538: Assumption Junction… the truth of my Aspie words

People who don’t know me well, and some who do, sometimes jump to conclusions and assume things about my intention and motivation behind my writing that aren’t necessarily true. I write to write. It’s largely a processing mechanism.

The problem is that who ever is reading my words will interpret said writing based on his or her own opinions and prior knowledge. In other words, if someone is naturally confrontational then the chances of this same person thinking I am being confrontational in my writing is high. Or the opposite might be true, where a confrontational person might make a judgment call that I am weak because I am not displaying a countering personality. Wherein I might be explaining something for a thousand different strands of reasons, all of which pop in and out of my head through the process of scribing, he or she will make an abrupt conclusion about my intentions that includes perhaps two or three primary reasons (again, based on his or her experience). The worst part of it is when this said party then turns and suggests he/she knows what I was trying to say and why I was trying to say it. When truth be told, I have already played over in my busy mind a hundred times why I said what I said, how I said it, and why I said it.

People don’t often know how long I take to write a response. When I am dealing with an out-of-my-comfort-zone response to someone, for example via email or instant messaging to someone who I do not have a close relationship with about a subject I deem important, I take a very long time to write, upwards to an hour for revisions, rewriting, rewording, reworking, and rereading. I stim through the editing process itself to calm my anxiety over the situation. If I am triggered, particularly by what I interpret as an injustice towards another, it takes me even more time to write. What is difficult then is when I am accused by another to have written something in haste, without thought, at length, or without consideration to the audience or the communication rules of some company or organization. It is hard to digest this type of assumption because nothing is further from the truth. The receiver does not understand that I have painstakingly relived scenario after scenario of possible outcomes of how my words might be interpreted. That I have tried my hardest to follow any rules of communication. That I have pushed myself to shorten all I want and feel the need to say. That I have left out more than 75% of what is really on my mind, and sometimes much more than that.

In example of the revision process, I will write a sentence and then imagine the person/audience reading my words. I then evaluate their potential reaction and adjust in hopes of causing the least amount of miscommunication. It’s not about people-pleasing or avoiding conflict, it’s more so conveying my truth as I see it in the most gentle and kind way (and rule-following way) as possible. To do this I switch around words, I alter adjectives, I choose new phrases, and I clarify repeatedly through transposing my words and readjusting. A draft will be rewritten more times than I can count, and large sections deleted, redone, and deleted again. It never seems to be right enough. Not in a perfectionist way, but in a ‘this is my heart’ way.

I discern ahead of time feasible misgivings or upset on the upcoming reader’s part. This process is exhausting at all levels and causes physical and emotional pain. The most troublesome hurt follows if and when the intended recipient responds in one of the many non-constructive ways I had foreseen him/her responding, and then I see all my efforts were for naught.

People think that the length of my writing equates debate, that length = ego, that length = confusion, that length = selfishness, that length = not caring about the recipient, that length = non-professionalism, etc. etc. I don’t write at length to get my point across or to prove something. Once again, I write to clarify my inner workings and to let the person know my intentions fully. If a part of information isn’t shared that I believe at the time is a pertinent piece of the subject at hand I feel as if I am being deceitful, even as I logically know that by definition I am not. No amount of reasoning fixes this.

I over explain myself in written word as much as I do in spoken word. Particularly when emotionally triggered. And such triggers can come from a variety of sources, especially from others’ behaviors that are not privy to the autistic experience. With all my spiritual studies and practices, a part of me would like to say I am ‘above/ being triggered, but that’s hogwash. I am neurologically wired to be more prone to fight-or-flight responses. (And in my case biologically/physically wired that way, as well.) So, I accept that I get triggered.

It is cumbersome and downright dangerous for me to write (without a lot of editing) after I have been triggered. I cannot help but let some of the emotional upset leak through. As much as I try to pamper and sugar coat the words, this ache of being triggered comes out. And then, even with careful revision, the trigger leaks through. In response, I am evaluated based on the characteristics of my writing. I am labeled emotional, reactive, too concerned, too sensitive, etc. This adds to the initial trigger, and to the continual compounded feelings of being misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout my life. Thus is the prospect of such an invisible disability when held by a person that primarily seems to function at a high-level of ‘normalcy.’

People with autism usually get me. And I in turn get them. I am the first to smile when someone sends me a very long online message. Usually the person is apologizing ahead of time for what they label a ‘rambling.’ And usually I am skimming some of it and finding the golden nuggets of what was written. I get it. I am the same way. I am going on and on about a particular subject whilst at the same time stepping back and observing myself and thinking: Why am I doing this? Sorry! Still, I do it. I process and I stim through words.

I can go through periods of purposeful semi-muteness, wherein I try not to talk at length to anyone. I am mad at myself and the world at that point. And don’t think I can function unless I change who I am, at least outwardly. Usually this state by nature turns me into some type of hermit, where I am only talking to maybe one person I know. It’s the way I retreat and I guess hide from the world. When I have had enough of me and I believe the world has had enough of me, I burrow like a wounded animal licking my wounds and punishing myself for having any form of self-pity and the brain I do. Not long after I come out of it and I am a babbling brook once again.

People who are wired like me understand. They know the ebb and flow of being this self. They know that even we get tired of the non-stop jabber and thoughts and processing. And they, for the most part, accept me unconditionally, with so-called flaws and all. It’s the others that just don’t get it whom I have a difficult time repeatedly associating with.

