Obsessions and Asperger’s Syndrome
Dealing with NHL’s Asperger’s traits has more than it’s share of challenges. One of the more frustrating aspects is the tendency of NHL to fixate on something. Be it a task or a specific item, NHL will obsess about it until he drives us crazy.
His latest obsession is his weight. Thanks to shuffling a few things in the bathroom, the scale was available for use for the first time in awhile. Of course, as with anything new (or "newly available"), NHL and JSL had to use it. The difference is that, while JSL tried it once and was done with it, NHL kept weighing himself over and over. He was clearly obsessed.
Now, this obsession had nothing to do with weight loss. He wasn’t seeing himself as overweight and needing to drop some poundage. That thought never entered into his head. Instead, this was a purely numbers-based obsession. He weighed a certain amount two hours ago, would his weight be different now? What about in an hour from now? What about after eating a meal? What if he was in his PJs instead of his clothes?
We needed to act fast to help him get over the obsession, but simply banning the scale wouldn’t do. That would just make it a forbidden item and he would try to sneak in weighings. He’s bad at sneaking things so he’d be caught and get in trouble. That wouldn’t stop him from trying, though. Instead, I set up rules to use the scale. I told him that he could weigh himself once a month, on the first day of the month, with either his mother or me present (so he couldn’t weigh himself, claim he hadn’t done so, and get in a second weighing). I gave in to one more request of his – one bonus weighing on his birthday. Hopefully, this will turn stepping on the scale from a minute-by-minute update into a monthly routine (or better yet, something he forgets all about in a month’s time).
Of course, NHL isn’t the only one who can be obsessed. I often have to fight my own obsessive tendencies. A few weeks back, I recalled a card game I used to play called Nuclear War. You would draw a hand and use the nuclear weapons you drew to obliterate your opponents’ population. The twist was that a played that lost all of their population could wage one final strike by launching everything in their hand at anyone and everyone. Often you’ll end games with nobody left alive.
How does this relate to obsession?
Well, after I remembered this card game, I tried to think of where I put it. I knew I had seen it recently, but couldn’t recall. Too late, I was obsessed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I tried, it was like there was a little me perched on my shoulder talking to me.
"Where could that be? Maybe in the attic. You should really go check in the attic."
I’d try to ignore the voice of my obsession, but it would continue.
"I know it is 10pm at night, but if you’re really quiet you could sneak up there with a flashlight and look. Come on. Just go up there and rip apart a few boxes looking for it. It’ll only take one hour – three tops…."
Even if I was out of the house, a portion of my brain would be mentally searching the house to remember just where I last saw the game.
Thankfully, the other day, I happened to glance over to a spot I had passed a dozen times and spotted the case that the game was in. I was now able to end my obsession and get on with my life.
Until the next obsession hits, however.