add, your behaviour does sound atypical, but the fact that you treat everyone as a peer sounds atypically awesome-- I've been trying to do that all my life!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:38 AM on March 19, 2008


He is a pyschologist, didn't have an evaluation I filled out a 20 question 1-5 scale questionaire, I went to him because I had heard from a friend that he would prescribe ADD meds without much trouble and my gp's had told me that since I got a scholarship, was in school, got my masters, whatever, whatever, that I was obvisouly doing fine and didn't need anything. Obviously they never saw my car.
posted by stormygrey at 2:25 PM on March 19


Okay, I stand corrected. My suggestion is to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist about the things you are talking about in this post, and not specifically about the ADD/aspergers (though I would mention that too.) It may be that you are not on precisely the right medication, or it needs to be supplemented, and it may help surprisingly more than you realize to just talk to someone about it whose job is to listen.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:39 AM on March 19, 2008


What do you actually want to change? You list a number of different elements that characterise you, but don't mention if you would like to get rid of them.

If you want to be able to read numbers, without being alerted to their presence, then talk to a doctor or psychologist about what the underlying reasons that could cause that inability to exist.

stormygrey: I have no attention for things I am not actively thinking about. If I am not thinking hard about what I am doing I will drop a glass of water I was holding. I will fall down occasionaly because I am so wrapped up in some grand bizarre idea that I forget I am standing. ADD meds help a lot of this.

If you can't hold a glass, or walk without sole concentration on that task, then clearly you're not normal. I would consider that a major mental handicap, what has your doctor mentioned about those issues?

How do(or did) you manage to hold down your job in a bar with these issues? I would imagine a bartender would have to multitask quite a lot to manage all the clients, drinks and money that occur on a standard shift.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2008


I don't want to change most of this, but the inability to remember to take the time to make things kind of straight, clean, and organized has really affected my life. Not being able to have people over or get in my car because of the mess is disheartning.

Bartending is awesome, I can focus all my thoughts on slinging drinks, there's no brain space left to drift and get caught up in something. I just do what i am there for.
posted by stormygrey at 11:51 AM on March 19, 2008


I have one suggestion that may help with a small part of your situation. You mentioned that "every little bit of personal hygience, interpersonal relationships etc are a very studied approach based on what other people do rather than any real notion on my part..."
My suggestion is that you pick up a modern (non-ironic!) etiquette book. It might really help you, since perhaps you are better at learning things academically rather than through social experience. Judith Martin ("Miss Manners") is a favorite author of mine, and might be a good starting point for you. People joke about her, but I think you'll find that she is more accessible and less 'stuffy' than you'd think.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:04 PM on March 19, 2008


I'm going to second Miko and say that you should have a proper neuropsych evaluation - your current solution (going to a doc who can easily be talked into medicating you for a condition you may not have, based on inadequate diagnostics) is a stopgap - and may even be making things worse.

Seek out a psychiatrist. Seek out another GP as well - if your symptoms are as you'd describe them, no GP worth their salt would simply handwave them away with a "well, you seem to be coping," strategy. Proper evaluation and treatment may make a world of difference.
posted by canine epigram at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2008


>I still have trouble writing out all those letters with sticks, p d g q b, they often get the stick on the wrong side

That, at least, sounds like dyslexia to me. Dyslexia is a wide-ranging syndrome and may account for some of your other symptoms as well such as 'I fell over a lot, I still do.'... have you ever been tested?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:37 PM on March 19, 2008


Huh, I'm a little surprised by how immediately so many people said "not normal" but I guess that just means I'm less normal than they are, by their standards - which of course is the key, as everyone judges "normal" by their own place on the spectrum. I have an easier time with language, I think, but the not caring about social expectations, getting lost in my thoughts or the movement of leaves, feeling equally comfortable regardless of the status or age of a person (and to some extent, with animals too, not seeing nearly such a big gap between humans & animals as some people seem to). I also experience aphasia, but that is usually after I have an epileptic spell (partial seizure). I have my lysdexic moments but not to an extent that seriously affects my life. But none of what you write sounds nutty to me, just a certain personality type.

On the other hand, it is very possible I just don't realize how weird people think I am... But I also think I always kind of liked the idea of being different anyway, so it wouldn't bother me if they did. It's embracing the ways that I'm just like everyone else that's been harder for me!
posted by mdn at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2008


IANAD - but you sound like you are high-functioning autistic. Are you normal? Depends how you define normal. Are you asking this question because you want to figure out how to define yourself in terms of the rest of the spectrum of humanity? Are you asking this question because you're insecure? Are you asking this question because some simple concrete things are not always within your grasp?
posted by plinth at 12:57 PM on March 19, 2008


I guess I am asking because I am trying to gauge what I need to address to be able to operate well in society. I really just asked because I am constantly self evaulating and came to the conclusion that perhaps everyone is like this and just figured out how to do it better or different.
posted by stormygrey at 1:04 PM on March 19, 2008


IMO you sound like quite an admirable person, for dealing with what life has thrown at you in such a graceful way. Just because an extraordinary challenge has been placed on you does not mean you yourself are in any way out of the ordinary. Keep up the good work!
posted by Laugh_track at 1:09 PM on March 19, 2008


the inability to remember to take the time to make things kind of straight, clean, and organized has really affected my life.
My mind is nothing like yours but this one part struck a bell. One thing that can really help this is to set up routines - make a list of what needs to be done and assign each task a specific time to do it. For example, every single time you get out of the car, look around and see what is in the car that needs to go inside or in the trash. Put a little sticker somewhere where you would notice it as you get out of the car to remind yourself. Or, one day a week, set aside a specific time on a specific day (probably only 5 minutes after the first time) to clean out your car.

