I realize some of my personal testimony may be just a “me” thing and not necessarily an “Aspie” thing. In our local Aspie group we sometimes describe a personal quirk that seems unique to us and therefore may not be generalizable at all to other Aspies. I throw some of this out there to the wider interwebz for sake of sharing information to other Aspies who may be able to relate, but as always “your mileage may vary”.
One particular sleeping quirk I’ve had since probably middle school but definitely since High School is that I have a difficult time sleeping the whole night through in the same location. I will often enough start the night in the same place every night, namely in my bedroom, on my bed. I will drift off to sleep but more often than not I will rise again, either to urinate or just wake up for no particular reason…or since I’m a light sleeper if there’s any unusual noise–say a heavy gust of wind that causes the tree to brush against a window because a front is moving through the area at night…that sort of thing will make me wake up as well. I will try to go back to sleep without moving but I’m not always successful. I sometimes will move to the couch in my computer room, where I have a blanket stretched over it that I can curl up in, along with pillows. For some reason, the couch is especially comforting and I feel like it gives my body more secure support somehow, and I will typically finish the night there to be awoken by 2nd alarm clock in that room. I have 2 alarms…one in the bedroom and one in the computer room. I have a 3rd alarm in the bathroom to remind me when it’s time to hop in the shower each morning after I finish breakfast so I know to wrap up Facebook or checking email or this blog. This is a coping mechanism I’ve developed over many years of trial and error.
Sleeping in more than one room at night works fine when you live alone or have an entire floor to yourself like I do now. But it plays havoc with a live-in girlfriend or wife, because they tend to take it personally and make a big emotional issue over something that from my point of view is purely pragmatic and practical and has nothing to do with how much I love my partner. Likewise, sex is one thing, sleep something else. For the most part, my ex-wife and I had a healthy sex life, but whereas my wife would like to cuddle afterward and wanted to fall asleep in my arms, I would tolerate a modicum of cuddling, but after that, sleep time was sleep time and I felt better if I could detach from her embrace and really warm body and have my own corner of the bed to fall asleep on. It was pure torture for me when I couldn’t swing this or if she fell asleep before I was able to extricate myself.
My wife would not tolerate my voluntarily sleeping on the couch at any point during the night and always took it as a rebuke to her (which it never was for my part, but I acquiesced to her wishes, though not without some resentment). Likewise, at times I lived in terror of her waking up to find me still awake and inevitably asking what was wrong with me…”nothing”, though the truth, was never an acceptable answer and sometimes I had to invent crap from whole cloth to say just to put it out there and make her shut up. If I were lucky I’d get off with a short lecture with advice how to handle my (mostly non-existent) problem. If I weren’t lucky, I’d say something wrong and start a big argument that could turn into a verbal knock-down/drag out conflict, with lots of hot emotion and tears, well into the wee hours (sleep deprivation torture anyone?)…if we were lucky we’d reach a compromise or new, deeper understanding and sometimes it would be sweet and even achingly romantic and I do guiltily admit that sometimes the make-up sex was even more phenomenal than regular sex. The old adage about not going to bed angry is true in my experience because it will simmer overnight and well into the next day. We were both stumbling in the dark, completely ignorant of my A.S. condition. In any case, it was better to simply have the argument and get it all out of our system and try to reach a new understanding and a new peace, however long it took. I suppose it didn’t help matters much that my then wife was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was sometimes like walking on eggshells around her, and she could be incredibly emotionally abusive towards me. We never were physically violent with one another, but we did cause each other a great deal of mental anguish. I ultimately fled that relationship and I am the one who asked for the divorce. My undiagnosed Asperger’s condition probably contributed to the loss of that marriage, but there was a whole host of other factors in play as well.
I’m just not very good at some of the good-natured ribbing and give and take in some relationships. I bought my Dad a birthday card that I thought was funny; indeed my intention was to poke fun at the both of us. It pictured a mature donkey with a baby donkey on its back, both with “googly” eyes. Inside it had a birthday greeting that said basically thanks dad for all you’ve done even when I’ve been a pain in the you-know-what. I also added “takes one to know on, eh?”, alluding to the fact that, yeah, we’re both capable of behaving like Asses at times. I thought it was funny, but only later did I learn from my mom that I really hurt my dad’s feelings…this made me feel like crap because of course that was the last thing I wanted to do and the furthest thought from my mind. Dad went to his rural property as he is oft want to do and I sent him a happy birthday text to his cellphone on his actual birthday today. Apparently that brightened his spirits as mom told me Dad told her about receiving it and that it made him happy. So at least I got that right. But that’s so typical of how Asperger’s can be…you end up hurting or offending people and have no idea that you did, and people are mad at you even thought you’re completely innocent and absolutely meant no harm.