Dear Annie: I’m in my 30s. Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome after a two-year career ended in disaster. It was my mother who suspected what was wrong. It explained the problems I’ve had – no friends, no social life and the inability to hold down a job, among others. I knew there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t figure out what to do at parties or dinners, or why I never had a girlfriend, and I stopped getting invited to get-togethers because I would sit by myself. Even my one friend thought I was weird. Eventually, she stopped speaking to me, too.
Since the diagnosis, I’ve hated myself less, but I have a lot of regret for not having been a better friend. I may have appeared apathetic, myopic, hostile, selfish or self-absorbed. I regret that my grandparents may have perceived me as uncaring and ignorant. I know it wasn’t my fault.
I’ve joined some autism support groups and have met people, but a lot of us are constrained by phobias, tics, medications, etc. Nowadays, there’s a lot more that’s known about Asperger’s, and we’re no longer seen as freaks. But it’s still hard. I haven’t told most of my family about my diagnosis. My grandmother often makes nasty remarks about me. I’m tempted to tell her the reasons for my behavior, but why should I have to explain? She shouldn’t say such things to anyone. – New York
Dear New York: We agree that Grandma shouldn’t say unkind things, but don’t you think you’re being a bit unfair to her, as well? You are withholding information that could make her more understanding and could improve your relationship. It sounds as if you have been angry with her for a very long time. This could be an opportunity to get past it, which would help both of you.