Nathan Cornfield: My life with Asperger Syndrome and how I hope to make a difference

Nathan Cornfield outlines how Asperger Syndrome has affected his life, and how he hopes his writing can make a difference to others

THE most striking symptom of Asperger Syndrome in regards to my life is my struggle to understand social cues. 

This has gotten me into serious trouble on more than one occasion. Over the years, I have come to recognise body language and facial expressions and have put these to good use in making and maintaining friendships.

When I was younger, I found it extremely difficult to recognise subtle details of communication such as sarcasm, jokes, facial expressions and tones of voice. My parents helped me to come to terms with this by watching my favourite TV series, Heartbeat, with me and holding discussions with me afterwards about why the characters did the things they did and what led them to do so. 

The pursuit of my dreams is fundamental to my existence and I see it as the only conceivable way forward for me.

If you were to engage me in conversation, you would probably say I had a fairly firm grasp of the English language and it is true: languages have always been one of my strongpoints. 

The trouble is that when I was younger, and to a lesser extent to the present day, I was apt to discuss my personal interests at great length with no perception of when to change the subject of the conversation.

Small talk was also a briar patch of difficulty for me. These were overcome by assiduous study of other people, both real and fictional, and through discussion with loved ones.

Routine is a pivotal part of my daily life and any deviation, however slight, can cause great discomfort to me. I always use the same route for walks, eat the same things from takeaways, etc. This routine is a lifeline for me in an often unpredictable and difficult world. It is my safety net against life. It is my little bubble. 

I spend most of my days in my bedroom, surrounded by my books, working on my laptop. Consistent work has also been a source of sustained grief for me over the years. My education was interrupted in my mid-teens and I have been self-educating for the past few years with the intention of getting myself to university. 

My education was interrupted in my mid-teens and I have been self-educating for the past few years with the intention of getting myself to university. 

Because of my condition, I consider myself to be so far behind my contemporaries from school that I no longer speak to them for fear of making myself feel even more inferior.

Asperger's brings some benefits, too. I have intense interests which I devote my life to, most especially reading and writing - the area in which I work. It is debatable whether it would be so easy to fully immerse myself in a book and live and breathe the words and events were I not to have autism. 

The pursuit of my dreams is fundamental to my existence and I see it as the only conceivable way forward for me.

I am extremely sensitive to touch. If someone lays their hand on my shoulder, I visibly flinch and it feels like an invasion of my space. Yet in a strange contradiction I can be very generous with hugs, provided I am in control of their distribution. I have reconciled this in recent years but still have the occasional lapse. 

I am distracted by loud music and find it especially uncomfortable when a neighbour is playing music, even if it is not particularly loud, because it is out of my control and makes me feel helpless and vulnerable.

Life is hard but I know there are many others out there who have it far worse than me. That is why I am now doing all I can to help raise awareness for autism.

I find it exceptionally difficult to move on after my routine has been irreversibly altered, be it the loss or rejection of a friend, the completion of a particular course, moving house, etc. I have yet to devise a coping mechanism for it.

People with autism are more susceptible to depression and I have struggled with this for half of my life. I have often contemplated suicide, and I attempted to end my life when I was 14. I often feel life is not worth living and it is only through my faith and the love of my family and friends that I am able to keep going. 

Life is hard but I know there are many others out there who have it far worse than me.

That is why I am now doing all I can to help raise awareness for autism and offer my own experiences in the hope that someone who hears or reads them will be able to devise their own strategies.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raising within this piece, you can contact the Samaritans for further help and support.

Picture courtesy of BookMama

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Comments

florian albert

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 16:56

Very interesting article. Good luck in the future.

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