May 2, 2008

  • more stuff on 'aspie'


    Egads, how much of this stuff did I write?!?  I found another one from the old blog, roughly from 18 months ago.
    I'm getting a few google hits from people looking for more stuff on 'aspie'.  I know there are a few of us out there and we aren't terribly inclined to group up and get chatty --oh, I'm so funny.  Or when we do start talking we ~don't stop~.
    Right now there is all this big to-do about the standard making fun of aspie behavior in sitcoms and stuff, and I'm like, geez, everything else is taboo, what's left to define as politically incorrect, because just about everything else out there can fall into the autism category.  I really don't care, except to say that I hate 'normal' television, I'm drawn to the funny stuff myself, and I hope aspies don't start taking themselves so seriously that this becomes some big public outrage.  Given that most of us are in our own little worlds and only come out for lengthy arguments, there is no telling which way this ball will bounce.  We're a societal anomaly waiting to happen all over you NTs out there.  And when we do, we'll have no clue because the majority of us will be avoiding interaction like the plague.  Ok, I'm generalizing, that's really tongue in cheek, mocking those of you who generalize about Asperger's.
    I actually really don't care about activism.  If you are or suspect you are an aspie and do care and would like much more info, start with I'm An , Autistic Advocacy , and for kicks Top Ten Things About Being Autistic .  I don't hold truck with sites that aspire to be network supports for families of aspies because I get ticked that they consider people like me disabled.  In my experience, any group looking to lock the term "disability" to a condition is looking for government money.
    Since a couple of friends are interested in my world view, and since a few more are looking for an aspie blog writing about more than depression for a few months and disappearing, I'm here to say hello, I'm fine with myself, and yes it is possible to be an aspie and be as successful and upbeat as anyone, although some of you 'normals' probably immediately generalized that to me being a smiley chatty Barbie doll, and I'm definitely not that.  I think the trendy fad right now is to focus on the depression of being different and how difficult that makes everything, but don't read that crap!!!  That only feeds into the conclusion that this is a disability!!!  Yeah, of course it's hard to hold a good job or relationship sometimes when you don't socialize easily, or obsess about details, or get nasty headaches from those cheap fluorescent lights till you have lockjaw and want to bang your head on the nearest handy electronic equipment made by some numbskull who never had to use it, but so what?
    Somehow there is this implication that 'normals' are better at this whole work force and relationship thing than aspies are, and I have never found that one to be true.  I have covered for so many other people not showing up for work over the years that I'm convinced 'normals' are the ones who have the problem.  I have handled more stress and challenges and crap at work than a lot of people simply because I am an aspie-- I am easily taken advantage of.  And I've been married for 13 years to a 'normal' guy I've known for 16 years, and he actually seems to like my quirks and feels very protective of me.  One of the hallmark arguments for Asperger's being a disability is the whole work and relationship angle, and every time that argument successfully channels an aspie into self pity and over focus onto one's depression, they chalk another mark up for the families and friends who are trying to 'fix' us by first telling us we're broken.  Most of us had no clue we were 'broken' to begin with until other less tolerant people pointed it out.  Growing up with even the kindest of verbal abuses is a real challenge for anyone, and I'm surprised more 'normals' don't seem to appreciate that concept.  My own mother was pretty adamant about fixing my weirdness, to the point of literally poisoning me with special orders from a health food store through a chiropractor.  Aspies aren't generally prone to exaggeration, so yes, I meant that.  But you know what?  I'm ok!  Imagine that.
    Here's the dealio.  I've got 197 college hours, I raised two kids that never drank, smoked, got pregnant, or wrecked a car the entire time they were in public school, one of those kids grew up with severe ADHD and graduated at the top of her class with tons of honors and a scholarship award and is in college now, and the other is working up into management in a national retail chain, AND I have had several jobs I've really liked and was good at.  I quit either because I was getting a better job or because my standards happen to be higher than those of some of my bosses.  For instance, I've never come to work drunk, used my status to rip off merchandise, treated people like third worlders, told racist jokes, and man does this list go on.
