Self-Diagnosing myself with Autism, Aspergers, Aphantasia, & SDAM
I just did an online-test to see where I am on the Autism spectrum and I’m in the ‘most likely’ category, which is not a diagnosis but gives me something to work with to understand myself better.
I do have a ‘stigma’ about it (as in, I know I’m weird, but have always thought of myself as highly intellectual, and seeing myself as having a mental disorder of any type is not exactly good for the ego), but at the same time, I’m curious – maybe something that explains why I’m ‘so different’ than everyone else, and if I can understand it, it will benefit me via confirmation as to why I am the way that I am, finding others who I can relate to, and perhaps helping me understand others more, but more-so to understand ‘myself’.
How I got to this point?
You see I recently found out I have SDAM (Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory) after discovering I have Aphantasia, and in the SDAM group, someone mentioned their childhood experience of constantly asking questions to the point where it irritated others, and an obsession with reading dictionaries, encyclopaedias and any available reference materials. And someone commented on their post that they may be on the Autism spectrum. I relate to the obsession for knowledge and facts and truth, and decided to do an online test just to see what it said.
Before I relate my experiences, it’s probably a good idea to give a summary of what Aphantasia and SDAM is:
1.) Aphantasia is the inability to visualize.
How do you know if you have Aphantasia?
Try to imagine and “visualize” a red star in your head; in your mind’s eye. If you can see anything at all, even dark shapes, you do not have Aphantasia. If you see complete darkness, the void as I like to call it, then you have Aphantasia.
Simple Aphantasia test – visulize a red star, what do you see in your mind’s eye?
My mind’s eye is blank (‘1’ on the test above) – has always been blank (except some dreams) and I always thought it was like that for EVERYONE.
Meditation and hypnosis used to irritate me because I thought everyone was just ‘faking’ that they could ‘walk down a path, imagine a beach, open the door, visualize the car of your dreams’, etc. I called them out on it when I was attending a hypnosis course and found out then and there that they could all ‘see’ these things – that “I” was the one who was ‘faking it’ lol.
It wasn’t until decades later that I found there was a name for people who can’t visualize, and so I joined a couple of Aphantasia groups on Facebook:
It was there that I also found out about SDAM. Apparently a lot of people who have Aphantasia, also have SDAM, so I did an online survey and it was ‘me’.
2.) SDAM is the lifelong inability to vividly recollect or re-experience personal past events from a first-person perspective.
You can remember events have happened; but not recall what it was like to be there.
I had no idea that I was different in this way. I knew some people had better memories than others – for instance, my sister can recall a lot more of our childhood than I can, and I have seen documentaries of people who can remember every day of their lives and I know that ‘most’ people do not work that way, but I thought that we could all just remember different things from our past, not realizing that I was actually worse at it than most.
For me, I have a blank slate but ‘bumps in the road’ for big traumatic events or really weird events that got ‘stuck’ there. So I remember the trauma’s – not in detail, just that it happened and my resulting beliefs because they happened, but if a hypnotist takes me to those times, I ‘make it up’ to ‘please them’ and to ‘try’ and work through them; I can’t re-live them or ‘mentally time-travel’ back to the event. I remember bits and pieces – the fear – the sadness – the disappointment – the betrayal – the disbelief – the panic – the awe – but cannot re-live the details.
It’s like remembering as a third person but not in a visual way (not like a movie playing out), more like reading a book about it and feeling affected by the story.
Maybe there is a ‘spectrum’ for SDAM as well, since we’re all unique individuals affected by many different things; genes, diseases, vaccines, diet, environment, traumas and experiences.
People with Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory or SDAM can learn and retain new information – but that information is devoid of the richness of real life experience. If a SDAM can remember details about an event, it’s because they’ve seen a photo or deliberately learnt a story about what happened. They can’t picture being there or what they were wearing or who they were with.
It could just have well have been somebody else attending the event or school. Inside our heads we don’t have any proof that we were there. It doesn’t feel like it’s something that we did.
