A friend that I’ve known for about 5 years just recently told me she had Asperger’s and that she’s been in treatment for it for many years.
She’s always been disagreeable, but I chalked that up to just her personality. We sometimes fight, and often I wonder what the hell she was thinking when she says certain things. She’s insightful about other people when studying them, but seems lost when it comes to empathizing. She has a soft spot for cats, despite joking that she’d probably die by her own hand someday, she’s a sweet person underneath. She comes off to strangers as distrustful, angry, and bitchy. Being weird myself, I didn’t think much of these conflicting aspects of her personality. Now I know.
The first thing I did was read the entire Wiki article on Asperger’s. She’s not that autistic obviously as she fooled me for years. She gets into arguments easily, over anything and everything. She’s really smart and has an obsession with statistics that outside a math class I would joke was insane. I guess she’s high-functioning.
When she told me, she was in the midst of a spell of sickness worse than I’ve ever known her to be in. She’d go days without sleep but feel tired. She says that she’s on half a dozen medications along with going to therapy. I guess she felt she owed me an explanation for all the missed appointments and cancellations. Maybe I wouldn’t get so upset at her now that I know her condition.
I guess I’m writing this because I’ve confused. She doesn’t want things to change between us, no pitying her or anything like that. But I don’t know any other people who have mental issues like her. She could be happy one minute and depressed the next, go from laughing with you to angry with you in the blink of an eye. It’s harder to talk to her now. Arguments we used to have, sometimes angry, sometimes enlightening, feels like a chore now. I’m afraid to say certain things to her and I think she feels that. She blames herself for things and gets depressed to a point where nothing would cheer her up for days. Even when suggestions are given as to how to get better, she replies that I can’t possibly understand her and why she can’t do that, or shoots down the suggestions one by one like she’s looking for an excuse to not try.
There isn’t much I can do for her that she can’t already get from her parents. They are both in the medical field and know about her problems. She’s kind of far from me so driving there every weekend is out of the question. Sometimes I go weeks without hearing from her. I feel like someone in a lifeboat watching the captain go down with the ship without any way to help.
The only thing you can do is be her friend. The worst thing you can do to a person with a disability of any sort is condescend to them.
You can’t help a person that doesn’t want to be helped or that isn’t in a position to be helped by you.
You obviously liked this person before you knew about her condition and so don’t change your view. I know it’s hard but, all you can do is affirm, you will help her in anyway if she asks for your help.
Every friendship has quirks. I knew a lady Debbie, who was always late. She’s gonna be 15 minutes late to her funeral. Friends would complain about her. I’d say, “But you know she’s always late, if you want to be her friend just live with it. Or don’t be her friend.”
Debbie was so much fun to be around, that to me, it was worth the fact, she couldn’t get anywhere on time.
Just be upfront and honest, you don’t have to be a jerk about it, but you don’t have to put up with things from anyone. As long as you get your boundries sorted out, that’s all you can do.
Yeah - just be her friend. And remember, she is more than this one diagnosed condition. Don’t define her by it. And if she is being rude, or otherwise acting in a manner you do not wish for in a friend, let her know. Don’t just attribute it to Asperger’s and give her a free pass to be an asshole towards you.
Good advice so far; I’d say the same thing. Asperger’s or not, you have the right to protect your own toes (that’s how I define assertive/aggressive behaviour - aggressive behaviour is stepping on someone else’s toes. Assertive behaviour is defending your own toes.) I think you can have a good friendship with her within the limits of her behaviour towards you; for example, if your arguments get nasty, maybe you both work on not arguing, or things like that. She could be more forthright with you about her time - “Sorry, I can’t make the movie because I’m seeing my therapist that night.” You can also arrange that you’ll leave if she gets to be more than you can take - “I’m sorry you’re feeling lousy tonight. How about we go for coffee in a couple of days when you’re feeling better?” It sounds like being forthright and un-judgemental might work here.
Of course, if I’m just talking out of my ass, feel free to ignore me.
As someone who has tendencies in an Asperger’s direction, I say: tell her in words if something is bothering you. Don’t expect her to pick up on your nonverbal cues that something annoys you. That’s something that is very hard for people with Asperger’s.
As a parent of an asperger’s adult, I would say that alot of her behavior is not so much aspergers, as it sounds like Bipolar. Also, while Aspergers is a psychological disorder… referring to it as a mental issue, seems derogatory. Maybe I am just being sensitive. ok, that said… I agree with most of the advice. Treat her as you usually do, just understand that she thinks in a different way than you or I do. The emotional/sensitive side of her probably doesn’t get processed the way it does for others.
Maybe I am being far too sensitive… but the phrase “mental issue”, just rubbed me wrong. No, I don’t suppose I see one designation more derogatory than the other. I guess it would just depend on how they SAID it. I most likely read FAR too much into the OP’s statement. Chalk it up to not enough coffee, and FAR TOO LITTLE chocolate too! I will leave my desk and remedy both issues IMMEDIATELY!
Totally agree. My friend’s teen daughter can’t read nuances in our behavior and attitudes.
