I've just joined here after becoming aware of Alexithymia almost by chance and, after going over it with my partner, a lot of things started to make sense for both of us. I hope this is OK but now that I've found this place I thought it might help me to just give an overview of my experiences so far to see if any of this resonates with anyone else or whether any of this sounds familiar at all. Apologies in advance for the essay...
I'm 35 and live over Leeds, UK. I've always felt that I was somehow "different" to everyone else but have never been able to put my finger on precisely why. Over the years people have asked whether I'm autistic, asp or something else.
As a youngster I was generally relatively bright compared to my peers, went on to university and got a decent job in an analytical field and I've worked in that realm ever since. Numbers have always made more sense to me than humans who are a puzzle.
I was your stereotypical geek growing up and was intensively bullied for it. Coupled with my poor social skills where I never really felt like I knew what was going on it made me an easy target until maybe around the age of 11 when I took up boxing. I was left alone after that & that has really been a trend for me through life of pushing people away aside from a very small number of people - largely my partner who I've lived with now for coming on 15 years. I just find interaction with other people draining as I am constantly trying to figure out what is going on. It exhausts me.
Outside of my partner I have very few close relationships (if any really including my family). I have people who I talk to, I am on "good" terms with my family but it has come up a few times that I am very detached and distant compared to my brothers.
Our family was always somewhat up & down growing up. We never had much and my parents were often arguing over the usual stuff and it often got incredibly heated. I am the youngest of 4 boys. One of my siblings died in infancy before I was born - he was the youngest at that point and then I was born shortly thereafter. My 2 brothers now are a fair bit older than I am, the next nearest to me is 10 years older.
My early life was quite guarded. Whilst my older brothers were able to go off and do things outside of the home I wasn't allowed out anywhere. No doubt this impacted on early socialisation (which may be a factor). I do wonder whether due to my brother's death this influenced the way my parents raised me how they did. Speaking to other family members they have commented that I was often just "left" as a baby in my bed. To give you an idea of the extent of this the back of my head is literally flat from being left lying down for very long periods & little time off my back. They've also commented that I was "never allowed to do anything" relative to my brothers which is true. I wonder to what extent this absence of early socialisation is a factor? I was also prohibited from participating in any sports at school - specifically team sports. As young as 8 I remember wanting to play football/rugby for my school and also for a club out of school that other kids in my class were going along to but I was simply not allowed to go. In reality it's because my Dad didn't want to have to take me/collect me/pay for boots etc etc. He's told me as much when I've asked him about it later. So instead I had to be in the house with no opportunity to socialise.
Dad was always at work and when not in work he was off doing other things. Both my parents were quite young when they started having kids and my brothers and I definitely notice some ASD type behaviours from mum that we've talked about throughout the years whereas my dad is very selfish, narcissistic and manipulative. Both live separately now, they divorced when I was around 13 & should never have been together really.
When mum left the family home for good it left me and my 2 brothers with my Dad. At the time lots of negative stuff was going on, failing family business, tension over my parents separation and me & my brothers perception of mum as the victim etc. In the end both of my brothers moved out for good due to it. One of them went into the military just to get away but as I was still too young I had to remain and then my Dad moved his new partner into the family home literally a week or so after mum had moved out, it was all very strange and none of this was discussed or explained.
From that point on really I brought myself up both in terms of just generally organising myself but also supporting myself financially, buying food, school uniforms etc. I got used to not relying on anybody else and since that young age I've supported myself pretty much - there was never any food etc in the house as my dad and new partner would make their own meals etc and I was basically ignored so I would resort to eating at a friends house or stealing or not eating at all.
Eventually my mum got herself sorted and she got herself a place and I moved straight in. That process took around 4 years and I stayed there for maybe 5-6 years and then got my own place. During the time with mum it was always a problem for her that I always seemed quiet and detached. Constantly asking what was wrong with me etc. I couldn't really tell her and I was always confused as to why people were asking me all these kinds of questions. Over time I've learned it must be something to do with "how I am". A common one I'd get from my folks was always "straighten your face before I give you something to sulk about" i.e. smile or get a crack. I guess I've kind of taken that with me into adulthood!!
Over time I think I have become quite adept at mimicking what I think people want/need to hear. I honestly struggle with interpreting my own emotions outside of the extremes. For instance, if I am very, very sad or incredibly angry that usually registers but there isn't really anything else. The best way I can describe it is that I feel like a robot. I have a range of stuff I need to do each day - eat, work, sleep etc but that's it.
For people on the outside looking in I probably look like I have a great life. I work, run my own small business, I have plenty of friends albeit in quite a loose context but there's always a social gathering if I can muster the energy to go along. However, as I've gotten older I've started to notice more that there seems to be a gulf between me and my friends compared to the relationship of my friends with each other if that makes sense? I have always considered us all as being as good friends to each other at the same level. These are old people from college, university, playing in bands etc and we went through all these formative years together. However, now things like weddings are happening I've started to notice it when things like best men are picked. I probably have 6 core friends who I go a long way back with. They've all got married in the last few years and for each wedding they were all best men to each other at each wedding we are that close.... besides me.