Although SDAM seems to be a lifelong condition, this is where I am wondering whether I’m just on the spectrum or whether I’ve had it lifelong? I know that I’ve worked through all my traumas, that I deliberately spent years and years and years working on myself to rid myself of the traumas that happened in my life, and I know that I succeeded because all the ‘triggers’ that I used to have, that would cause me physical pain and gut-wrenching anxiety have gone and I completely ‘live in the now’ these days.
So what was it like ‘before’ I did the work, was I reliving traumas or was I just unable to rid the ‘feelings’ that the traumas caused?
I can’t remember at the time of writing this.
One ‘ah-ha’ that I got from realizing I have SDAM is that when past-friends re-engage. I can’t remember the times we had together. They will tell me things and it just doesn’t feel like me. I used to justify that I have travelled, moved cities, and changed so much that I just don’t remember the past, but I always found it awkward that some friends said we were close and that we engaged in life-changing events (for them), and I have no memory of it, can’t picture a single event or times we had together, and then maybe a year or so later, I’ll come across a photo on Facebook or in my collection and have a vague recollection or realization that what they were telling me was true.
I’ve moved back to my home-town and have occasionally ran into people I went to school with or grew-up with, (and in one case, slept-with!), and I either don’t recognize them or I don’t remember anything they are recalling, nor can I recall a single conversation we’ve had or place we’ve hung-out. They recognize me and re-live our past immediately, and yet I feel nothing and have no memory of any of it. If they say who they were, I may remember the name or have that vague sense of familiarity, but can’t recall exactly how we knew each other. Maybe if they keep trying, I can ‘set a stage’ in my head where I can feel that sense of familiarity, maybe remember a vague story, but can’t actually recall it.
3.) Autism spectrum
“Based upon your responses to this autism screening measure, it appears that you likely have issues similar to those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, (or what used to be known as Asperger’s syndrome, now considered a mild form of autism). People who score similarly often qualify for a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
People with an autism spectrum disorder often have to cope with severe and sustained impairment in social interaction and the development of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. The disturbance must cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”https://psychcentral.com/cgi-bin/autismquiz.cgi
After doing the Autism quiz, I have dabbled today in just looking up some of the Autism sites to see what I relate to:
- Getting very anxious about social situations
- Preferring to be on my own
- Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
- Finding it hard to say how you feel
- Taking things very literally
- Reliance on daily routines and difficulty dealing with changes to routine
- Discomfort during eye contact
- Noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not
- Extreme interest in one particular topic
- Liking to plan things carefully before doing them
- Difficulty making conversation (find ‘small talk’ such as talking about the weather and what others are doing difficult.)
- Frequent monologues on the same subject or subjects
- Hypersensitivity to sounds or smells that do not seem to bother others
- Only having an interest in a few activities
- Preference for solitary activities
- The need to arrange items in a specific order
- Find that others don’t understand how you are feeling
4.) Asperger Syndrome
Seeing that Autism and Asperger’s cross-over, I also stumbled upon this post about the Unique Characteristics / Abilities from Asperger’s women, and I wrote down all that I relate to:
Honestly, these are so “normal” to me, that I thought it was “normal” for everyone until it’s written here as some kind of ‘difference’. *Mind Blown*
I thought this was ‘everyone’s normal’! At least for a lot of us! Is this really not everyone’s ‘normal’? Is this really a ‘syndrome’? Really? Wow!!
- Deeply reflective thinker. Capable of deep philosophical thinking, females with Aspergers often become writers, vets, engineers, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, poets, artists, singers, performers, actresses, doctors, entrepreneurs or professors. More like “philosophers” than “professors, but can be both.
- May get stressed if have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. May become frustrated/stressed if asked to do too many things at once
- Preference for one-on-one social interactions, single close friendships
- Need more time away from people than their peers (solitude). May need to withdraw into bed or a dark area or a place of solitude to gain privacy, quiet and manage sensory and/or social overload. Withdrawal and/or Avoidance. May miss days of work due to social exhaustion
- May experience stress, anxiety, and confusion in social group or group work situations
- Strong dislike for social chit-chat, gossip, nonsense, lies or conversation that lacks a ‘function’ to it, but some are known to engage in it themselves
- An intense dislike of lies.
