Misdiagnosed Asperger's syndrome is ruining my life.

post by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T10:33:57.775Z · score: -4 (26 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 57 comments

So I've been rejected for conscription in the IDF because the psychiatrist thinks the Asperger's diagnosis I received as a child means that there is something wrong with me. Never mind that I've been examined very recently and been recommended for enlistment, he thinks that even though I probably don't have Asperger's, there must be something wrong with me because in the past I've had trouble socially. Of course I have no such problems now, but it's not as if he's going to risk his job in the face of anything less than perfection.

(This, btw, is what I meant when I said there was no such thing as a competent mental health professional- the entire system works against evidence-based methods.)

There has to be something wrong with this, some way that I can appeal. I have no idea of the Israeli legal process and I'm not sure if I could just write a letter to someone, or if I might need a lawyer. I can definitely prove that there is nothing psychologically wrong with me. I just have no idea where to turn, no idea how to do anything, and have no allies whatsoever. I feel like my life is collapsing, and I do have very good reasons personally for wanting to join the army. It's not just something I felt like doing.

This community obviously has better things to do than this sort of thing. But I feel like I'm going to explode if I can't talk to anyone, or get some idea of what I can do. I feel almost as if I'm becoming mentally ill.

57 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:32:49.328Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Wow, this was an ill-conceived post. It can be said, at least, that I was an emotional wreck at the time.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-11-28T15:41:29.527Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

How does your situation look to you now?

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T17:10:03.089Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Better. When I made this I had completely no knowledge of how to fight the decision, and no idea of how to acquire that knowledge. That should be a terrible thing for anyone, not only rationalists.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-29T01:20:49.524Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Hopefully it all works out to your satisfaction, now that you apparently have some avenues to explore.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2014-11-27T12:39:11.626Z · score: 8 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Of course I have no such problems now

...

I can definitely prove that there is nothing psychologically wrong with me.

...

I feel almost as if I'm becoming mentally ill.

Your self-contradictions are a bad sign, and if you feel you are becoming mentally ill then I really don't think you are fit to join the army. Whatever mental illness you might have, I doubt seeing combat will make it better.

Sorry to be blunt but this is too important for to mince my words.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T13:30:15.107Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

'Becoming mentally ill' was a hideously bad choice of words. I just feel like I'm having extreme cognitive dissonance, and I've lost my faith in basically everything.

comment by skeptical_lurker · 2014-11-27T14:01:07.863Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's not a good sign either, and your choice of words is erratic at best. Moreover, the whole post seems overly dramatic, and saying things like "no such thing as a competent mental health professional" sounds like paranoia. I'm not trying to insult you, but if a trained professional thinks there is something wrong with you, is it possible they might be right?

Take care, and get help if you need it.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T14:05:14.018Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I was pretty emotional when I wrote this, and the 'trained professional' didn't do anything more than rifle through my paperwork and demand proof that I didn't have Asperger's (which he promptly proceeded to ignore).

comment by Salemicus · 2014-11-27T10:56:20.438Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I have no particular knowledge of Israel or the IDF. However, in other countries with conscription, most people do not want to be conscripted, and many greatly exaggerate their medical history and current symptoms in order to be excused on medical grounds. They are often assisted in this matter by sympathetic doctors and health professionals who are socialised by their medical training to care about their patients rather than the abstract goal of maximising conscript numbers.

It may well be that the doctor thought he was doing you a favour by giving you a medical exemption from conscription. I don't know whether you can re-apply, but if so, perhaps you could emphasise to your doctor that you really want to be called up to the IDF.

Secondly, why do you want to join the IDF so badly? Are there other ways you can achieve the same goals? You state that your goal is to join the army, but your location is also stated to be in the USA. Could you perhaps volunteer for the US military?

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T11:01:29.705Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The doctor knew; I emphasized to him that I wanted to.

If the IDF won't take me, do you really think a volunteer army would? Maybe they'd be more understanding of how diagnoses are made in the US, but I'm not too hopeful.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-27T20:42:09.836Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Does the doctor know about and approve of your reason for being desperate to join?

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:45:10.776Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, no way.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-27T20:46:10.771Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It's sounding rather as if he made the right decision.

ETA: And even if he didn't, that you're desperate to join up for some mysterious reason is a giant red flag, even if there's an innocent explanation he doesn't know.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:51:50.677Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It didn't come off that way, and I assume they reject people who are 'desperate to join' on principle.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-27T22:17:17.119Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly you are not telling us something. Lots of 18yo Israelis are "desperate to join" the IDF for one reason or another, no way this should be a reason for rejecting them.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-11-28T07:56:16.789Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Clearly you are not telling us something. Lots of 18yo Israelis are "desperate to join" the IDF for one reason or another, no way this should be a reason for rejecting them.

