Another excerpt from my book…
Just how I was ‘different’ only slowly became apparent to me. Too often, I would say things that to me seemed utterly normal and unremarkable - and anger, scolding, ridicule, jeering laughter or a shocked silence would follow. I was saying things formed by my particular ‘logic’ and thought processes, but I had no idea (and nor did others) of just how different these were. Hence, I could never anticipate what would bring this all this down on my head, or understand why it was so wrong. All I knew was it somehow was wrong, and me with it. There was nothing I could do but cringe and wait for it to be over. Over and over again, I would inadvertently break social ‘rules’ I didn’t know existed until I was told off for violating them. There seemed to be so many things that others somehow ‘just knew’, and which I was also expected to ‘just know’, and didn’t – until I made a social blunder. One day my mother was scolding me, “You should have known not to do that!” (whatever it was), and I protested, ”but how could I have known, if you didn’t tell me!?” We were both puzzled, but I was distressed as well, and horribly, horribly confused.
I didn’t have a name for this pain, anymore than I had a name for my other feelings. If someone said to me, ‘why the sad face?’, or ‘you’re happy today!’, I would feel with a shock of surprise, ‘oh! So this is happy, this is sad’, etc. I say I ‘felt’ this, because I didn’t think with words at that age, my thinking was more like a series of flickering images, or surges of wordless feeling like whales surfacing from my personal depths. I wouldn’t think in words till I was a teenager, and even now a lot of my thinking is visual – despite my facility with language, images are my ‘native tongue’.
Part of my social difficulty was, I think, due to being unable to connect and compare, and hence generalise and learn from, my experiences. Occasionally, after I’d messed another situation up, someone – usually my mother – would say to me, “but you should have known how to do (x), from (y) situation!’ I’d always be very surprised – it had never occurred to me that the two were in any way connected. Such skills as I had were, as Charlotte Moore so aptly puts it, “an archipelago of islands scattered across a sea of confusion… [not] even within hailing distance of each other.” And though I was a voracious reader, I couldn’t ‘connect up the dots’ of any of the knowledge about the world I was accumulating either; it was simply a whole bunch of disjointed facts.