It’s like this, supposing I am blind. I use a different form of communication. It’s not typical. It’s not traditional. And it’s accepted. After all you can readily observe I am blind.

And then it’s like this: I have autism. I use a different form of communication. It’s not typical. It’s not traditional. And it’s not accepted. After all you can’t readily observe my disability and I should be able to change. I can adjust. I can conform. I can just communicate like you do. Follow the rules and protocol. And if I cannot, then I must be inconsiderate, impossible to train, or stubborn.

But it’s not that way. It’s just not. I cannot adapt without modifications and understanding, anymore than the person with a visible disability can. If I was an amputee, I wouldn’t be able to grow legs. If I was deaf, my speech would be affected. If I have autism, my brain is different. It doesn’t just change based on suggestion. It’s an impossibility.

Sam’s book Everyday Aspergers is now available internationally on Amazon.

More information can be found at her company: myspectrumsuite.com

533: Interviewing Autistic Individuals

 

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1. When being interviewed for a potential job, adults on the autistic spectrum may appear as one of two extremes: 1) overly confident with an almost false persona or 2) extremely nervous and apologetic.

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2. Rarely, during an interview, is an autistic jobseeker feeling at ease and content, and able to present a comfortable version of self. This is not an attempt to fool or falsify self, but instead an effort to try to blend in and be part of the ‘norm.’

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3. Without a clear guidelines of how to act in a specific role, in this case as interviewee, the an autistic can present as anxious, tense, aloof, frightened or extremely nervous.

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4. Partaking in an interview can cause extreme stress for days before the interview. The interview process will more likely than not be over-thought and imagined repeatedly, with multiple outcomes and scenarios. The candidate on the spectrum will typically relive the actual interview itself, repeatedly after the event.

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5. What might appear as a simple ‘not a fit’ or ‘no thank you,’ to the hiring agent, can be devastatingly crushing to a person with autism. It’s common to obsess over the reasons for failure and to catastrophize the outcome, incorporating all-or-nothing thinking, and self-torture, in the form of repetitive, obsessive thoughts regarding the ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs.’

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6. During the hiring process the autistic job candidate might be set at ease with (kind) frankness, direct instructions, consistent reassurance, and clear expectations and goals. While such measures might seem as special treatment or deemed as ‘making exceptions,’ when given the fact that autism is primarily centered on social and communication challenges, taking such measures to decrease social anxiety ought to be considered an essential priority in recruitment.

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7. Knowing exact timelines and being exposed to consistent correspondence can alleviate all candidates’ stress levels, but this is particularly true for people on the spectrum. The sense of unpredictability and not-knowing can overcome and consume a person with autism; and this consumption will directly affect their relations with others and behavior, until resolved. In addition, sudden time changes, tardiness, and rescheduling, on the company’s part, can lead to candidates experiencing increased stress levels, panic, and nervousness.

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8. Before an interview, some candidates on the spectrum will create scenarios in their mind of failure and miscommunication, and have fear of not being able to express their true intentions and true self. They often have a fear of not appearing genuine and honest enough.

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9. Oftentimes, the autistic job candidate will want to be seen, heard and understood; as is such, it is commonplace for an jobseeker to provide information that the interviewer many not deem appropriate, necessary, or beneficial. Most autistics will in fact share thoughts and insights to their own detriment, unable to stop the need to be transparent and forthcoming. While the hiring agent might find this transparency refreshing or curious, the candidate will often feel baffled and embarrassed by their own actions, thinking, once again, they have revealed too much and not followed the ‘correct’ rules.

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10. The autistic job candidate will likely wish to have a chance to process with the interviewer as soon as possible to know exactly and specifically ways to improve presentation. For this reason, in some cases, if opportunity allows, the candidate will benefit from careful explanation regarding the reasons why they weren’t hired or considered for further recruitment.

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11. As individuals on the spectrum have coexisting conditions such as OCD, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress, and aforementioned patterns of thinking that create a type of self-badgering, it is vital for the recruitment team members to be sensitive to the possible detrimental consequences of the interview process. They simply are not going to respond like typical candidates. What might take a typical person a week to overcome, might take the autistic person years. Often events, particularly those that create a sense of failure, become ingrained in the psyche of a person on the spectrum for a lifetime. While it is impossible for companies to take measures to consistently provide potential candidates reassuring feedback after an interview, it is plausible that interviewers be trained in measures to take to prevent further trauma.

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12. Some autistics will have little to no trouble expressing self in various communication venues. But the large majority will have specific triggers to communication that can bring on various outcomes, including panic attacks, insomnia, inconsolable anxiety, and nonstop, rapid thinking.

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13. While the autistic individual is interviewing, they will often be acutely self-aware and preoccupied by their own nervousness and internal coaching, and be simultaneously experiencing two conversations at once—one that is shared aloud between the interviewer and interviewee, and one that is an ongoing internal dialogue. Often the internal voice will overshadow the external conversation and, as a result, gaps of time in the interview will be lost. What might appear as being not being present or distracted, is typically the individual attempting to balance the internal voice with the external conversation. It is suitable and advisable for the interviewer to provide ample time for restating questions, reassuring statements, and redirecting the candidate with ideas and positive input.

