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A.J. Mahari’s Personal Journey
Asperger’s Syndrome is often, like so many other “conditions” pathologized, defined as “not nomal” – what is normal anyway? Most people think normal is whatever they are like or value. There is no such thing as “normal”. It’s all about difference. Author, Life Coach, BPD/Mental Health and Self Improvement Coach, A.J. Mahari, herself, a person with Asperger’s Syndrome firmly beleives from her own life experience that those with Asperger’s need to learn (if they haven’t already) – those with any major and often judged difference from what the mainstream values as “normal” – to empower what is their own different ability.
© A.J. Mahari, April 10, 2011 – All rights reserved.
Aspie Confession – Personal Update March 2010 – to The Pardox of Social Impairment and Profound Social Disconnectedness
This is an up-date to the article I wrote in 2005 entitled, “The Pardox of Social Impairment and Profound Social Disconnectedness”
It’s now been five years since I wrote the above article, orginally posted on my website. I am in the process of moving those articles over here to this blog.
I have learned even so much more in the last five years. The paradox of it all, however, continues to be an important and palpable one. Why? Simply because the more I learn about certain aspects of neurotypcial socialization – which is itself somewhat of a continuum – the more I also continue to maintain some levels of still not getting it, exactly.
What Does This Mean?
Well, it doesn’t mean that I don’t understand, to some degree, what most neurotypicals describe their social experience, goals, wants and needs to be. Intellectually, yes, I get that. I have asked many friends about that and what they socially enjoy and why. In fact, they’ve come to be somewhat entertained by this in a loving way.
The paradox that remains for me, however, is that even though my understanding, my exposure and my ability to socialize have continued to increase, what hasn’t changed is that I really am not drawn to do it – according to my friends – often enough. But, often enough for whom? Them. What might seem like not often enough for my friends is often more than I even care to entertain myself. It’s often more than I want to be that connected. And so the journey continues.
Does that mean I am a hermit. No. Would I like to be? In many ways, sure. Maybe I’m part-time hermit?
There is such a rich reality to having Asperger’s and to being blissfully involved in my own world and the pursuits found within that world and my narrow focus of a few keen interests. I am not, however, totally limited to that. It’s just the most comfortable place to be.
I have long-since realized also that the way that I am – ooooh, what does that really mean eh? The way that I am in terms of not desiring a lot of social contact for the sake of socializing means that I have more time to pursue my passions and purpose. My work. I think that is important. And yes, I have found much more balance between my world and planet-neurotypical in many ways. I have found much more balance between my interests and work (one in the same really) and taking time away from that do to other things.
I am left still though with a knowing, if you will. It is okay to have Asperger’s. It can still be challenging, absolutely. But I have come to appreciate the growth that each challenge brings with it. Sometimes over and over again. Sometimes in ways that cannot find freedom from the circle of moving in and moving out and what it actually always mean to be someone with Asperger’s versus those who are neurotypical. It’s much more peaceful than it has ever been.
Yet, there are times when I can still feel the differences. Times when I encounter the stigma or prejudice of those differences. Times when some may think me rather odd when really I am just not sharing some things in common with vast numbers of people who are sharing their social desires, wants, and needs in common.
The paradox is one of a deep and profound connection, a very compassionate and caring connection I have with humanity in the macrocosm and the reality that that doesn’t unfold often the same way in the day to day microcosm that is my “social” or “relational” life. It can when I want or need it to. I just don’t want or need it to that often – or as often as many neurotypicals do. This of course, doesn’t mean I always get my way. No. I am here for the person I am seeing (in a relationship with but don’t live with) and I am here for friends. I like and prefer as much “my world” time as I can have when I can have it. But, I do not neglect to stay in touch with my friends. They just know what a great thing it is that I finally joined the iPhone universe and we all are grateful for texting. This means they can reach me more often and easier than, say, in person or on the phone.
Is There Room For Me to Be Misunderstood?
I have no control over the answer. The answer to that question lies with anyone and everyone I will ever meet, relate to, talk to, work with or be in anyway known by, to the varying degrees of what being known is and means in various types of relationships. It lies with those who know me personally. It also lies with you, the reader.
