I’m ploughing through Michael John Carley’s Asperger’s from the Inside Out. He has two really hefty chapters in there, which I read over the past few days. They are probably the most important chapters of the book, since they concern the problems that can accompany Asperger’s as well as what to do about them.
I’m going to post some quotes here that spoke to me. This post is part of my interaction with the book. I may post some more quotes in the following days. I’ll have to see.
And, so, here we go!
“Within the gardens, I felt safe…[T]he reassurance of flowers, and trees, and fish gave me the sense that everything grows, and changes, uninterrupted despite what had happened to me. All would eventually be okay…I had plenty of room to breathe, or to stop and gasp at a memory without feeling self-conscious” (61).
It would be good to be lost in something beyond myself. Often, I wallow in my own self-pity. I don’t like the past, I don’t like the present, and I fear for the future. And I’m afraid to look at myself and point out what I may be doing wrong, because I fear that what’s right will be impossible for me to do. Plus, I can be defensive or beat myself up, one of the two. But to have the space to be lost in something beyond myself? To take an honest look at myself without being defensive, self-conscious, or abusive? To have a transforming experience? That would be fantastic!
“…I also did not understand the difference yet between being laughed at, and being laughed with” (83).
I still don’t, a lot of times. Plus, I don’t always know how to react when I am being laughed at, or laughed with.
“Usually, children get to know a peer or define him or her as safe through social play. If they can’t find other ways to do this, they will tease the autistic peer until they get a response that they understand, until a description or definition has been produced that makes that child an integrated part of their culture” (90).
This isn’t actually from Carley, but he quotes it from an essay by Heta Pukki. The context is bullying. Carley refers to studies that contradict common views on bullying–that bullies are unhappy people who won’t succeed in life. Actually, they do quite well in their adulthood. That reminded me of an episode of Smallville. Oliver Queen picked on Lex Luthor when the two of them were in prep school together, yet Oliver still grew up to be rich, influential, and magnetic to the babes. It’s just not fair!
As far as the quote goes, I thought of the Disney movie, Mulan. Everyone in Mulan’s army unit picked on her (thinking she was a him), until she showed them her talent by climbing a pole to get an arrow, with weights on her wrists (something the rest of them couldn’t do). I sometimes wonder if I would have been as fortunate had I been in her shoes. In high school and college, I could impress people because they thought I was smart. That’s been harder to do in graduate school, let me tell you!
Also, I was intrigued by the notion that bullies are just trying to make sense of the world. Like me, they want things (and people) in neat categories.
“Getting to know author Stephen Shore has taught me a lot about my own history of friendships, and relationships in general. Stephen, who is married to a Chinese woman, talks often about how it sometimes can be easier relating to someone from another culture. If they themselves feel out of sync with the society they find themselves in, it often helps them to draw closer to someone else who also seems slightly out of sync. When I worked for the veterans organization, I noticed that many Vietnam veterans had significant others who were either of another culture, or who were significantly older or younger than they. This made sense in that there was a feeling of disconnectedness with the society they’d returned home to after the war. However, unaware of my diagnosis when I worked for them, I never made the connection regarding myself. I should have, though: Almost every girlfriend I had in college was from another country, but at the time I attributed the reasons to the self-promotional notion that I was perhaps more cultured than my peers” (102).
I personally have never had a significant other, but I can identify with the part about clicking with foreigners. I often feel a lot more acceptance from them than I do from Americans. Foreigners don’t treat me as strange. Or at least the ones who aren’t that Americanized don’t.
“There is also the delicate subject of maturity. Individuals on the spectrum are often seen in a positive light as having a childlike exuberance and enthusiasm; the word pure is sometimes used. That’s the ‘half-glass-full’ side. But those wishing to see us in a negative light will throw the word immature in our direction. Owing to peer differences, we are often shut out of developmentally appropriate experiences. In such cases, no, we will not emotionally grow alongside our peers, even if we invest our energies elsewhere, and grow in different ways as a result” (103).
I do project an image of childlike naivity. People often think the things that I say are cute, innocent, or funny. They may see a certain purity to them. That’s not overly bad, since a positive reaction to me is better than a negative one. But I sometimes wish that I were taken more seriously.
“Because we are different from the rest of the world, often it takes, not concessions, but a different mind-set in our potential significant others to be able to see past our differences and find qualities they like” (108-109).
Yeah, that’s what I want: Someone who is attracted to certain qualities that I have. I’m still waiting for that special woman!
On strategies for dealing with Asperger’s: “Strategies do not offer false hope, however. They are, in fact, quite useful. But it is often not implied enough that the strategies suggested may not bear fruit. As a result, I’ve watched many an adult follow the instructions in the Strategies section they were reading, only to emerge with little success, and feel more defeated and distrustful of future advice than is necessary or helpful. We don’t have foolproof strategies yet. We have options to try” (154).
But I want foolproof strategies. I want to do A and B, with the guarantee that I’ll get C. I think that strategies can increase the likelihood of things going well. If I use people’s names when I speak with them, for instance, there’s a greater chance that they’ll respond positively to me. But will it make everyone like me? Probably not.
“Improving your lot on your own, needing the outside world’s approval less and less as things get better for you, will then effectively lead that outside world through your example…It will then change” (167).
“Two years after diagnosis, my relationships have been more civil towards [my coworkers]. I believed they improved because I learned to be easier on myself and others for our imperfections.–Jason Zervoudakes” (180).
That was a struggle I often had with GRASP. At some times, I was told to be at peace with myself and to be proud of who I was. At other times, I was told I needed to be something I’m not in order to succeed. And I often felt despair, since I couldn’t be a social butterfly. There are many times when I just don’t know what to say!
“Meeting others on the spectrum is often an enormous confidence builder. After hearing the experiences of fellow spectrumites, you might discover that you have an awful lot to be proud of. You might find that you’ve handled your diagnosis considerably well overall. And if not, if things have transpired badly for you compared to others, then those whom you meet will probably be your best source for suggestions on how to improve things. Face-to-face support group meetings, despite the sensory and social anxieties they present to some of us, are still one of the best sources of such confidence building. Support group meetings give you the chance to hear and share, they validate experiences that others may not believe or understand, and they can also be a safe arena to practice those social skills you might wish to improve” (205).
This brings up the positives and negatives of groups in general. I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences, often in the same group. For example, let’s take GRASP. There were times when I felt a degree of comfort there. The day before school started, for example, I was a nervous wreck, since I was afraid I’d be a social loser the next day. But when I went to a GRASP meeting and heard others talk about their social anxiety, I felt better, more comfortable.
At the same time, I was surrounded by a lot of people who didn’t have relationships or jobs. I didn’t want to admit that I was like them, because I thought that meant I’d never have a relationship or a job. (I still struggle over this.) I don’t have that much of a work history, since I’ve been in school for over a decade. Having to go through a job interview and interact with colleagues intimidates the heck out of me! Will I get a job? I hope! And so that’s where I had a hard time receiving comfort from GRASP. And, because of my limited experiences, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer to the others in the group.
AA groups are the opposite. There, people are so cheery. “I used to be this way, but now I’m so much better.” My problem is that I am right now where they were back then. I’m not drinking, mind you, but I’m still bitter and self-centered (only a little). So I wonder if there are people at these meeting who are going through what I am experiencing–right now.
But, fortunately, I presently go to an Asperger’s group that offers options and suggestions to people experiencing problems, so, in that, I’m blessed. I now have an opportunity to work on myself in ways I have not done before.