Thought of the Week: And an Antisocial New Year to You, Too

depressed

I have another 351 days to remember that the date has a new number at the end of it. This leaves me worse off than last year – I had an extra day.

I also have another 351 days to fail commitments and break promises. So far, it’s going well. One meaningful point is that it’s nearly ten years exactly since my wife and I first started going out. (The anniversary’s a little ambiguous, since we never really had a first ‘date’.) A number like that tends to get you reflecting, and the biggest question it brought up for me was, “what happened to us?”.

This was actually a question I’d been asking myself for some time, but the answer never really seemed to present itself until it was voiced. We disagree, we argue, we fight, we shout…and, well, when we were getting to know each other, we didn’t. I know that sounds pretty obvious, and I expect it’s the course of almost any ten-year relationship, but it brings up the question of why. We know each other better, of course, which means we’re more comfortable with each other, and more able to express our thoughts and frustrations (or at least, more willing to express our frustrations). It also means we take each other for granted a lot, as well. We say and do things to each other that would send first date screaming through the door.

It was this comparison, really, that stuck to me: I don’t treat my wife the way I did when we were going out. I show her anger, apathy, bitterness and depression. I show her a wild inconsistency between caring and thoughtful and callous and selfish. And it suddenly hit me that if I had treated her like this ten years ago, we wouldn’t be married and have a son today. And that seemed a little unkind.

So that was my commitment. I wanted to try and be a “New Satis”; one who spoke to his wife the way he did when they met. It’s been working (sort of); whether it lasts or not only time can tell, but so far almost every word, action and thought comes with a little tag of “is this what you’d’ve done ten years ago?”. That tag, of course, doesn’t always translate into a meaningful action, but it’s a start.

I’ve attempted these sort of changes before with little success, though what gives me hope for this one is the ability to filter my life through the lens of the past. However, the biggest thing that stands out for me is that, when my wife and I were dating, we weren’t spending every moment together. The façade, the mask – I could put it in place to be with her. Now, it’s at home that the mask of sociality comes off. In public, at work, every day, I put on this brave mask of congeniality, a lie that isn’t me.

There have always been things ‘wrong’ with me, some of which I’ve discussed. The catatonia, the rages, the obsessions and inappropriateness, the total mental shutdowns and repeated behaviors; the inability to change and to learn; these are things I’ve lived with for so long, and my wife and I have long chuckled at how I seem to display a number of autistic characteristics. And then the extreme discomfort in social situations – the fakery it takes just to navigate a dinner party, or a work conversation – hit me.

There is an Autistic Quotient test created by Simon Baron-Cohen at the University of Cambridge in 2001 (you can take it here). It was designed as way to filter for autistic spectrum disorders in adults (as opposed to children) prior to a detailed professional assessment. It’s been used successfully to help identify people with Aspergers Syndrome, and is actually quite simple. You score points for “abnormal” behavior, from 0 to 50. In general, an average adult scores somewhere between 10 – 20 (no one’s perfect). The cutoff for identifying Aspergers/High Functioning Autism is 32.

I score 37.

Well, thank you, world. I now have something new to bring to my psychologist.

Mind you, it’s not a diagnosis, and there’re still probably a whole lot of other things wrong with me anyway, but still – it doesn’t leave me feeling all that enthusiastic about trying to become that “New Satis”.

We’ll have to see how things go; perhaps I’m just being a drama queen (my wife would agree with that!). However, there is a part of me that almost feels relieved; after decades of trying to find some kind of answer to my insanity, perhaps I’ve finally found it. Or something, anyway.

So…what is the new year bringing you?

 

Incidentally, my wife’s score was 9.