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14. Candidates on the spectrum will sometimes panic with open-ended questions, as most are very quick thinkers, able to connect information at rapid speed and reach multiple conclusions in a matter of seconds. While deliberating over a question, the candidate is also contemplating about what the interviewer expects, wants, and is hinting at. The more specific and direct a question, the better.

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15. Some candidates will give quick, short, abrupt answers and be mistaken for non-personable and not forthcoming; while others will overstate, be long-winded and go ‘on and on.’ This tendency for oversharing, or being short in response, will also be present in written documents, such as resumes. It is difficult for a person on the spectrum to judge when written word and spoken word is deemed ‘enough.’ Efforts to clarify, probe, and retrieve more ‘substantial’ information might cause further panic.

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16. In most cases, people on the spectrum communicate better in written form with time to process, rethink, and edit thoughts and ideas, than spoken form. When possible, some type of written assessment ought to be utilized during recruitment screening, such as an essay or instant messaging service.

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17. Autistics are used to being judged, ridiculed, and told how to fix their behavior. People on the spectrum are often subjected to unsolicited advice, tips, and direction their whole lives. It is best not to offer assistance or help, or a point of view, unless asked.

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sam

This post was revised in the summer of 2017. 

Sam’s new book Autism in a Briefcase: A leading edge tool for putting diversity into action is coming soon!

Written by founder of myspectrumsuite.com  Samantha Craft (aka Marcelle Ciampi), M.Ed. is the mother of three boys, one adult son who is on the autism spectrum. She is the senior job recruiter for ULTRA Testing, an autism educator, the author of the blog and book Everyday Aspergers, and is active in autism groups locally and globally. Samantha serves as a guest speaker, workshop presenter, curriculum developer, neurodiversity recruitment specialist, and more. She is working on her second book Autism in a Briefcase, written to provide insight to employers and agencies about the neurodiverse talent pool. A former schoolteacher and advocate for children with exceptional needs, she appreciates the skills and talents of autistic individuals. Diagnosed with Aspergers in 2012, she enjoys the arts, writing, movies, travel, and connecting with others. (More people know Sam by Sam because it’s her community pen name.) see myspectrumsuite.com for more information.

531: The Balance Beam

I have a hard time giving to me. It’s not about esteem, as far as I can logically decipher. Nor is it about being selfless or completely altruistic; though I strive for those ideals, I highly doubt they’re attainable in my human suit.

I have a hard time feeling my achievements and accomplishments. It’s not that I don’t take note of my hard work and efforts, and even the path I climbed, (or sometimes slid down rapidly screaming for help), to get there.

More over, I don’t think I have the capacity to feel, essentially, who I am.

I can see that I am intelligent, kind, and for the most part understanding and forgiving. I recognize what could be quantified as a kind of ‘goodness’ in me, and even an over-riding sense of wanting to serve to serve and not to gain approval. I get all this about me. I see it. I recognize. But somehow I can’t feel the experience.

I don’t know if one would call it a sense of pride or fulfillment, or other abundant amounts of labels—but whatever it is that other people seem to get and obtain, in an abstract way after achieving a goal, I don’t seem to have that. I can’t even say if it’s a feeling or outcome, simply because I don’t understand.

Perhaps this inability to understand is because I don’t think the race or game, or what-have-you, is ever over; and to top that off, I don’t even believe that the race or game actually exists. I see the process of achievement as a cluster of something or another, all unrecognizable and indistinguishable amongst the rest of life’s happenings.

To me, I do to do. I give to give. I care to care. I exist to exist. There isn’t this motive or agenda underlying my actions or ways. And if there is, the motive, if not for others, feels heavy, poisonous, and akin to wretched waste.

I just am. And this way that other people sometimes maneuver through life baffles me: the secret schemes, the plots, the webs spun and re-spun. And furthermore, along the same lines, in comparing the declared ‘loser’ to the announced ‘winner,’ the latter seems nothing of grandeur in comparison to the agony of the defeated one.

With this said, I cause myself great harm in overanalyzing my every move. The spectator I am, observing self, tinkers about with scoping tools, contemplating if my action is suitable representation as reflection of interior. If, in fact, in the light of the day, what is said or done, matches my intention or desire. In a constant state of analyzing, I am aiming for the path that is in direct resonance with my soul self.

In addition, I cannot detect the idiosyncrasy of common conversational rules spawned by the associate facing me; yet, I can dissect with fine-fashion the inner-weavings of my own motives. So much so that I deliberate with self questioning if my words are appropriately suited for ‘proof’ (to self) of authenticity.

Is the exterior self accurately representing the unspoken self? I ask. Still with this perceived self-harm, I need this way of being. The manner in which I tread upon a dreamland stage, whilst all about more selves collectively critique the actions portrayed by the exterior, is a proverbial limb of my essence. To be without such manner of existence, I would find myself broken and obsolete, and abandoned, the same as wood for fire. And as tree, I would weep.

In honesty, the worst of the matter is when another enters my zone: the place in which I sit unsettled watching for discrepancies between what is intended and what was produced; distinguishing the gaps, molecular they might be, between what is felt intrinsically as truth and what is displayed as reflection. I hide within, in constant wonder-state, questioning if what I have done is honorable. And here the pain comes, as the mind blunders and rallies for evidence of what is honorable.

Again, I find myself today, in the balancing act of striving for neither perfection nor satisfaction, but rather the gentle center point that does more to extinguish self and lighten all. It’s a varying balance beam of grace that beckons me to be all I can be, but not too much.

