Asperger's,Autism Spectrum Disorder

Why I Can’t Do What I Used to Do

As you may know, my life is very different from what it used to be. Sometimes, it feels like I’m remembering someone else’s life and not may own, but at other times, it’s more like my present is not reality and my past is who I really am.

Of course, I know it’s all my life and that I simply changed. I became more myself and in doing so, I shed away my old skin. If I had continued without doing that it would simply have become a burden.

Najwa Zebian, a wonderful poet, expressed it like this:

These mountains that you are carrying,

you were only supposed to climb.’

Her words ring so very true in my heart.

I feel like I’ve held on to many things far beyond the point I needed to and now when I look back on my life it is even easier to see. Everything is different now and I do feel better, but that does not mean I should have just been like this from the start. It is because of my past that I can be happy and feel better today.

Actually, I quite enjoyed my past back when I was living it. Or, maybe it’s more like, I can now remember my past fondly and without regrets.

Back in those days I was in a lot of pain, you already know that if you’ve been reading my posts regularly. If I had the choice, I would never re-live it, no. I would hate that.

I miss it, though. Once in a while.

I miss it like I miss running to the beach and playing amongst the dunes or dashing through the shallow waters by the shore on a hot summer’s day. I miss it like I miss ice skating on the pond in my neighbours’ field, the one that always froze during the winter only to be barely visible on late summer days.

It was fun when I was a child, but if I did those things today, it doesn’t give me the same happiness as it once did. I would still enjoy it for sure, but the naïve innocence of that age is lost forever for me.

We all have the occasional moment, I think, when we forget we’re adults and are miraculously returned to our younger selves; when our excitement outshine all other respectable feelings and we give in to joy.

I wish we had more moments like that now, as grown-ups.

Of course, the fact that I can think back on my childhood and reminisce about certain aspects of it does in no way mean I want to return to those days – I would not want to re-live any part of it.

It’s the same with all other past versions of me. I can remember them fondly, but do not wish to re-live it.

When I was at university, I struggled a lot. It was when I was in my early twenties, because I was about twenty my first year. I struggled personally, socially and in every other imaginable way. I fought with traumas. I was on and off medication and wasn’t really allowed to drink when I was on it. I drank and smoked more than anyone should when I could, not just at parties, but at home alone.

It was my only way to cope.

I did everything young people do, but not because I wanted to, simply because it is what young people do. It was all about blending in and making sure no one knew just how messed up and broken I was on the inside.

People who knew me back then are often surprised when I tell them I have autism spectrum disorder. Sometimes, they won’t even believe me at first – if ever. That can be one of the most painful experiences; when you open up about something that makes you feel vulnerable and the listener doesn’t even believe you.

I finally take off my mask and share the true me only to be ridiculed, argued against or even to end up isolated and alone because no one wanted to know the real me.

What people like that often finds confusing, and others too I guess, is that I can’t do what I used to. Some of it they blame on age: ‘Oh, we are all like that now… No one stays out all night drinking. We’re too old.’

Of course, they don’t understand, either by choice or by chance, when I try to explain that it was always difficult for me to do those things. They accept it though and that’s good.

Some things they really can’t understand. Things like how I don’t want to eat out at restaurants or go shopping in a shopping centre somewhere. I almost never go out to watch a movie either.

I can go out, but only to certain specific places and even then, I prefer to bring the food home with me. Sure, I would much rather make the food myself because I don’t like eating food other people make, but still. I can do it. Shopping centres are noisy, smell bad, the air is horrible and there’s just too many people. I can’t relax. I used to like watching movies at the movie theatre, but they changed the sound systems a few years back and now it’s too painful for me to get through, I wouldn’t even know how to enjoy it.

But, you may ask, was it not always like that?

Yes, I would answer. I was.

And you used to do those kinds of things all the time, right? Then you can still just do it now. It’s the same thing, right?

Well, no, it’s really not that simple.

Why not?

When we force ourselves to do something, we can’t for a really long time we get a little used to the pain.

My teacher in school used to say that if you throw a frog into boiling water it will jump right out, but if you put the frog into cold water and then slowly heat the water to its boiling point the frog will die.

That’s what it was like for me. I was dying and now I’m not. Now I know myself well enough to jump out of the water when it gets too hot.

I can’t do what I used to do because I am no longer just dying, I am trying to live. It may sound dramatic to you, but in a way, it describes my feelings very well.

The fact is, I’m not a self-destructive and suicidal little girl anymore. Every day I try to be true to myself and respect my own limits.

It doesn’t mean I hate who I was or what my life was like, no, I can now look back and in some ways remember it with fondness. I can even feel nostalgic. I respect the little girl I used to be, because she could have given up, but she didn’t. I love her for that, because I wouldn’t be here now if she had.

My past is not tainted, it is just not my present.

Those who knew me back then are mostly out of my life, mainly by their own choice, but if I meet them accidentally, I hope they’ll see me as I am now and not continue to see me as who I was. Should the opportunity arise again (read my other post on this here) I think I’ll be okay. At least, I hope I will be.

I am different in that I respect because I respect my own limitations, not to never test my boundaries, but to do so without pressure and stop when I need to stop. We need to take care of ourselves.

Of course, it’s not just me who changed, we all change, and the world is changing around us. With all these changes around, we could probably all be a little more forgiving of our past – I know I want to be.


Life with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Since I was diagnosed myself, I have been trying to raise autism awareness and share my own experiences and thoughts about life as well as my search for a happy and fulfilling life.

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