Because understanding and respect, or lack thereof, for that matter, are dependent upon where each person is in his or her own thinking. Are you in the pardox? Or are you someone still thinking in black-and-white ways that will lead you to need to have me, in this case, be one way or its opposite and not the mixture of this and that, that I actually am. Do you want to know the humanity, imperfect, like yours, that lies with me, on the other side of the screen that you are reading my words on? Or, is the paradox of “both-and” not as straight-foward to you as “either-or”
Many people may find this aspect of me confusing in the broader context of my life as an author, and life coach. In fact, even up until recently I kept trying to keep my “worlds” separate online. I didn’t realize why. I was hiding. I actually was hiding, in some small way, that I have Asperger’s for fear of judgment. For fear that many in the Mental Health world in which I also work online would judge me as not recovered from the mental illness and abuse issues of my past. Well, I boxed myself in. No more. Will some continue to judge me harshly or fail to understand the pardox I speak of, yes. Is that okay with me? Yes. I accept it fully now. I am now ready to be more fully me in total in every aspect of my life. I will share what I have to share. Write about what I write about. Continue to work with my life coaching clients helping them to achieve their goals and wanted change. I will continue to believe in all the gifts and skills I have. Gifts and skills that are strengthened and broadened because I have Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s that paradox again.
The journey of trying to be understood, for me, in my life, continues. The journey of further self-understanding as well, absolutely. However, what I care most about, really, is not being stereotyped by all that Asperger’s Syndrome is defined as. So many of those traits do not describe who I really am. I am compassionate. I do care about other people’s feelings and opinions. I can love very deeply.
That contrasts with the amount of time that I am not expressive of that in inter-personal ways. The amounts of time that I love to spend either in my interests and work or with my dogs out in the yard alone. Alone with them. They get me, they really do. No judgment. No stereotypes. No “social” expectations. Just the joy of each unfolding here-and-now moment.
Simply put, what fills up and motivates most neurotypicals (certainly not all) empties me out. That doesn’t mean I can’t be there, interact, socialize when I choose to – albeit with some inherent lack of “getting it” in the actual interactive moments – but that is just my experience, I compensate for it. Some people understand and others don’t. At the end of the day what matters most to me is that I get me. What needs to matter most to each and every person with Asperger’s is that they “get it” about themselves and know that our differences do not make us “less than”. Our differences aren’t even that much about disability. Having Aspergers is that living paradox of understanding so much, being blessed with amazing intellectual and thinking capacity – a very quick mind – and yet, that not mattering, socially at all.
The more I embrace this paradox and understand that for me some socially awkward feelings are “normal”, the more I can accept who I am and be truly free to be me. After all, most of the time, my social awkwardness is mostly unfolding with me because I have learned, as many aspies do, to map out the “social conventions” of interactive reciprocity and mutuality. What I mean by map out these “neurotypical social conventions” is that I do really feel and care but that I am naturally unlikely to show that in “neurotypical social convention-type ways” and so there is effort there that is purposeful and sometimes forced. However, what I am describing is not about being fake or unreal, it’s about giving to “neurotypicals” what they expect and understand, socially. The best way to explain it would be to compare it to you and I talking. I speak “social” English. You are “socially” French. I know some French, you don’t know any English (you if you are neurotypical don’t get “aspie-speak”). So, I as an aspie try to speak your “social” language to connect with you in what is your wheelhouse – your comfort zone. This means that I have to make an effort that doesn’t come to me naturally. Speaking your “social” French, isn’t my wheelhouse or my comfort zone. Therefore, socializing, even though I can enjoy some of it, it can be fun, it can be very interesting, is something that I have learned to map out. This is also why it is depleting to me and not as natural as my own inner-world of pursuing what is natural to me – my narrow focus of interests.
To Those Who Might Wonder – Does this Contradict My Recovery From BPD?
In a word, no. Has this long been a concern of mine in the work that I do online. Yes. Was this easy to admit in a public way. No. It has taken me years to get here, to this day, to this point. I felt this important to express now for me, personally, in my own personal growth. I also hope that it will help others in some way. I am also tired of hiding. And, hey, this has all been in plain sight so perhaps the hiding has really been only how I have been holding myself back, inside. I don’t know.
I do know that many who have Borderline Personality Disorder, and even many non borderlines, (anyone can really) think in black-and-white ways. So, I have long been concerned that this might somehow contradict an “all-good” perception of me – which really wouldn’t be anymore accurate about me then it is about anyone.
There are also those, who for their own personal reasons, out of their own pain, on both sides of BPD, that do judge me harshly and share it with me in what are most often anonymous emails or anonymous comments posted to my blogs or YouTube videos. These people are few and far between.
There are then others who think that somehow this trait or that of having Asperger’s Syndrome is just like having Borderline Personality Disorder. That’s just not correct. Are there simularities, I don’t know. It may appear so in the definitions. However, then again, what is lost to that narrow way of thinking is the individuality of how Asperger’s effects me or to the degree to which I “manifest” it.