- Has an ability to socialize, however, is unable to do so for long periods of time. Suffers from “social exhaustion” or a “social hangover” when socializing too much. The hangover can last hours to days, which can be debilitating.
- Experience great difficulty with conflict, arguments, being yelled at, fighting, war, stress. Other people’s moods affect her, especially if they are negative. Very sensitive to arguments, gossip and negativity.
- Has great difficulty asserting herself, asking for help, setting boundaries
- May currently have or have experienced Post-Traumatic Stress, often due to being misunderstood, misdiagnosed, mistreated, and/or mis medicated.
- History of being taken advantage of by others
- Often bored in social situations or parties and/or does not know how to act in social situations
- May say “yes” to social events, then later make up an excuse as to why she cannot attend, often staying home in solitude (reading a book or engages in her special interest)
- May be considered the “black sheep” of the family
- Others consider her different, odd, eccentric or “weird” by others
- Difficulties communicating her thoughts and feelings, in words, to others, especially if anxious, stressed or upset. Often can type or write her thoughts much better
- May dislike asking others for help, be unable to ask or not know how to ask for help
- May offend others by saying what she is thinking, even if she does not mean to; may appear aggressive or too intense. May point out other people’s mistakes. May give too much detail and end up boring others unintentionally. May ask embarrassing questions (usually when younger). Often surprised when people tell her she has been rude or inappropriate.
- The tendency to take things literally, missing what people are trying to say
- May be unable to watch horror, violence, disturbing movies, and news programs. High sensitivity, may not be able to listen to or watch the news, listen to the radio, read the newspaper, watch violent shows/movies or horror movies, see hurt or injured animals, abuse, war, trauma, are sensitive to the emotions and “emotional atmosphere” of the environment, experience referred emotion and psychic “6th sense” abilities, may have strong intuitive and/or psychic abilities
- May dislike loud noises and/or be overwhelmed or stressed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse textures/clothing, sirens close by or people too close behind her. May find children hard to cope with due to crying, screaming or other loud noises. May not be able to tolerate sounds, sights, smells, textures, a movement that she dislikes.
- Sensitive to the way clothes feel and how they may be more important than how they look
- May have to withdraw, isolate herself when overwhelmed by her senses
- Things that should feel painful may not be (bruises but not know how they got there, due to clumsiness)
- May rock, leg-bounce, fidget or other movements with hands, twirl hair, stroke soft fabric to self-soothe (aka stimming or self-soothing), doodle, draw
- Books, computers, the Internet, may be her best friends
- She loves quiet, solitude, peaceful surroundings. May prefer to spend as much time as possible by herself. May like or prefer to be by herself as much as possible.
- She may be ultra-religious or not at all. Buddhism appears to be common
- She may make it a high priority to arrange her life, events, work, and environment to avoid overwhelming, stressful or upsetting situations
- May not like to be hugged, cuddled or held. “I only like to hug if it’s my decision”.
- May date or marry much older or much younger partners, same-gender partner, tending not to see the “age”, “gender”, but rather the personality of the person first
- May be asexual, having preferences that are deemed as more important than sex or a relationship. May not have wanted or needed intimate relationships (asexual)
- Ability to “hyperfocus” for long periods of time involved in the special interest, without eating, drinking or going to the toilet, is able to hyperfocus on her special interest for hours, often losing track of time
- Loves and revels in solitude, peace, and quiet. Solitude is often described as “needing it like the air I breathe”.
- Often prefers to be engaged in her special interest, rather than socializing. Strong preference to only engage in conversation related to their special interest. Gets pleasure from being engaged in her chosen work and/or special interests.
- Often not interested in what other people find interesting
- Facial expressions do not match the situation. May have an inappropriate emotional expression to the situation. Struggle with eye contact and listening to someone at the same time.
