Hey guys, today I’m going to talk about how I learned to be normal with Asperger’s, a little bit about me, and my story and maybe you can relate. So, stay till the very end.
How I Learned to Be Normal with Autism
I was a very highly sensitive boy and growing up sounds were very jarring. My dad was very strict and kind of scary, so basically when I was two years old, I’d started to rock back and forth, and I really took to the rocker. There was a horse rocker that I had, and I used to just get on that thing and rock back and forth for hours at a time.
I learned at a very young age, just to kind of stay to myself and entertaining myself and rocking back and forth just had a very soothing feeling, and I just enjoyed it.
My dad worked for a telephone company, and he would bring home wires, colored wires and they were really cool, and I used to play with them and entwine them and even wire my lunchbox with these wires.
Once I started school, I would play by myself. I was very shy and I remember actually my mom told me that one time in school I wet myself, and the teacher was very mean about it and embarrassed me in front of the whole class.
So that was pretty much the first traumatic experience I had, and being highly sensitive, I just withdrew, but I had a lot of character. I had a lot of charisma, but I didn’t trust people right away.
I was very shy and I was always the last to speak, and I really had to get to know someone before I would open up, and that was the way my life was even in my teenage and adult years it would take me three to six months to really open up to somebody.
But then when I did, they loved me, they loved my sense of humor, they loved my articulation and my personality. So that was great, but I was always kind of hesitant.
And I was obsessed with smells, my dad had a sailboat, and it had a diesel motor. We used to go motor around the harbor in Newport Beach, and I loved the diesel smell of the exhaust.
I loved the sound of the repetitive motor noise, and it used to just knock me out. I used to just fall asleep right on the deck, listening to that, the humming of that motor.
So I was very aware of my surroundings. I loved smells. I hated certain noises. I loved to cook.
When my family moved to Washington State, when I was five, my dad opened up a rental business, and so I started to see how other people acted – my dad with his customers.
They were kind of the tough crowd, they were in construction because my dad rented equipment to construction companies, so a lot of carpenters would come in, contractors, and they all wore flannel. You know this is the Pacific Northwest.
And as a boy in that environment, I just kept myself busy but I was looking at how other people acted, and I was a very sensitive boy and things scared me easily, my dad’s temper scared me easily, nightmares scared me easily, things on TV scared me. My parents kept me very sheltered, because they didn’t want me to get hurt.
My dad was over protective, even though we had moved to a small town, he still had this over protective love because we came from Southern California, we moved out to Washington State to get away from the violence and the gangs that were starting to become more prevalent down there.
So I was very sheltered and I used to play around the rental yard. There was a dolly, you know, with the four wheels and you can move heavy refrigerators on it and stuff, and I used to get on my all fours and whip around the aisles of the store on this Dolly, and I just loved it, I could just go around in circles for hours at a time.
But I knew that other people were different, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I also had a learning disability. In fifth and sixth grade, I almost got held back in fifth grade. I just didn’t have any concern about homework, I didn’t care what they were teaching in school, I just wanted to play, and I wanted to do things my way.
My dad was also a control freak, and a perfectionist. So in a way he had Asperger’s as well because he was very controlling and he had his own rituals.
We had dinner at the same time every single night and we had breakfast the same time every single morning, things were very regimented, and so I learned that as well, and I became a control freak later on in life.
I was also very gullible. So, the friends I did get were kind of bullies, because my dad was a bully, so I kind of attracted people bullying me. Even my teachers bullied me. There were several incidents where teachers hit me. One pulled me up by my hair because I wouldn’t let a kid sit next to me on the bleachers. One punched me in the arm.
I also believed that pro wrestling was real, and the teachers were always like Erik – that’s so hilarious, you know pro wrestling is not real, but I had big dreams and big hopes and my friends would always be like, you’re not going to do that, it was just kind of like a small town, and they didn’t want anyone to talk about their dreams because we’re all stuck in this small town.
