Sunday, 30 December 2012


I am trying to find out how I feel about noise. I discovered a blog about sensitivity to background noise (and related challenges): and upon reading that, I tried to organise my own thoughts on noise.

One of my problems with social functions is that I lack a filter. I can't concentrate on what person A is saying because person B is talking to person C. I am afraid that people find me rude if I don't pay attention to what they're saying and therefore I refrain from asking: Sorry what was that, sorry I didn't hear, etc. I struggle to make sense of the about 60 percent of person A's message, that I actually got. And very often the conversation dies because I can't say much more that 'oh' and 'yes', afraid that A has already told me what I am about to ask.

Conversations that are utterly irrelevant to me are easier to ignore, which is why it worked out relatively well when I commuted to work. I usually sat in the quiet section on the train, but if I had to sit in the normal section, I was often (though not always) able to block out irrelevant people's irrelevant phone conversations.

At work, I have my own office. It is quite close to the coffee machine, a common place for office small talk. When my door is open, I can hear everything that is said in the kitchen. And often I forget to work and just sit and listen. In particular if the small talk is relevant for me. I don't really like my door to be closed. To me, it signals: Leave me alone. Being a senior researcher, involved in a lot of projects, I don't think it is OK for me to send such a signal. I also like the interactions with my colleagues, so I am not very happy with a closed door.

During my carrier, I've shared an office numerous times. It has, I think, worked out well most of the times. In particular when my roommate was a quiet, hard-working researcher like myself. I also had great friendships with my roommates, though friendship time tended to increase on behalf of working time. I've shared an office with lovable people that had an interesting personal life, or a work that required lots of telephone conversations. And work related phone talk, as well as personal life related phone talk, tend to occupy my attention. I really liked those people I shared an office with, I am so happy they were in my life. But they disturbed me.

So maybe my first priority should be to have my own office, and create my own space behind a closed door. And maybe not. Because I have other quirks... Temperature and light related quirks. And there are other types of disturbances than office-mates.

The reason why I am thinking so much about this right now is that my workplace is moving. During spring, we are moving into the premises of the institution we recently merged with. Some researchers have to share an office. Because nobody wants to, those that volunteer to share, get first-choice regarding where they want to sit. All offices have glass walls towards the corridor. Some offices have very little daylight.

These are my thoughts: If someone wants to share an office with me, I have a very good chance of getting THE office that I want: On the top floor, with loads of daylight, relatively high temperature, and in the corner, where the visual disturbance of people walking in the corridor outside the glass wall is minimised. I also get the opportunity of developing another great friendship, or at least having a favourite colleague. But I will be disturbed by his or her telephone conversations, and perhaps the friendship time will start eating at the work time.

On the other hand, if I don't opt in on the shared office-first choice option, I have a relatively high risk of ending up in an office where people are walking outside all the time, where I can't see the sky and where it may be cold during winter. But the probability of having my own office is close to 100 %.

My experience with one office-mate is positive (whereas I hated being 3+ in the same office - that was anarchy), but I have become more introvert, more Aspie, and less 'filtered' since last time I shared an office with one person.

Both options have pros and cons, the central question is: what is most important to me?

Friday, 28 December 2012


In the old Greek myth of Oedipus, the main character is told that his destiny is to kill his father and marry his mother. He does everything possible to escape his destiny, but eventually that is exactly what happens. And he doesn't even know.

In Freudian psychology, the myth has been used as a symbol of boys wanting to couple with their own mother, of young boys' jealousy of their fathers, and of the general tendency - for people of both genders - to fall in love with somebody reminding them of their own parent (usually the parent of the opposite gender).

To me, the myth is about the inability to avoid destiny. My thoughts on the Freudian interpretation are more complicated and deserve their own blogpost. In short, I think Freud is not exactly wrong, neither is he spot on.

I would like to think that there is no such thing as destiny. I would like to think that the way I present myself and the way I live my life is a product of coincidences and free will in combination. But I am afraid it is not. Well 'destiny' is some supersticious nonsense. But my genes and my upbringing (and a lot of things that happened after that) laid out a path for me, and I am surprised every time I discover I am walking on that path. You could call the path 'destiny'.

During my childhood, every time we (the family) or my parents were going somewhere, my mother always was a bit late. The last thing she had to do before leaving the house, was to pee. When we went on holiday, my brother, my father and I sat in the taxi waiting, while my mother went to the bathroom, got her coat, and left the house. I remember wondering (probably out loud) why she couldn't pee while we were still in the house? Destiny: Nowadays, when everybody are ready to leave, I discover I need to pee. It is like they have to take their coats on for me to find out.

If I told my mother about a choice I made for me and later on for my children, she would often say: 'Why is that?', in a challenging and demanding tone of voice. If she and I had an argument, she would simply state: 'You are wrong', and she never felt the need to explain why I was wrong. It was sort of God-given, that she was right. Destiny: Before I can think of it, I exclaim: 'You are wrong' or, more mildly: 'I am right', in arguments. When it comes to nutrition, I am right per definition, in that same God-given kind of way. When people close to me make choices I can't relate to, my mouth utter the infamous: 'Why is that?' before I know it.

On my Danish blog I wrote about my mother's tendency to sing if somebody said a line from a song in a conversation. I was always very annoyed because it was an interruption and it was like she put herself first: her need to demonstrate the ability to remember songs was superior to everybody elses need to pursue a conversation. Destiny: I have actually caught myself doing exactly the same thing.

Disgression: It is probably an Aspie trait to be able to remember lyrics. My mother and my youngest son are very good. And even not-very-musical me, I just recalled from a camp in primary school where I was walking with my teacher and my best friend in the wood and I for no apparent reason sang 'When I'm sixtyfour' - the entire song. And it was probably out of tune, too. My teacher said, slightly condescending: 'How nice to remember lyrics so well'.

End of disregression. There are several other examples, my point is that my destiny is to become like my mother. And I am fighting it, I despise most of what she represents, and still the more I think about it the faster I become like her. Truly Oedipal.

Monday, 17 December 2012


I've met quite a few people who probably qualify for an Asperger diagnosis. My mother for one. My brother for two. Etc. Two of the five women I consider my friends, have a lot of traits, too.

