What’s wrong with me?

Buying a pair of shoes ought to be a relatively straightforward task. You go to the shop, find some you like, try them on and then make a purchase. That’s always the scenario I have in my head. I had it in my head at the weekend when I went into town. In and out, it should take me no longer than 30 minutes, I thought to myself. Two hours later I ended up with a pair that may be too small for me. I don’t particularly like these shoes, but they ended up being the ones that were the least stressful to buy.

By that I mean the shop was relatively empty (nobody in my space) and I could try the shoes on straight off the shelf without having to ask a member of staff to get them. They were also very cheap so I didn’t have to spend a ludicrous amount of time weighing up the pros and cons of buying them.

This came after several failed attempts in other shops. The real trouble is that I don’t know what kind of shoes I really like. When I see a pair in the shop, I find it really difficult to figure out if they appeal to me. It’s extremely stressful, but it can be less of a struggle if my wife is with me — I rely on her for most of the decisions in my life.

It’s not just shoes though. Shopping for anything is overwhelming. One time my wife parked up at Tesco and stayed in the car with the dog while I went to get a few groceries. Ninety minutes later she angrily texted me to find out what the hell was taking so long. The truth was that I was just having trouble deciding what to buy.

X+Y

This indecisiveness and propensity to get flustered has been a common theme throughout my life. These situations invariably lead to the question (asked by my wife, myself or both): What’s wrong with me? It’s only now, at 33 years old, that I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a question I need an answer for.

Being different

I’ve always known that I’m a bit weird. I don’t “fit in”. Interactions with other people are a source of enormous anxiety and they lead to me behaving in ways that are difficult to rationalise. Simple day-to-day tasks, like buying a pair of shoes or going to the shops, become like facing a towering maze of endless twists and turns. For a long time I just thought this was how all people were, but now I’m not so sure.

The reason for my uncertainty is that my long-suffering wife doesn’t pussyfoot around. She tells me straight that the things I do fall out of the boundaries of what might be considered normal behaviour, if there can ever be such a thing. I know she’s right. I’ve always known, really, but I just choose to keep it inside me.

Years ago, I was watching a film with an ex-girlfriend and one of characters was autistic. My ex turned to me and earnestly asked, “Is that what you have?” I laughed, but part of me wondered if she might be onto something.

I see elements of myself in all film and television portrayals of people with autism, or other similar conditions. I’ve felt a sense of familiarity reading about autism on various websites. Descriptions of Asperger’s ring some bells. ADHD also. A counsellor once told me I possibly have social anxiety disorder. I think I have some kind of mild OCD because my whole life I’ve counted my movements, from moving my big toe to tapping my fingers to blinking, in sets of five (I shall save that for a future post).

Could a mental condition explain some of my confusion with the world and my place in it? If so, which one? I surely can’t have all of the above at the same time. What if I don’t have any condition at all and I’m just kind of a weird guy? That seems like a very real possibility. It’s not like I can’t function in society. I may be able to make any social situation awkward, but that hasn’t stopped me getting married, having a decent career, maintaining (some) friendships and generally getting on with life.

Need to know

I want to know what’s wrong with me. I don’t mean that in the sense that there is anything “wrong” with having a mental condition, but if there is something in my head that compels me to think and act the way I do, I want to know what it is so I can better understand it. It’s very lonely being me sometimes and I never feel more alone than in a crowded room.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I’m too afraid to say it. When I heard the main character in the movie X+Y say something like that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s my outlook. This film is about me!

Sometimes I need to really, really think about new topics (often for days) before I can figure out what my opinions of them are. I need to work things out in my head, all of which doesn’t particularly lend itself to real-time, flowing conversations.

Of course, so much is dependent on who I’m with. There are a handful of people with whom I feel completely comfortable. Those are the only people who will ever see the real me. But throw into the mix a stranger or someone I’m not 100% sure about (even if it’s someone I’ve known for years) and everything changes. I sit there like a mute, wondering if the others think I’m silent because I’m stupid or boring, or both.

I’m convinced that most other people think I’m a dummy. When I put myself in other people’s shoes, I see them looking at me and asking that familiar question: What’s wrong with him? It’s disconcerting.

It’s about time I faced this. It didn’t take much for my wife to convince me. We both need some answers and some concrete next steps or else I think I will drive her completely mad. It must be difficult living with someone like me. I can’t be the only one who thinks that. I think for my wife it will be easier for her to cope with me if we can pinpoint some of the reasons for my unusual behaviour, and then look to work on those together.

We have an appointment with a GP. I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, it’s the first step towards the possibility of being diagnosed (or not) with some kind of mental condition. I’ve really no idea if anything is going to come of this. I just know that I need to do it.

My next post will be after the first GP appointment. What answers I will have then is anybody’s guess.