It’s kind of like the movie Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Matt Damon had big dreams to get out of that small town and do something. And Ben Afflack was just like, Dude, you know, it’s just a small town, I’m gonna just live here for the rest of my life and Matt Damon had bigger plans.
But I was very gullible and so friends realized what I was interested in, and then they would lie to me and say these things happened and I would get my hopes up.
Like, I really liked drumming, because I tapped and whistled all the time, and I loved music. It was one of my greatest escapes from reality. And one friend said that he bought a sonar drum and sonar drums were my favorite growing up and he was like, I found a drum and it’s a sonar. And I was like no way. They just had me going all the time and then they’re like, no I’m just kidding I don’t have any drums.
I used to want to be a star – a music celebrity, and I was like when I’m 25 I’m going to have a music album and I’m going to be famous and my friends were like, you’re not going to do that, you know, you’re so full of crap.
Even my dad was like you’re full of it, you know, and he used to always laugh at me. So I was highly sensitive, and I was gullible. I was greatly affected by my surroundings. That’s why I rocked back and forth. But I knew that I was different but I didn’t know why or how.
I just self tested for Asperger’s last year, and I’m 48 now. But growing up I really didn’t know why people picked on me, but I knew I had gifts and I had big aspirations.
So here’s a couple things that made me kind of fit in. I compensated with humor, so I was always kind of like the goofball, and I did make a lot of people laugh. It wasn’t consistent. I wasn’t normally funny but once in a while I’d really get people with my sense of humor and they just thought that I was so bizarre and crazy.
They used to call me Johnson. That was my last name and so there was this kind of military camaraderie with my friends and they’d be like, oh Johnson, you know, it was always Oh Johnson.
When I was 16, I fit in better because I picked up smoking cigarettes and playing video games. And so I really didn’t have to talk or perform or be confident in groups because I could just play Nintendo with one other friend and be fine.
I always got along great with one friend, it was when you got me in groups that I started freaking out and getting really quiet, and I still can. I still couldn’t introduce myself to new people, it was very hard to trust them. I had trust issues.
I also fit in by listening to the same kind of music. We all listened to the same kind of music. Back then it was Metallica, Judas Priest, you know, this is mid 80s, late 80s, early 90s. We all listened to the same music. We smoked cigarettes together, we played video games together.
But they weren’t really my tribe, they really didn’t understand that I was different. I always struggled with trying to get my thoughts across, and when I did try to express my true feelings they would always say, they would call me Professor.
Because that’s kind of an Asperger’s trait is that you speak differently than your friends, and they’re like, you know, what are you a professor, or how do you know this stuff, or where did that come from, or you’re weird.
And I heard that all the time growing up, but I knew I was intelligent, I had very complex thoughts, because I would just sit and rock back and forth and think. I was a great thinker.
So music helped me fit in, and then alcohol helped me fit in, tremendously in the beginning, when I got a buzz from alcohol. Alcohol blew up my world. I became manic on alcohol, it was like magic in a bottle, and I could actually speak my own thoughts. I had confidence, I had liquid courage.
And so alcohol really took over my life. I dropped out of high school, I just wanted to be a rock and roll drummer. Music was my life and I rocked back and forth about three hours a day now. Later on in life it would become 14 hours a day, and that’s why I stopped rocking back and forth, just three months ago on January 1 2021.
So everything was fine until I was about 20 then I started to drink very heavily. I still hadn’t really had a girlfriend, I was the ugly weirdo in high school, and I couldn’t get a girlfriend, and all my friends were kind of like jocks, stoners, and the bad boys so they always got the girlfriends and I was always just the sidekick with no girlfriend.
However, when I was 20 I finally got a girlfriend and she was 20 years older than me, so I had an ability to articulate myself with older women. I trusted them more than girls my age.
But I really longed for being with a girl younger than me. I was always attracted to younger girls, but what I was able to deal with were older women that were gentler and more understanding and had more experience behind them.
So I basically got with a woman who was almost the same age as my mom, maybe a little less, you know, she was younger than my mom, but she had children my age, and so that was a very confusing time in my life. Especially when I was starting to get drunk three to four nights a week.
