February 15, 2017. That was the day I found out what was wrong with me; I had Asperger's, and General Anxiety Disorder. For 42 years I had operated under the assumption that everyone felt like me, boy was I wrong. I've learned a lot in the past 6 months, and I thought I'd share them.
I learned that this rage I felt in my head all the time was not normal. I can't tell you what it's like not to be mad, not to feel a burning rage, to be happy. I found out that this rage triggered so many of my outbursts. I found out that eliminating it, eliminated 90% of those outbursts. I found out being happy was okay.
I learned that it's important to share what I was dealing with. The more that people knew, the more they tried to help me not be in those situations that bothered me. Now I will admit that I've had to gently tell some people not to treat me with kid gloves, but I can't tell you how great it is when I'm going through a stressful situation at work, co-workers will double check with me that I'm alright.
I learned talking about my mental health is important...but not the way you think. Telling people about my condition had an unexpected consequence. I've been contacted by so many people telling me that me sharing what I'm going through has prompted them to try to find a way to help a child, a friend, a sibling, a loved one, or just anyone that they care about that they suspect is suffering from Asperger's/autism. I had many parents tell me I'm a role model to their child. They can point to me as an adult that succeeded. I didn't even know (well, diagnosed, I always wondered) what was wrong with me as I navigated 20+ yrs of marriage, work, and my education. By just talking truthfully about what I dealt with has helped others.
I learned that I do have empathy. I work with kids to go to college. The majority of my students are low income students, first generation students, minority students, refugee students, and/or foster kids, and for some reason that escaped me for years, I can relate to them. How a middle class, middle-aged white guy can, I had no idea. One day my therapist asked me if it ever dawned on me that I recognize the struggles these kids go through, because I had my own, that I suffered in silence with for years. It was like a light bulb went off.
I learned I don't hate me.
I learned I like me. (Not the same thing)
I learned I can communicate, it just takes some doing sometimes.
I learned my wife really is a superhero.
I learned that living life being miserable isn't living, it's just existing. If you take nothing from this, know that you deserve to be happy. We all do.
I can't wait to see what the next 6 months bring.