530: Just Three Minutes of My Day (Aspie Exhaustion)

Ironically, after posting about ‘small talk’ on a social media site, I was in Trader Joe’s grocery store last night and the male checker locked eyes with me and asked, with a toothy-grin, “So, what have you been working on?”
What have I been working on? My face squished up in confusion.

Number one thought barged in: Glad I am wearing a winter hat to hide my burning red ears.

The bombardment of thoughts that followed went something like this: What does this question mean? I am embarrassed. Can he tell I am beet red? I wonder if it bothers him he is balding. I wonder if he is single. What does he think of me? Why would he ask this? What am I supposed to say? He is staring at me. Can he tell I am embarrassed? What is he thinking? How should I respond? I am taking too long. Do I look autistic, shy, or stuck up? I don’t want to look at him. I don’t want him to think I am in a bad mood or mean. I am not. I thought I was better equipped than this. I thought I was prepared. I bet I look stuck up. Just like in high school, always misinterpreted. The people in line are looking at me. I wonder if they are married? I wonder if they can tell I am so embarrassed. They are frowning. Are they tired or sad, or mad at me? I look flustered. How much time has gone by? Why did I choose the shortest line and not the line with the female checker? (That’s about half the thoughts, anyhow.)

Only seconds had past, but in my reality it seemed hours.

I refocused. All l I could think to say was: “What made you ask that question?”

I realized immediately that I sounded evasive, suspicious, and even perhaps flirtatious. Not my intention.
By this time, I wondered if he was perhaps psychic, and could sense I was working on many projects.

The checker responded quickly and easily, in a manner that screamed ‘this is so easy for me. “Oh, I was just making small talk to pass the time.”

Small talk. Small talk. Small talk! Should I explain there isn’t such a thing in my mind?

He stared at me, and I knew as the blood-shot through my cheeks and up to the bridge of my nose that in this communication game it was my turn to speak. I stuttered some, and then formed some shaky sentences about my new job and such, remembering of course, with screaming reminders in my head, to ask him about himself. By the time the three minutes were over and the checker had scanned and bagged my ten items, I felt I’d been to war and back.

Sam Craft, Everyday Aspergers

526: Tis the Season to Shop: Aspie Style

1. Prepare by getting items out ahead of time.
I find my keys when I am in a non-rushed state. I keep my keys in the same place at home as much as possible, although I am not so regimented in my ways in dealings with my purse. However, abyss-purse-mouth aside, I try to place my keys in my hand before I leave a store, to avoid the stress of searching in the parking lot. And before exiting my vehicle to shop, I take out my ATM card, coupons, tickets, or the like. Take out what I need and put it in my hand or a nearby pocket. I then repeat to myself silently where I am putting the item(s). I do this because regardless of my employed ‘coping mechanisms,’ I still get anxiety in front of strangers, and have found the mere act of reaching into my purse to pull out my wallet and retrieve my ATM, when there is a potential audience, makes me blush and nervous. In the grocery store, I think about the people behind me in line and the person behind the checkout stand, and can’t help but feel their eyes upon me. I know I am not the center of their universe, and not important to them in the slightest degree. But I can’t help but to feel nervous, (if perchance their eyes hover upon me for more than a millisecond). Having what I need out and quickening the checkout process, by even ten seconds, somehow helps to relieve my anxiety. Plus, it’s one less step I have to think about, rehearse, and employ.

2. Ignore the lines. Choose the safest checkout.
I used to examine how many people were in line and choose which line to go through based on the length and potential wait time. I realized, with much exposure, that the length of the line generally means nothing, unless absolutely no one is there. At any moment, short line or not, anyone can have coupons, or need a price-check, or forget something. In addition, I have some weird spidey-sense, in which I am able to choose a short line that inevitably takes longer than all the other lines about. When it comes to shopping, I know I have triggers. Some include loud young children, loud scolding parents, people with extreme body odor, carts loaded with heaps of junk food and ‘garbage’, women with low-cut shirts with much “boobage” hanging out, and male grocery clerks. I am certain I am forgetting a barrel-load of other triggers. I am shy around men. And more shy around younger people than older people. So I generally try to choose an approachable-looking older woman to checkout my groceries. When one is not available, I find I feel most comfortable with a person appearing a bit ‘unique,’ like with nose and lips piercings and scattered tattoos or blue and pink hair. I feel much ‘safer’ around the ‘odd’ person. Perhaps I sense they might get me more than the typical folk, or at minimum not judge some of my odd quirks. And forget about self-checkout. That stuff makes me panic. So many steps and so much to do. Just scanning books in the library in the self-checkout is hard enough for me. And visualizing trying to self-scan in the grocery store makes my heart pump to the tenth degree, every time. I mean I am the girl self-preparing by reducing steps, why would I add a heap more?

3. Shop off hours.
I typically go to shop during mid-morning on a weekday. When I happen into a grocery store during rush hours, such as weekends or early evening, I am usually shocked by the wave of panic and need-to-escape that I experience. I don’t like loud crowds. I don’t like large crowds. And crowded loud aisles where everyone is maneuvering is the worst. I can feel people’s thoughts. I can almost hear their minds raging: Get out of my way! And I start to take on the persona of those around me. I quickly become exhausted and impatient. And I find myself judging how people can be so oblivious and absent. I wonder what I am doing there, and then physical pain sets in. I am the same in rush hour traffic, and forever thankful that is not a part of my daily routine.