What I’ve learned is that people will think whatever people want to think. What I have learned is that I have no control over that and that’s fine. What I have also learned is that too many people spend too much time trying to diagnose themselves and/or others when really that needs to be left to mental health professionals in the case of BPD and to those who assess people for Asperger’s Syndrome, which for the record is not a Mental Illness at all.
I did recover from BPD 15 years ago, 1995. Ironically, as life would have it, just as I was consolidating that recovery, in 1997, I found out I had Asperger’s Syndrome. Irony and paradox. I’ve written about this on my website (from 2001 on – so guess i wasn’t really totally hiding right?) and will be posting those articles to this blog as I get to moving them. It felt like I was robbed at that time. To have recovered from BPD and to feel as if I had finally achieved the long-coveted “normal” – it doesn’t exist by the way – cool after all really. But, to have worked so hard to recover from BPD with the idea that I would then be “like everyone else” only to find out I had Asperger’s and then slowly learn what that actually meant and to realize what it had always meant in my life that I had no way of understanding or knowing prior to finding out was not easy to cope with.
I did, however, come to find, over those first few years of learning to cope with Asperger’s after recovering from BPD, that there really is no such thing as “normal” and there really is not an “everyone else”. It’s really all about the journey of self-discovery and being connected to authentic self. From there, I am just who I am as is anyone else.
So in conclusion on this issue, I am a paradox for sure. It is from that rich paradox in my own life that I believe I have been blessed with the ability and desire to help others. It’s just that profoundly-simple.
The Lesson I hope all will take from this
Each and every one of us has the right to be who he or she is. There is not one of us that must be the same as everyone else – again, whoever everyone else really is – do you know? I sure don’t.
Society’s need to have its masses conform doesn’t have to intrude upon each person’s right and need to be individually who they are, differences and all. Each of us has the birthright to be who we authentically are.
A diagnosis of any kind is just that. It is not the sum-total of who any individual is. It is not the single determing factor in what our skills are. It just is not who anyone is. It is just one aspect, one label, one truth about someone to varying degrees too by the way. We can make the best out of anything if we are open to doing so. We can do this when we empower ourselves by valuing more what we know and what people who know us, know about us. We empower ourselves when we stop letting other people’s judgment or lack of understanding define us or hold us back in any way. Unburden yourself of shame that really isn’t even yours. You may just have let someone else dump it on you. Or taken on the shame someone else left you with when it actually belongs to those who judge and those who refuse to tolerate difference. It’s not yours. You can let it go. You really can.
I for one, tired of whatever hiding I was doing, (even though I’ve have had my website about Asperger’s and videos up now since 2005 and articles on another site of mine since 2001) though I was inside myself, hiding to some degree, it feels so freeing to just open up to this paradox and actually just write about it and put it out there. Whatever comes as a result comes. Whatever others think they think. I know my own truth. I honour it. I tell the truth. I share what I have to share from all that has made me who I am today, from all that has and that continues to teach me on my own personal journey of enlightenment and personal growth. Change in many areas of my life and compensation and coping other areas.
And what a great teacher Asperger’s has been and continues to be in my life. As was Borderline Personality Disorder, when I had it, a teacher in my life when I let it be. I would not be on the journey that I am on in my life now if not for Asperger’s, having had BPD and recovered, if not for having been sexually abused and recovered. Yes, you see, I, like you, have been wounded. Most everyone experiences some woundedness. I like you, am not at all perfect, thank God! I hope that I embody and share the wisdom of many a wounded-healer. All that I do and share comes from my heart to you.
Know this, you are worthy. I am worthy. We are all worthy, whether you have Asperger’s Syndrome or Borderline Personality Disorder, (or something else) or not, and apply it honestly and openly in and to your life in full appreciation of what is a living breathing paradox within you.
Our challenges and our pain are sacred. They seek to show us the way to heal – ways to continue to grow. We can heal even that which we cannot change. In the case of Asperger’s I can’t fix it. (Wouldn’t want to fix it by the way) I can’t recover from it like I did BPD and sexual abuse. However, I can continue to change, learn, and grow in spite of it and often because of it. I can value the contribution that Asperger’s makes to the sum total of who I am.
© A.J. Mahari, March 5, 2010 – All rights reserved.
- Adults With Asperger’s and Too Much Empathy
- The Stigmatizing of Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome
- Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome don’t lack empathy – in fact if anything they empathize too much
- Asperger’s and Neurotypical People – What do they have in common?
- Asperger’s Syndrome Does Not a Murderer Make
Executive Dysfuntion is, in my opinion and experience, a different way of functioning.