Finding Back My ‘Margaret-Ness’ by Margaret Franklin

The other night my husband and I saw the movie �You, me and DuPree and the more I think about it, the more I find myself relating to the character of DuPree and thinking that he, too, definitely had some �Aspie-ish� traits. Not all Aspies are shy, introverted bookworms. In fact many of us are also quite bouncy, sociable and outgoing, very much like DuPree, who often spoke his mind and got himself into some pretty awkward situations by basically diving head-first into everything. Although he could not get a job and his actions often got him into trouble, DuPree had some very interesting and wonderful gifts and talents. He was a great cook and an eloquent speaker and writer and his talent for motivational speaking and writing brought him great success in the end. I felt inspired by his tremendous �joie-de-vivre� and when I saw him on the podium holding up a copy of his book I thought “That’s going to be me up there one day!”

It was around this time of year, two years ago; about two weeks before my 40th birthday when I found out I had Asperger�s Syndrome. A few short days ago, when I was seeing a new psychologist after having had a major meltdown, I didn�t even know what Asperger�s Syndrome was until I received an email from a good friend of mine in the States who said she had it. When I asked her what it was she emailed me a couple links. As I read the list of traits I just KNEW I was reading about myself! A multitude of emotions swept over me, but the biggest was relief!! This explained why I�ve always been slightly different, why I�ve had trouble fitting in, why people sometimes think I�m weird and why stupid things were always happening to me.

One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was write a book. But, of course I needed to do research. The more I learn about AS, the more excited I am. One of my first thoughts on the subject, when I read about all the traits was that we are like a box of �Bits & Bites�. As the bigheaded cartoon guy in the commercial says, �Every handful is different.

Life is full of changes and transitions and lately I�ve been thinking a lot about what my life was like before I knew I had Asperger�s Syndrome. I had sensory issues then, but they didn�t seem as debilitating as they are now. I had an exciting social life back when I was single and living in Toronto. I had lots of friends and acquaintances and when I had my own apartment I used to invite lots of people over for parties every month. I was no Martha Stewart, but I�d usually throw together some kind of casserole the night before that I could just pop in the oven when guests arrived. I had no specific recipe. Usually it was pasta with hamburger and various cheese and veggies. And I�d always bake a cake and serve it with ice cream. It didn�t have to be anyone�s birthday. I just liked to celebrate life and being with my friends.

A big part of that was my music. Writing songs was what kept me sane back when I lived in Lindsay, before my best friend and I decided to pull up stakes and move to Toronto to pursue a career in music. We nearly lost everything we had, but we survived and eventually I started getting back into my music again.

In fact in 2001 I pursued my dream of recording my own CD. It may not have won me any Grammys or Junos, but it did win me my soul-mate when he saw me, in my blue wig and face-paint, advertising it on City TV�s �Speaker�s Corner� and was only one of two people to order it from me! This was back in the days before I was computer literate and after he bought my CD we corresponded for several months by sending each other tapes before we finally met and went out on our first date.

That night we KNEW beyond the shadow of any doubt that we were meant to be together and we were married in July of 2002. We have recently celebrated our fourth anniversary.

But it hasn�t been easy. Knowing what I know now, I once asked him if he still would have married me if he knew I had Asperger�s Syndrome. �Let�s not go there.� he replied. Even before we knew this about me, one thing’s for sure, living with me has probably been full of surprises and not always pleasant ones. He never knows what to expect from me and I�ve often never known what to expect from myself. The years have been turbulent. The summer we met was a time of great upheaval in my life. I was being evicted from my penultimate apartment in Toronto and my former boss was making my life a living hell by constantly lecturing me about how to live every chance she had. I was on anti-depressants. Mail from Dave was literally what kept me alive that summer. If there were ever a saying that I can�t imagine being more true it was one I heard at a Christian Singles retreat when Roger Tirabassi spoke and said, �Don�t just marry the one you can live with; Marry the one you can�t live without.� And I cannot live without Dave.

However, since our marriage back in 2002,life has been one drastic change after another. Four days after our wedding, our honeymoon had to be brought to an abrupt screeching halt because my dad passed away.