- Dislikes change and may find it disorienting and stressful. May have a strong preference for routine and things being the same day after day. Anxiety is a constant from the very early years and is often overwhelmed by the amounts of tasks that need to be completed. Triggers for anxiety are varied from too much thinking to catastrophizing to change in routine, change in general, people, perfectionism, fear of failure, sensory issues, the feeling of not fitting in, the stress of feeling that he/she has to do things right, any environment that is noisy, has a lot of people in it, perceived or actual criticism.
- Emotionally too honest (inability or difficulty hiding true feelings when it would be more socially acceptable to do so) and naïve
- May think she is being compassionate, but her actions may not come across that way
- Highly sensitive to issues affecting the earth, animals, people, advocacy, justice, human rights and the “underdog”. Justice Issues. Has a high sense of justice and fairness, is a truth-seeker, sometimes to his/her own detriment.
- A natural born leader, independent, strong-willed, determined and can be highly competitive (even with herself)
- Highly sensitive to criticism or perceived criticism
- Dislikes being observed when having to perform (performance anxiety)
- May have been told she cares too much, does too much for others and/or is too sensitive
- Obsessions/special interests can be short-term (switching from one to another quickly) or long-term (can make a great career)
- Naivety, innocence, trusting too much and taking others literally are a powerful concoction for being misused and abused
- A strong sense of feeling different from her peers often described as being from a different planet
- Tend to be very serious, often too serious at times
- May have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality
- A history of self-harm
- Has experienced ongoing depression and/or tiredness/exhaustion, without knowing why
- A history of trying to understand oneself, of finding answers to explain oneself and why she feels she is different or doesn’t fit in
- May have developed a variety of dysfunctional coping mechanisms (for example, arrogance and/or narcissism)
- May feel like she has to act normal to please others OR does not care at all about fitting in. Has used imitation, social echolalia to pretend to be normal, fake it or pass for normal. Keeping up appearances, passing for normal. Tries hard to please others. May have spent a lifetime of using enormous effort to socially “pretend”, “fake it”, “fit in”, “pass for normal”. Generally lack a strong sense of self, self-esteem and/or identity. May use chameleon-like skills to assimilate and be involved with to a variety of groups or different people over time, in a search for true identity.
- May rock standing up, lying down, in a rocking chair to calm down or self-soothe
- Has the ability to feel other people emotions, take on the emotions of others. Often confused by the feelings she/he is having. May “know” or have knowledge of certain things, but no idea how she knows, aka “vibing”. Is an “empath”. Sensitive to other people’s negativity. May be highly intuitive.
- May have a lack of cognitive empathy and hyper-empathy (for e.g., too much affective or sympathetic empathy)
- Can work very well in a “crisis” situation. Resilience, an ability to go from one crisis to another, to bounce back, to start again time and time again
- Autodidactic – teaches herself. Intelligence craves knowledge and loves learning. Can teach herself just about anything she puts her mind too.
- Attention to detail. Perfectionist. Tries very hard to avoid making mistakes, forgetting things. Hard-working conscientious worker.
- May have sleep difficulties, a preference for staying up late at night, usually not a morning person, may be very creative at night. Have a need for a highly controlled environment to sleep in.
- Avoids social-chit chat, small talk, conversation without a “function”, maintaining friendships and relationships, social anxiety or social phobia. May find it challenging to understand what others expect of her.
- Being taken advantage of due to naivety, innocence and trusting others too much; this often leads to being in toxic relationships or friendships.
- May have a history of being unable to cope with work/employment environments, often moving from job to job, especially in younger adult years. May find great difficulty attending/participating in staff meetings, lunch breaks, work social events.
- Executive function challenges: May have difficulty filling out forms, doing paperwork (completing taxes), budgeting money, finishing a task or job, planning (meals, the day, the week, answering the phone or talking to people on the phone, how to start a particular task and get it completed, knowing where their possessions are, going to appointments, waiting in line or at an appointment
- May have difficulty recognizing or remembering faces (prosopagnosia)
- Has difficulties with unexpected visitors just “dropping over”
- Gullibility or social naivety can get them into enormous trouble. Will often take at face value what a person says about another person
- Introspection and self-awareness. Many women spend years trying to understand themselves, reading self-help and psychology books and wonder why they feel so different, from another planet or that the “Mothership has dropped me off on the wrong planet”. An intense and continual need to figure oneself out.
