The main thing about having Asperger’s is about stumbling through life. It’s as if there’s some vital lesson in life that I never learned, that everybody else has. And I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to catch up with it. It’s often occurred to me – why do other people get on and I don’t?
I’m 68. I was 61 when I was diagnosed. I’d become very depressed and anxious – I didn’t understand why. I went to a psychotherapy group where it was suggested that I had Asperger syndrome, which gave me the ammunition to ask for a referral to the Liverpool Asperger team (LAT).
When LAT had diagnosed me, I felt much better. Before they told me I had Asperger syndrome, there was a whole series of questions. The more I went through these questions I was thinking, 'Here’s somebody that really understands me!' One question was, 'Do you often think you’re doing the right thing and it turns out to be the wrong thing?' My whole life. Then I had a letter back, saying yes, you’ve got Asperger syndrome and it just slotted into place. And here I am. Where am I going to go from here?
All this coincided with me moving from a wage into retirement. I actually walked out of my last job. I was driven out by bullying. But I was getting a bit too old anyway.
It’s a bit of a myth that if you stand up to bullies they stop bullying you. If you stand up to bullies they just bully you more. I’ve had this discussion with other people with Asperger syndrome. There’s something about us that is particularly vulnerable to bullying. I’m quite convinced that it was more important to my last boss to bully me than it was to be efficient.
I’ve always been financially insecure, although I’ve earned quite good salaries. That is why I never settled down. I never got married, I’ve never taken out a mortgage. I’ve only had a car on HP once. I just don’t trust it, because I might get the sack tomorrow.
It’s normal for me to be highly stressed. I’ve found it’s very common amongst a lot of people with Asperger syndrome. They’re frightened of unpredictability somehow. I like familiarity. I’m not too good in unfamiliar situations.
I live in the house I grew up in. It was left to me by my grandmother. I’ve got a house full of papers, magazines, records, CDs. I’m dreadful for hoarding. One of the clinical psychologists from the LAT came to visit me and as soon as he walked into my house, he said, 'You have difficulty knowing what to keep and what to throw away.' Every time. This habit of collecting things is apparently linked to OCD [obsessive-compulsive disorder].
The place badly needs cleaning and redecorating, but I’ve got this odd feeling that if I changed anything, something disastrous might happen. It’s like, if I upset something, it would upset something else that would upset something else. It’d all fall down, like a pack of cards. It’s about stability.
I’ve never really made friends that easily. I used to go to The Cavern and all the clubs in Liverpool, but always on my own. I’ve spent my life trying to be invisible.
I liked girls, but it never seemed to work for me. I lived with a girl for a while and I remember her saying that she fancied me because she thought I was weird. She said, 'It must be very difficult, being you.'
Basically, once I knew I had Asperger’s. I cut myself off from everybody. I thought I’d start afresh. But it’s very hard to start afresh when you’re my age. People with Asperger syndrome are my only friends. There’s a monthly meeting at LAT: we get to know each other. We go out together sometimes - we just do ordinary things. It just keeps us in touch really.
I sometimes think about what could happen in the future. I’ve got a friend with Asperger syndrome who got to the point where he couldn’t look after himself properly any more. He wound up in sheltered housing. So that would be a possibility in future. But I don’t want to do that unless I really had to. I wouldn’t fancy a retirement home. I wouldn’t really want to live with other people. I like living on my own.
There’s a tremendous emphasis on young people with autism and Asperger’s. We’re very sympathetic to the young people. But I’m an old person and I think we are almost ignored. I do have some voice and I will say so.