When I first started thinking my youngest son probably was an aspie, I was seeing W, who most likely IS an aspie. At that time my excellent student worker completed his education and we had to hire somebody else. I was at the interview when C applied for the job. I despised him, but my superior said his grades were brilliant and we had to hire him. I really disliked C. He was weird, aloof, and strangely immature. But he was also very bright, ambitious, and very good at computer programming stuff. In fact he was so good, that I had to do the menial work myself and think hard to come up with tasks that matched his competences.

I was irritated with C for almost all the time he was my student worker. Towards the end of his employment with us (he also completed his education), my irritation faded and eventually I almost liked him. He must have been Asperger.

Some time later, a woman applied for a job - a position similar to mine. I was again at the interview, this time with another superior and a close colleague. The woman, H, talked constantly for an hour. And said some weird things along the way. She had a strange expression on her face. She behaved like a robot and didn't notice when we were indicating that we wanted to leave. She also had the strangest CV I've ever seen. She had nurse training I think, a Masters degree in a foreign language and a PhD in science. She had changed jobs constantly. After the interview, which mostly consisted of H talking, my colleague and I just wanted to go back to work. We said she was strange, but, well, qualified. And my superior was anxious to get the 'problem' off his back. So we hired her, it seemed the easiest solution at the time. Regrettably, because a few months later, she and I shared an office. And I was annoyed beyond description. She couldn't understand 'signals' at all. Such as: When I sit and stare into my computer and look concentrated, almost angry, it means that I am concentrating on what I do and I prefer not to be disturbed. When I also put on big earphones, it means that I really really don't want to be disturbed. Of course, H must have been Asperger. And I was truly irritated with her.

I am not irritated with all aspies. I love my two dear female friends. I find Sheldon of the Big Bang Theory amusing, and only a bit irritating. I dated an Aspie for more than four years. In fact, I must have loved him. But when all the traits (my traits?) present themselves in one person, I feel very strongly (negative) about it. I remember the overwhelming irritation from my childhood, when my brother again said something that to me seemed inappropriate. And when my mother was weird, and seemed proud of it. And both C and H provoked a strong physical sense of irritation.

Why? Clearly I am reminded of my own defeats, when I did something similar (said something strange, inappropriate, or incomprehensible), and as soon as I heard the words I knew they were wrong. Or when I was aloof without knowing it, and people closed down. Or when I was immature. Or when I didn't get the signal. Etc.

Sorry C, H, mother, brother, and others. It wasn't you. It was me. I wasn't irritated with you. I was irritated with myself. Now I will be more tolerant. With you all. Including myself.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sensory senses

It has taken me a while to get my head around the sensory issues thing. It is not like I am OVERALL hyper sensitive. But in certain areas I am. Perhaps it would be easier to understand if it was an overall thing.

I don't wear perfume. I find perfume nauseating. It has such a strong sweet smell I can't breathe. I feel the same way about other people wearing perfume. Luckily I don't sweat a lot, but I sometimes think that I smell sweaty. If I have apologized to people around me, they have assured me that I didn't smell at all. Maybe they lied and I didn't get it... Generally, though, I often smell things that others don't, but almost as often it's the other way around. People ask me: what is that weird smell and I don't smell anything.

I am not fussy with food. I like hot food, and bitter food, savoury food and salt food. I like sweet things too, but mostly as sweets though. I prefer tastes separately but I don't mind mixing them up. There's a few food items that I think taste like plastic: cauliflower and earl grey tea. I really don't like that. I tend to loop a bit on nutrition, and I despise poor quality fast food because it is poor quality. That said, I would eat a MacD burger if it was served. So generally, food is not surrounded with any sensory issues.

I am always cold. I freeze almost all year. I wear gloves and hat outside from early September to early May. I sleep with skiing socks during the same period. And I take very warm showers. But if the bedroom isn't well below 18 degrees Celsius, I can't sleep. If the room (any room) is too warm, I can't breathe. I am just never content with the temperature.

Light is too bright. I love summer, I love being in the sun, I love watching the blue summer sky. I feel claustrophobic if I can't see the sky (whichever colour it may have) from a window. But the bright light still hurts my eye. I need complete darkness to sleep, I prefer to read with a dim light on, and I avoid fluorescent lamps. I don't want lamps in my home that have frosted glass or plastic-looking-like-frosted-glass shades.

Lots of aspies have issues with high sounds. I don't really think I do. But I really really love silence....

The final sensory issue, which in fact has its own question in the Aspie quiz, relates to those washing instruction marks in clothes. My question has always been: why are they there when they are so irritating? I know the answer now: Because NT people don't mind them. Apparently only Aspies are annoyed with them so why bother coming up with a clever alternative? In fact, 95 percent of washable clothes follow these simple guidelines: non-cotton clothes: 30 degrees C, cotton clothes: 40 degrees C, bed linen, towels, underwear, socks etc: 60 degrees C. So: can I please cut off the marks on clothes that follow the guidelines? I promise to maintain the rest!

Taking things literally

I often think far too much about what people mean, or, rather, if they actually mean what they say. But the thinking, constantly being on guard demands a lot of resources from me, so I tend not to. I prefer spending my resources on something more constructively (such as research).

And then things like this happens:
The other person: 'Wow it was so great to see you, we must meet again soon, it is such a pity we never get to see each other!'
Me: 'Great, I agree, let me get my diary... what about next week Saturday?'
The other person: 'Oh I didn't bring my diary, but I'll text you as soon as I get home'
Then follows several weeks of silence
Text from me: 'Should we have coffee one day?'
More silence

And things like this:
I talk about my cooking for several people, or I bake a cake for work.
The other person: 'Oh we have this function coming up, can we hire you for the cooking?'
Me: 'I'll be delighted. I love cooking and arranging'
The other person: 'Really? Are you serious? It's a lot of work?'
Me: 'I am serious. I really do enjoy it. When is it?'
After some months:
Me: 'So, should I cook for your anniversary/birthday/...?'
The other person (looking puzzled): 'Oh I thought it was too much work, I hired someone to do it'

And things like people saying things they don't mean or things that are not true. And when I ask: why did you say that, they say: 'For fun'

But I don't get the fun. On the other hand, I also don't get jokes most of the time.

