I am a 50-year-old woman who received a late diagnosis of Asperger syndrome at 45. I have never really been in the position of being ‘cared for’ as a result of having Asperger's, since my diagnosis wasn’t known about until a few years back.
When I was in my early 20s I left home and got my own flat, which was my dream. I had a job as a lab technician, and rarely went out socialising. I first became unwell with my nerves when I was about 30. It was caused by bullying at work. I became really paranoid and was like that often until I left that job. I was in hospital with depression for a while. I’d had a good salary, but afterwards I worked on a minimum wage and went from one job to another until I was 44. The last job was in a clinical hospital lab and the bully of the lab homed in on me when her previous victim left. My mental health is still very poor.
The fact I am going through the menopause makes things very difficult too, although I take anti-depressants. One of the less positive things about my age is that the rate at which my brain processes information seems to have slowed down. I feel as if I have constant ‘brain fog’. It seems to take me much longer for my brain’s processing ability to kick in when I wake up. I also find I get irritable. I try to tell myself to be more easy going, as I don’t want to be like that. My sleep pattern is very erratic which doesn’t help. Relaxation therapies make sense, like yoga and meditation for helping to calm the mind and racing thoughts. I sometimes try to meditate, but should do more of this
The loss of my mum had a devastating effect on me. My mum would phone me up often and be interested in what I was doing and how I was. Since I lost her I feel like I'm bobbing about on my own in the middle of an ocean. It probably sounds weird but at times it’s as if I'm watching the world and not totally in it.
I now am the main carer to my father. I do not find the practical things too difficult, but the areas which involve communication don’t come easily to me and cause me to become stressed very quickly
People who knew my mum now come and chat to my dad, but as he says very little the responsibility for conversing falls upon me. Women are expected to be able to chat, but I have no idea of what to talk to them about. So when people greet me I have to try to act like a neurotypical and be all friendly and chatty. Over time, I have become really quite good at ‘small talk’ and feel reasonably comfortable as long as I know it is for a limited length of time.
One thing which is helping me to cope is being in touch with others in who have elderly parents that they care for. I have two friends who have Asperger syndrome and are in a similar position and just being able to talk to people who understand is great.
I still feel and act much younger than my age. If I am talking to women in their 20s I feel I can laugh at silly things and if I can have a bit of a lark playing a game of ten-pin bowling with a group of 25-year-old Aspie girls then I feel so much better afterwards.
I have enjoyed living on my own although it didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I never had friends to come up to my flat or small get-togethers and now I am quite fearful of people coming to visit me. I never met a boyfriend either but I have now accepted that I will always be single and am happy living on my own.
I find it’s more important than ever to have my home as a place of sanctuary. I need to have things around me which make me feel calm and happy. In my flat I can be totally myself and not worry about others. I think this is especially important the older you get. When the door buzzer goes, I ignore it when I want. The same goes for my telephone. If I don’t feel like answering, I leave it. Email suits me just fine as it’s not an intrusion into my peace and I can reply when I feel like it.
My hobbies and my pet budgies have really helped me to cope with life and getting older. I think pets keep you grounded when things get really difficult as they are a constant and continue to chirp and sing no matter what. They give me a sense of normality at times when everything going on feels like chaos.
I love being creative with my arts and crafts too and this really helps lift my mind from worries. I currently attend an art project but it is losing its funding. It is a mental health project so most of the people who go don’t have Asperger's. I enjoy their company. The people who go are very supportive of each other and also help and support one another with their art work too. I have often found that I enjoy mental health groups more than those geared towards people with autism and Asperger syndrome. A group of all Aspies can make me feel a bit down as the chat always seems to be about Asperger's.
I also go out and sit in coffee shops. I think that's my favourite thing to do and it makes me feel good. I like the way it's okay nowadays for people to just sit in a coffee shop by themselves. There's something nice about feeling you're part of the world and not having the stress of having to be communicating.