I would think that even if you aren't fit to be a commando or a fighter pilot, they would find something constructive for you to do.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-28T15:11:06.237Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It didn't come off that way

How do you know how something comes off to someone well trained in reading people? The person you are speaking with could be simply be more skillful than you are giving them credit for.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T17:18:47.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I've been to multiple psychologists. I probably sound more fluent than most people my age.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-28T17:28:22.024Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Being fluent in language is not the only thing that matters. I know someone with diagnosed autism whom I suspected having autism based on watching his body language for 10 minutes when I first meet him who had no problem with being fluent.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T19:30:57.210Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, I can't evaluate that. But if I do have Asperger's, than it is so weak as to be irrelevant. My behavior as a child is diametrically different from today and think it's safe to conclude that it was environmental.

comment by sanddbox · 2014-11-28T21:55:59.907Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Honestly, whether you have aspergers or not a lot of alarm bells are ringing in my head right now.

You're not just set on joining the IDF, but rather any random army. Why?

And if you think aspergers is defined by "fluency" then you don't really understand what aspergers/autism is, honestly.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-29T05:02:44.440Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Have you read this conversation at all?

comment by Kawoomba · 2014-11-27T12:16:50.304Z · score: 6 (10 votes) · LW · GW

This isn't a diagnosis or a strong opinion by any means, but you do come across quite 'off' with that post. Just maybe the psychiatrist evaluating you picked up on that? "Ruining your life", feeling as if you're becoming mentally ill, going to explode if you can't talk to anyone etc. You're right, this really isn't the right forum for solving your particular problem with a foreign army. Yet you posted it here anyways.

For the subject matter, try finding someone knowledgeable on Reddit, there are plenty of subfora there which might be relevant. More importantly, if this is actually "ruining your life", get a specialized lawyer. This is the obvious and most important advice. Noone here will be able to tell you with certainty about the appeals process (if there even is one), the filing deadlines and what have you. You need a legal expert. So go pay for an expert.

Hope things will work out for you.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-27T19:07:49.780Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I can definitely prove that there is nothing psychologically wrong with me.

That's a silly claim. You can't prove how you will react under the face of the pressesures of war. You probably can neither prove that their algorithm for deciding is wrong.

For a military there a huge risk if a person breaks down in the wrong moment and if they already have enough conscripts they will rather play it safe.

Given my idea of how Israel works I would doubt if they allow a court to intere with the decisions of how the military picks it's members.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-27T20:05:11.402Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

You can't prove how you will react under the face of the pressures of war.

Note that IDF takes virtually everyone and they have plenty of desk jobs needed to be filled, if they have doubts about a recruit's potential battlefield readiness. They definitely consider Aspies, though not those diagnosed with autism.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:19:44.555Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Meh, I don't need to go to court. It's not like they'll dig their heels in when the objection is "I can't prove he's not socially impaired."

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-28T15:03:19.416Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Asperger's is about more than just social impairement.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T17:11:01.303Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I know, he agreed I do not have Asperger's. He simply can't imagine that I would have been diagnosed without something being wrong.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-27T20:09:13.633Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One more point. Clearly they suspect more than just Aspergers, given their guidelines.

Also, what's wrong with volunteering for National Civil Service?

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:18:39.372Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't been barred from the IDF entirely. They gave me the option of volunteer service with limited qualifications. As far as I'm concerned this defeats my purpose entirely.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2014-11-28T08:59:53.964Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

As far as I'm concerned this defeats my purpose entirely.

Your purpose is what? Why is it so important to you to enter the IDF?

Misdiagnosed Asperger's syndrome is ruining my life.

Catastrophic self talk is a sign and a generator of depression.

There has to be something wrong with this, some way that I can appeal.

No there doesn't. Sometimes, you just lose. Sometimes, you don't get what you want. It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't have to be fair. Shit happens.

But it doesn't have to mean that your life is ruined.

I just have no idea where to turn, no idea how to do anything, and have no allies whatsoever. I feel like my life is collapsing,

Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Feeling alone. Feeling like something horrible is coming, and you can't prevent it.

These are all the marks of depression.

Did you read HPMOR? Do you remember when Harry figured out that he was under the Dementor's influence?

It was too late for him, he’d already sunk too far, he’d never be able to cast the Patronus Charm now—

His life was ruined.

That may be the Dementation talking rather than an accurate estimate, observed the logical part of himself, habits that had been encoded into sheer reflex, requiring no energy to activate.

Think of the Dementors’ fear as a cognitive bias, and try to overcome it the way you would overcome any other cognitive bias. Your hopeless feelings may not indicate that the situation is actually hopeless. It may only indicate that you are in the presence of Dementors. All negative emotions and pessimistic estimates must now be considered suspect, fallacious until proven valid.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-11-28T10:40:14.338Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect that symptoms of depression may be rather frequent among rationalists.