Having a checklist for the routine for each day can help. If you put it in a plastic sheet protector, you can check them off with a dry erase marker and then clean it off at the end of the day. Put the day's checklist where you can't miss it so if you forget to do something, the list will remind you. You might also find it help to use a timer and try to be very focused on just one little job until the job is done or the timer rings. If your thoughts wander off or you start to do something else, remind yourself that you are going to do nothing but this one task right now and do it as intensely as you can.

The resource that helped me the most with understanding how to build these little habit is the FlyLady. You would have to try her system yourself to see it helped. (It is a free email based system - more info at her website.)
posted by metahawk at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Pill advocates don't like this answer, but then they don't have 158's either.

NONE of them? Really? You've done a conclusive survey, then? Surely you wouldn't make such a statement based on your own personal "meds bad" bias.

Use what works, whatever that it is. If pills work, take them. If you can "rewire" your brain, do it, but don't assume you have to take the most difficult route just because some people think pills are bad.
posted by Evangeline at 1:58 PM on March 19, 2008


everyone judges "normal" by their own place on the spectrum

That can be somewhat true, but I'm also wary of statements that suggest that everything human is normal. I think that the past few decades have encouraged us to accept a wider spectrum of behavior in human beings than we did when etiquette was stricter and social roles more rigid. So we've begun using the word "normal" to mean "acceptable" or "okay," when there is still one sense in which it really means "matches the norms."

With questions like this I tend to look at the behavior as I did when I was a teacher - that is, using a literal definitio: "Normal," as in "compared to norms." With this approach, "normal" doesn't mean "like me," it means "common when compared to many other people in an age/gender/background cohort of some kind." So I answered the question that way. When I was teaching, if there were students who exhibited some of the behaviors or reported some of the visual phenomena that stormygrey is talking about, I'd be very aware that their behavior differed from the norm for most students. No two ways about it; the majority of people don't have those vision effects, don't struggle differentiating letter characters, don't get so involved in an internal world that they faint or fall down. In that sense, they're not "normal" behaviors, because most people don't do them.

Those things in a kid might or might not indicate that an evaluation could help adapt instruction better. With adults, I think it's the same thing, but in adulthood there are a lot more possible outcomes. Stormygrey doesn't have to worry about following along with a school curriculum. The adult world offers innumerable ways to adapt and find work and living situations that are easier to adjust to. For adults, the marker for "could use evaluation" is less about someone else referring you because you're not meeting goals, and more about recognizing that you aren't meeting your own goals - whether the goal is social comfort, more achievement, having people over to the house, controlling addiction, making intimate connections, or whatever.

I'm not a psychologist or counselor or psychiatrist, but it does seem that a frequently-used rule of thumb for seeking treatment is "Determine whether the behavior is a problem for you." If you see little green men or six-foot-tall rabbits but function completely well to your own and others' satisfaction in every aspect of life, you are not "normal," but you may not need treatment because you aren't experiencing problems. If the green men or rabbits are interfering with your ability to live a happy life and achieve your goals, you might want to consider treatment.
posted by Miko at 2:06 PM on March 19, 2008


I was probably unwise in using the "green men" and "rabbits," because I'm not suggesting you're hallucinatory or crazy, stormygrey. I was just reaching for an extreme example of something that is not normal but not impairing function.
posted by Miko at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2008


This I really just asked because I am constantly self evaulating and your other statements scream neurosis to me. Sounds like you are overworrying and compensating by 'not noticing' your shoes are on backwards or that a pen is leaking. Most likely you are a dyslexic.

and came to the conclusion that perhaps everyone is like this and just figured out how to do it better or different.

Well, people arent things. They are constantly changing. I remember a time in my life when I was almost as goofy as you and now am a lot more straight-laced. So normalicy isnt this artificial construct that you are worrying about. Its a range of things and goes through phases and fads, just like real people. It sounds like youve crafted this freethinking genius stereotype about yourself in your own head and have written other people off as boring and normal. That's pretty damn self-serving. You'll find that lots of people are bit more complex than you assume and your experiences and "odd moments" are actually fairly cookie cutter, boring, and possibly insufferable to others.

I wouldnt worry about this. If youre friendly, have good hygene, and start caring a little about how you come off to other people you'll do fine. Seriously, step out of your head for a while. You sound a tad self-obsessed right now.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:53 PM on March 19, 2008


I'd also like to second metahawk. Making lists, using reminders in outlook, and getting just a little bit organized helps a whole hell of a lot.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:54 PM on March 19, 2008


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