Hello readers, my name is Andrew Liebig, and I have lived in Missouri for 41 years. Throughout my life, I have had health problems and behavior issues. They have always included anger and not knowing how to calm down.
But life changed for me about three years ago when I was told I had something called Asperger’s. I remember looking at my doctor and asking, “What is that? Considering I was 38 at the time and no one ever said this term to me before, Asperger’s syndrome has affected my life in so many ways, including sex, relationships, socially, friendships, and even with medical providers.
But Asperger’s didn’t stop me from reaching my goals and doesn’t have to stop you. This where my adventure begins. This essay discusses my journey of living with Asperger’s and how I have not let this diagnosis define my life.
I went through what’s called a low point in my life after a divorce. I was homeless for a while, bounced from one facility to another. But then I knew I had to get up and fight for the life I wanted. The past few years, I have had to take the time not only to find myself but to find out who I was again with this new diagnosis.
So, I read a lot of articles and information on Asperger’s trying to understand it. What I found was that this explained a lot of my behavior and social problems, such as picking up on expressions or figuring out if people things I wish I had known a long time ago. Relationships are hard even if you don’t have Asperger’s. But with Asperger’s a new degree of difficulty is added.
Even relationships with people that you love can be hard. The things I have found that work for me is one, just being honest, two learning to listen, three learning to be open. Let’s face it—Asperger’s makes it difficult to do any of this. I don’t know about you, but trust is hard for me.
I have been in several relationships with women since my divorce. Some good, some bad, others we just remained friends. But learning those social cues at my age is HARD. So how I learned and kept learning is by doing things I wouldn’t normally do. This could be anything from going to a local bar and talking to people to going to the grocery store speaking to people in line.
I suggest trying this with friends that know you first. Just going out and try to talk to a waiter or waitress is good practice. I think every venue you choose will give you different social cues to learn. Just by bringing up things like weather at a bar, people are good ways to read moods. Some people may be very open in chatting while others may be more reserved and not as talkative.
I have heard just about everything from people that you can imagine people say to someone with a disability. I have heard from doctors that I was crazy and needed to be locked away somewhere. One doctor said that I would never amount to anything at all. But learning that just having a disability doesn’t have to stop you was hard the part. Learning that what it takes comes from that place deep down inside of you. This is that place where I tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and let’s get it done.
Learning how to control my Asperger’s was not an easy task by any means. I had to learn ways to help me control things like my outbursts and my temper. Some things that I found work for me are things like using smells, music, and even going to the store with headphones on. Yeah, I know they look kind of dorky but who cares this is for you, not them.
Preparing to make some big jumps in life sometimes means doing and learning things, you may have never done before. So, I prepared to do this by making goals that I knew I could meet. Simple things like budget and paying bills on certain days and then making doctor appointments and going to them by myself.
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Then it was a few others that I was like no way, “How do I do that?”. For me, this came in several ways from going into that business and doing it with someone, to trial and error. For me, I use a free app that stores all my password login in information with a master copy in safe place. These were things like paying bills on-line through portals, which still kind of bothers me, but it is improving.
I had started college almost 20 years ago at a local community college. I decided that one thing that hasn’t change is my love for not only law but for criminal justice. But this was just one of me that I was completing, I need to do more autism. So, with that in mind, I took on the task of talking to state leaders and getting over seven different certifications in autism.
I have also had been a voice in the community which I live, being on our local TV news and serving on a local disabilities board for our city. I have been working with a Missouri State senator to get a medical alert on the back of Missouri State ID’s and driver’s license. But these are just a few things, you see in a few weeks I will graduate from Columbia College with a degree in Associates of Science in Criminal Justice.
I will also be graduating from our local mental agencies as I will be on my own with no case manager for the first time in three years. I have a new apartment and a new job starting in a few weeks.
My point is this, “No matter your disabilities don’t let anyone stop you from your dreams.”
This article was featured in Issue 93 – ASD Advice for Today and Tomorrow