I always knew I was different; as different as rain and waves, myself being the latter. So when I was diagnosed with Asperger's I was not a bit surprised.
Asperger's was, as I soon found out, a syndrome defined by poor social skills.
At first I was terribly relieved, my differences could be explained, I could be categorized like everything else. But after a couple of weeks I began to feel overly distanced from my peers.
I had always hoped that I was actually 'normal', now those hopes were gone.
I learnt social skills including eye contact, how to start a conversation; it soon began to feel like learning a new language.
All the while I became more and more aware of my mistakes and deficits, even to a microscopic level.
I began to wonder why it is that we with Asperger's have to conform.
Why, when it would be so much easier for others to simply learn to accept, we have to learn the customs of a strange planet; the nuances of social interaction.
I felt like the child of a time-traveler, born in the wrong century and left with a longing for things to be put right.
Perhaps if I could travel through time that dysphoria would be lost, left behind in a distant crusade.
It happened on one day like any other, the sun had risen and I was scanning through silent library shelves, when something stood out. I traced my gaze back, eager to find if I had imagined it.
I had not.
The book stood between two others, squashed to a funny shape by the overcrowding. It's pages were white as though it had never been read, and perhaps it had not.
It hardly looked like a book that could change a life, and yet, as I was to later reflect, it would.
It's title was probably what had attracted me; 'The hidden gifts of Asperger's,' it read.
I suppose I was desperate to find a positive to my diagnosis, because I flicked to a random page and read. Then I sank into a beanbag, committing myself to the book.
I devoured every word, I read non-stop until I was finished, then re-read select passages. By the time I had risen from my earth-bound bean bag I was confident.
I knew that Asperger's was my ever-constant companion, not my tormentor.
I realised that everyone has strengths and challenges. They counter each other out, so that every individual is even. Social interactions were my challenge, and my imagination my strength.
I wasn't quite 'normal', but I could easily accept that.
Sometimes, when I observe my friends, I feel a hollowness in my throat. I watch how easily they make make their own friends and I feel tears.
But then I feel a tug at the corners of my mouth, and without realising it, I form a smile.
I have been diagnosed with a gift, and I will share it with the world!