What I don't understand is:
1. Why do people say things they don't really mean?
2. How do I know, if what they say is true and I can act accordingly, or if it's not true?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Running from depression

I don't think I've ever had a depression. But I know I have been depressed.

Life has never collapsed on me and left me weeping on the floor. But I have had periods of immense sadness and I've experienced anger and despair directed towards almost all elements in my life.

I was about 17. I was in high school, I had a boyfriend and a few close female friends. I was busy at school, playing handball, working. My life was generally OK. And when I came home from school, I cried for an hour. Every day. My boyfriend and my best friend told me to see my GP, who referred me to a psychiatrist. My best friend, also 17 and always very wise, was convinced I was depressed because of the way my father was bringing me up. Now this seems ridiculous, but 17 was the age of teenage showdown for me, and for some odd reason, I targeted my father. Neither my showdown or the psychiatrist (who was told by the patient that the reason was the patients father) had any effect on my moods. They did however fade after a while.

I was 24. I lived in South Africa, studying at the university. I had a boyfriend and a very close friend that I lived with. I had a student job at the university. A couple dramatic life events caused me to be depressed. I was so sad. I didn't cry much, I was just dark inside. I felt hollow and useless. I went to a social worker at the hospital and talked to her. She was nice but it had no effect. Of course we blamed the life events for my mood.

I was 39. Lived with my children. Had a partner, a demanding job and a large social circle (and the usual few close friends). Every Saturday, I cried. There was no energy left. I went to see my GP but I told him I was depressed because my son was showing signs of Asperger and that stressed me. So my GP told me what to do about my son and not what to do about me.

In between there are countless episodes of sadness, social anxiety, insomnia. Generally, my life has been as described at those three points in time: busy in the successful way. But the depression has always been there, lurking in the background, and striking when I was too busy to notice.

What also happens is that if my mind is idle, I start looping. Something somebody said or did keeps coming back to me and bothers me. Something my husband says makes me angry, though with a considerable time delay. So he says something without thinking and the next day I write him a spluttering e-mail. The more prone to depression I am, the more frequently this happens.

I once got anti-depressants. Not for depression but for insomnia. They made me gain weight and I also became cynical. So I stopped.

I self-medicate: I excercise. I run. I run from depression. Some days I go to the gym, but I need to have cardiovascular excercise for at least 20-25 minutes, at least four times per week. Yes I still loop. And sometimes I can't sleep. But I am much more stable mood-wise now. And the episodes mentioned above taught me at least one thing: depression comes from inside. It's nobody elses fault. Not my fathers fault, not the life events, not my son. In fact it is not even my mothers fault. I take responsibility; and I run!


We talk about train tickets. I go on and on about where I travelled to and from, and how I purchased my ticket. Did I always do this? I try (hard) to sense when they tire of the train talk, so I should stop. Did people always lose interest in my subject before I did?

We talk about baking. They ask for my recipes. There is a joke but I didn't catch it. Was there always a joke I didn't catch? I explain carefully how I go about baking, the share of wholewheat flour, the amount of yeast, and I realise I talk too much. I stop. Did I always talk too much?

We discuss a political topic. We disagree on a central point. My feelings on the topic rush through me and take over. I argue at length, well-spoken (to the point of being too hard), and in an emotional manner. Afterwards my opponent seems cross with me and avoids me. Have I always done this? Did this happen before?

We are friends and we meet on a regular basis. We share things that we don't share with everyone else. One day I share too much. My next invitation is declined. My greetings are met with surprise. Now we don't greet each other anymore. Have this happened before? Did I always over-share (when I stopped under-sharing of course)?


I know all these things happened before. I know because I was there and I noticed. I just didn't know why. Now I know, and that has increased my sense of these things. Before I ignored it, didn't see a pattern, thought the other people were dumbasses, etc. My recognition of my own Asperger has changed my perspective. These issues, that I disregarded before, are now perhaps blown out of proportion.

So what is better? Disregarding, ignorance and blaming everyone else? Or over-focusing and blaming myself?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The melting pot

Among the common aspie traits are meltdowns. In fact, this is not a trait or a feature, rather it is a recurring behaviour. Hence I think it can be 'cured', at least to an extent.

A meltdown is an uncontrollable anger and sorrow, expressing itself through me, but using means of communication that are unfamiliar to me. During the meltdown I say things I didn't know I felt, in a horrible and hurting manner. I shout and I swear. I cry. Afterwards I am exhausted as if I went to war and fought it all by myself. About half an hour later I start getting a headache.

The feelings expressed by me during a meltdown are mine. They belong to a hidden subconsciousness and perhaps it's best if they stay there. But they are mine, I admit that. Before my mouth expresses these feelings I didn't know I had them. Afterwards I take responsibility (though somewhat reluctantly) for the feelings.

I have nothing positive to say about the way I express these feelings. I wish I didn't express them at all, I wish that at least I could express myself in a more civilised manner. I am trying.

My son has the same problem. When he feels that he is being treated unfair, he risks having a meltdown. Some circumstances may trigger this, e.g. being under under types of pressure - if his peers look at him in class, if there are guests at our house etc. It has been a long while since he had a meltdown at home though. Feeling secure prevents meltdowns apparently.

My son describes the process like this: In an unpleasant situation, there are two men (in his head that is): the ignoring-man and the anger-man. The ignoring-man wants my son to ignore if he is being bullied or laughed at. He (the ignoring-man) demonstrates this wish by sitting on a chair, ignoring. The anger-man wants my son to be angry (leading to a meltdown) and cry. He expresses his wish by being angry, and acts aggressively towards the ignoring-man. So if the ignoring-man tries to tell my son to act sensibly (i.e. ignore the annoyance), the anger-man will jump from his chair and press his hand against the ignoring-mans mouth. The anger-man usually wins.

