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To be an Aspergirl: A personal essay about what Aspergers means to an Aspergirl like me!
Many people know very little about Aspergers; or if they know a little their train of thought tends to lead them a merry dance around images of freaks, weirdos or unfortunate people…Rain Man, train spotters, awkward computer geeks, nerds, lonely twitchers, eccentric physicists and quirky mathematicians.
Others know it is a condition defined by your ‘ranking’ on the ‘Autistic Spectrum’ and imagine it must imply some kind of extreme syndrome with extreme effects to have its own name!
So in this article I hope to give you some facts about Aspergers that may facilitate a deeper insight into what it means to be made this way as well as dispelling some of the myths.
I am writing this from my own personal experience as a diagnosed Aspergirl/Autiste. And I decided to write this because I find the assumptions of some uninformed people to be offensive at worst and laughable at best...and I feel it would be beneficial to non-Aspers to have some information about it 'from the horse's mouth' so to speak.
I would like to set the record straight...and to start with reassure
NTs (Neuro-Typicals) that for the most part, people with Aspergers
find their condition to be more a gift than a hindrance. I fall into that
category and in this essay I hope to explain why I consider myself
blessed to be an Aspergirl.
1. Everyone is on
the Autistic spectrum; if you are a man you are in all probability and with
very few exceptions, higher on the spectrum than a woman. This is
because of the way your brain developed based on your hormonal development.
Recent studies seems to indicate a hormonal component to where you rank on
the spectrum…as well as a genetic one.
2. When you think
of people with Autism and bring to mind people with severe mental
disabilities, these are Lower Functioning Autistics; Aspergers is a
condition of Higher Functioning Autism. Not all Aspers are geniuses;
but if you are a genius you are more likely to be an Asper than other NTs!
3. Aspergers may
present challenges in life because the brain of an Asper is ‘hyper
rational’; what may appear to NTs as being irrational is in fact atypically
super rationality. This is what tends to make Aspers very good at retaining
information and either of average or above average intelligence than their
NT counterparts. Their ability to think logically and in a focused way means
many excel in computer programming, mathematics, physics, philosophy and any
other academic work.
4. Aspers are
often accused of lacking empathy; this is not exactly the case however. An
Asper will often see NTs as behaving in strange ways and consider their
constant reaction to circumstances, authority, perceived or assumed
stresses, peer pressure and their own emotions as being illogical,
irrational and sometimes absurd. In that sense an Asper doesn’t necessarily
relate experientially to NTs…but it doesn’t follow that they are unable to
sympathise or empathise any more than a healthy NT can't empathise or
sympathise with a NT that has (for example) broken their leg. Not
having a broken leg yourself or never having broken your leg and having no
experiential understanding of what it means to have broken your leg, doesn't
exclude you from empathising or sympathising with someone that has!
begins early in a person’s development and usually is hinted at by curiously
advanced development in specific areas very early on. For example, I was
potty trained before I could talk; my parents noticed they never saw me
learning things – I seemed to go from not doing something to being able to
do it well…and this happened with talking, writing and so on; I was able to
dress myself every day when I was 18 months old and I have memories from
this time. (Aspers usually have exceptional memories! Another good
thing that can sometimes be a bad thing!)
6. My eyesight,
hearing and other senses are more heightened and keener than other peoples’.
The flip side of this is that in a crowd, my mind doesn’t allow me to block
out the background noise but can take in a dozen conversations at once…that
can lead to me feeling overwhelmed and so I avoid situations where that may
happen because it can be personally draining for me. However, the good side
of unusually highly developed senses include things such as, if anyone loses
anything small, my eagle eyes usually find it! My memory and concentration
mean I learn new things very well and very fast and this has helped me in
many areas of life of course but in particular it has helped me in my
personal studies in psychology, psychotherapy, business, magick, philosophy,
spirituality, web design…even the more mundane aspects of my work such as
the accounts, advertising, website optimisation and promotion are all things
I have never had to pay to have someone else do because I learn them myself
very naturally and very quickly!
7. My heightened
sense of awareness could be likened to the type of consciousness and
experience one might have in meditation work; I enjoy sensory stimulus in
ways a NT, typically doesn't. So I derive a lot of pleasure from a
simple walk in the woods, a bubble bath, an enjoyable food, a pleasant
perfume, exotic incenses, sounds of nature, art, music (playing it and
listening to it), exercise, love, relationships, spirituality, magick,
psychic pursuits, visualisation/imagination, happiness and the full range of
human emotions...all with a greater intensity than NTs will tend to
experience them. For me, the benefit of techni-colour, surround sound
perception in my day to day experience of life, far outweighs any
difficulties I may have if a situation arises where I am 'over stimulated'
and experience anxiety or stress because of it. Most days of my life,
are the best days of my life and I couldn't ask for better than that!
For myself I consider my 'hyper awareness' to mean I am able to live more fully and experience life in a more complete and fulfilling way than others might. And the flip side? Well, in a nutshell, crappy stuff is crappier. The good side of that? When you know crappy stuff is crappier for you, you make more of a conscious effort to ensure you actively seek a non-crappy life! You seek positive experiences, fulfilling relationships and meaningful pursuits.
