Tessie Regan‘s new book Shorts is a series of short stories about Alcohol, Asperger Syndrome and God. This short introduction is about the relationship between alcoholism and Asperger Syndrome as viewed from her humorous and unique perspective.
I’m 31 and it has only been in the past year that doctors have used their probes and fancy words to explain what exactly has been going on in my brain. Getting my diagnosis meant everything made more sense. I wasn’t insane! I wasn’t rude or unsympathetic! I wasn’t a loner because I hated people! I wasn’t moody because I was impatient! I wasn’t easily distracted and unfocused because I had ADD! I wasn’t a royal pain in the ass as a child because I was undisciplined! I was operating in a different playing field and had been quieting the confusing and undiagnosed symptoms of Asperger’s by drinking myself to death – self-medication at its very finest.
The drinking washed away the feeling of steel-wool in my temples, removed the square blocks from my sternum and eased the clenching jaw that kept in the screaming because my skin was electric. The drinking made my senses relax and encounter the world at a slower pace. When I was sober some things would be so heightened that it was hard to distinguish which sense was receiving what feeling. It is like being dropped off by the mother-ship to run some experiments on the earthlings, but they’ve forgotten to give me the bone and flesh suit that can withstand the elements. Like sending a football player into the game without pads and a helmet… Oops!
But I guess you’re thinking what did it look like, to be a drunk and to have Aspergers?
While I was drinking most of the symptoms were quieted and hidden. I could be so normal, but only when I was in active addiction. Before I began drinking and during seasons of sobriety was the best vantage point to see Asperger’s. It hid in ‘personality’ and easily fooled the people that loved me because to them it was a harmless problem they could chalk up my oddities (or the endless pool of my ‘personality’). For example I loved consistency and routine and any minor change would result in near cataclysmic meltdowns. As a child, it meant becoming physically ill and depressed and eventually hospitalized when we moved from West Virginia to North Carolina. As an adult, it meant drinking myself through changes big and small. From my older sister moving out of the country to the corner grocery store changing the layout of the aisles.
For the most part having Asperger’s means doing life with a little bit of funniness, but there is a darker side. There is a lot of time alone because I enjoy solitude and also because I need to reset. There is a lot of avoiding and making lame excuses because I don’t want to do something and this hurts people’s feelings. They really start to resent the criminal boyfriend that is espoused to my mind. They make wide circles and annoyed groans. They roll their eyes and suspect I didn’t see it because I didn’t look them in the eye. They wonder when I’ll grow up or mature or act my age. Sometimes they earnestly believe this is because I drank for so many years and that I have given myself some sort of permanent brain damage. The more that my cards make sense, the more they seem to offend the others at the table. But the misunderstanding is okay. When sunlight picks up the hairs on my bare skin one at a time and raises the temperature by a miniscule degree; when I can watch and see this miracle happening on my arm, I will remember that some people will not notice the warmth of it at all. I will remember that my bag of tricks is a blessing translated for the earthlings as ‘quirky’, and let it be well to be that too.