4. Make a list and rewrite it again and again.
I like lists. They soothe me. They make errands less stressful. Ironically, in chuckle-fashion, most of the time I lose, forget, or misplace my list. But it was never about the list to begin with. I like to choose certain pens and markers and feel the way they write. I like to look at the words on paper. I like to cross out and highlight and remember things by marking them down. It’s even fun to find old lists and remember back to that day and recall what was a priority then and there. Something about words and lists and sorting is soothing. If I have to shop, I might as well add some self-soothing measures. If I remember the list, that’s a bonus. But even when I do, I often don’t follow it. In the end, a list is just one more task in a very busy-bombarded mind trying to keep up with the following of the subculture of the grocery store.

5. Stim while shopping.
I relax in some stores, when the crowds are not about and the store is clean, and the lights aren’t bothering me, and the music is not excruciatingly painful nor blaring, and the greeters at the front of the store are nice, and the aisles are neat and organized, and the items are well presented, and the heat isn’t too high and the room not too stuffy, and the smells not chemical-filled or musty. Then, when my sensory system isn’t on overload, and all ‘feels’ well, I enjoy myself. In fact, I seek out stores. I go to them several times a week. Not so much to spend money or to even shop, but to escape. Finding patterns, analyzing displays, counting how many of something are left, figuring out where I would put something if I bought it, and largely living in my imagination, are all benefits of a comfortable store. I calm myself by going window shopping and by looking at item after item, in row after row, and then deciding on one tiny thing. Something about stores enables me to relax through the distraction of ‘what ifs.’ It could be a furniture store or antique store or anything really, where multiple items are on display. My mind naturally itemizes and categorizes, fixes and organizes, counters and projects, creates and elaborates, and being in a place with many ‘new’ things enables my mind to feed. Yes, it’s a feeding of sorts. Akin to a vampire requiring blood: My mind requires newness.

6. And regarding the capitalistic ritual of Black Friday in America, a cultural tradition that has seeped out of its Friday boundary into the bordering days, past and present, no way. Not going. Not understanding the need nor the hype nor the want. Feeling sorry for the workers. Feeling sorry for society. And wishing we lived in a place where people lined up like that to feed the hungry. Enough said.

524: “Stupid NTs”

Author’s note:
NT is the abbreviation for the word neurotypical. It is a familiar term to those on the autistim spectrum and was originally used to describe those individuals who do not have neurological brain differences. NT is generally accepted as a substitution for the word ‘normal,’ as the word ‘normal’ is subjective. For some, utilizing the word ‘neurotypical’ is an active choice, for the act of using the word ‘normal,’ in reference to those not on the autism spectrum, implies that those on the spectrum are not normal.

On numerous accounts members of the autistic and/or Aspergers community have been alienated, ostracized, and pointed out by the majority as inherently flawed or wrong. Individuals on the spectrum continue to site feelings of extreme isolation from mainstream society and times of repeated criticism in which observers offer out measures in which the person with autism/Aspergers might attempt to fix or adapt him or herself to be more ‘normal.’ In short those on the spectrum are often criticized and taught how they might better behave in order to assimilate. I know of many who have contemplated or attempted suicide based on the intense isolation associated with Aspergers, and had a friend, who took his own life, just last year. I, myself, am not immune from the critics who want me to behave more like them. Not so long ago, I received an extended email from a professor of psychology, who, having had just found out I had Aspergers, felt it reasonable and justifiable to critique my correspondence and give advice on how to act and function as a professional at the university.

In a broad sense, as a people, recognized as the same through common characteristic traits, habits/routines, neurological functioning, gene/enzyme variations, ailments, and the like, those on the spectrum have been singled-out as different from the start, even as they themselves might not recognize the differences. To some, we (those on the spectrum) feel ‘normal’ to our own selves, as how we function and experience life is all we know, and will ever know. Yet still, despite our own inability to change to suit the comfort-level of others, we are told we are somehow made ‘wrong.’ To be told you are flawed or inferior based on various attributes, such as skin color, race, sect., or religion, is harmful and undoubtedly can lead to hurt. Though while the effects of discrimination often create the breeding ground for cruelty, and cause much suffering, there still remains a means for the oppressed to escape psychological affliction through the understanding that essentially they are not the color of their skin or the ideologies they uphold. However, it can be argued, one suffers without means for psychological relief when the majority proclaims that the manner in which a person functions and thinks is wrong. For how can one eradicate self from self, and become that which he is not?

This continual bombardment of judgment of another based on his behavior, whether the bombardment be indirect, direct, or implied, wears down the spirit—chips away at the person’s understandings of self and the way in which he or she relates to the world. In essence, destroys the foundation of his existence. The confusion brought on by criticism brings about a distinct feeling of being misplaced and plopped down on the wrong planet. In addition, often people on the spectrum can’t recognize or do not know others that are like-minded, and therefore, don’t even have a company to retreat to for comfort and support when feeling judged. And if another, on the spectrum, did know such a people akin to himself, he might shy away for a variety of reasons related to the challenges of Aspergers, e.g., distrust, frustration, embarrassment, social insecurities, sensory- and processing-overload from being in a crowd.

