Monthly Archives: June 2013

28 Jun ’13: Let’s talk about…

Ok. Pushing discomfort aside, this is something I think has been an important signpost in the fog for me.

(Deep breath, make sure my mum isn’t reading…)

*whispers* Sex.

Ok, no going back now *gulp* :-\

I think inducing sexual arousal could be a stim for me. I use it to calm myself when anxious and also, more importantly, to focus when I need to concentrate, especially when I’m bored with the activity I need to concentrate upon. I discovered this particular quirk whilst studying for exams as a young teenager!

Another interesting quirk is that I also stim orally. I sucked my thumb until I was 13, at which point I swapped to chewing the insides of my cheeks (a habit that causes me some distress, not the least because it hurts, but I simply can’t stop!). I recently bought a chewable necklace after reading about how they help other autistic people who stim orally. It surprised me just how much relief this provides and I can almost feel the fizz of chemicals released in my system when I use it. Which leads me back to the slightly uncomfortable (well, shameful – courtesy of my misogynistic upbringing!) admission that I love administering oral sex. Not from a sexual point of view, which is the confusing bit, but from a calming point of view. I’ve tried to work out exactly what it is that I love and it’s something to do with the sensation on the roof of my mouth. The movement in and out typically associated with this activity isn’t what I seek, it’s something to do with the fullness and sensation on my soft pallet, if that makes sense? I’ve recently put the question out to my online community of fellow female aspies and found that this is a fairly common autistic thing. The key downside is that I (as well as many others) also have a heightened sense of smell. This is an unfortunate conundrum! Lol

So moving on to how these activities integrate into a sex life for me, involving other people. Nice idea in principle, but in practice, this has been problematic for me. Not only do I need to know someone VERY well to relinquish enough control to facilitate orgasm, but I also intensely dislike change, including change of partner. For these reasons alone, I typically think very carefully before embarking upon a new sexual relationship. It’s also rare that I experience instantaneous sexual attraction towards someone. Sexual attraction, for me, seems to be something that grows as I get to know someone and feel emotionally close to them. Most of my sexual partnerships have arisen out of close and trusted friendships. In this respect I identify as demisexual. Physical features, including gender, are less important to me than the mind of the person, so I also identify with being sapiosexual. This also seems to be a common theme among autistic women.

My husband, who has been my partner for nearly a decade, is also an aspie, so sex for us is usually fairly routined and comfortably predictable, with not too much dialogue or eye contact. He doesn’t like to connect emotionally during sex because he finds it too overwhelming. I, too, can occasionally find it very overwhelming but I enjoy the emotional connection and actively seek it. This is a common area in which aspergers presents itself differently in males and females.

In reading about stimming in autistic children, I noticed that masturbation is a very common stim. Looking back at my earliest diaries, I noticed that I tried to find a way to write about masturbating when I was 9 years old. I didn’t know that there was a word for it, or that so many other people also did it!  I knew it was a private thing, not to be done in public (I assume my suspected aspie mother must have had an awkward conversation with me about it at a younger age?).  In typical aspie fashion, I didn’t have any close female friends with which to talk about such things, and so stumbled along making up my own rules. The first time I intervened during sex and simulated myself whilst with a partner (in my late teens) was met with shock and delight. I was simply frustrated at his nice but ultimately unfulfilling attempts, and wanted to… well… take care of myself. Something I’ve continued to do ever since. I’ve no idea if this has upset partners, I can’t read non-verbal communication and have never thought to ask any. Aspies are also notoriously blunt, so unless someone were to be as straight-to-the-point with me, I wouldn’t think there was a problem. Rather amusingly, I met my match for bluntness in my husband. He once commented, in our early days, that he wanted to be left to ‘do the job’ himself. Needless to say my usual multi-orgasmic experience didn’t materialise, despite an Olympian effort on my husband’s part, and he hasn’t complained again since! 😉 From my perspective, I certainly don’t mind him having a go but, quite honestly, I simply prefer to stimulate myself. Intense pleasure can easily turn into intense pain for me and it’s difficult to explain that to people. And, for those occasions when I just need to quickly calm or stimulate my disordered central nervous system in order to function optimally, I’m thankful to have the skills required ‘in-house’, so to speak! 😉

Next post: A new era of aspie therapy?

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Filed under Aspergers Syndrome, Relationships, Sex

12 Jun ’13: To be or not to be…?

I read an interesting blog earlier about the chameleon-like tendencies autistic women have and it set me thinking about my own role playing in life.

