I thought when I discovered AS that nobody would believe me. The websites I researched said people would find it very difficult to believe or understand. Apparently I am weird enough and “difficult” enough that my friend started laughing when I asked him if he really thought I had it. As in, there was no doubt, whatsoever, in his mind.
I wonder what is so different about me that people see. It is hard for me to understand this, because to me, I don’t seem any different than others are naturally different. However, the path of my history makes it very plain that I am odd and hard to understand. People have said that outright to me. I don’t know if I will ever be able to understand the differences. But it made me think of how people would feel if they could be me for a day, or a little while. So I made up this little scenario of the best Asperger’s “costume” I could think of so people could have more understanding.
Socially speaking, people with AS either struggle or completely fail to pick up on non-verbal cues and social behaviors that most learned when they were little. Also, autism effects the hearing, so certain sounds aren’t heard causing hiccups in communication with people, especially if there are other noises and distractions within hearing distance. Its almost like a bad case of ADD on top of the disability. So my little scenario goes like this:
- Patch one of your eyes to serve as an impairment to your ability to pick up on social cues and non-verbal language.
- Plug one of your ears with an ear plug, which will act to impair your hearing, even though its not effective in the sense of missing certain tones.
- Drink as much espresso as you can without making yourself sick. This will serve as the anxiety that kicks in during social experiences.
- Now find a group of people that are a different culture than you, that you do not know well, and make sure they speak your language, broken but fluent. Dress as close to them as you can.
- Hang out with them for awhile, try not to be obvious and blend into one of their casual conversations making sure to control yourself on that caffeine high.
Every person with Asperger’s is different. No two are alike. Although this scenario pales in comparison to the struggles people with AS have, its a somewhat amusing thought to think about how it would feel to have to get around life like that. Many with Asperger’s report feeling like an alien. I have felt this way more often than not and even with people close to me. It is so impossible to try and fit in that its actually easier just to go the other way and not try to fit in at all.
Naturally, setting up a scenario like this is ridiculous and maybe fun for some. Immediately, you might think, why try to fit in at all? But you would be amazed at just how far people will go to coerce you to fit in with them. When we think of socializing in settings within our comfort zones, peer to peer, people might be very light about the whole subject of being yourself. But when we think of those that have experienced greater difficulties, suddenly this ridiculousness fades.
The lighter more casual, superficial situations might be fashion preferences, sports fan rivals or vegetarians vs. meat-eaters. Then there are more serious situations like gay rights, religion, politics, environment, and other such current events. Many still experience discrimination and racism. Then there are the silent ones such as war veterans who have experienced things and seen things none of us could imagine, let alone live with day in and day out as they try to integrate into a society of vanity. On other spectrums there are people suffering from severe addictions that are judged instead of given proper care and therapy in an ever growing society that supports addictive behavior in the media. This same media is how much of the youth is being raised, lacking understanding in moral concepts that drive us to behave in such ways that leave others outcast and isolated. We are all feeling these pains in various ways but do little to take better care of our behavior towards others. Most will not spend the extra time calmly talking and connecting to create a deep bond with another person. But at some point the chasm between “my pain” and “our pain” has to close and reconnect us to one another. If we can’t even do this in the tiniest of moments, how will we ever solve our bigger problems in the world?
The way I see it is even though I have a disability it doesn’t make me disabled. In fact, just as much as it became a burden for me to understand, it also became a relief of understanding. What I mean is, suddenly I realized I was never going to fit in no matter how hard I tried. I have overcome amazing challenges and will continue to overcome this one, but the hard facts are I will never fit in. Looking back over my past and remembering all the heartache this has caused, made it hard to see into my future that I would ever find a group of friends or even a mate that would truly be patient and strong enough to love me in my most jackass moments. I had to see how bleak my future was looking and the reality of what I was facing, not only in my life, but in this kind of society that has become disconnected. This was next to impossible to overcome in my mind. Nobody can make another person change their minds or love another human being or slow down in this hectic culture. We can only be who we are and hope for the best.
But once I let go of the future I had so dreamed about for seven years, somehow it also empowered me. It opened my eyes wider at just how many people are like me, only with a different label on their lives. After all is said and done, pain is pain. We have all felt immense loss of one form or another. We have all felt ignored, ridiculed, rejected, misunderstood, judged, spited, and many other awful things.
Just the other day, a woman yelled at my daughter for being too loud at Coors baseball stadium of all places.
So it is true after all. Many people in my life told me I am not alone. Physically, I was very alone. Spiritually, I stand with every soul out there that has been oppressed by lack of compassion and understanding. Lack of love. Lack of taking the time and patience to build the slow bond we require as individual humans with individual experiences. We are all together in this way.
I hope more people seek out more compassion for others in those tiny moments when casually speaking to one another. Even more so when they are fighting. The true strength of humanity lies in those that understand the power of the truth, and so say it gently. Those that understand patience and build slowly. Those that understand pain and find ways to heal it. We are all searching for answers, but many in the wrong places. Those with the wisest eyes most likely have suffered the most pain but remained faithful to love. Those are the ones that will heal themselves by helping others to heal.