I like the picture, but I am sad about its implications. The tendency to melt down is, due to its aggression, superior to more sustainable and wise coping strategies, when they are confronted inside the head (my sons head, or mine, for that matter). The ignoring-man needs assistance, and I told my son that. I said: 'You need to help the ignoring-man by imagining what he would say, and do as he does'. I am going to do that myself, I go with the ignoring-man, because going with the anger-man only leads to more trouble.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Small talk

Small talk is difficult. Much worse than sudoku. Because there is not one solution to the problem. And when I've managed to small talk for twenty minutes I am awarded... some more small talk.

I really enjoy hearing about other people's work. In particular researchers, but also other areas of work. If I am at a function and people start talking about their work, I am home free. I relax and respond to whatever they are telling me.

When the person I am talking to chooses another subject than work, it becomes slightly more difficult. Because we engage in some sort of dialogue, that I am not comfortable with. If we talk about his/her family or relationship issues I don't know if I am supposed to

  1. just listen and add one-syllable exlamations at strategic times
  2. offer my own opinion: 'I don't think it is that bad', or 'could they have misunderstood you'
  3. contribute with my own experiences in the field
When I follow strategy 1., the conversation usually dies. When I follow strategy 2., either I agree and act sympathetic towards the other person, and then the conversation dies; or I offer another perspective, which very often is not well received. If I follow strategy 3., I often monopolise the conversation, because I don't know exactly when to stop.

I like to run. The past 6 or 7 years I have run regularly with colleagues wherever I have worked. And while I enjoy the running, and in fact also the company, I dread the conversation. If somebody very talkative joins the running team I am relieved. Because then he or she can do the talking. If something interesting is happening at work (a poor manager, a merger), we can talk about that. But very often there is simply not enough to talk about for approximately half an hour. These days I mostly run with one person from work. This guy happens to be the person I also work with in the only project where I work with others. And while I have nothing bad to say about him, I have virtually nothing to say TO him. He seems a nice person, very laid-back. And not very talkative. I've started to dread the running. And it is nothing personal. I just don't know what to talk about. We can't talk about our common project for half an hour. And I am sure we've been around workplace issues and normal small-talk issues more than once. I sometimes tell the same story again in a sort of panic.

I've decided I need a longer list of 'safe' topics for small talk. Not only the running of course, but also for parties and other functions where I am supposed to talk to people I am not comfortable with. My list so far:
  1. The weather
  2. Food
  3. Holidays
  4. People's clothes, jewelery etc (not that I have any interest but it buys me some 30 seconds)
And there's someting else I would like to know: When I bake or cook for others and they compliment my results, they often ask for the recipe. Is this small-talk or do they really want the recipe?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Physical contact

About five years ago, I saw on facebook a group called Asperger Awareness. I had a look and one of the things they listed as an aspie trait was: Standing too close to others.

I felt a number of things: Firstly I was annoyed. Did we really become so intolerant that we assign diagnoses to people that cross the 15 cm boundary? If diagnoses are trigged by such minor details, we eventually end up in a society where nobody belongs to normality anymore... And then I was also relieved. Because I was home free. I don't stand too close to others. In fact, I think I stand too far away. As history showed, I was not home free, and now I am quite content about being an aspie. But is has taken me a while to get there. I wasn't there yet five years ago.

Proximity to others bother me. I am not talking about my family, but everybody else. If another person stands close to me, I usually take a step away. I really don't like talking to people when I can also smell them. If I have to show a colleague something on my computer, I carefully place myself away from him or her, e.g. with a chair in between. I don't like it if I accidentally touch the other person during a conversation.

Some people use physical contact as part of their communication. E.g. some colleague pats me on my shoulder while we are talking about school kids over lunch. I gathered that it was a way of telling me: I know how you feel, I feel the same way and you have a funny way of expressing your experiences. But I had major difficulties in concentrating on our conversation because her constant patting me on my shoulder distracted me. Sometimes I get used to it though.

If there is one rule of greeting and it is hugging then hugging is OK. But some people hug upon arrival one time and before farewell the next. Some people hug hello and goodbye one time and not at all the next. Nobody (I guess) hug their colleagues everytime they meet. But if the colleague had a baby, or they leave because they got another job, then you hug. Maybe. And if you don't work together anymore but meet at the zoo one day, you hug, even though you never touched the person while the two of you worked together.

I hug because social convention dictates it. I'd rather not touch at all. I am not afraid of germs or anything, I just get very self-concious and insecure. And I can see the disappointment in people's eyes when I 'forget' (I don't, I just pretend). You see, I didn't hug the colleague that had a baby. And not the ex-colleague at the zoo either.

My family and my best friends: That is different. If I feel completely comfortable with others touching is OK, and I like to hug. I still get confused about physical contact as a means of communication though. I get distracted when the person I am talking to, touches me during conversation.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

This is what it's like

It is like singing in a choir, and constantly being out of tune. Sometimes to the point of singing a different song. Other times almost carrying the tune. And not knowing which is which. Either I have to be very proud of my out of tune singing, or I just shut up, pretend I am singing and knowing that I will never ever learn.

It is like being Goldielock, but never finding the right chair. There's always something wrong. Too cold, too noisy, too many people...

It is like being a sprinter in a marathon. You can impress at first, but sooner or later they'll find out that you can't run the whole distance.


This is what it's like for me:

Good stuff:
I am honest. I will not cheat you, and I will do my best to help you and to make you feel comfortable.

I have a very good memory. I remember birthdays, telephone numbers, past events, how you take your coffee, and almost everything you told me (though I forget what I have told you).

I am good at concentrating. I dig into a subject until I have the information I need.

I am loyal and I don't escape, not physically and not into substances.

Not-quite-so-good stuff:
I am always cold. And when I wear woolen clothes and turn up the heater, I am fine temperaturewise but my eyes get dry and sore.

I need complete darkness before I can sleep. I wear 'night goggles' even when it is dark in the bedroom. I can't sleep - even with the goggles - if the light is on in the room.

There's a track in my mind that is always busy. I can't stop thinking, and I can't control the thoughts. That is also why I can't sleep. It is also the reason of many conflicts, because it is not nice, calm and harmonious thoughts. The track is like a railway track next to the real railway track. When the train manages to switch tracks (I don't know how), it runs on the 'thought-track' and it can't get back to the real railway track. The thought-track often leads to aggression, temper tantrums, and regular meltdowns. I wish it was not like that. I wish I knew how to control the train.

