Journaling June: Asperger’s or Arsehole’s Syndrome

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 . . .

Blinking cursor.

. . .

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?

  1. 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.

11 Replies to “Journaling June: Asperger’s or Arsehole’s Syndrome”

  1. A lot to deal with here, but as a woman with Asperger’s I guess I’m going to have to join the aspy men in being “defensive.” What is typical of all those quotes is that people are generalizing from their own experience with someone with Asperger’s. So one bad experience becomes the model for every relationship with an aspie. I doubt you really believe you’re a bad person. At least I hope you don’t.

    Also, I don’t think Asperger’s is going to go away, no matter what the DSM says. It isn’t a matter of high or low functioning, which as you realize, isn’t exactly an adequate description of anything. What we tend to forget is that our understanding of autism is still pretty primitive, and the only reason such sharp dichotomies have developed is the creation of a faux epidemic and how it’s been sensationalized by the media until a prominent feature of any attempt at objective discussion is derailed by hysteria.

    Keep poking at it. The subject is in desperate need of clarity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No, I don’t think I’m a bad person, but at the same time, I recognize that I might have blind spots, and if those blind spots would have me hurting the ones I love. . .

      Mostly I’m trying to keep an open mind. It would be very easy to get angry about all this because I think the tone is harmful, even if the information is correct. But getting angry and blasting Heartless Aspergers would just be perpetuating the problem. I mean, this person is dealing with hurt in a way that mirrors what he/she is decrying.

      I agree, completely, with you about the hysteria and the need for discussion and clarity. Even confused ramblings, attempts to grapple with the subject are useful. Especially when it comes to adults. I admit I’m still very “green” in my research, but the vast majority of what I’ve read about was for children/young adults.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Because of my confusion about all this I tend to gaslight myself with the swirling questions. It’s nice to hear that maybe I wasn’t being wrongly “defensive” in this case.

      Like

      1. Aeryk, I don’t know much about Asperger, but I know you are a caring and compassionate person. The more I am around you, the more I understand your way of thinking and acting. Love you much much.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you, Uncle Don.

        Well, despite the fact that I think the tone of the site is wrong, if you go to the page I quoted, How to Spot Asperger’s Syndrome (http://heartlessaspergers.com/how-to-spot-a-man-with-aspergers-syndrome/), there is a decent basic breakdown of that it is as well as a list of traits, the VAST majority of which I have.

        I’m sure there’s better places to get information, but since this is the one I’ve been in contact with most recently, and is a quick read, why not keep with it, right?

        Like

  2. Having known you for many years, I don’t think the anti-AS rhetoric applies to you. You’re better than most non-AS people.

    Ultimately, I have to wonder if some of these diagnoses are not harmful in and of themselves. I mean, if the diagnosis is of a severe condition and followed by treatment, sure. However, if it just plants doubt and second-guessing, then it seems counter-productive.

    Ultimately, you choose your behavior and how to act.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been a weird journey. The craziest thing is I still have moments where I question, “do I REALLY have ASD?” But then something will throw off my schedule, or I’ll be putting things EXACTLY away, or I’ll start watching DS9 for the umpteenmillionth time, or any of my other quirks and I know, yeah, I do.

      I’m not sure if it’s the Asperger’s or just my nature or what, but I tend to question everything. So much so that I gaslight myself. I guess that’s why I was drawn to philosophy in college (one of my two majors).

      As for Tourette’s, I have a friend who has Tourette’s. I never would have known had he not said. His ticks are mild, except when he’s stressed. You write that “it really defined” you. Is that in a good, or bad, or not quite sure, way? I ask because one of the things I think about is what difference does it make (getting a diagnosis), especially this late in the game. And, I’m guessing that the situation might be similar with you. But I could be wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It defined me in a bad way. Something that I obsess over and use to prove that I’m less than. Incidentally, my 13 year old is going through ASD diagnosis now. My wife has raised a big red flag saying we can’t let it be his defining quality.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m sorry to hear that. I was wondering if that’s what you meant. I go back and forth. It’s so much a part of who I am, but at the same time I don’t want to be THE autistic. It is compounded by the fact that I write. I want to write about it, to get my head around it as well as add something to the discussion, but in doing so I run the risk of my blog/essays/“brand” being all about autism. Not that there’s anything bad with that. I guess it’s like actors being afraid of being typecast.

        I can imagine that these doubts twist you up even more when it involves your children. Ugh! As if it weren’t difficult enough not to mess them up, huh?

        I hope that his diagnosis, whatever it may be, helps him to have the best life possible. I know that there are lots of resources for children when it comes to ASD. The testing itself, at least what I had here, is what they use for children. That is, there’s no “adult” testing. Pretty much all they have is geared for children.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My wife would suggest that the amount of time I spend immersed in analysis of my mental illness and Tourette Syndrome via blogging is counter-productive. And she’s right. Whenever I write a post bitching about mental illness, I feel worse. Fortunately, I’ve been at it so long, I’m not sure there’s anything else to say. Most of my recent posts have been off-topic.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Maybe there’s hope for me. That is, perhaps after I’ve been at this (seriously) for a while I’ll run out of things to say about it. Hopefully, somewhere along the way, I’ll even write something significant, or at least less bitchy and self-indulgent. 🤞🏼

        Liked by 1 person

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