Growing up, I always felt that I was a little bit different than everyone else. Different in many ways ranging in all aspects of life. I always wondered why I was so sensitive and emotional over everything, why I struggled to make friends, and why I had very few but all-absorbing interests. It turns out that all of what I just described is common in people with Asperger's Syndrome, and that I was diagnosed with Asperger's about 15 years ago but was never told that I had it.
I spent the first 17 years of my life living with just my mother. My mother lived a very hard life. She struggled with relationships, didn't have much of a family, and was really lonely most of the time. My mother always wanted to have a baby but most of her relationships never got that far. Finally, at the age of 40, she had me. My mother's wish came true; she finally had a child that she could call her own and love indefinitely. My mother's love for me was a little bit different than most parents. She loved me so much that she often sheltered me from the truth for fear that I would get hurt or be upset. My mother would "never let me fall" even if taking a fall would be vital to my learning and growth as a person. She was so afraid that I would be hurt by the fact that I have Asperger's that she never told me that I had it. Up until a month ago, I had no idea why I seemed a little different than other people or why I was treated differently.
In elementary and middle school I was in half general ed, half special ed classes with two teachers. My mother always told me that I was in the general ed side of the class and that I didn't have anything "wrong" with me. I was afraid of being considered special ed. I grew up thinking that having a learning or developmental disability is something to be ashamed of and that those kids were "stupid" or "less than" kids without disabilities. However, all of the friends I made were in the special ed side of the class like me. I always seemed to get along better with kids that had disabilities and quirks. It turns out that I had to be in a class with two teachers. This is because I often had temper tantrums, cried, disrupted the class, and struggled to work together with other students. I was the only kid in the class that cried nearly every day. I wondered why it was always me and I wondered how everyone else was so calm all the time.
I have always been socially awkward as well. Often times I would find that I struggled immensely in social situations. I would often avoid talking to people for fear of how they would judge me. Sometimes when I would see someone who I was friendly with I would put my head down and hope that they don't talk to me. I also hated small talk and the same scripted questions people would ask me. What I mean by that is that I hated it when I would be with family and they would ask the same questions each time such as "How's school". I was very selective over who I would engage in conversation with. I would only talk to my mom, therapists, close friends, or my favorite teachers. I would avoid or ignore other people who weren't a part of one of those categories. I also wasn't very open to meeting new people. I liked who I liked and I never wanted to be in a situation where I had to meet new people or change my ways. I felt comfortable being myself in front of my friends. Although I never knew I had Asperger's, I always felt that my friends and I were different than other people and that's how we were so good together.
My friends and I are nowhere near the typical group of teenage boys. One of my friends is on the autism spectrum and I'm almost certain that my other friends are on there too but their parents sheltered them from their condition like my mom did. My friends and I always had the most fun when we made fun of each other, imitated each other's voices, got into stupid arguments, said/done stupid things, or when we had birthday parties at 14+ years old. Our humor and way of doing things was never age appropriate. For example, our "parties" were much different than other teenage boys' parties. With our birthday parties, we would always hype them up like little kids do. At 16 years old one of my friends would talk about his next birthday party even if it was 11 months away and if we got him mad he would say "that's it you are not invited to my birthday party". They would be the only time all of us hung out together because other than for birthday parties none of us ever made an effort to hang out. Most of the time we would be cooped up in the house and play the same video games. We didn't really hang out outside of the house and the same 3-6 people would show up to every party even if 40+ people were invited.
High school was the pinnacle of my social issues. I was going to a highly academic high school while my friends attended the zoned high school. The high school that I was going to also didn't have the cushy environment that my previous schools did. I was really upset that my mom forced me to go there. I didn't want to have to meet new people so I didn't. I spent the four years by myself because I was so outraged that I was separated from my friends and I was so scared of other people that I never gave anyone a chance. There were so many kids that were really nice to me in high school but I purposefully avoided them. I was miserable in high school. I was told multiple times that I needed to make friends but I didn't want to even though I agreed that my lack of friends was the reason why I was miserable.
I also question literally everything. My questions would often be ridiculous and nonsensical to others. Some of my questions would be "why do we say goodnight to people", "why do manners exist", "why do I have to act/dress/eat/look a certain way", or "what's the point of cleaning up when things tend to get dirtier". People would often get mad at me when I asked these questions but I felt that there always had to be a valid reason for doing things "because I said so" or "that's just the way it is" are extremely frustrating answers to me.
I also have some physical quirks about me. Throughout my life, I always had a lot on my mind but I couldn't keep still when I was deep in thought. So whenever I had a lot on my mind I would pace back and forth for sometimes as long as an hour. Also when I am nervous I cross my right pinky with my right ring finger and stab my other fingertips with my pinky nail. When I am alone I sometimes talk to myself and laugh about my past.
I have a short list of interests but those interests are all-absorbing to the point where I could work on a task that most people see as tedious or boring for hours straight. Two of my interests are presidential elections and maps. With these interests, I spent hours over the summer making a county map of the united states (which consists of 3,142 counties and county equivalents) depicting the biggest winner in presidential elections in each county since 2004. When having a conversation about one of my interests it's almost like I don't have issues socializing at all. I could go on for hours about politics, video games, countries, states, or world statistics but ask me "how's school" or some other small talk question and it's like I'm mute.
I never knew why I was this way until this July. My stepmom finally told me that I was diagnosed with Asperger's when I was younger. My mom always thought this news would hurt me but it felt like the light at the end of the tunnel. I finally had an answer as to why I always seemed to act differently and perceive things differently than other people. And I am actually proud to say that I have Asperger's. As a young adult, I feel that it is a good thing to be different. I feel that we should be proud of our differences, not ashamed. I feel that my Asperger's makes me a very interesting person to be around and talk to. My Asperger's makes me feel that I am a unique person who has a special way of seeing and perceiving the world around me and other people. My name is Peter Nikitin and I may be a little different and quirky but in the end, I am just a person like everyone else. There is nothing wrong with me, I just have Asperger's.