I am gullible and I am extremely bad at lying. Very often I don't catch jokes or I catch them too late.

Crowds exhaust me. Sometimes I get social anxiety but most often I am just very self-conscious. I don't mind crowds of strangers though. They don't expect anything from me.

I lose things out of my hands. When that happens, I cry and scold myself.

I don't know what to do with other people's feelings. I have empathy but I don't know how to show it.


This is what I do to make me feel better:

Being at home.

Structuring and planning (calendar, to-do lists).

Knowing what is going to happen.




Sleeping on my stomach.


This is what others can do to make me feel better:

Don't surprise me.

Inform me, structure things, be predictable

Don't write between the lines (I might read it but you never know)

Be honest.

If you want me to do something (or don't something), please tell me.

Talking about feelings and other sensitive issues is probably not such a good idea. I am much better in writing. Writing also prevent most tantrums. So if there's something sensitive you want to tell me, it's fine by me to e-mail or facebook-chat about it.

If you think that I go too much on and on about nutrition or a smartphone app, just ask me to stop :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012


There is no such thing as random. There is always an algorithm. Perhaps it is so complicated that it appears random, but I know that there must be an algorithm somewhere.

In the gym, I usually do my cardio exercise on the step master. I recently discovered that one of the exercises you can choose is called 'around the world'. The impact varies according to mountains and sights in the continents I 'visit'. E.g. going through Sahara is low impact, while the Eiffel Tower is one narrow peak with high impact. Now I am trying to deduce the algorithm...

  • There are six continents: South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceana. 
  • The workout does not always start in South America but could start anywhere on the list. The order of continents remains the same.
  • A 25 minute workout and a 30 minute workout visit three continents. 9 minutes in the first, 10 minutes in the second and the remainder in the third.
  • A 53 minute workout (which I did today) visit all six continents, 4'20'' in the first, and ten minutes in the others except of course for the last one, which lasts a little less.
  • Thus below a threshold this workout visits only a subset of continents, and above the threshold all six. 
Next step is of course to deduce the threshold. Maybe there is more than one threshold, the likely thing is that 50-60 minutes equals 6 continents, 40-50 equals 5, etc. So what's with the 9-10-11 minutes versus the something-10-10-10-10-something? I got to go on the step master till I've figured it out!

OK computer algorithms are easy because I know that they are there. Other algorithms are much more difficult. (Heaven forbid that they simply don't exist)

First time you meet a person, you shake hands. At some stage, if you see the person often or become close, you stop touching and just say hello when you meet. Then at some stage you may become so close that you hug the person when you meet. This algorithm I've learned. I've also learned that sometimes you don't hug a person that you've hugged before because you saw him or her recently. But sometimes it becomes more complicated than that. Maybe you hug upon arrival but not when you leave. Or the other way around. Or both. Or neither, even though you didn't see these hugable people for a long time. Please teach me the algorithm!

Ending e-mails is a similar story. The Danish greetings are different from the English greetings, of course, but the idea would be more or less the same: From 'sincerely' over 'best regards' and no greeting - just the name, to 'with love' (in Danish the abbreviated form is rather common) or maybe 'hugs', there is a development of increasing proximity. But what does it mean when a colleague writes 'with love' one week and simply 'regards' the next? When a friend moves from 'hugs' to 'with love' to 'best regards'? When a person I never met before ends their e-mail 'with love'? THAT algorithm is not installed on my computer! I've got my own but I am not sure it works to the purpose. To colleagues I write 'best regards', to friends 'with love', except for the selected few that receive 'hugs' from me. My algorithm works, most of the time, but it feels like speaking very broken French to French-speaking people. The risk of making mistakes, also offensive mistakes, is rather high, and there is nothing I can do, because nobody taught me the algorithm.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

View from a bridge

I found this picture on the internet:

The source is, although the painting is by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. The girl in the white dress is with the others but alone, she is in the same place but sees different things. The title of the painting is not 'girls on a bridge', but 'girl on a bridge'.

Somehow we are always on a bridge, always developing from one state to another. From child to adult, from being a child to having a child, etc. The bridge I stand on these days goes from the country of fitting in to the country of not fitting in at all. From the place of people to the place of solitude. From the average to the odd. From NT-land to Aspie-land.

And I have to find my way, my place on the bridge. Should I accept being part of a team at work, or should I do my best to avoid it? Should I join the others for a Friday beer or should I close my office door and stare at a spreadsheet? Should I call or e-mail? Should I respond to 'lets have coffee' or just 'forget' (I don't)?

Within the past few weeks some people that I've known for many years have asked if we should meet. A group of old colleagues have arranged to eat dinner at a (noisy) restaurant. Another former colleague wants to have coffee, well two former colleagues both want to have coffee. One of them I actually regard a close friend. I really like to have these people - and others - in my life. But I don't want to see them. In particular, I don't want to spent too much time outside my home and my workplace. I get exhausted by the noisy café. But I also know that that is the way we people socialise.

Something in me (but not the whole me) wants to run as fast as the white dress allows to the 'other' country. Kindly decline all invitations to gather. Cycle to work every morning, and cycle back every afternoon. Go shopping, cook, and after dinner open my computer and write long e-mails to all the people I like to have in my life, go on Facebook and comment at their photos, or communicate via text messages or even the chat function in wordfeud.

There's one part of real life socialising that I enjoy a lot though. I like having people over for dinner. If I am uncomfortable with our guests, I can always find something to do in the kitchen. And I am at home. My base. So my favourite place on that  bridge would be a few steps away from the country of never seeing people in real life.

I tried to explain myself to my husband. I may have misunderstood, but I gathered that he felt that since I've fitted into social norms for 44 years, I might as well continue. It would, admittedly, make things much easier.