I’m a professional actor/singer.  It used to be a full time job but since becoming a mother (another role for another blog!), I just work weekends in a band.  My husband is a musician and plays in the band with me.  He once told me that when we first started dating, he would feel resentful watching my outgoing, flirtatious onstage manner vanish as soon as we finished the gig and got home.  He eventually realised, however, that I put on this extraverted, overconfident character in much the same way that I put on my stage makeup, and that it was an entirely different persona from the woman I really am.  He no longer expects me to maintain this charade at all times and I, in return, try to remember to bring out this alter ego at times for his amusement!

When I talk about ‘performance’ in a gig situation, I don’t just mean onstage. The ‘performance’ begins the moment I step out of the dressing room to face the public. In that respect it’s not much different from my ‘performance’ in other roles (when I worked in an office environment, for example, or when I go to play dates with my children). The common factor is that I need private time to prepare beforehand and a lot of down time afterwards to decompress. It’s why I’m so obsessive about making sure we have a private dressing room on gigs and that I allow enough time to follow my ritualistic preparation routine. It’s also why I’m usually completely wiped out the following day.

We play at many weddings. Thankfully, the obligatory small talk with the bride usually follows one of a small selection of ‘scripts’, with enough predictability to enable most of my resources to remain focused on maintaining a plausible amount of eye contact. Recognising my client throughout the evening, however, can be troublesome because I also have mild prosopagnosia – a condition whereby I don’t use typical facial cues to recognise people (such as subtle distances between eyes, nose and mouth, etc) but other cues (such as hair, height, build and apparel). This strategy generally works ok but let me down recently at a civil partnership wedding between two men. In the absence of a reliable cue (such as the big white dress!), I struggled to identify either partner the entire evening and had to keep asking bar staff and band members to point them out to me!

As far as onstage performance goes, this is generally high reward for not too much effort. I have a large number of pre-prepared scripts, jokes and carefully rehearsed ad-libs to keep the evening running like clockwork. I’m an aspie who does actually seek connection with people and this is one way I get to obtain that, on mass, on my own ‘safe’ terms. I’ve been doing most of this the same way, successfully, for 10 years. The band is a slickly running outfit with each member playing their part. Incidentally, we reckon many of the members of our band are aspies (or at least have many aspie traits!). I think it’s one of the reasons why we work so well together. We are each obsessed with perfecting our part and all enjoy the buzz of connection as a whole. Just don’t get us started on one of our special interests! 😉

This heavy reliance on role play to function in every day situations is repeated in many other areas of my life. I see where I seek out roles that let me connect, but with clearly defined boundaries and purpose, thus reducing the need for the scary improvised small talk that threatens to expose my weaknesses. Weaknesses that include attention deficit, delayed auditory processing and inability to read non verbal communication. Through these structured interactions, I meet most of my needs for companionship. The connection with and validation of my authentic self is now largely met through closed facebook groups for other adult women with aspergers.

Next post: Let’s talk about…

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Filed under Aspergers Syndrome, Mimicry, Relationships, Role Play, Work

2 Jun ’13: The day after

Yesterday, an 8 month long process of evaluation ended with the news that I have been officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Looking back, I can now see a lifetime of signs that were missed; from twirling, humming, rigidity and obsessive interests to being bullied, eating disorders, depression and loneliness.

But why bother having an official diagnosis now, at this stage of my life, when a self diagnosis would have been enough?

Because Asperger Syndrome is hereditary.  My daughter is showing some traits and I can’t bear to watch her tumble and fall into the same black holes.  The sad fact remains that the current diagnosis criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders, worldwide, is wholly based upon research with autistic males, who present very differently from autistic females.  Until more females on the spectrum are diagnosed and prepared to add their voices and experience to the pool of knowledge available, many more (particularly high functioning) autistic girls and women are going to be missed (or misdiagnosed) and continue stumbling blindly along in life wondering why they feel like they are on the wrong planet.

But that’s not the only reason.  I seek confirmation, validation.  Discovering I have Aspergers Syndrome has finally answered all of my questions.  More than half of my life, and a not inconsiderable sum of money, have been given over to extensive research and therapy to find out what is ‘wrong’ with me.  I now know that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with me, I’m simply different.  I perceive the world differently.  My brain is wired differently.  I have difficulties in some areas, gifts in others.  The relief is immense.  As immense as the burden of responsibility I now feel towards my young daughter.

I find myself wondering how different my life would have been if I had been diagnosed as a young child?  Would it have held me back?  Would I have limited myself?  Would I be the same person I am today?  I’m quite proud of many things, especially now I realise how much harder life has been for me compared with the more neurotypical population.  But there has been tremendous cost along the way. 

Do I wish I had been diagnosed as a child? 

Yes.

Next post: To be or not to be…

Other related links

Profile of adult females with Aspergers

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Filed under Aspergers Syndrome, Diagnosis, Relationships