    We laugh a lot in my family.  It's amazing how much being able to laugh at ourselves helps us deal with the world.  We like people who are weird and different.  We think it's a cool challenge to figure out how to adapt to situations.  We don't blame each other when we're unhappy, and we are there for each other even when we're cranky and stupid.  That's the secret, people.  The person in front of you is more important than any idea about how life works that you have.  If an aspie you know has depression, I understand that one, probably more than you think, and there are many ways to get help for that, but by no means is that a marker for determining that a person is disabled across the board.  Depression can be disabling, yes.  Autism does NOT cause depression.  Depression happens with every conceivable situation and context.  People with lupus get depression, too.  I'm an aspie with lupus.  I'm not disabled.  I've had really bad years where it seemed I should be, but the best thing a doctor ever did for me was not give me a handicapped sticker for my car.  And the best thing that ever happened to me as an aspie was not believing what other people decide about me, no matter how down I felt.  And the best thing that ever happened to me for depression was a good B complex vitamin and magnesium taken regularly, bar none.
    I think my biggest challenge behavior-wise has more to do with sensory overload than anything.  I was not aware for years that is what I go through, but I have the typical shut down reactions, including getting cranky.  It's funny, though, I've noticed 'normals' tend to get cranky when they overload, too.  hmmm....   Aspies get a bad rap for crankiness-- gee, I've met so many people who have out-crankied me.  But still, I learned years ago that I don't like myself when I'm cranky, and I remove myself from the room if I can't control it.  Having more mental access to a wider verbal acuity than most people any time the adrenaline flies means that I have the capability to cut people in half in a most elegantly blunt way, and I used to not stop to check sensor readings on other people's faces.  My kids swear I've scarred them for life, and I believe this is mostly because I simply couldn't just shut up once I said something.  I wanted confirmation that they heard me, and boy if that isn't a vicious circle, aspie looking for clues and not recognizing them.  There comes a time when  a person either realizes that what they are doing isn't working and they take some time to figure that out, or they simply ignore the red flags and stay stupid.  If someone else wants to be stupid and keep going on like an idiot, fine.  Not me.  We each have our own paths to take, and this is my stuff.  Anyone else's stuff is none of my business.
    The coolest thing about being aspie is that I can go into my head and see awesomely cool things that I used to think everyone could see.  I discovered a long time ago that I can 'see' multidimensionally in my head, and I am easily frustrated with 2D graphics in books depicting 3D concepts in the most absurd ways.  A black hole is NOT a long stretched out basketball net, gimme a break.  It's a heavy point in space that puckers up everything around it.  It pulls and distorts into a tight bunch, it doesn't sink down far away somewhere unreal.  If there is such a thing as wormholes, they aren't long tubes so much as instantaneous jump points that are connected like a snap.  I can also think in four dimensions, and I know I've dreamed in five.  I also notice patterns where other people don't see any.  I've watched water and wind and weather for years.  I wish I could watch erosion and continental drift like that.  I was thrilled when chaos became a science.  And I've made several predictions about the speed of light that have come true, the most recent being a joke that phone calls going through fiber optic cables would one day ring the phone on the other end before the first phone was even dialed.  Lo and behold, an article came out about a year ago where it seems that information packets traveling through fiber optic cables are indeed arriving before they are technically sent, although this is an illusion.  The energy bursts are kind of like a mirage in the desert, but even that lends to presupposition about time travel.  --All this without formal science training.  I do this on my own time.  My degree is in the soft sciences.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished I had gone into physics instead.
    My most noticeable personal trait is that I space out a lot and stare off unless someone is keeping me actively engaged in a conversation.  Well, to some people my most noticeable trait could be what looks like hyperactivity, since I am also almost constantly stimming in public.  I never even realized that was what I was doing for years.  People tend to lump me into the weird and different category fairly quickly, so I've learned over time to control my nerves around people and not say much, but that's like asking a diabetic to mentally control their blood sugar, or asking a dog not to wag its tail the whole time it's happy.  To become aware of oneself to the point of gaining that much control over neurologically based quirks is a monumental task, and forcing someone to change their quirks through shame or physical abuse just so they'll pass for more 'normal' only shows me how shallow people are.  Especially when so many 'normals' out there can't control their own silly stuff that to me looks like their own style of stimming to assuage their own style of quirky nerves.  See, I could never in my life gab endlessly on a phone about nothing...  I've also met obsessive shoppers, gamers, car enthusiasts, gym members, pet owners-- what's the difference?  We all have our own way of relaxing.  In the end, I earned a degree in human behavior because I wanted so badly to figure it all out.  What it seems to boil down to is an intolerance level that most people don't realize they have.  I don't see this as an individual problem on the part of the aspie, but more of a social problem with a particular group, such as family or school, defining a problem because they aren't creative enough to adapt to someone different from themselves.