Accordingly, as a collective, we are thusly isolated twice: once in our tendencies to be publicly noted in a not so positive light for our unique behaviors and attributes, and secondly in our tendencies to instinctually self-isolate for what we believe is necessary for our own protection.

Throughout history it is evident that people who have been oppressed and isolated eventually reach a point of having had enough. At that junction, two outcomes can occur: an oppressed subgroup can crumble—resulting in multiple scenarios of further oppression and breakdown. Or an oppressed subgroup can rise above the oppressors through the process of connection and action, such as action based on a collective-reckoning as a result of a people coming together and sharing mutual ideas, support, awareness, and so forth.

Singling out others as NTs and attaching attributes to the subgroup of NTs is an example of the Aspergers community rising above oppression through action to avoid further oppression and breakdown. The act itself enables a previously ostracized isolated sum to reclaim a sense of power and self-worth. In theory, when a collective recognizes the existence of another group beyond their ‘own’ group then the group they are a part of becomes more real. By merely creating further separation, between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ the existence of both groups becomes more substantiated. The stronger a group becomes in existence the more members sense their group is real; and accordingly, the more a member senses a group is real the more he or she feels part of a community, and the less he or she feels alone.

Naturally, based on repeated years of isolation, if presented with the chance, many with Aspergers gravitate towards the opportunity to feel less alone and more a part of something. Feasibly, before knowing others that are similar in our making, we have spent most of our lives thinking we are the anomaly and therefore alone on this plane. Finding a ‘clan’ so to speak, provides means of much healing and growing. Because of this, when supported within the makings of a group of like-minded people, a person with Aspergers might subconsciously reinforce the ‘realism’ of the group in order to build up the feelings of unity and tear down the feelings of isolation. In so doing, he or she might reinforce this realism of the group by perceiving others beyond the group as outsiders, and then perhaps accentuate the substantiation of his or her group more by creating or partaking in opportunity to claim the others as less-than, different, or not-enough.

Thusly, through the aforementioned, there is a justifiable reason (psychological sense of belonging), behind a person with Aspergers actions when he or she points out differences between his/her established sect and another. In this light, the use of the label NTs makes perfect sense. Furthermore, using the term NT in a derogatory manner also makes sense—as defining another outside the group as inferior brings about more distinction between the two sects, and as a consequence reinforces the subgroups realism further. Perhaps, along these lines, the creation of two subgroups, that being 1)Aspies and 2) NTs, was inevitable. However, arguably, a justifiable action does not equate a just action.

As mentioned before the breaking point of the oppressed usually leads to a crumbling of self or proactive action; and often, when faced with continual insult and injury, a person must swing to one side of the pendulum or another in order to eventually find balance. As a collective subgroup, we do the same. We swing upon the pendulum—we respond and hide or we respond and retaliate. Part of retaliation is in pointing finger and blaming others. Part of hiding is pointing the finger at self and blaming self. Neither is beneficial in the long term, and can wreak havoc on multiple psyches and relationships.

Regardless of the cause, clearly, there is evidence that through the act of calling others NTs and attaching derogatory meaning to the name NT, discrimination is being recreated in reverse.

People with Aspergers know what it is like to be ostracized. Perhaps to turn around and do the same with closed eyes is understandable. And perhaps, too, to do the same to gain a sense of me-ness and union, and that long sought after feeling of being a part of something, is completely justifiable. But to repeat what was done to us through reverse discrimination with eyes wide open is to start a new type of war, one in which we set out to be the victors and the others the oppressed. This mentality of ‘we verses them,’ or even the simplicity of ‘we and them,’ creates more waste—increased harm and debris that will need to be cleaned up and rectified. Eventually, oppressors become blinded by their own hate, as they fortify their creation of sect through a cyclic self-feeding process based on various means of separation. In the end, by choosing to separate from others, we create a world that is the exact definition of what diminished our worth and standing in the first place.

With this said, I ask you to keep in mind that a subgroup of any definition is at risk of adapting an elitist attitude. For this reason, as a collective community of people who support those on the spectrum, it is crucial to heed caution in the way we choose to see others in general, but specifically in how we choose to see and classify the collective group we name NTs.

~

Author’s Note: This post was originally composed when Asperger’s Syndrome was a stand-alone diagnosis. At that time, not much was written or discussed about females on the autism spectrum, particularly not the rules of semantics to utilize when referring to other autistic women. In the four years since my online writings began, much to do about semantics in relationship to Autism Spectrum Disorders has emerged. Even the word “disorder” is a trigger word for some, myself included. Today, I prefer to write “I am autistic” or “I am Aspie,” when referring to myself, instead of “a person with autism/Aspergers.” (People-first versus condition/diagnosis-first) Primarily, because I don’t have Aspergers—rather I amAspie. Aspergers is innately who I am as an individual and not some tagline—like a disease.With that said, while I am sensitive to the ongoing terminology debate and the growing trend (and need) to move beyond identifying one’s self with a “disorder,” in order to keep the authenticity and voice of the original works, including accurately reflecting how I experienced life and trends in the societal and psychological fields at the time, I chose to not make any specific broad-based terminology alterations in this post.