Because you live wholeheartedly, you take better care of where you ‘invest’ you whole-heartedness than most NTs feel motivated to. For me, this has meant I have created a life for myself that I find fulfilling, deeply meaningful, exquisitely enjoyable and wonderful in a million ways! And my tendency to ‘cut the crap’ by avoiding negative people and situations, superficiality and drama, means I have a great sense of freedom to engage with my life fully and put my heart and soul into everything I do and everything I experience.
I feel incredibly blessed by this! I am often inspired and in turn am
able to inspire others; I engage fully in creativity of all kinds and
inevitably find a deep sense of peace and satisfaction in this; I also work
to promote art and creativity in the hope it will inspire others too! And as
much as I can, I feel moved to share my blessings with others through my
work and my life. For me, all of my life and work is an expression of my
‘soul-purpose’ and I am passionate about every aspect of it.
8. Aspers are often defined as being unsociable or even anti-social. To an extent there may be truth in this in that you won’t find an Asper who is keen to make social chit-chat, discuss the weather or pass the time of day in the kind of superficial conversation that forms a part of much social interaction for some people; and in fact, many base relationships and friendships around such artificial connections without ever questioning why they don't seem to actually care as much as social convention seems to suggest they should.
Some NTs may think that’s a shame and that the ‘poor Asper’ must feel lonely or ‘out of the loop’ because of this difference in socialisation. But that’s not the case. Perhaps some do. But in general Aspers are very independent and self contained; they don’t require external validation and tend to be oblivious to social conventions because they are often absurd to the hyper-rational mind!
For example, a NT may worry what their ‘boss’ thinks of them and will actively endeavour to please that person. To an Asper this seems an absurd game; the ‘boss’ only has pretend power so why worry about their pretend power and why act as if they have any? To an Asper social conventions like this seem like a game…a very superficial and silly game; they wonder why people are playing it because it’s making other people unhappy and so to the Asper mind it’s not even just a silly game, it’s an absurd one!
This attitude is not a cultivated rebellious streak but is simply the
way an Asper is made. They are naturally subversive and unconventional;
naturally non-conformists; naturally eccentric (by NT standards!); naturally
‘out of the loop’…but if you ask an Asper if they would give up their
Aspergers so they could be ‘in the loop’ most of them would look at you with
incredulity wondering why on earth anyone would want to play the game of
being 'in the loop'!
9. Aspergers stereotypes are often based on how the condition presents in severe cases and in men.
To put this into context, one in a hundred people are diagnosed with Aspergers. Only one in eight of these are women. So I’m not exactly one in a million…but one in eight hundred’s not so bad!
In men, because of their hormones and because they tend to be higher
on the spectrum anyway, typical traits associated with Aspergers such as not
maintaining eye contact, being clumsy, being a nerd, having a monotone
voice, being very quiet or very loud, being anti-social or seemingly
oblivious to others are more common. However, women with Aspers are harder
to spot because their hormones, and perhaps even the expectations of society
and the differences in their upbringing and the expectations society has of
women compared to those of men, mean they often fit in more and seem less
‘odd’ than their male equivalents!
10. Because it is a developmental condition, most Aspers retain certain aspects of ‘child-like’ behaviours or attitudes. This can be a physical developmental point at which their brain paused as it was growing – so it’s not uncommon for Aspers to have habits like thumb sucking, keeping a teddy bear, walking on the balls of their feet, having ‘loose limbs’ or hyper flexibility for example.
In addition, emotionally they have a tendency to trust people quickly and easily than most NTs. Though often they can cut off someone almost clinically if they find their trust betrayed! So this tendency is neither a benefit nor a hindrance; retaining a child-like 'innocence' but with the balance of hyper-rationality is really not so bad. But it does make you see people and the world a bit differently and maybe I tend to see people in quite black and white terms - true or false types and I don't entertain the latter!
In general I would have to say that personally, I find
the fact that my openness means those close relationships I do have are
deeper and more trusting than they would otherwise be to be an enormous
benefit. For Aspers it is definitely quality and not quantity that
matters when it comes to friends/associates.
11. Aspers are
often accused of not picking up on subtle social cues. I think this varies a
great deal from person to person and interaction to interaction. I certainly
find I draw a blank with some people – but others I can ‘read’ very well. It
may be that Aspers can read people more easily the higher the other person
is on the spectrum…but I’m not really sure. In my own life, this
hasn't proven to be an enormous problem but different Aspers will
undoubtedly experience this in different ways.
12. Aspers are often accused of being bad communicators. Again, this is not my experience. Other Aspers I know are very creative – musicians, artists, models and writers – but I think there is some validity to this as a generalisation in as far as NT perceptions of Aspers go...
This is because an Asper is liable to be uninterested in communicating if they deem the level of the communication to be 'off their radar', 'shallow' or ‘inane’. If they do, they will tend to be quite unresponsive and earn themselves labels of being cold or aloof or arrogant or bad communicators.
But with an Asper it’s not that they are not able to communicate…it’s that they often don’t see a point in some of the communications that NTs do find merit in; and instead of just 'going along with it', an Asper doesn't have that need to fit in and will happily sit on the sideline or completely ignore something they don't find any point in!