It is as if exploring my being different per se makes me more different. It is as if there's no turning back to the country of fitting in. And I think that scares me a little, and it scares my husband too. What if I turn into a hermit? Is that covered by 'for better for worse'? I don't know if I am about to turn into a hermit, I cross the bridge in my own speed and explore as I go.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Beware of people

Several years ago, while I shared an office with another woman, my office-mate and I laughed at a power-point presentation entitled 'Engrish', which consisted of anglophone signs from China. The fun thing about it was of course that the Chinese made a lot of mistakes. I make mistakes myself when writing English, so for me it is OK to laugh (I hope). One of the signs were from the exit of a public transportation and it read: 'Beware of people'. The true meaning is obvious, nevertheless the actual sign was hilarious. So much so, that we printed it out, and tagged it to the exit of our office.

It was not just for fun though. Inside the office we were safe (I don't know how she felt about it, this is my rationing), we knew each other very well and we had our things there. We were in control. Outside the office we would meet our colleagues, our superior, or people visiting the institute. Our 'fear' of everything outside our wonderful office developed to the point of us buying an electric kettle and some instant coffee, so we didn't have to walk the 20 meters down the hall to the kitchen. Perhaps it was not fear but rather laziness. Not laziness of walking the 20 meters of course but laziness towards relating to the people we might meet on the way.

Why is it so hard to relate to colleagues in a corridor or while waiting for the coffee brewer? I experience the laziness still, in my present job. I have my own office, very close to the kitchen at work. I usually wait till there is noone there, before I go and fetch myself a cup of coffee. Sometimes I tell myself: what rubbish! and I get up and go to the kitchen before giving it any more thought. It's easier when I can hear a conversation that I know how to join in. E.g. if they talk about cakes, or cell phones, or children.

I think it is because I need a "haven". A place where I can retreat to. Where I am safe. I believe most people do, I just think this need is stronger with me than with others.

I feel the same way about my home. I long to go home and I don't want to leave my home. In particular, I don't want to go to other people's homes. When people are visiting us, I go and stay in the kitchen for as long as possible. And I know very well what is trigging me: I am not afraid of other places, I am uncomfortable around 'people'. Not strangers though, I don't have to relate to people in the line at the supermarket or people on the train. Only people I have to relate to. Colleagues, visitors, etc. Because I am uncertain about how to relate. If I talk to much, or too little, too loud or too soft. If I misunderstand irony or if I try to make a joke and it is just not funny.

A discipline that I never mastered is 'friendly teasing', when I say something 'nasty' to a person that is close to me. While I say: 'Dumbass', I really mean: 'I care about you', but I say 'Dumbass' instead to impress all the other people that listen. And quite often, the teasing is an exchange between me and my husband or me and a friend. And now I've given up. Firstly I don't get it before too late when I am being teased, and secondly when I try myself, it always comes out too hard and I hurt people I care about. So I have decided to resign from the friendly teasing.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Groups and parties

While I went to primary school, team work started being popular. Pupils had to work in groups, new universities were founded and based on team work. Nobody questioned the benefits of team work. I understand from my children's school that the team dogma is still in place, and is still not being questioned.

I never really got used to it. In primary school I either took over the entire group, made all the decisions and did all the work. Or I sat in the corner and sulked. There was nothing in between. In high school I usually worked with one friend and that was OK. On my first day in university I became friends with Peter. We HAD to form teams in university, so Peter and I teamed up with different constellations. It only worked when it was just the two of us. And that worked because we had a clear division of labour: I was much better than Peter at the mathematical subjects, whereas he was better at words hence the more political subjects were his field. When other people were part of our group, I got confused and frustrated.

At times during my working life, I have had to put up with team work again. A few times I have been lucky and met another 'Peter', where the other person and I excelled in different areas. But more often that has not been the case, or the team had consisted of more than two people. And then the primary school history repeated itself. I took over everthing or I sulked in a corner.

I don't feel particularly well about parties either. The less chaotic the better, though. The annual Christmas party is a good example. Most often the party starts with a sports event, a city walk, or similar. During dinner, there are speeches, quizzes, competitions etc. All this time, I am fine. The mere existence of a schedule or a plan makes me relax. Also I know what is expected from me. I just have to participate, go with the flow... Then, after dinner, things get worse. The light is softened, the music made louder, and tables are being pushed aside so people can dance. No more schedule. If I happened to be engaged in a conversation, the loud music makes it difficult. And nobody asks me to dance. Not that I like to dance, but I don't like to sit alone and do nothing. If have no idea what to do and I can't find my friends because they are busy dancing and drinking. Since I don't dance and I don't drink, I am by all means 'not on board'. In recent years I have left the party at this time, deciding that nobody will notice that I am the only person under 60 to leave the party at about 9 pm. If they do, I make my voice hoarse and say that I have a sore throat. Which is not a lie because my throat gets sore from shouting over the music....

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The social coach

In 2002 I was divorced. Two years later I met another man, known by my friends and my Danish blog as W. He was 44 when I met him, so calling him a 'boyfriend' somehow doesn't seem right. We went out for four years and a bit, and it was not a happy relationship. At least I wasn't happy. It was while I was seeing W, that child care professionals started talking about Asperger's in relation to my youngest son. I was rejecting them completely but W thought I should hear them out. He was a child professional himself and I suspect he talked on behalf of his profession. He also had a son (he still has I guess). His son went for regular tests, he has epilepsy, ADHD and maybe something else as well. The boy went to specialised daycare and education. Somebody also talked about Aspergers in relation to W's son.

W never managed to 'see himself from the outside', but his daughter and some of my friends suspected that he had Aspergers. Now I am certain that he does. Compared to him, I was more outgoing and socially ept. My own challenges were minor compared to his. Also, this was before my long period of self-development, where the Aspie-recognition is only the last step. And I have several years of practice in the fine art of almost fitting in. When I compare myself to W and to my mother, I see at least one major advantage of my own personality: I am friendly and tolerant and I have a positive way of thinking. My mother doesn't, and W didn't. Therefore people like me, and my probability of being accepted is much higher than theirs.

W used me as a social coach. His job as a teacher provided daily challenges, with peers not with the children, in the form of small-talk, smiling at people, making friends with people. And he changed his workplace rather often. Everywhere he ran into problems. And he told me about it and I tried to tell him what to do. I think it was his Aspergers combined with the personality: People saw him as rejecting and cross, and nobody wants to get to know a person like that. During the course of our relationship, the coaching part of our conversations grew in size and eventually there was no time for me to tell about my day or whatever I needed to talk about. Not that I really needed HIS advise on anything, his advise was very lousy. I was a bit annoyed with this development but I also enjoyed being of use.

