Am I a piece of shit?
(stop. don’t answer. it’s rhetorical. we’re working through something.)
I have started this, worked up a page or so, and stopped . . .
Nope. Not right. Start over.
I restarted, wrote a few hundred words, and stopped again . . .
Nope. Even wronger! Start over.
I sat staring at the screen . . .
. . .
I got up. Went for a walk. When I got back I started again, but after 45 minutes . . .
(the pulse in our neck throbed in time with the cursor. weird.)
I’m a bit out of sorts right now. Please bear with me.
In August 2018 I received the following diagnosis:
Autism Spectrum Disorder, requiring support, without accompanying intellectual impairment, without accompanying language impairment.
This was not a surprise to me, nor my wife. Though, when I tell people I’m autistic I generally get a raised eyebrow and an incredulous, “You don’t look/act autistic.” True. I’m not like Raymond Babbitt from Rainman, which is what I assume an autistic looks/acts like. Regardless of what constitutes the outward appearance of autism, I have switched to saying I have Asperger’s Syndrome.
(but we weren’t diagnosed with Asperger’s.)
In America, with the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, Asperger’s Syndrome was rolled into ASD. I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve read several explanations, but whatever the case, Asperger’s is no longer officially a diagnosis. In America. If it were still, that would have been my diagnosis. What that means is I’m on the “high functioning1” end of the spectrum. Aspies are often seen as “normal” or “passing,” hence my adoption. It’s nit-picking, I know, but it gets less raised eyebrows so fine. A turd by any other name would still smell like shit. Whatever.
(what does ANY of this have to do with anything?)
I’m glad you asked. In the ten months since my diagnosis I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about what having Asperger’s means to me. Initially not much. Mostly it was a validation of my self-diagnosis. But as I’ve researched more and listened to/read/watched countless personal stories, a confusion has been building around a specific question: Am I a good person?
See, being self-absorbed and having a lack of empathy are traits of Asperger’s. They are also traits that make you a complete jagoff. I am fully aware of my propensities for being an arsehole, and sometimes I’m okay with that. In general though, I do not want to be an insufferable prick. So, my introspection has taken a turn towards investigating just how bad a person I am.
That said, I happened onto a website, Heartless Aspergers, and it lays out my worst fear: That not only am I a bad person, but I am a despicable human being who is destroying the lives of those closest to me. I may be stunted, and I’ll admit that I have my problems, but ruining the lifes of those precious few whom I love (and whom love me) is the LAST thing I want to do.
When I read the testimonials of the people this site is for I thought, “Christ on his throne! Is that what I’m doing?”
“I dated someone who had Asperger’s syndrome and it led to me having a breakdown and suffering from severe depression. He denies to this day that he has done anything wrong… He is a high-achieving professional but lacked the capacity to understanding that his actions and words were deeply damaging. If someone told me they had Asperger’s now, I would run in the opposite direction.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
“I‘m 12 months out from a 9 month marriage to a man diagnosed with AS (diagnosed after our marriage). He changed literally overnight, the warm emotions that he was so good at role playing disappeared once he had the ring on my finger and a housewife to look after him. I’m still recovering from the emotional trauma and physical effects that almost have killed me. My advice, if you’re dating a man with AS: run, don’t walk, don’t look back, just get out NOW.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
“I am heartbroken, angry, confused and terrified. I have recently been considering some kind of online affair type thing to try and get some of my needs met because I am DYING inside. deep sigh Its just CRUSHING to be trapped in this situation. Girls considering marrying an Aspie, you are kidding yourself. They cannot love you, they can act NT for short periods of time but that’s it. Run far and fast. Seriously.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
I added the emphasis because to say things like this shows that these people have been hurt, severely. That pain needs to be acknowledged and validated.
Moreover, I whole heartedly agree with the site when it says that everyone has the right to “make an informed decision in [their] best interest.” (from About This Site) Yet, at the same time, the pain the person who created the site has endured has lead to an anger that has clouded his/her judgement, resulting in an unfair characterization of Asperger’s that makes it sound insidious and deliberately malevolent:
“Men with Asperger’s Syndrome are not able to recognize their own lack of empathy or their other deficits.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
“There are many classes, coaching programs and websites that offer training to help them act like a neurotypical (NT, or “normal”) man. Many study the words and behavior of NT people around them, and copy it. They learn exactly what they should do and say in a romantic relationship, since none of it comes naturally to them. It’s an act, one they feel they must put on to win you. No one can keep up an act forever.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
“As individuals with AS age, most develop a wide variety of coping skills and discover ways to mask their behavioral traits so that under many circumstances they can “pass for normal.” You must be very astute to pick up on clues of AS in the beginning of a relationship. Men with AS need—and often have been given—explicit instructions to ask you how your day was, to send you flowers, to send flirty or loving text messages every morning, to hold your hand when you walk down the street, to avoid giving monologues on their ‘special interest,’ etc. Many men with AS are unaware they have the disorder, and in that case it’s far easier to spot.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
I admit that I have studied people in order to know how to interact properly. Everyone whose gone through puberty has done this. All of us remember how desperately we wanted to fit in, to be normal. Imagine that time of hormonal ignorace and that’s a little like the social problems someone with Asperger’s faces. We just never grow out of it because it’s not a phase. We’re wired differently. In the cases of physical attraction, what we do isn’t a ruse “to win” a date. Yes, in some cases it can be, but not every time because “none of it comes naturally.” Besides, even neurotypical people, in the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship, put on their best face to impress the other.
Before you take up your pitchforks and torches, dear readers, this is what’s got me so twisted up: Heartless Aspergers is right. I mean, my writing this post is a direct example of the following:
“When they hear a difference of opinion or an attempt to explain a different perspective about a situation, they become defensive because they see it as conflict, or a criticism of who they are.”(from from How To Spot Asperger’s Syndrome)
(hence our day long struggle with writing this.)
And there is still every chance in the world that I’ll scrap this version. Because, at bottom, I don’t know what to think about all of this. Is my Asperger’s/ASD/whatever my super power, a gift (as advocates would have me believe), or is it my curse and detriment to society, which I should decry? Is Heartless Aspergers right to to expose the dark side of Aspergers—because it is there!—or should he/she be more empathetic as opposed to “hurtfully blunt?”
I just don’t know. I’m so confused because a great deal of what’s on Heartless Aspergers I know is true. Almost ALL the signs that are listed are exactly me. Does that mean I should emblazon a capital A on my chest? Save the unsuspecting masses from me. There are people I haven’t told, and they deserve to know. Why am I letting this bother me? I mean, I’m an introvert. I don’t like being around people. If I let people know my diagnosis so they can avoid me, it’s a win-win, right?
(sadly, we know that there’s no “answer” to this. that’s the one thing our degree in philosophy did for us, viz. it helped us see that all we know is that we know nothing. and there’s always more questions.)
So, I guess I’m back to where I started. Am I a piece of shit?
- I know that the terms low functioning and high functioning, at best, are barely adequate, and at worst highly offensive. I apologize for any problems their use here causes, but it is the simplest way to get across what I need to say without a digression into needlessly distracting semantics. And trust me, I can EASLY get distracted by pedantic details like being overly specific in my details. ↩