I am a Chinese medicine practitioner of 30 years. Recently I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. It was somewhat a shock to me but not to my partner who initiated the process for the eventual diagnosis. Although it was a shock, it explained a lot.

Asperger Syndrome has been removed from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual and has been lumped in under Autistic Spectrum Disorder or the acronym, ASD.

ASD is not a mental disease but rather a developmental disorder. Some enduring and endearing traits could finally be explained and understood. Affectionately we call ourselves “Aspies” and everyone else is a Neurotypical or NT.

Like most Aspies, I was happily fixed on my routine of morning exercise, off to my clinic, working a long day, reviewing clinic files and hours of computer administration. Not the recipe for a harmonious and happy relationship. My special interests of chickens and roses took up what little time was left in the week. I was incapable and afraid of letting go of the past and hoarded everything. Everything I kept I was sure I would need at some time!

When Jill crewed on a friend’s cat from Vanuatu to Bundaberg she came home with the sailing bug. This idea was confronting and terrifying. The challenges for me were almost overwhelming. But together we have taken it on.

Aspies can be characterized by extreme sensitivities to textures, sounds, light, and drafts. I am only affected by the last on that list. My fear of the wind means I try to avoid it. I thought this was just my way of remaining healthy according to Chinese Medicine theory. As wind is a basic premise for sailing, this will be something to overcome.

To an outsider, the news that I was suddenly going sailing made no sense. Many people were surprised by the news that I was giving up my clinic which I thought I’d be doing till I was 90. Their responses varied: “But you hate the wind, but what about your clinic? And, but you get seasick !”. True- the only three times I’d been on the water were rather disastrous-a ferry crossing in a wild sea from Nelson in my twenties, 8 hours of vomiting on a Pipi Island jet boat trip in my forties, motion sickness just viewing through a paddleboard window on a calm bay in Hawaii in my fifties. Needless to say, I identified as someone who gets seasick.

So I am a hoarder, I have fear of the wind and I suffer seasickness. I decided to change my the way I see myself. My whole life I had been regarded as just quirky- or “that’s just Shelley” I had a new label (Asperger) that I had to integrate. So why not do this all at the same time?

Did I mention single-mindedness as an Aspie thing? At its worst is very fixed, unable to interpret non-literal statements and unable to accept change. At its best, it is giving me the single-mindedness to focus on what I am doing now. I decided to no longer be afraid of the wind, I decided to see myself as unaffected by motion and I had to let go of my decades of hoarding.

So sailing was the impetus to deal with my hoarding. We sold our home and my clinic building to buy the boat. There is not a huge amount of room on the boat that will become our full-time home for the next however many years. It also made no sense to store things not being used and not needed for when we finally returned.

I took on the challenge and have shed my share of the assorted farm sheds and the house, which was no mean feat. We had 6 weeks of garage sales, selling to numerous Facebook market groups and finally boxes of donations to 4 different local Op shops. Divesting myself of years of clinic items was also not easy. I have so far pared my possessions down to what fits into our car. By the time we fly to France, 2.5 cubic meters have been shipped to fit out the boat and personal possessions will be carried as luggage. Long term storage of some household items not needed while sailing will be left in Yamba.

This what a blurry two and a half cubic metres looks like!

By the way, the Chinese medicine practitioner role didn’t stop because we relocated and I formally retired! I spent four and a half months in the Clarence Valley NSW offering my community acupuncture and private appointments while waiting for the boat to be built. I will always be passionate about my ability to help people and my tools are easily transportable.

Resources for Aspergers


For Aspie partners- different together.org