Most people are more optimistic than would be epistemically rational; they systematically underestimate the risks and overestimate their abilities. However, this kind of bias may be instrumentally useful: it makes people do things, even if most of the things will not bring the outcome they imagine. Because of some quirks of human brain, people who perceive reality better often have problem to motivate themselves. This hypothesis is called depressive realism.

But I believe that is just a part of the story, and maybe the less important part. It is the part of the story that fits into the just-world narrative. You get something (precision), you lose something (motivation), the harmony in the universe is restored.

The other part of the story is that better epistemic rationality can bring you some social problems. If your friends are not interested in being epistemically rational, you will feel alone with your thoughts. If you perceive how things can go wrong, and others deny it, of couse you see a danger where they don't. The danger is real, the helplessness is real (if a larger cooperation is needed to prevent the danger), the feeling of being alone (in your mental landscape) is real.

I am not merely using different words here. Here is the anticipated experience: -- If we create a rationalist community in real world; under the hypothesis of depressive realism, nothing should change. Putting more depressive people together should probably just make things worse, as they would confirm each other's depressive thoughts. But under the hypothesis of "epistemically rational people are alone, there are real problems, and the cooperation is needed to overcome them", rational people in a rationalist community would be more happy, because they wouldn't be alone, could make other people see the same problems, and could cooperate in overcoming them.

(I also consider it likely that LW readers could actually come from both groups. If we would bring all of them to one village, some of them would focus on debating the end-of-the-world scenarios, and some of them would focus on becoming stronger and changing the world.)

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T17:12:01.590Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Most people are more optimistic than would be epistemically rational; they systematically underestimate the risks and overestimate their abilities. However, this kind of bias may be instrumentally useful: it makes people do things, even if most of the things will not bring the outcome they imagine. Because of some quirks of human brain, people who perceive reality better often have problem to motivate themselves. This hypothesis is called depressive realism.

But I believe that is just a part of the story, and maybe the less important part. It is the part of the story that fits into the just-world narrative. You get something (precision), you lose something (motivation), the harmony in the universe is restored.

The other part of the story is that better epistemic rationality can bring you some social problems. If your friends are not interested in being epistemically rational, you will feel alone with your thoughts. If you perceive how things can go wrong, and others deny it, of couse you see a danger where they don't. The danger is real, the helplessness is real (if a larger cooperation is needed to prevent the danger), the feeling of being alone (in your mental landscape) is real.

Story of my life.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-11-29T14:38:53.647Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

However, this kind of bias may be instrumentally useful:

I agree, but I think there is another bias at work -- not understanding one's own motivations. In this case, Zohar doesn't seem to understand why exactly he wants to be inducted so badly. People have a tendency to choose the most flattering explanations for their own actions and desires and believe them. Or at least to avoid thinking about the unflattering but likely true motivations.

(In this case, I suspect what's really going on is that Zohar is worried that he has serious mental problems and the IDF is basically the bearer of bad news. )

Anyway, in life it is often useful to conceal your true motivations from other people. Not only that, there are times it might be helpful to conceal your true motivations from yourself.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-29T19:58:34.869Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

In this case, Zohar doesn't seem to understand why exactly he wants to be inducted so badly.

I don't think that's the case. It's rather that he's reluctant to publically state them on LW.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-11-29T20:02:40.128Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that's the case. It's rather that he's reluctant to publically state them on LW.

Why do you think so?

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-29T20:15:25.968Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Addressing the motivations of him directly when he makes a choice to not be open about them would be bad form.

But in general people are seldom completly open when they speak about personal issues on the internet. I also do have a mental model of him and in general of why people want to go to the armed forces.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-11-29T22:13:28.644Z · score: -2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Addressing the motivations of him directly when he makes a choice to not be open about them would be bad form.

But you just did that. If you don't want to discuss his motivations, fine. But in that case you shouldn't contradict my hypothesis.

But in general people are seldom completly open when they speak about personal issues on the internet.

Agree. Did I suggest otherwise?

I also do have a mental model of him and in general of why people want to go to the armed forces.

Well you also need to have a mental model of why people say they want to go into the armed forces. But you don't want to discuss it -- fine. My point stands.

Anyway, if you want to engage with me you will need to be clear about your position. If you play "hide the ball" again I'm going to close things out pretty quickly this time.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2014-11-28T00:11:01.227Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

After having explored in detail the doctor's possible motivations, I think this discussion has reached the point where, in order to give you any actually useful advice, we're going to need to know your motivations. Exactly why do you want to enter the army?

comment by Slider · 2014-11-27T18:13:10.721Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Defence forces can be picky, they don't neccesarily need to expose themselfs to unnneccery risk if most of the soldier value comes out of training rather than inborn talent.