I have started to realise it's because of me and "how I am". However, I have no way to really unpack or improve on that. I've always considered myself a good friend in that I would do anything my friends ask of me if they needed help. Broke down at 3am on a Wednesday morning and need a hand? I'd be the one to call.
I do it because I want them to feel good, not because it makes me feel good. However, with this detachment in social situations it has evidently led to a different relationship compared to the rest of my friends. On occasion they've remarked to my partner that I've come across rude/ignorant when I had no idea they felt that way. I regularly struggle to figure out when it's my turn to speak for instance. I think someone has finished and just as I start, they carry on and it's always awkward. I seem to think about things in very black & white/logical ways that other people seem to take the wrong way. However, thinking in that way has almost become a security blanket for me because it's one way I can kind of navigate through the world with some semblance of understanding what the hell is going on.
Around about 2013 I ended up almost getting sectioned by my GP only for my partner taking responsibility for me temporarily. I mentioned earlier on that I have difficult with interpreting emotion unless it's extreme. Well I'd been really busy in work for a long time. Burning the midnight oil & all that and eventually it got to the point where I started mulling over the logical merits of driving my car into a wall or something. I knew that "wasn't normal" so told my partner, we went to the doctor and all that. I was referred for CBT but I honestly found it useless as I didn't really know what the person was asking me. I wasn't really sure what to do with it. I was put on anti-depressants etc but in the end I came off them - changed my job for one that wasn't as pressurised. Since then thankfully no problems of that sort but I am still mystified by people and this idea of me being a relative robot compared to everyone else. People in work often call me "Rain Man" as a joke due to my aptitude for numbers and it's all good-natured but these kind of things have been a consistent fixture in life and I am trying to figure it out more. Seeing the word "Alexithymia" for the first time was a turning point for me as lots of things really started to make sense but I don't know what to do with that information now I know it given it isn't a "condition" in itself.
I rarely dream, when I do it's about making coffee, driving to work or something normal. I can never seem to provide people with a satisfactory answer when they ask about my feelings in the context of my well-being etc, I find it equally difficult trying to find the words myself, I'm not a very "imaginative" person. I mentioned earlier about playing music - mathematician that I am I play drums which is literally maths and that's how I think about it. I tend to pursue things and activities above anything else
Reading this back now I think I should just delete it but nothing ventured nothing gained. This may be 99% useless but maybe something in here might somehow help understand if Alexithymia is "it".
Apologies again for the essay.
Topic: New Member
Unlike some posters on this forum I don't go in for armchair analysis so I can't tell you if you're Alexithymic or not. Have you tried the Alexithymia test on this site?
I wrote this is another sub-forum here.
From what I've been able to glean online there appear to be two different mechanisms that result in Alexithymia. One type of Alexithymia seems to be physical/genetic/neurological. In essence it's hard wired into a person from birth and it's there to stay, for life. The other type seems essentially to be a form of PTSD and as such it tends to manifest itself after some traumatic incident in a person's life. As this is in effect a sort of 'induced' Alexithymia it can moderate and lessen over time.
From what you wrote it seems possible that your restrictive and, dare I say it, negligent upbringing may be at the root of your issues. You may have Alexithymia and it could be of either type. Perhaps you are on the autistic spectrum, perhaps you're Alexithymic, perhaps you're both or neither. Do the test, if you haven't already, and that will give you some sort of basis to work from. You can easily find the Autistic Quotient test online too, try that too. You know yourself better than any strangers (me included) on a forum ever will so if you read up about Alexithymia and feel that it fits you then you're probably right. I certainly wouldn't argue with you.
Yes, I did the test on here which scored me at 155 which it said was high. I’ve done other tests previously for things like ASD and tend to score high in those. I’ve never sought a formal diagnosis as I wouldn’t know where to start with it and I also wonder whether there is any practical point to “making it official” too. I also did a paid online personality assessment which I paid for from a prominent psychologist which showed I was very low in empathy/compassion too and highly task orientated.
It’s only as I’ve gotten much older that I realise my early life was unconventional in some ways. At the time you just get on with it. I don’t really think about it too much day to day but as I’ve tried figuring this stuff out you start to look back with a different perspective and wonder how much of a contributing factor it was. Whether nature, nurture of a mixture of the two I don’t suppose it matters that much. Thing for me now is trying to figure out if I can do anything to further improve it.
The first step to getting an official diagnosis of autism it to see your GP and tell him/her that you suspect that you may be autistic. You can always print out online test results in support of your suspicions. As to whether there is any point, there is from a personal viewpoint, in that you'll know why you've behaved the way you have, you'll have a reason. Unfortunately that's as far as it goes, as in most of the UK there is very little (or nothing) in the way of provisions for adults with autism. You can find information about the diagnostic process and much more beside at the NAS website.