I broke up with W, embarked on a development process, during which I discovered my own Aspie traits (as described), met my husband, and now I am here. My husband knows a lot of Aspies and he works with engineers, but he is not Asperger himself and definitely more socially ept than I am. I often want to ask him for advise in social situations but do not want our relationship to develop the way W's and mine did. I don't want to be W! Sometimes I can hear W's sentences in my head, and if I don't stop myself I'll talk like him. My husband never met W, so he wouldn't know, but I know...

Friday, 12 October 2012

Knowing the rules

Some three years ago, Denmark hosted the global climate summit COP15. It ended up a failure, not least due to the Danish prime Minister, who, as a host, had to lead the final meetings. The rest of the worlds may have forgotten, while a lot of Danes still remember (with embarrasment) our tired and angry prime Minister shouting at Obama et al: 'I don't know your rules!'

I count myself among those being embarrassed about that incident, and I was never particularly fond of that (now former) prime Minister. However, I find his quote rather useful for numerous other occasions.

When I was a child my parents never told me the rules of social conduct. Maybe they tried but I didn't listen. Or maybe they didn't find it necessary. I was, after all, a quiet and well-behaved child. Also, due to my mother being the way she is (strong Asperger features though never recognised), my parents never had a noticable social life, where my social abilities (or lack thereof) could be tested. Thus they never realised I had the need for knowing the rules or they never knew the rules themselves, or at least my mother didn't.

My grandmother read a weekly magazine targeted at elderly women and housewifes. I always read it when I visited my grandparents. Among the subjects covered by this magazine was an agony column about very day-to-day issues. A woman wrote a letter asking which set of cutlery she should use first when she was at a fancy dinner party where there was more than one set of cutlery laid out. The agony woman answered to the question but also stated that when in doubt at a dinner party, check out what the hostess is doing, and copy her. Now that advise was very useful to me, it applies in a lot of settings and not only fancy dinner parties. Hence: rule #1: do what the hostess/ the others are doing.

I invented rule #2 myself - but Einstein has been quoted for something similar: when in doubt: shut up. Due to rule #2, I never said a word during my first 'adult' job, which I had for about 14 months. After I had worked there for almost a year I tried to say something during lunch, but my collegaues had become so used to me saying nothing that they didn't notice.

I just have to tell something else about the magazine my grandmother was reading. It was, in fact, a rather boring magazine, but I tend to collect useless information and the magazine must have had some appeal to me. The magazine contained a number of cartoons, some of which being vaguely funny. The one I remember was never funny, only puzzling. It was about a newly wed woman and her husband. The 'fun' part was about the husband being helpless and stupid about household chores. The wife is looking for the oven cleaner, and her husband seems to not know what an oven cleaner is. She is shocked, because that means that the oven has not been cleaned for A YEAR! Oh my. From this I learned: 1. There is something called 'oven cleaner' 2. Ovens should be cleaned, more often than once a year. Hey, nobody told me!

The other day, my husband and I were discussing gender differences in 'getting laid'-behaviour. He claimed that women can just come onto men while men has to be more subtle, invite for dinner etc. I painfully recalled those incidents in my youth when I was trying to 'come onto' a man but was rejected. And the men usually preferred either those very 'easy' women, or those playing hard to get. If I played hard to get, nobody noticed me. And I wasn't a subject of interest in the 'easy' category either. I never understood why women who were worse-looking and less bright always overtook me. But now I understand. I didn't know the rules.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Parents and children

Aspergers has only been part of the vocabulary for the past ten years or so. The diagnosis may have been invented much earlier, but when I was a child nobody knew about Aspergers. We hadn’t even heard of autism until Rain Man.
I think that my grandfather was irritated with my mother. She was a girl and he wished for a boy, but also I think he was put off by some of her traits such as being stubborn, anxious, black-and-white, introvert, a bit paranoid and other characteristics that he had himself. My grandfather had a few interests and could go on and on about them. He also took refuge in the kitchen. I don’t know how common this is, but I see numerous examples of parents being very irritated with their children when the children remind them of themselves. And that was the case for my mother and her father. What they had in common was quite a few Aspie-traits.

My mother did many things to spite her parents. A lot of her actions have been driven by anger. She felt neglected as a child and I believe she never really forgave her father for that. Her response to the demands of her surroundings was to be as different as she possibly could. She despised those people that fitted in, people wearing fashion clothes, watching soccer matches, reading gossip magazines and all the other things ‘people’ did. Then she had two children: a boy that displayed so many of the characteristics that she had herself. And a girl (that would be me) that was so eager to fit in that nobody noticed she also had those characteristics. My mother has always had an attitude of surprise and disapproval towards me. I think my need to fit in is seen by her as betrayal. Because her thing was to not fit in, and demonstrate against those that did. My brother on the other hand, did not fit in. Maybe he wanted to if he could. But the gender difference in how Aspergers manifests is the key to understanding why my brother and I developed so differently.

My mother could relate to my brother and never really related to me. I had, after all, rejected her project of not fitting in. What she doesn’t know is that I didn’t. I was close though. I have been so worn out by parties because I tried so hard to be like the others. And I have spent hours, days even, contemplating what I should have said or – in particular – not said. But I went to the party or function or whatever it was. And I tried, because I wanted to. This is probably what my mother despised of.

My point is that I see Aspie parents acting in two different ways towards their children with Aspergers (nobody of course said the A-word). Either they form a strong alliance with the child, as my mother did with my brother. She protected him like she had wished for protection (and perhaps understanding) as a child.
I have been mad at my youngest son many times. My parents have suggested that I was sad because he was different. I think most parents experience a kind of sorrow when their child appears to be less than perfect. During the past year or so I have come to understand that my youngest son is much more like me than I thought. And my sorrow related to his being different is in fact related to me being different. I experience him going through the same challenges that I did. Only, there was no such thing as Aspergers then, and I was a girl and much better at hiding under the radar.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The closet door

In Denmark, people with Aspergers are mostly regarded as having a disability. Child care professionals, lots of parents, and journalists talk and write about it that way. Seeing the difference as a mere difference, which may even be turned into a strength, is not a common way to percieve Aspergers. And autism and other diagnoses as well.