Being very earger to soldier is a trait that speaks quite a lot against whether it would be a good idea to make a soldier out of this particular individual.

Militaries are very unflexible when it comes to accomodating psychologies that are non-standard.

Most people would benefit from better mental health services. Being concerned that you are/might be crazy is a mark of sanity. Conversly dogmatically thinking you don't need more sanity is a worrying sign of no active maintenance. Like a building that isn't inspected because we have no reason to assume it could be rumbling down. Rather we constantly check buildings that we get the knowledge of fractures when investigating rather than only when the building comes tumbling down.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T18:34:55.587Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely do need more sanity- that's part of why I wanted to join in the first place! I'm just absolutely sure I don't have any disorders.

comment by ChristianKl · 2014-11-27T19:09:38.655Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I definitely do need more sanity- that's part of why I wanted to join in the first place!

If that's your motivation which you have when you enter a psychologists office then I can understand that the psychologists doesn't think you belong in the army.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-11-27T16:08:56.918Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Find people who you have known a long time and say to them "Please be honest with me, this is very important. Do you think it's plausible that I'm on the autism spectrum"?

Consider the possibility that while you technically don't have Asperger's your psychiatrist has correctly determined that your personality would be a horrible fit for the military and he is attempting to do both you and the IDF a huge favor.

Also, if your goal is to help defend Israel there might be better ways for you than serving in the IDF. They also serve who only write software for the Iron Dome.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T16:11:33.765Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Like I said, he actually hasn't diagnosed me at all! I don't know how much clearer this point can be made.

comment by James_Miller · 2014-11-27T16:16:43.133Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I know a huge amount about autism. The fact that you were diagnosed as a child is a strong sign that you would not do well in the military.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T16:22:15.377Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are taking the outside view. Look, I know- I know- that I operate and behave as a perfectly normal person. The psychiatrists I go to even ask me if I can understand subtle humor because they have no way to see that there is anything wrong with me.

My parents had me diagnosed as a kid in order to get me into special classes, because I couldn't stand regular school. I haven't just been diagnosed with Asperger's, but OCD and ADHD as well.

comment by drethelin · 2014-11-27T22:33:14.127Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If someone ASKS you if you can understand subtle humor that is a strong sign you have something weird going on with you.

comment by bogus · 2014-11-27T22:46:36.429Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

If someone ASKS you if you can understand subtle humor that is a strong sign you have something weird going on with you.

Nah, they're just messin' up with you. whoosh!

comment by bogus · 2014-11-27T22:26:33.901Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You are taking the outside view. Look, I know- I know- that I operate and behave as a perfectly normal person.

Perhaps so, but the outside view is all that the IDF psychiatrist had to go on. It sounds like he wasn't presented with any concrete evidence that you're a good fit for the military, so his choice doesn't seem altogether unreasonable. Of course this doesn't really apply if you did show up with something more than your childhood diagnosis, say, some recent evals from the psychiatrists you've been going to.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-28T11:10:22.701Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I did.

comment by brazil84 · 2014-11-27T16:31:02.974Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

What exactly are you trying to accomplish by joining the IDF? Is it primarily a desire to support Israel or is it self-interest?

comment by shminux · 2014-11-27T19:46:47.383Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

A couple of points, in addition to what others said.

First, cheer up, you are in a very good company, Richard Feynman was famously rejected because the army psychiatrist declared him mentally unfit.

Second, a desire to join the IDF seems rather contrary to the spirit of rationality, unless you have an instrumental goal of getting some personal benefits from it, like free training/cheaper education/better employment. Certainly it is not the best way to express your patriotism, given the current realities in Israel.

comment by JoshuaFox · 2014-11-28T09:07:23.734Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Re the second point, please avoid telling people what is in the spirit of rationality unless you identify specific inconsistencies between their behavior and their goals, or between different goals that they have simultaneously. "Rationality" does not dictate goals.

comment by shminux · 2014-11-28T16:45:24.060Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You do have a point, hence my qualifier about instrumental goals. The point I was trying to make is that I cannot imagine joining the IDF to be a terminal goal, and there are better actions to actualize one's love for the country than joining its military, at least in the case of Israel. As it happens, I was right and the OP does have instrumental goals unrelated to patriotism.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:17:12.452Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I do have an instrumental goal, and the Israel-Palestine conflict is massively overrated.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-11-27T20:17:56.757Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wouldn't it be nearly impossible to conceal this judgment of unfitness from prospective employers? I really don't know anything about Israeli hiring culture.

comment by Fivehundred · 2014-11-27T20:21:07.780Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not interested in finding out. I do know that service is a big part of your qualifications.