Hypochondriac, or just finally understanding?

I hate my hair. 

A lot of girls (boys, men, women, fill-in-the-blank) hate their hair. But they hate the way it flips up on the side, or how curly it is, or how straight. They hate how thin or thick it is. They hate how greasy it is, or they hate the color. 

I hate my hair. 

I hate having hair. If I wasn’t so self conscious about my appearance, I’d have shaved it all off years ago. I hate that hair grows out of my head and subsequently tickles my face, my ears, my neck. 

I hate being tickled. 

When I was a kid, I would cry if anyone tickled me. I hated it. I still hate it. I will hurt you if you try to tickle me. You may as well hit me, because I will hit you back either way. 

I can’t sit still. 

In fact, sitting up is so uncomfortable, I usually recline. I lay on the couch or in bed, lean back in the recliner, if I’m standing, I’m probably leaning. Sitting upright is so uncomfortable that I cannot sit still. I try to cross my legs, but after a few short minutes, I feel like the circulation has been cut completely off in my legs. Watching a movie at the theater is uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to movies. But I can’t get comfortable. I almost always have to put my feet up on the back of he seat in front of me, so I try to make sure I don’t sit right behind anyone. But mostly, I just don’t sit still. 

I have social anxiety. 

I’m great, socially, as long as the mood of those around me is good. I’m a wonderful mimic. But if they are quiet, or aloof, or awkward themselves, then I am clueless. If I embarrass myself, I feel physical pain. I react very energetically. If it’s laughing, crying, shouting in anger, it’s never subtle. I can’t suppress my reactions very easily. It takes an enormous effort. 

I have social anxiety. 

My mom used to say I was shy, but it was paralyzing. I recently came across the term “selective mutism”.  I could not speak in front of strangers. The anxiety it caused made me cry if someone tried to force me to say hello. 

But I was smart. 

My first grade teacher told my parents that he was certain he could give me college level work and test me a week later and I would ace it. He asked me how to spell “cousin” and “tomorrow” as though he knew I could. And I did. Perhaps he had made sure that I had read those words in the days before he asked me. I loved math and science. Algebra was like working out a puzzle. It was fun, and the answer was definite, it couldn’t change. I struggled with other subjects. I mean, I was still in the 90+ percentile in every subject, but reading and English were not my strongest by far. 

But I loved to read. 

I read Charlotte’s Web when I was seven or eight. The Time Machine and The Invisible Man when I was ten. When I was twelve, I discovered the world of Pern, and began devouring the works of Anne McCaffrey. Her world was amazing. There were dragons and lords, and dragon-like fire lizards. And the dragons had a telepathic bond with their riders that was so strong that it lasted their lifetime, and to lose a dragon or rider partner was enough to cause the instant, tragic suicide by the survivor. The characters in her world were so wonderfully written. Some children felt different and didn’t fit in in their feudal home, until they were “Searched” by the dragon riders, and presented as candidates at a dragon hatching. They found their place by finding a life-long friend, and found their purpose by becoming the defenders of their world. 

They found their place. And their power. 

I’m finally back in school. You know that thing where medical students start diagnosing themselves with the diseases that they learn about in med school? Well, I’ve always been a bit of a hypochondriac. I was floored when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I had joked that my idiosyncrasies were a little “ADD”, but I never truly considered that as a possibility. It was a joke. But then I examined my life, all the way back, and it all made sense. 

I’m a Psychology major.

I’ve always struggled with depression and anxiety. Then I learned that they could have been caused by ADHD. But now I’m learning about something I never studied before. I’ve known people with kids who were diagnosed. I have worked with very awkward adults who had been diagnosed. But I never honestly thought that I might be on the autism spectrum. 

Until now. 

Is it because I’m a hypochondriac who happen to be studying psychology? Or is it because of the way I can’t focus on what I’m doing if my shoes are wet, or if the light is flickering, or if someone is wearing strong perfume? Is it because I can’t meet people on my own? I tend to “put myself out there” and wait for others to approach me. It worked better when I was younger and more attractive. Now it just makes me look like the eccentric lady that no one wants to get stuck in conversation with. 

Is it Apserger’s?

I’ve been learning about it. I’ve been reading and taking tests. But I don’t know if I’m just answering like an Aspie because I have some knowledge, if I’m projecting, if I’m mimicking. I’ve never felt right just being me, and I tend to try to blend. Sometimes it’s evident in the way I speak. Sometimes I change my speech to match the tone, inflection, regional dialect, even the accent of those around me. Is that what I’m doing when I take the test? Or is that another symptom? Who am I really?

I think my mom could be Aspie. My problems might stem from being raised by someone who isn’t “normal”.  It’s laughable. I’ve never thought I was normal, but I often played it off as being okay, because I wasn’t boring. At least not when I’m comfortable, around people I know and like. But mostly I stay home. I don’t visit friends. I sometimes invite them over, because it’s less stressful than leaving home. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

If I’m in a good mood, I tend to bubble over. If I’m stressed, I snap and tear into those around me. If I’m sad, I don’t do anything. If I’m tired or hungry, look out. And if I don’t like someone, I find it very hard to be civil or pretend that I don’t have a problem with them. And I don’t understand why/how other people do. 

Am I too analytical?

That’s what Dr. Ortíz told me. She wasn’t my doctor, she was my boss. It was right after I told someone they were lighting the candles on the cake wrong. The way he was doing it, he could have burned himself. 

I have short-term obsessions. 

When I was younger it might have been a boy, or dolphins, or a book, or some interesting thing I had learned about or experienced. I would be obsessed. For a while. Then it would be unimportant again, as a new obsession took its place. But I never forgot the details. 

I remember the stupidest things. 

The dumbest things. 

But I can remember things that I learned, that helped me in school. Not that the parts of the cell will ever come in handy. Except while I’m in school. 

I was always good at school. 

Well, mostly. I was great at school before junior high and high school. Then I was just pretty good. The closer I got to graduation, the more anxiety I had. Independence was scary. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I still struggle. And I got a couple of D’s along the way. There was one in a science class because I couldn’t understand why we were given an assignment, so I resisted it, and it was a large part of my grade. Then later in Calculus. I knew the algebra like the back of my hand. But most of the other students struggled. I would get so frustrated that the teacher was teaching what these students should have already known. So I would read my book. Anne McCaffrey, Dean Koontz, Stephen King… When the part of class came to learn calculus, I was lost in my fictional world, where the other students’ incompetence couldn’t stress me. I dropped that class the next semester. 

I had a full ride scholarship to college. 

I got a 30 on my ACT. It took me less than a year to drop out. I quit school two more times since then. That was before the ADHD diagnosis. This is my last chance to finish school. 

Could I have Asperger’s? 

Am I overreacting, like my husband thinks? Am I onto something? My therapist is still warming up to the idea. She’s more interested in why I think I need a diagnosis. I need it to understand. To make others understand. To help protect my overly delicate psyche in the future. To learn techniques to keep myself from overloading. To keep myself from having meltdowns. To protect my family from my wrath by helping us all see the triggers. To help myself set goals and find a career that is a good fit. To make connections. To make friends. To learn. I need a diagnosis so that when I look at myself, I don’t see a hot mess, barely struggling to get by, but a woman who has done very well, considering being undiagnosed. To heal. 

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