Working with Aspergers - Part One: My First Job
I am writing this because a lot of people do not understand what Aspergers is. As you read this, I would like you to keep in mind that every person diagnosed with Aspergers is different. My problems may not be the same as those of others, and vice versa.
The first real job I ever had was at Burger King. I prepared for the interview - mapping out how I was going to sit and act, and what I was going to say. I sat on my hands while the interviewer spoke to me so that I would’t flap or bite them, and I tried my best to make eye contact. Actually, I just looked at their forehead - and it was one of the most uncomfortable things. Whenever I try and make eye contact my entire body feels like colored wire - like dry beans going through a cardboard tube.
I got that job, without telling them that I had Aspergers, and started how everybody starts - cooking burgers and toasting buns. Toasting buns was amazing - repetitive, and I loved how they felt when they came out. Like melted foam - and when I touched them, my hands and up my arms felt like warm steam was going through my veins. After a while, though, it felt like my arms were turning into the texture of rubber and I began to dread touching them.
Cooking the meat was more difficult. There were too many things to do, I had to read charts (I’m terrible at reading certain charts) and there was a strict time limit. They would need a certain meat, by a certain time.
Not only that, but I could hardly concentrate on toasting the buns, let alone cooking the meat, because my mind is always fixated on one or two things. At that time, it was arthropods and Green Day - and I would not/could not focus on anything else. I mindlessly worked while focusing on the mathematics, facts, and complexities of my fixations while everything else blurred and my body simply moved. I still work like this - never really focusing my eyes on anything as I move about.
People would speak to me and I would not understand what they were trying to say. They seemed to be speaking in riddles, and I would need time to decipher them through intensive research when I got home.
And it was loud. I could hear everything all at once, one sound piling up on top of another until it was a tower of sound. The fluorescent lights, the beeping of all of the machines, the hum of the freezers, the speaking of the other humans in the building, the typing, the register, the phone, the boiling of the oil… I could go on.
Almost every day, after a certain amount of time, my brain would shut down. It would become harder to move - my functioning being pulled deep within my mind until I was simply a flesh-shell around my consciousness. I would lose my ability to focus my eyes, to speak. I would scratch and chew on my hands, and I remember standing in the back, smashing my head on the crates. All of my limbs would be green and orange wire. People would ask me what was wrong, and I would be unable to tell them. I was simply stand there, rocking back and forth, looking ahead, plugging my ears. Watching TV. Watching Ren and Stimpy in my head. And I would mutter the lines. I would do mathematics. What else am I supposed to do when I am trapped within my mind?
Sometimes it was different. Sometimes on top of all this, I would somehow make my way over to a wall and sit because my entire body would tense. Rocking, shaking, trying to breath.
Being unable to function is one of the scariest things.
I ended up quitting because I was simply a burden - a problem - and they could not legally fire me. I had gotten them into this mess, and I was the one who released them from the responsibility.