I’m both Asperger and bipolar – a pair of diagnosis – with Asperger supposedly subsuming the bipolar symptoms. I’m not sure what the relationship is: my grandmother, father’s side, was bipolar. My father – Asperger, with some strange behavior thrown in, which did not fit with his engineering / math / science mind.
My pre-diagnosis and medication bipolar symptoms were quite extreme, obvious, and often “negative” – people would rightfully be upset with me, and yet, forgiving and forgetting. It was the 1970s, a “wild” decade if you were young, and I suppose much of my behavior was just overlooked as “substance abuse” which was not the case.
After I began treatment with Lithium, I changed. It saved my life, but took away the person people had known. This was not a problem for me, but other people reacted negatively to the less exciting, more deliberate and calm me. Those I told about being bipolar simply disappeared from my life or “pretended” that they didn’t know. It was as if the new and better me had the “cooties.” During grad school I was referred to as “one of the Lithium kids.” This was mild sniping: in general, people are very ignorant and behave badly toward “mentals.” I stopped telling anyone.
The various psychiatrists that I have engaged over the years often expressed delight with bipolar people. We’re fun and talkative and kind of entertaining. From what I’ve been told, run of the mill “mentals” are inconceivably dull. Some psychiatrists even get “confidential” about their (worse) opinions and worries. At such moments I’ve considered invoicing them for my time. Well, we’re all human aren’t we?
Asperger’s is another game entirely. A barely concealed streak of hatred toward autistics and Asperger individuals is “socially” acceptable behavior. There are a few people still around who know I’m bipolar, so I was blindsided by their reactions when I decided to “share” being Asperger.
Now that I’m officially Asperger, old (neurotypical) acquaintances say:
1. I’m deluded and trying to get attention.
2. I can’t be Asperger, for all the reasons that most of us (especially females) have heard: I’m not “retarded.” I can read, write and speak.
3. I don’t drool or make weird body movements.
4. I function.
5. Asperger’s isn’t real, it’s a fad.
7. His or her sister’s child has Autism, so that makes them an expert.
6. Why would I want to be Asperger? (as if it’s a choice)
7. I’m female.
8. I’m female.
9. I’m female.
These reactions come from educated adults, with solid careers, and are mostly married / divorced with grown children.
Over the years, I’ve read a great deal about bipolar disorder and never noticed judgmental opinions about outlandish behavior (mania) so I’m shocked by the negative bias that runs through the “Autism” industry. Psychologists, parents, school staff, therapists – you name it – have zero empathy. The negative positioning of Asperger talents and gifts is irrational and weird!
I have even contemplated the possibility that we “stink” to high heaven: produce a strange hormone or scent that drives neurotypicals to rage at every turn. There is something primitive that underlies this reaction.