Her age difference didn’t really matter until about year three or year four, and I was very upset that I couldn’t fit in with girls my age or younger. You know, I’m like why am I with this older woman? What’s wrong with me? She’s more of a surrogate mom than a real girlfriend.
So I had a lot of self worth issues, and my self esteem was very low. In fact, the next few girlfriends were a little overweight, and I just didn’t think I could date women that were extremely beautiful.
However, every girl that I did date was very intelligent. In fact, the intelligence was more sexy than their physical appearance, their physical appearance at the time didn’t really matter, but there was a part of me that really wanted to fit in and have basically arm candy. I wanted to be with really cute cute girls but I couldn’t do that until I was like, 25 to 30, when I was the most confident.
Alcohol was still working, it hadn’t turned against me yet; I hadn’t had a heart attack yet. I hadn’t become drunk yet; I hadn’t stopped eating because it was ruining my buzz yet.
I wasn’t starving to death yet. That was later my 30s and 36 is when I quit drinking. When I quit drinking, that’s when everything came to the surface, my low self esteem, the Asperger’s, the guilt and shame of being a drunk, and a pervert.
You know, I was addicted to porn, cigarettes, coffee and rocking back and forth. Everything that I could become addicted to I did; everything I could escape reality with I did, because reality was just very painful.
But I fit in with people, I had enough intelligence, and I had enough articulation to fit in with anyone, because I became a chameleon. Because people that have high functioning autism learn how to fit in.
Even though I was highly sensitive, I was articulate and charismatic enough to fit in with any group of people, but I never felt like I fit in.
I always felt like I was an alien. I always kind of stood in the corner and observed for a long time before I would actually come in and articulate.
Now does any of this relate to you? Can you relate to any of this, because it’s been a hard life, and I’m not being a victim here. I’m just stating, all of these things really made sense when I tested for Asperger’s, and I did have really good times in my life, but a lot of it was substances and distractions from my true self.
I want to connect with people that have these same issues because I’m 48 and I’m still unraveling what happened in my childhood, of what happened in my 20s when I nearly died.
Most people do almost die in their 20s if they drink ,if they did drugs. A lot of us are very lucky to be alive in our 30s and in our 40s. I mean, the 20s was a wild time – that was loud music, sex, drugs and rock and roll, and I thought I was a celebrity.
Even though I never made any money and I never got famous, I was a celebrity in my own mind, you know, I had a huge PA system, I had the drum set and the guitar. I did have some young girls come over to my house, eventually, but in high school it was horrible.
I hated high school, I just wanted to play Nintendo and listen to my Ozzy and my Iron Maiden and music was my true friend from from five years old to today.
Music has always been there. Alcohol was there for a little while but it turned against me, all addictions eventually turned against me and took away any confidence I had any self worth, or self esteem I had was basically depleted by getting wasted and blacked out and doing horrible things and not remembering them.
And that’s been my life, but I can hang out with the best of them, but it’s not authentic. It’s still the chameleon. It’s not truly me. If I get around a certain person that has an accent, I pick up that accent. I pretty much can just fit in with anyone.
But the true Erik is still deep down inside, and I know if I laser focused and brought out that Erik, if I could get confident and raise my self esteem I know that I could do wonderful things, because we are truly gifted, if you have Asperger’s you’re truly gifted. We laser focus on one thing and we do amazing things.
You know, when we laser focus on certain things we can just grow anything we want. I was in a network marketing business, and I made a lot of money, even though it wasn’t my style, and most of those people are extroverted, I still learned how to do it my way and I still made a lot of money.
I still learned how to lose a lot of weight. I lost 40 pounds last year, I learned how to quit all of my addictions, almost all of them, I’m still working on myself every day, I still have guilt and shame issues. I still relapse, but it’s getting better every single year.
So thanks for listening guys, leave a comment. If you can relate to any of this, tell your story, I would love to hear it. And we’ll talk to you soon.
Erik C Johnson