Another thing is to be literal and explicit in instructions and questions. One time she came to our house for a party. She walked in to the house and put the tray of food she was carrying down on the floor by the front door and kept walking. Her mother came in and said, “Honey, when I told you to bring the food into the house I meant for you to take it in to the kitchen.” The girl then picked up the food with an exasperated “Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place” look and carried it to the kitchen. She is very bright but gets frustrated easily.
Amen. Yog you have been friends with her for five years. I’m sure she has been difficult at times, but you remained her friend. Nothing has changed. You got a label for her now, but be careful, now, because that label shouldn’t mean jack shit for your friendship. Forget the fact that she’s got Aspergergers, there’s nothing you or her can do about it anyway. Y’all have been friends for five years: just keep on keeping on.
I wouldn’t say to treat her like nothing’s changed. Something has changed. Perhaps she finally confided in you because she needs someone to talk to. Maybe she needs a confidant, a friend who knows, who can support her. I mean, she’s been in treatment for a while and she just came out with it to you now? Something has obviously changed in her life. Talk to her. Find out what she expects from you, what she needs from you, what she wants from you.
If it’s just something that came out, fine. But if she put that out there, waiting for you to offer help or something, follow up on that.
Monkey beat me to it!
The best thing you can do for her is to be the same person you’ve always been. Appreciate that she shared it with you, but realize that she doesn’t TELL people because she’s afraid things might change.
So…forget she told you! Snark on her when she’s being snarky and play ball when she’s having a good day. It’s all anyone can ask!
How does one test for Asperger’s, anyway? Is it solely based on a patient’s responses to questions? If so, I feel confident that I could memorize a list of symptoms and come away with a diagnosis of Asperger’s.
Or is it simply that we now wish to pathologize social awkwardness? I’ve no trouble believing that a kid who sits in a corner all day flapping his arms like a hummingbird is autistic, but what of the legion of otherwise functional people who are merely drawn to nerdy pursuits, not immediately comfortable making chit-chat, wont to say the wrong thing at the wrong time—this describes me pretty handily, when I was younger. Was I autistic? I don’t think so; I was just a dork.
I’m willing to be corrected on this point, but I remain highly skeptical of the current explosion of (mostly self-administered, it seems) diagnoses of Asperger’s Syndrome. It strikes me as a feeble attempt to lend cachet to an extremely common, non-pathological state that millions of young people endure as they grow up. We aren’t misfits; we’re part of an elite club!
It may be a good time to start another thread on this, but I have long suspected that as we self-entertain through computers, television, videogames and whatever else that is all input and no output, (Books!! ) well…social skills are gonna fall across the board. I can’t see it any other way. Without being forced to socialize, to depend on another for something, ANYthing, whether it’s sustenance or information…Man may well hermitize himself into…well…Something. Something a good social-science fiction writer would have some fun with.
Vinyl Turnip, I like you, buddy, I really do. But ease off a bit.
I’ll agree with you if you say that Attention Deficit Disorder is over diagnosed. I will agree with you if you say that Clinical depression or bi-polar disorder is over-diagnosed. I’ll even agree with you that some assholes might hide behind clinical terms to excuse their antisocial actions.
But that’s not relevant to the O.P. is it?
Let’s not play diagnosticians when we don’t have a damn thing to go on. Let’s instead address how TogSosoth should deal with it.
And I don’t think calling “BULLSHIT!” is going to help much.
YogSosoth, a young man in my extended family has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. He’s socially not very at ease, has trouble “reading” people from their body language or facial expressions, tends to be literal-minded. He’s slowly learning though, with his parents’ guidance and that of professionals and his 3-year-old sister has been a unexpectedly great help as she simply adores him, bugs and all.
He does not suffer from strong mood swings such as the ones you describe your friend has, and IANAD, but she may well have a combination of quirks of her own.
Don’t be condescending to her, and treating her as if she’d never told you about the Aspergers might be the only advice I can think of. She hasn’t changed, act as though knowing this hasn’t changed you. If you want to disagree with her, if you avoid fighting her when you normally would have done so in the past, you are being condescending. Don’t.
I like you too, you’re funny and sharp. But my daughter has just recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s. The diagnosis stems from a lengthy IQ test and multiple visits with a child psychologist, a work up on her behaviors and responses, amongst other things. Then back to the psychiatrist to narrow down her symptoms into typical and not for her age (she’s 11), and how to treat her regarding drugs and therapy with a specialist.
But the thing is, we didn’t know what was wrong before we finally decided to reach out for help. She’s got a “label”, but it doesn’t change the fact that she perceives the world much differently, can’t grasp certain things, and has a naivety/gullibility about her, untypical for her age.
Stubbornness, agitation, obsessiveness, aberrant behavior, capriciousness, very resistant to change, panic attacks/meltdowns, forming excuses for many things, and severe social deficiency. These are most of her negative symptoms, but they are layered and intense. Besides that, there’s something you can’t put your finger on when you’re one-on-one with her. We (her parents) see it, her younger brother sees it, her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins see it, her friends definitely see it, and her teachers see it and are working with us to make school less of a disaster for her. She’s such a sweet, talented girl, she just has this completely different angle in her head.
I know what it’s like to be skeptical about these things, but trust me when I say… whatever you call it… it’s very real.