Don’t be too hard on yourself…
I have been talking about Asperger’s quite a bit lately with people who I meet who either have members of their family with the condition, or have it themselves. I started talking the other day with a guy who has Asperger’s and we have shared many of our struggles and thoughts on what it is like to have the condition. In the past year I have let go a great deal of anger from my youth. Much of it was due to my having Asperger’s syndrome and not understanding it as well as my parents and those around me not understanding it. I am actually only able to talk about the Asperger’s now that I have shed “the onion” and can see the underlying causes of much of the struggle and anger from childhood. Before I shed the onion, I could not see that much of the pain was Asperger’s related. It was related to my family and others not understanding why I did certain things certain ways and reacting negatively. Only once I got past that pain could I see things clearly. Now that I am past the pain, things are seen from a totally different point of view.
In talking with the friend the other day he had the following to say “It seems you’ve been a little more accepting, as well as compassionate, towards yourself over this issue, than I have been towards myself. But recently I’ve been finding that talking to some other Aspies is most helpful…” The truth is that I had spent most of my life beating the snot out of myself for not being what everyone else wanted me to be, and that got me no where and made me angry. I let it get to me when people told me that I just needed to grow a thicker skin or learn to kiss butt a little. I let it get to me when many people repeatedly belittled me for talking too much about things that interested me. I let it get to me when people falsely called me narcissistic for having a narrow focus in my conversations and for talking out of turn. All of this made me very angry and very frustrated. The anger did me no good but to make me more and more angry and frustrate me even more. It was only once my ex-wife left me and I began the process of shedding the anger that I was able to start showing myself a little self love and become more accepting and compassionate towards myself. There is no point in beating myself up over things that for the most part are out of my control. Yes I can work to lessen the effect of certain personality traits on my life, but they are part of my personality and I will no longer punish myself for them. I love myself and thank God that has has made me as creative as he has.
In no way am I making excuses for my behavior at times. I own everything that I have ever said or done. There are times when I am difficult to work with and difficult even to get along with. I am not a victim and do not claim one ounce of victim status due to my personality. At the same time, in no way am I making excuses for the actions or words of others in my life. It matters not if you understand or understood that I have Asperger’s syndrome. It matters how you have spoken to me and treated me. There have been times when others have treated me in such a way due to the symptoms of Asperger’s that it has either exacerbated the symptoms or led to other things happening that would not have happened if I had not been treated the way the other person treated me in the first place. That is unexcusable.
I do not bring up these discussions on Asperger’s to claim victim status, but rather to build a strong bridge of understanding and communication so that I can work together well with others. I can be a lot of fun to work with and am a very creative person if you only show me some respect. There are many people who openly envy my creativity, without understanding the challenges that come with it. I work hard to deal with the various aspects of my personality that are not the easiest to deal with, but at the same time I ask you to try hard to understand that some things that you expect to come naturally to me simply do not come naturally to me.
Now that you know, you have as much responsibility as I do. You are responsible for how you treat someone who has a limitation. You would not treat someone in a wheelchair with disrespect. If you know that someone is autistic or has Asperger’s, you are responsible to treat them with dignity and respect. Many of us feel that we are no different than anyone else, in spite of our limitations socially.
NB: Thank you to the handful of long time friends who have stood by me and have not abandoned me in spite of my limitations. YOU are the true definition of what it means to be a friend!