I’m going to post a list of Michael John Carley quotes on Asperger’s that have a common theme (in my mind), then I’ll comment on them. Fasten your seatbelts!
“Antilabelism argued that the potential for individualism was lost when someone became stamped with a diagnosis; and that this so-called label would categorize him or her in such a way as to deny that person’s humanity. This interpretation implies that diagnosis is a be-all and end-all of who a person is, and this is wrong. Diagnosis is not intended as a eulogy, but almost instead as a starting point, a context, or a filter through which to discover the person’s individuality–far quicker than without it. A diagnosis, for instance, shouldn’t mean ‘you can’t do [a certain activity]’ It rather means that the individual will be less able to do the activity, but that he probably could, especially if he works much harder at it than the next person” (37).
On selling himself in his career: “[N]ot knowing about my AS, how could I sell myself when I didn’t have a clue as to what I was trying to sell?” (122).
“Hopefully by now you’re beginning to get an idea as to where in your life, if anywhere, you’d like to make changes. In other words, you’re making choices based on who you are and what you want out of life. The best helpers will be the books you read, the articles you download, or the videos you watch, for these will help you cognitively understand what sets you apart. Becoming your own expert, your own advocate, not only boosts your confidence, but without understanding who you are, you might continue on the semidoomed vein of assuming you are something that you are not…[A]s an adult, you will have to be the repair person, the mechanic, the doctor. And again, now that you know what you have, you won’t be using the wrong toolbox to make those repairs” (158-159).
“If an individual is still bitter [from feeling powerless], then additional therapy is needed to help him realize that he is more empowered than he thinks” (158).
Dr. Temple Grandin (an academic with autism who works with animals): “More knowledge makes me act more normal. Many people have commented to me that I act much less autistic now than I did ten years ago…The more I learn, the more I realize more and more that how I think and feel is different…I think there is too much emphasis on deficits and not enough emphasis on developing abilities” (202).
“My friend Scott was asking me about AS once, soon after I was diagnosed. He and I had gone to graduate school a dozen years prior, and I was comparing how I now felt with how I felt when we were both studying playrighting together at Columbia. I told him how much easier it now was for me to be myself, now that I finally knew what I had, and that I didn’t have to hide my more autistic behaviors anymore. His response was laughter. ‘But Michael, you seem so much less autistic now than you did back then…’ I see his point. There is less anxiety now–the act of playing a character that wasn’t me only added to that past anxiety, a restlessness that currently exists at a fraction of its former level. Knowledge did this” (203).
The theme that runs through all of these quotes is that knowledge is power. Our Asperger’s diagnosis is like a light that goes on inside of us. It helps us to know ourselves. We’re no longer stumbling in the dark. We hopefully become more comfortable with ourselves, and that leads us to project an image of inner peace to others. Maybe we also get a clearer idea on what we need to work on. We know our strength and our deficits, and that can help us as we seek employment and relationships.
I hope that this is true, but I wish that my diagnosis were like a light going on inside of me. I still feel as if I’m stumbling through the dark. Sure, I know that I struggle socially, but knowing that doesn’t make me perform better in that area. I still don’t know what to say in a lot of social situations.
In addition, there are things about Asperger’s with which I identify, and there are things that don’t relate to me that much. And, then, there is a large “in-between” realm.
Where do I identify with the syndrome? I struggle socially. I can be blunt and say what others may deem inappropriate. I’m a picky eater. Especially in my adulthood, I seem to annoy people or make them mad, for some reason.
Where don’t I identify? By and large, I don’t have too many sensory problems. I have difficulty when a bunch of people are telling me different things at once, since I like to focus on one thing at a time (though, for some reason, I’m able to read and watch TV simultaneously). I can tolerate all sorts of sights and sounds. I get sick of the sirens that I continually hear outside of my home, but I just live with it.
I feel as if I can properly interpret people’s facial expressions and the tones of their voices. Others may assume that I can’t, however, because I don’t really know how to shape a proper reaction to them. My actions may give them the impression that I’m not taking their anger (or whatever) into consideration, when actually the problem is that I don’t know what to say in response to it. There are many times when I may detect anger and annoyance in someone, however, and it may not be there. I don’t know. I hope that’s the case.
As far as the “in-between” realm goes, people with AS are able to dive into the subjects that they love. They can be obsessive. Obviously, there are subjects that interest me. You will notice on my list of blog topics that I write far more about religion than I do about other topics. When I go to the library, I check out a book on politics, and a book on religion. But am I an expert on my interests? No. There are neuro-typical people who are better walking encyclopedias than I am. And, while I’ve been a hard worker in school, there are others who work harder.
Like people with AS, I can get fixated on details. For example, when I see an actor or actress who looks familiar, I try to find things he or she has been in. My sister is usually incredulous at this. “How do you know this stuff?!” she exclaims. So that may be a symptom.
But I’m not sure what to do with my diagnosis. I often feel like a powerless victim who has few choices. I think I’m at the mercy of whether or not others like me, since I’ll need contacts in order to succeed. I do not know how to take myself and use it to make a positive impression.
But that’s where my therapist can hopefully help. Mine is not totally knowledgeable about Asperger’s, and Carley recommends that we see therapists who are. But my goal is to learn social skills–to become more conversant in what others see as acceptable. Sure, I pray for the day when society is more accepting, and I’m glad that there are people like Michael John Carley who work to make it so. But, at present, I need to navigate my way through the world as it is.
My therapist has told me about my assets, and he’s giving me thoughts on social skills and relaxation techniques. “We do things better when we’re relaxed,” he said. Hopefully, this can reduce my social anxiety. I’m interested in solutions. And, yet, mapping out who I am may also be useful.