Samantha Craft (@aspergersgirls) compiled this page. She has corresponded with thousands of individuals touched by autism in their lives. Sam is the author of Everyday Aspergers, a revealing memoir, ten years in the making, about the everyday life of an autistic woman. More information can be found atSpectrum Suite LLC, myspectrumsuite.com

519: By Default

A relative of mine once said:

‘Everyone is selfish, even saints, because even if you are serving others, but ultimately you do it because it feels good, then that is selfish.’

I am pretty sure he is an Aspie.

People with Aspergers, particularly females with ASD, sometimes fear they are self-centered, selfish and/or narcissistic. The fear of self-centeredness is indeed one of my mental fixations—meaning I sometimes obsess about the fact that just being a human makes me a little narcissistic.

When entertaining thoughts of selfishness, I go into this weird cock-eyed, inertia state of over-analysis. Nothing new. You can find me on the couch in my Sheldon-like spot, staring into oblivion, biting my lip, and sighing deeply as I turn around conjecture-corners of reason, fearing once again, I am hopelessly self-centered. Tears come, then, as I further punish myself thinking this is just another exhaustive performance of ego, feeling bad about feeling good. And that maybe I am a genius narcissist in my ability to feel bad about maybe being self-centered.

Once the narcissism trigger slaps me, this whole looping-grasping tango starts, a looping process I have previously bleated out in abundance through metaphoric-saturated analysis, a state of mind in which I once again gather all the ‘truths’ from my memory banks in a futile attempt to decipher what is indeed fact and what is not fact, knowing all the while there are no endpoints. Thusly, the modifier ‘futile.’

This analysis of aforementioned subject matter involves bungee jumping through deductions, including thoughts of: a) life is an illusion, b) DSM-V is largely controlled by pharmaceutical purse-strings c) most ‘conditions’ overlap one another d) family dynamics, diet/nutrition, depletion of our natural nutrients in soil, pollution, chemical-poisoning, infection, mutated swelly-breasted chickens, etc. affect our minds e) genetics f) quantum physics, multiple universes, string theory g) the fact that electrons and living bacteria in yogurt respond to an observer’s thoughts and emotions h) and if the statement near letter A listed above is true then the rest points listed are a moot point

Then I start to over-analyze me, knowing far too much about the literature in the mental health genre-bowl in general, and knowing far too much about me (see previous 600 pages), and having housed psychology and counseling as my special interest pocket for most of my life. (My mother worked for the family therapist Virginia Satir; and I was pretty much swooning at the thought of emulating her since the age of nine.)

I think I have been paranoid about the possibility of losing my mind since I first sat hunched over in a bush (literally) at the age of eight, contemplating the vastness of the universe and what was outside the universe. My son with Aspergers is similar, but ripened earlier than me; he asked me point-blank while twirling his toes in his car seat (age three), “Mommy, who birthed God? And who birthed that person? And how do you know?” So there’s that.

My point is that I have concluded over and over that there are (infinite) murky areas in the realm of mental health; so if anything had the capacity to drive me batty, based on the subject’s lack of pinpoint-ability in regard to conclusive evidence, it would be this psychological mumbo-jumbo matter.

Of course, I realize, some people, regardless, require medication for their safety and the safety of others, and/or to function in life. And yes, I have empathy for those people, some being my friends. But I wonder where the lines are, as everything seems to bleed into the next, and so many people have their different theories, answers, and remedies. It’s very much a disaster for anyone with a mind like mine to even consider all the loopholes and unanswered questions in regards to mental health. I guess I am glad I have a neurological condition, and not a ‘mental health’ condition (yet), because, as we all know: neurological conditions are so cut and dry! Hahahaha!

(I am wondering what cut and dry means, and for some reason picturing a pioneer woman hanging raw meat on a line of string. Beef Jerky! Gasp. We are so much a conditioning of our environment.)

Anyhow, if you are an Aspie Chick or an Aspie Rooster rest assured you are likely not narcissistic. I don’t know for sure, but I’d say if you are constantly worried about it then there’s a good chance you aren’t. Chances are you harvest far too much genuine love for people not based on your own self-gain, and that you over-think that you are too self-centered. Also, there’s a possibility, too, if you are like me, that you get down on yourself, not because you aren’t elevated in status, or not performing well, or not gaining attention of peers (narcissist’s idea of failure), but because you are or might be! Goddess forbid if someone pays attention to me in a positive way! It’s like we have this humble-stinger stuck in our butts! Oh crap, I feel a little good about myself, someone noticed me, someone complimented me so……..something must be wrong with me. Self-inflicted gluttony commenced—whip, whip, whip.

I mean seriously, I don’t know how many times I have cried about how afraid I am that I might be too self-centered. I mean I know I am self-focused, because I hyper-focus on everything, e.g., other people, special interests, fixations, pending danger, the fly on the wall, the speed in which I type, the grumble in my tummy, the octave of the fridge hum, etc. And I just happen to be another focal point, and also a case subject (guinea pig) for my own HUGE special interest: Aspergers. So following the logical dots, then yes, I am my own special interest, but by default. Seriously, I’d much rather jump into your mind and write about you. Any takers?

Trust me, I go into these weekly fits of self-loathing and wanting to stop writing in which I wish to cash in my creative hankering for the life of a meditating (naked) Zen hermit who does nothing but focus on light.

On the same topic, interestingly enough, my fifteen-year-old Aspie son, no longer in his car seat, said to me a few days ago: I think I might be slightly narcissist because I realize I care more about the enjoyment I might feasibly gain from a new gaming system than the other things we are talking about that other people would think matter. But that doesn’t bother me.