At least six months later I ended up having to quit my job. Working in retail six days a week for less than minimum wage was grueling enough when I lived in the city, but commuting back and forth between Oshawa and Toronto every day was taking its toll on my health. The GO Train was a veritable cesspool of germs and I constantly had colds and flu and my boss was becoming more and more verbally abusive. She was a difficult person to work for at the best of times. How I stood working for her for eight years I�ll never know but often it was like working for two different people. She could be as nice as pie one day and a total dragon the next. Unfortunately, her �dragon days� were outnumbering her �nice� ones and in late January all hell broke loose. I don�t want to talk about what she said to me. But as soon as she was gone, I grabbed whatever belongings of mine I could carry, left a note, locked the door, hopped on the next train back to Oshawa and I�ve never spoken to her again since.

In the years that followed, I tried to make a go of selling my own crafts but was unsuccessful. Most of it was slow, painful torture, just watching most people not buy anything. I had a now former friend scare potential customers away by grabbing my merchandise from the table and chasing them with it trying to push them to buy stuff. In an attempt to be helpful and try to sell my stuff for me she had also taken liberties and given away a lot of my merchandise without my permission and damaged a lot of my things. I was horrified when I saw much of it carelessly strewn about on the floor of her apartment, most with brown stains. If ever I felt like I wanted to kill somebody that was it.

Then there was the sale at the Roseneath Fairgrounds. On the way home I could not stop crying. Both my husband and his aunt were scared I was having a nervous breakdown, so his aunt was insistent that I see her psychologist. At least Marlene was really nice and it was only a couple days later I received that perfectly timed Revelation about Asperger�s Syndrome!

Marlene had not heard of it, but at least she had an open mind and I was very excited to share my knowledge with her. She found some diagnostic criteria in a book she had in her office and we went over it together. That felt like another lifetime! SO much has happened since.

I told her that ever since I started learning about Asperger�s Syndrome, the one thing I�ve been wanting to do more than anything was write a book. I was like a mad hornet buzzing around, high from having to go back on Celexa for a season, and extremely excited from all that I had to learn. I was like the robot �Johnny 5� in the �Short Circuit� movies�.INPUT! INPUT! I need MORE INPUT!!!, insatiably devouring every piece of literature I could get my hands on about this wondrous new world that has opened up to me.

Perhaps one of her most profound pieces of advice was �Get a life before you try to change the world.�

Well, that�s what I�ve been doing. A big part of that has been possible with the help of Kerry�s Place. I found out about them in the fall of 2004 when Durham Mental Health referred me to Northern Lights. However, Northern Lights told me that Kerry�s Place could meet my needs better. Up until then I thought I was living in a wasteland. So little seemed to be known about Asperger�s Syndrome at the time. But resources are everywhere. One just has to know where to look.

I finally received my official diagnosis in the fall of 2005 and since then I�ve gone on to some pretty wonderful things. Becoming computer literate has been one of the most important things to happen to me during these past few years of being unemployed but going back to school to improve my computer skills even more from November of 2005 until June of 2006 has been one of the best things that has happened to me!!

Through Kerry�s Place I got to be part of the IC3 Computer Literacy program. It went on from late November until almost Christmas and there were three major exams. It was computer boot camp. Three short weeks of long days and I would be near meltdown by the end of the day from information/sensory overload. Much to my frustration I did not pass any of the exams, but at least I did learn a lot of new things I never knew before and I proved to have a good work ethic by faithfully showing up every day and not missing any classes.

This paved the way for further classes at Durham Continuing education; grade 10 and 11 computer basics with Ardith Wood, and Desktop Publishing in Bernice Baker�s class. Best of all, not only were the IC3 tests incorporated into the curriculum so I could pass one at the end of each of the three terms, but Ardith nominated me for a Student Recognition Award.

In her class I did a Web Page project on Asperger�s Syndrome. �I have the Greatest Respect for You.� she wrote on the front page with my grade.

Not only did she nominate me for overcoming the challenges I face with Asperger�s Syndrome, but for my involvement in the community.

It was in early February I started volunteering part time at Kerry�s Place and when I finished my Desktop Publishing course I started volunteering there full-time.

I have also been making dolls and toys for our former pastor to take with him on the mission field to give to needy children in other countries as part of the Reapers in the Rain project.

When my placement at Kerry�s Place ends this fall I hope to finally have regular paid employment for the first time in nearly four years. Where, I do not know, but when I do, hopefully I will be back into my music again. I want to be able to afford a bigger place for me and my husband where I�ll have my own room for an office/art studio.

I also hope that my book is out by then and I�ll be doing signings and speaking engagements. Maybe I�ll have another CD�.
And you�re all invited to the next housewarming party. Enjoy my casseroles!