First things first, I suppose a little introduction is in order. They usually make me uncomfortable but since we don’t have to guess who is going to go first this should be a little easier. Besides, there is nothing in this world I know more about than myself, the hard part will be keeping this short and sweet. I am 30 years old, and I just discovered a few weeks ago that I have Asperger's Syndrome. In the grand scheme of things this doesn’t change anything, I’m still exactly the same person I was before I figured out why I am so different, and yet at the microscopic level at which I examine myself it’s monumental. This has given me something I have searched my whole life for, perspective. I have found my voice. I hope to help others find theirs. Welcome to my world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out of the darkness

I’ve been struggling for as long as I can remember to explain the world the way I see it. It’s not as easy as it might sound. For a long time I couldn’t figure out why no one understood the things I was trying to explain and so I learned to hide it for fear of being told it was all in my imagination. I would write on scraps of paper, tiny tidbits about the way things looked and felt to me, and hide them inside books and up inside my closet. When I did venture to speak of the way I was feeling I generally found that people did not understand. The frustration of trying to put the pieces together in a way that they could fathom would overwhelm me, and before too long I would be bawling my eyes out. This made me seem over emotional, and granted I was at that exact moment, but it was always a symptom and never the problem. I knew this, but I didn’t know how to explain it to them.

I’m not bitter any more. I was for a long time, but with the knowledge I now possess I can’t have expected them to have any idea what they were dealing with. Aspergers had barely even hit any ones radar and by the time I started exhibiting signs I had learned how to fake it in most situations. The focus has always been on diagnosing the young, and less care was taken with adults; because we have good language skills, and are often highly intelligent it can be difficult to spot. I’m very good at faking it when I have to, I just prefer not to because of the amount of stress it causes me.

There is a common misconception that because people with Aspergers don’t process social cues on an instinctual level that we are not good at reading people. I am sure there are people with Aspergers who struggle with this, but when I am outside of the situation I am exceptionally good at it. I’ve spent my whole life studying people and the way they interact in an effort to be more like them. I have a huge mental database of people I know, situations, and reactions that I can cross reference with relative ease when I am calm and relaxed. There is no pressure when I am a bystander and if my perception is wrong, no risk of reacting in the wrong way. Put me in a situation where I have to take part and all of a sudden it’s a race against the clock to interpret the social cues, and missing just one can spell disaster. The stress of trying to keep up can overwhelm me and cause a short circuit in my database and then I may as well be a fish out of water. The more aggravated the other person gets about my inability to communicate, the worse this gets, until I am in full meltdown mode. I worry about this all the time, its easier to just stay home.

So I do. I stay home and I fixate and I try not to explain myself to too many people. Well at least I used too. With the addition of one new word to my personal dictionary I have discovered the ability to share myself, all of myself. I have found a way to put into words my different perspective of this world we all share. I have found a place where the child in me can roam free in my garden of thoughts, and where the adult can sit and ponder the mysteries of life. I have found a way to throw open the gates and let others pass through the thorny vines that have grown so long and so fierce about this gilded cage. I have found the freedom to be me. Out of the darkness I created for myself, the perceived safety of my imagination, and into the light. The fires have been stoked; all that’s left to do is explore the shadows in the safety of its glow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And there is no price that can be put on the freedom that comes from true self-acceptance and enlightenment.