Once, I met a boy of about 11 whose parents had him diagnosed with Aspergers. He described himself as disabled. We had some function at our house and I took refuge in the kitchen (as I always do when I can get away with it). This boy came and asked if he could help. I asked him to chop vegetables or something and the two of us talked. He said that he wasn't very good at being around large crowds (such as the one gathering in our house that day), because he was disabled. While we worked together, we talked about cooking, food, recipes, and his school. When there was no more to be done in the kitchen, I found him a remote room and a computer, and he and a few other boys played some online games.

This boy came across as nice, friendly, skilled (at least much better at cooking than his peers), and I was left with a very positive impression of him. And still, his parents, obviously not meaning to do any harm, had been so focused on the diagnosis, that the boy introduces himself as being disabled.

When child care professionals are eager to put a diagnosis on the childen in Danish schools and nursery schools, I am afraid that their motivation is mainly to be allocated more ressources, because a child with a diagnosis is entitled to additional support. We know very little of the consequences for the child later in life, what will happen when they, as the boy in my kitchen, introduce themselves as disabled? Can they get a job? A partner? Children?

A young man with Aspergers wrote a letter to the newspaper, describing the difficulties he encountered in getting a job, because he's got the diagnosis.

So parents and child care professionals make a child come out of the Aspie-closet, which only results in a stamp on his forehead. And for reasons that mainly relate to the needs of parents and teachers, that child has to carry the stamp with him for the rest of his life. Thus while the closet door opens, many other doors close.

I am a bit scared on my on behalf. But only a bit. I know I can adjust, I did it my entire life. And also, I already have a partner, children, a job. But on behalf of my youngest son: I am certain that the diagnosis will do him more harm than good. Not because of him, not because of the Aspergers. But because of the Danish manner of seeing needs instead of opportunities. Let's just close that closet door.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Defining me

On my other, Danish-language, blog I have TWO pages describing who I am. One is a short description of my family mostly, the other contains not less than 100 facts about me.

Writing them was a true challenge, because I always had extreme difficulties seeing myself from outside. When people told me how they percieved me, I was always very surprised. I couldn't define me.

Many years ago I befriended a South African woman whose native language wasn't English either. She spent a lot of time in conversations defining herself. I think what she said was not entirely correct linguistically but I prefer her phrase: 'I am a person, that is stubborn', 'I am a person that doesn't like sugar in my tea', 'I am a person...'. And for years I did the same (inside my head or when talking to myself): 'I am a person...', giving myself an identity through my taste or preferences.

But a lot of it was something I made up. I still couldn't define myself. When I did the 100 facts thing, I focused mostly on preferences: Food, clothing, culture. And I made one entry one day, and described the opposite preference the next. I couldn't even define myself through my favourite candy, my style in clothing, my taste in movies.

Now, when I read blog entries from others describing the Asperger traits, e.g. this one, I feel recognised and understood. I am like that - or like most of that. An example: I try and avoid conflict, I get nervous and want to escape when someone is criticising me. I duck when others are angry. But at other times I am the one that is angry, and others are scared of me.

When I was about to finish high school, our class should agree on a performance at some matriculation function. Nobody had the time to write the song, and eventually my friend and I volunteered. We weren't very good at it and it took forever, but we did write a song. When we presented it in class, one boy said: That song can't be sung! And he made a whole scene about it. Or maybe I made the scene. At least thats how people remember me: I was nice but I could really be mad at times. In retrospect I think I had a temper tantrum, someting that happens once in a while. And other people get scared. At other times I was the one being scared about much lesser things. I wish I could just be a little bit more on the middle of the road. I wish I could assert myself without scaring others.

Friday, 5 October 2012

I am still me

For most of my life, I've been working very hard trying to fit in, to be like the others, to be 'normal'. Around my 40th birthday four years ago, I started on a development process, during which I began to redefine myself. Perhaps it is OK not to be 'normal'.

The four years since that process started have taught me that there are vices and virtues of being 'different'. But I kept thinking that I was normal, I just had a bit of Aspergers. Only recently I realised that I in fact have a lot of Aspergers.

So sometimes I see it this way: I was 'normal' for 40 years, I was 'normal' but slightly different for four years, and now I am just different. It is like I lost my grip on normality, and where does that take me? Did the process suddenly accelerate and did I just lose control?

Loss of control really scares me. As in really really really. And I have to keep telling myself that this process is under my control and I will NOT end up being an isolated Rain Man. I am still me. Just a little different.

Now what!

I started blogging about fifteen months ago. My Danish blog has centered around a dramatic conflict with my mother in July 2011. Later, I touched upon other issues such as my relationship with my husband and challenges involving my children. One central challenge relates to my youngest son. Since he was about five, nursery school teachers and teachers and psychologists have suggested that he might have Aspergers. I have (almost violently) denied. Through my blogging I came to realise that my maternal grandfather, my mother, my uncle, my brother and probably also my youngest son, all have Aspergers.

Now where does that recognition leave me? I started to think that my anger towards those people wanting to diagnose my son was related to all those traits of his that I had as a child or still have. Thus I felt they were criticising me... So maybe I was Asperger too? A lot of conversations between my husband and me, and between my best friend and me, touched on the topic of Aspergers.

So, after giving it a lot of thought, I took a test. That is, I took a number of tests. And scored very high on the Asperger scale. And spent the next couple of days searching the internet for implications of this finding. I found a number of blogs and facebook groups. Most of the Danish web-pages and facebook groups seemed to be dominated by people that couldn't get the help they felt they needed, from the municipality. So much talk of social workers and financial support...

I can't relate to that, I may be a little different but I am not a victim, and I can support myself. The American blogs and pages were much better. I subscribe to a number of them and I really enjoy reading them. They talk of being Aspie as a challenge AND a strength. Also with my newfound knowledge it is a pleasure reading about others being like me.

My strong preference for the American websites drove me to starting a new blog which is not written in my native language. My hope is that I can give a little bit back to those people that made me feel so... recognised...