Speaking from my own experience, Asperger’s is an internal war of the raw versus the refined.
At any time, I find myself over-encumbered with input and output formulas as I both take in the world, and respond to the world that surrounds me. Because of who I am when stripped away from these formulas, I would not succeed in the world and life I have created for myself.
There are days when I evaluate my status and ask myself “How did I do it? What can I take away from my success that can help shed light on the spectrum that is Autism, encourage other Autistics, while being relatable and relevant with Neurotypicals?”
When I learned, and began to understand Asperger’s, my mind and my spirit became very conscious of one another. A switch flipped on and suddenly I could see the possibilities for a future I didn’t think I could have. My spirit was hungry for life. It longed for adventure, and change, it had hopes and cravings. To all of which my mind would say “Nope. Not today.”
I was trapped in a limbo of uncertainty, hesitation, and misunderstandings about myself and my own capabilities. So, I decided that I would no longer be a slave to my mind, but rather I would become a partner to my spirit.
Just five years ago, being on the Spectrum was shameful. Every time I heard the word “Disorder” it felt like I was being suffocated and stereotyped. My heart felt like I was more than what I was being labeled. But because I take everything at face value, very literally, all I could see in the mirror was a girl with a Disorder.
Somehow I found myself under the care of a man who saw fit to reshape my view of myself. He became my boss for two years, but more importantly a mentor and a beloved friend. He personally spoke change in to my life, telling me that I had so much to offer if I would only allow myself to try, and to allow myself to fail. I credit him for giving me the push that I needed, and a safe place to spread my narrow view. Under his guidance I began to finally connect with the world. I began to socialize and grow into my own.
As I moved forward advancing further into my career, I found myself working for a regional sports network. Not a place I ever imagined myself working, but there I was. At first, I felt as though I were a fish out of water. Before long, I started to realize that all my “weakness” could become my “strengths” in the environment where I found myself.
Five years later, I have achieved status and responsibility that most people believe is impossible for someone with an Autism diagnosis. I beat the stereotype, and now find myself in the most rewarding place I could have ever hoped.
But this achievement doesn’t resolve the war. It only makes the victories sweeter.
Truth is, the war never ends. Every day still presents its fair share of struggles. Some are repeat offenders. Some are new and must be carefully maneuvered for the first time. Communication, physical contact, sensory sensitivity… sarcasm. Understanding the punchline of a joke, and being sure to make gestures when I talk and to speak with tone. Not being a slave to my need for familiar and routine.
Asperger’s is a never-ending war between raw and refined. My spirit against my mind.
Victory happens when I can recognize the appropriate time to speak, and ask the right questions. It’s shaking the hand of a coworker or other individual while keeping my anxiety over physical contact in check. Success is properly explaining my thoughts and my feelings in a way that they are understood without getting frustrated and becoming nonverbal.
Victory is channeling all those “negative” or “un-desirable” traits into my job or hobby so that it becomes a strength that propels me forward to achieve greater outcomes and results.
Victory is proving to myself that I can change. I can adapt. I can grow and I can also be a part of the world that I live in. I am in control (usually!)
I want to share this quote from the movie The Accountant with you.
Neurologist: 1 in 68 children in this country are diagnosed with a form of autism. But if you can put aside for a moment what your pediatrician and all the other NT’s have said about your son…
Autistic Boy’s Father: “NTs?”
Neurologist: Neuro-typicals. The rest of us. What if we’re wrong? What if we’ve been using the wrong tests to quantify intelligence in children with autism? Your son’s not less-than. He’s different. Now, your expectations for your son may change over time, they might include marriage, children, self-sufficiency. They might not. But I guarantee you, if we let the world set expectations for our children, they’ll start low, and they’ll stay there. And maybe… just maybe… he doesn’t understand how to tell us. Or… we haven’t yet learned how to listen.
I’m proud to be who I am today. I’ve come a long way, but my success against the raw nature of my character doesn’t immediately make me a refined functional individual. But it is the years of refining that has given me the formulas I need to achieve my own victories every day.
A career where I am happy, and can excel.
Marriage, and meaningful friendships.
Leadership opportunities, and accountability.
Music. Art. Writing.
So, I continue to fight the war, and remain a partner to my spirit. Because Asperger’s no longer prevents me, or separates me. Rather, it propels me to reach my full potential, which I have learned is limitless.