Another consideration is that due to their capacity to memorise facts,
Aspers often have a very wide vocabulary and are extremely articulate and
extremely effective communicators if they are communicating about something
they care about. Their fast thinking can mean when they speak they tend to
gabble or hop from subject to subject sometimes! Also, Aspers can seem
unusual because of their wide vocabulary - they may use archaic or
unconventional words in their common language.
13. One of the
best things about Aspergers for me is the fact that I can engage so fully in
my work and creative endeavours; it helps in spellcrafting and definitely
gives me an edge when it comes to magickal and spiritual work. Many Indigos
and Crystal Children are higher on the spectrum than NTs and the overall
sense is that Aspers live in a state of higher consciousness; so if they
seem different, it’s because they are different. But not in a negative way!
14. Aspers often/usually experience life with a different set of priorities than those society dictates and they are wont to ask questions and openly speak their minds in ways that tradition and custom restrict; and in situations where NTs are more likely to observe such social mores, Aspers don’t feel the same restrictions and so can appear almost childlike in their openness and honesty…sometimes eccentric and occasionally rude or outspoken.
But Aspers tell it like it is and if you know an Asper then you either
find such openness and honesty a refreshing change from assumed and accepted
societal norms or you find it kind of awkward! But not only Aspers find
societal norms restrictive and absurd! NTs can be non-conformists,
unconventional, anti-social, heretical, rebellious and eccentric too - and
those that are will likely find Aspers a bit of an oasis in a desert of
restrictive customs, political games and curiously absurd but socially
15. Many Aspers, past and present excel in scientific, political or philosophical arenas; but many artists, poets, writers, actors, composers and musicians are either known to have been or have retrospectively been suggested to have been Asper.
The ability to excel in creative and artistic activities is something
that has enhanced my life in many ways and enhances the experience of many
other Aspers too.
16. For a NT, it
may appear that Aspergers defines a person; for myself as an Asper it
invariably seems I define myself (and my understanding of this is
experiential and not theoretical!)
I could give many personal anecdotes to describe how being an Aspergirl has made my life challenging in some ways; how it has motivated me to improve my life in other ways; how it has allowed me to achieve more and be more; how it has fulfilled me; how it makes me different; how sometimes my differences have been a source of inspiration and enjoyment for myself and others; and how other times they have been a source of consternation and bewilderment to those around me!
But in summary, being an Aspergirl means I am 'different'. Being an Aspergirl means I don’t mind that I’m 'different'. Being an Aspergirl means I don’t mind if you do mind that I’m 'different'!
All in all, being an Aspergirl is not ‘blessing in disguise’ – it is an evident one! It is a blatant and unashamed and manifest and palpable and fundamental blessing! It is also a blessing that I can and do share with others.
And from my own study of the condition and my experiential knowledge
and understanding, I have concluded that my Aspergers doesn’t just make the
world a better place for me, but makes the world a better place for having
me in it; it gives me a unique contribution to make and I endeavour to make
it; to enhance life for myself and for others; to make a positive
difference, by being different.
Famous Aspers Past & Present…
Some of those cited posthumously as having had Aspergers may have had conditions with similarities...Aspergers was not defined as a specific condition until 1944 and even today, most Aspers are wrongly diagnosed with various conditions and not fully assessed or diagnosed until later in life!
The conditions they are often labelled with/misdiagnosed with include obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, defiance, hypersensitivity, social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia...and many more!
Unfortunately this can mean that until they do receive a correct diagnosis, many Aspers are treated with inappropriate drug therapy or other techniques that are not helpful and may even be damaging; and are misunderstood while their symptoms are misinterpreted by family, friends and 'professionals'.
It is a sad fact that until recently early signs of Aspergers were not on anyone's radar. As a child, my mother noticed some atypical behaviours in me; but as she says, I was not naughty even though I was 'difficult'; I was not argumentative even though I was defiant; I was not rebellious even though I didn't seem to acknowledge any authority. So although these things were different, they didn't seem different enough that she felt the need to take me to a professional; if your child is potty trained before they can talk, it's not something you would necessarily consider a problem!
My own Aspergers was not formally diagnosed until I was well into adult-hood. I've no doubt it would have helped my family and friends and me to have had an accurate diagnosis and understanding of the condition earlier in life; but as it is, I don't feel my life has been bad in any way - only that some of the challenges I faced would have been easier had I known the context and been able to develop a better sense of perspective earlier on.
Now, if someone is diagnosed early, using cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy, growing up and navigating a world where you are a 1% is made that much easier! So I am very happy that now, people have a better understanding and a much more positive image of Aspergers than they have in the past.
As famous people increasingly go on record and go public with their
diagnosis, so others are looking at what Aspergers actually is and what it
means and I think when you read the list below, you will agree, Aspers have
made a valid and positive contribution to the world and undoubtedly, to your
own life; every time you drive a car or put on a light...you are personally
benefiting from the contribution that Aspers have made to your life!
L S Lowry
Hans Christian Anderson
Alexander Graham Bell
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sir Winston Churchill
Vincent Van Gogh
H P Lovecraft