It’s 06.51, and I’m going to work.
I’m an Asperger, and according to a recent National Autistic Society survey, I’m one of only 16% of Aspergers in full-time work. 32% of us are in some kind of paid work (either full or part-time), but 77% of us who want to work are nevertheless unemployed and four out of ten have never worked.
So, I think as I manoeuvre the car out of the driveway, I’m actually part of a rare, if not happy breed. Not that I feel that happy on a chill November morning in Scotland, the sun far from up and the engine even further from hot.
The spreadsheet that sometimes seems to serve as my brain goes through the checklist for the umpteenth time. All the things neuro-typicals cruise through on autopilot or take for granted:
Shirt clean and laundered? Tick.
Clock-on card in place around my neck? Tick.
Haircut regulation length? Tick.
Car serviced? Tick.
Boiler timed? Tick.
Cat fed? Tick.
And so on. Every last detail laboriously attended to and, noted author or not, I go off to work worrying about every last thing that may happen. About whether or not I’ll be up to it.
I’d say that’s a given for Aspergers.
Humour helps, though. I use it a lot. I explained to my manager once that I was “a well-composed nervous wreck,” and I was joking, but also deadly serious.
As a fellow Asperger once said:
“I often get very frustrated after receiving rejections for jobs and find it quite difficult to manage these feelings so they often manifest into depression ... I still find interviews quite hard and my confidence and self-esteem can take a knock quite easily, as my autism makes me quite sensitive to rejection.”
As a result of some of the knocks I’ve taken in compiling a CV nearly thirty-two years in length, I myself feel like a Vietnam veteran with post traumatic stress disorder; but we’re all on the same spectrum, and I lack as much confidence and self-esteem as the next Asperger.
I’m also prey to all the fears and anxieties which haunt us all, and they never let up.
But I’m coping on my own. There are advantages for Autists if the spreadsheet can conquer the fear:
I coped with the executry (probate) for a recent bereavement.
I’ve arranged managed several repairs and upgrades to the house.
I had the car serviced and took her round the country.
I even got the cat wormed.
Not all of us can, and I sometimes think they should put my venerable house in a glass case and make of me a living exhibit.
But some of us are able to contribute. I’m the living proof.
It’s 06.57. I pull into the staff car park, check three times I’ve locked the car correctly and clock on.
“Have a good shift,” I say to a colleague, “and may God have mercy on your soul.”
James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau and The Legend of John Macnab. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives in the Scottish Borders.