Adult aspergers ‘It takes a lot of energy to not be yourself’
Paula Nash, from Drumlohan, Kilcornan, Co Limerick, was diagnosed at the age of 35 with Asperger’s syndrome. Photograph: Don Moloney/Press 22
It was unusual to get a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome at my age. I’m 35 and I was diagnosed in April. I believe there are more studies coming forward that show that females are perhaps better at suppressing Asperger’s syndrome and fitting in.
Females might be inclined to display more empathy than males with Asperger’s syndrome so they won’t be picked out.
From a young age, I had depression and anxiety episodes, which I suppose are part of Asperger’s syndrome.
I can’t speak for everyone with the condition but, from the people I’ve spoken to, that’s quite common. I didn’t know I had depression. At school, it was almost as if people were counselling me but didn’t know why.
I went to see a psychologist for six months when I was 14 . There was no diagnosis. Things were left up in the air. I went into a new year at school and I didn’t have another episode of depression for a while.
I had difficulty with social cues such as body language. I had no understanding of why people did what they did. In my world, I couldn’t really get why people might try to hurt you, as I would have seen it. I was confused.
I knew there was something wrong with me. I suppose, subconsciously, anyone with Asperger’s syndrome, whether they know it or not, will try to fit in.
It takes a lot of energy to not be yourself. For me, there was a suppression of who I am. There was the feeling of being very different. That can lead to isolation and, up to a point, loneliness.
Over the years, my awareness developed and I have more of an understanding of others and of myself.
I’ve had repetitive hand movements. Then, through the self-development route I’m on, which involves deep self-healing and meditation, my suppression of the hand movements seemed to stop.
The movements started out of nowhere. It was a real shock. I was switching jobs, as a psychiatric nurse, and the transfer made me so stressed that the hand movements started to happen.
I had no idea where they were coming from. They were involuntary movements such as clapping within very stressful situations.
I knew then what it was, because my son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, and he had the same hand movements. That was in February. It was a very difficult time.
I did some research into women with Asperger’s syndrome and I learned about Dr Caroline Goldsmith, a clinical neuropsychologist. I had an appointment with her in April. She diagnosed me at that meeting, which went on for 90 minutes. It was quite comprehensive.
When I arrived for the appointment, after getting lost initially, I was quite stressed so nothing was hidden. It made it easier for Dr Goldsmith to see the truth of what I had. I had my own feeling but her telling me was like coming back into wholeness.