If these aren’t “normal”, then I struggle to recognize what normal is, because I look at this list and think that it fits most people?
Thoughts thus far…
It’s enlightening in one respect, but it’s also hard to consider that for 40+ years of my life, I’ve thought that ‘everyone’ was the same as me ‘underneath their mask’, when in actuality, I’ve just been experiencing the world completely different than the norm, and I don’t know how it helps me to know this at this time, but it’s like a new beginning for the ever-quest to understand myself and the world around me.
It explains a lot and perhaps if I’d known sooner, I’d realize I was different and understand myself better before putting myself into awkward and difficult situations to ‘fit the norm’. But having only just realized this today, I will need time to try and fit the pieces of this new life’s puzzle together.
Apparently there’s no pill I can take for any of these things to make them ‘go-away’, but having a better understanding will of course help me in social and work situations that used to stress me out a lot, it will help me with friendships and with knowing where to work on myself. It explains why I was so intensely obsessed with subjects until the research was exhausted, why I look at anything I’m interested in from all possible perspectives and angles and why I don’t watch horror movies lol.
I used to be obsessed with internet marketing and have no interest in it anymore – spent a decade learning everything I can about it and now I have zero interest in it. It explains all the obsessions I’ve had with all the topics on this blog; the obsession with natural healing information, conspiracies, truth, spiritual experiences, mysteries, ‘everything I don’t know’ I wanted to know, everything ‘secret or covered-up’, I wanted to know. It explains my phase-obsession with learning multiple languages. It explains all that, but until I can understand it better and put it to work on something that improves my life in a positive way, it only gives me the ah-ha as to why ‘others’ aren’t as obsessed with the things that I get obsessed with :)
It explains why I ‘forget’ anything I’ve ‘put-away’ and why things that I use need to be ‘in plain sight’. Everything I want to ‘use’, has to be in a place where I can ‘see it’, else if it’s put in a cupboard or drawer, it ‘no longer exists’ to me.
It explains why I’m asexual – not interested in sex – or at least, not interested in sex without divine love – although I have engaged in meaningless sex in my past, and had long-term partners, these days, I can’t imagine having sex with someone without an unconditional loving and spiritual bond between us, and would much rather be in solitude working on my own projects and research than seek a romantic encounter of any kind, and even if I miraculously found that unconditional loving match, I still can’t imagine that sex would be a high priority. I much prefer that ‘love-feeling’ you get when you are on that level with someone rather, and if I’d known I was like this earlier in life, I would’ve made different decisions about romantic partners; however I was still ‘playing the acting role’ of ‘what is considered normal’ back then.
I get really upset with injustice, like I may keep it to myself, but it really affects me inwardly. If something is unfair or unjust or feels wrong or unethical or unkind… I get into a mode and I can’t break the mode, I have to wait for it to pass, which may take hours or days. Right now I’m in that mode so I’ll write about it while it’s fresh.
I’m sitting here in solitude in my home, watching Netflix & playing online poker, but my face is scowling and I’m feeling unsure what to do or think about the latest injustice and betrayal that is on my mind. If I felt ‘free to be 100% true to my emotions” rather than tethering them, I would have a tantrum like a 3yo, but instead, I’m sitting here, just feeling really shitty about the situation and wondering why people can’t be better, nicer, kinder, more trustworthy, more benevolent. Previous to thinking about Autism as a possibility (it was never a possibility because I thought I was normal), I would think this is some trigger from my past – some undealt with thing that I hadn’t ‘worked on’ enough. But now with this new Asperger’s/Autism in my consciousness, I’m wondering whether this is how I’m wired? Anyway, food for thought.
I’m curious whether I was born this way or was I injured by a vaccine, medication, or trauma?
So now I will ponder this new level of insight perhaps think about getting an official diagnosis from a mental health professional, and see what good it can do me in regards to not trying to be different, not trying so hard to be ‘normal’, but rather, understanding my differences and work out a life to embrace that which I’m good at, and not feel so much like an alien for that where I differ from the norm.