    The biggest drawback I experience as an aspie is hypersensitivity.  My nerves are always 'on', and since my brain is one big nerve center, you can imagine the raw data input coming in.  I may seem to not be on top of things in any environment because I shut down and block so much out, but what 'normals' don't see is that I'm getting 100% of everything-- light, sounds, smells, movement, colors, patterns, touch-- sometimes just walking through a mall is like being on a ride in a theme park because of all the sensations coming in at once-- and I necessarily have to start shutting part of it down and blocking it out to be able to focus on what I am doing.  Another drawback is people assuming I don't 'get' body language and facial and social cues.  Well, 'normals' don't get mine, either.  I'm not lacking any of that, I'm just on a different dialect.  I recognize other aspies immediately by their body language whereas most 'normals' can't distinguish the difference until it's time to communicate and I'm being weird and difficult.  I also am able to recognize from a distance if anyone has pain anywhere and what type and how bad it is, because I've had lupus most of my life and understand the body language for pain.
    Funny thing, aspies actually seem to be so good at body language that many of them are able to handle animals quite well.  Perhaps we are on the same dialect or something.  Perhaps the aspie body language dialect is less species oriented and more universal to all species.  I could go on with my list of drawbacks, like feeling like I have to dumb down around other people just to have a conversation, but somehow that doesn't apply at all to kids of any age.  I am able to talk to kids just fine, and I've been told a number of times I'd be good working with kids as a certified counselor, but for some reason I find other adults tedious.  Maybe their brains congeal or something.  I love finding adults who can still enjoy a good conversation outside of the ruts they live in and the worries they obsess over.  They seem to lose a certain innate joy and wonder at the world around them.
    The real drawbacks are migraines.  I don't think I need to explain that one.  But imagine going through Bell's Palsy on sensory overload with a lupus background.  I spent two years in migraine hell, even going to work and stuff, and you talk about shutting down for sensory overload.  I had no friends and I did not care.  I felt like walking death, and I still had to work with the public.  I have grown such an appreciation for anyone who services the public in any way, shape, or form.  I don't care who you are or what your problem is, if you throw a personal rage problem at anyone about customer service and ruin their day not even knowing or caring what they might be suffering just to be there, I will imagine you walking barefoot on tacks, hot coals, and broken glass the rest of your life and never feel sorry for you.  I've seen people lose spouses and babies and have to go on to work, I've seen terminally ill people continue to work, there is just no excuse for the bad behavior that customers think they have the right to express in this day and time.
    Yes, this is me being an aspie.  I'm not a broken disabled person, I can actually smile when I remember to, and I'm able to live in two worlds at once, mine and yours.  I may not be empathetic, but I'm the first one to drop everything and be there through it, losing sleep and rustling up food and doing the cleaning up.  Maybe I like the word 'pink' a little too much while I reject the color as monstrosity of taste, and maybe I won't eat the brownies you made because I'm a freak about nuts in my food and you touching everything with your hands without washing them, and maybe I like sitting by myself and running my fingertips over textured fabrics and hems and buttons, and maybe I even forget what day it is and completely mess up the rest of the week because of it, but I can honestly say I feel good about myself being like this.  It is wonderful being able to float through without even being on drugs, and it's awesomely cool to be able to enjoy moonlight on snow and feel thankful that I was lucky enough to see it.  I see autism as a gift that other people might envy if they only realized how much of the world they are really missing.  And I don't mean the world of activity that people create, I mean the world that has been here for 4 billion years with all of its ancient secrets and cosmic knowledge.
    When you wear a diamond, think about the darkness it came from, never shining for so long, never special in any way, just another rock without meaning or purpose.  When you walk into a bank and notice a beautiful pink stone wall, think about the word feldspar and appreciate how rare it is and how lucky you are to have seen it.  When you see trees, think about how trees have been around longer than any animals, and even longer than most vegetables and grains.  Smell a tree and feel its smell in your soul.  When you touch a dog, think about being a dog, in the moment, forgiving and hoping and trusting because that is all a dog really knows around people unless they are mean to it.  When you touch a child, think about being a child, in the moment, forgiving and hoping and trusting because that is all a child really knows around people unless they are mean to it.
    Never assume an autistic person doesn't care, even when if they are curled up in a ball shutting the world out.  If you oscillated between overload and joyous wonder, you might find that still beats talking on the phone for hours about the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over.....

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