I gave him a reassuring, logical response.

I wasn’t doing him any favors.

He’d already concluded, within seconds:

“Narcissism is part of the human condition and without people who were hyper-focused on their own self-interests nothing would get done in this world. I find it best just to accept the illusion of life and enjoy it as much as I can without purposely causing harm. I see it. And I accept it…The world doesn’t really have any antagonists.”

Okay, so I definitely think he’s smarter than me.

517: Is-ness

There’s an is-ness inside me, some rumbling engine that feeds and creates, that both demolishes and builds simultaneously, the gnosis itself living and breathing within. The trouble is the is-ness wants to come out. As much as I push or shove it down, it swells evermore. There is no dousing out the flame. I have tried days, and once a decade, to remain silent in my ways, and the longer I wait the longer the bubbling-wanting festers, liken to a boil that won’t shrink unless exposed to the elements.

How often I have longed to be that one, that quiet one perched beneath the tree, without a word to offer, just her silence as a reckoning of sorts, her example of fragility and strength established in her stillness. Just once, I have wanted, without effort, to not desire to burst out of the semblance of self into something naught—to not wish to plunder, as I do, as pirate gone sporadic spilling her gold and jewels about.

I have established this is the way I am: harbored into myself.

I am the dock. I am the boat. I am the sails. I am every inch of vessel, and what holds this vessel. And I rock, as I am the rocker, moving myself in isolation. Here is where the trouble comes again, in the want to move beyond aloneness, for nothing seems real or substantial until shared.

And yet there is the catch, the net, so to speak, the daggered questions and the pounding answers. The fingernails to my chalkboard—nailed and pierced at once.

We are told of the worthy ones. The ones who hold their tongues. The ones who are stoically silent. The ones who don’t whimper and complain. The ones that don’t monopolize conversations. The ones who know how and when to stop. The ones that don’t overthink, overrationalize, over-process. The ones that know when to let go and be.

So what does that make me, if not some rigid anomaly?

I can’t surrender to this world because I don’t have the means. I don’t know how to be quiet. I don’t know how to shut out what I see, what I feel, what in a way I seem to somehow ‘know.’ And yet I can’t really blend into this place, either. No matter how much I try, through practice or restraint, or a combination, or by some means of much-studied technique, or even in the gathering of all the circumvented readings, observations, conclusions, and discoveries, I can’t understand where I am, and how to be in a place I do not comprehend.

And that is the trouble as well—for am I built to control how I am to be? Am I supposed to stop who I am? And if I am to stop who I am and be this other form and representation of self, then whose rules and recommendations do I follow? Whom do I uphold? Who is my savior in this world? If I am to follow this someone or even this saint, if he lives, or has died, then still what is the exactness of how I should be? If not me, if not this natural, born-to-be me, then who is it that they at once forbade me and make me be?

Is it not within reason to wonder how I am to move in a strange world, if indeed the way I move is not accepted or understood? And even as I pass often as this extremeness of normalcy, even as I mix and mingle, and bleed into the mass, am I not some ghost on display set out to appease the gathering? Are my ways mere means to escape shielded eyes?

I do not understand the judges. I do not understand the manner in which I am told the right and wrong of things. I cannot. I am incapable. I am not wired inaccurately. I am not misfiring. The truth is that I am not wired at all. I wasn’t programmed to begin with. I don’t have the data institutionalized within my infrastructure that instructs this someone of where and when to jump. I don’t even have the means in which to understand the jumping itself.

I watch, some legless tadpole, in awe of the springing frog, unlimited in its depth and breadth, capable of leaps and bounds that seem a lifespan away from me, an imposter of impossibility without preprogrammed metamorphosis.

And that’s the trouble, the endless trouble:

I am who I am, endowed with an is-ness I neither understand nor recognize. An is-ness I long to share, a knowing I cannot tether to myself alone, in a world I do not recognize, in a place that makes no sense. I am birthed without the wiring or predisposition to comprehend the makings of others’ ways; and ever wondering if I was to jump without legs, if I was to be in this pool of mankind, and swim with my invisibility cloaked, to survive as familiar instead of strange, would I not then forget whom I was to begin with?

515: Invisibility

I don’t mind when someone challenges me, as I don’t take things as challenges anymore. As soon as I feel a rise in myself, whether that rise be quantified as anger, fear, sadness, or some deep powerful emotion, I stop and ask ‘why’? I don’t take the time to sit with the pain. I don’t think the pain is caused by another. I know all emotional pain is triggered by me. Triggered by my exact reasoning and in the resulting ‘truth’ I create based on what I choose to believe and what I choose to tell myself.

I lack the ability, anymore, to blame anyone for my own response and feelings. I own up to how I feel. It’s me. No one else is in control of me. No one.

I have learned that I can accept everything anyone gives out. I have learned, also, that I have the right and power to release what another gives—to kindly return it with a “thanks, but no thanks.”

No one’s thoughts, or words, or perception represent who I am. I know this fully. It’s not a concept I have to convince myself of, or remind myself of.

In many ways I am much more free than I was two years ago, during a time period wherein being in the public spotlight I held onto every stranger’s belief of me as truth. Had you told me five years ago that I would care about people but not care about what they thought of me, I would have thought you crazy, or at minimal an idealist who didn’t know me at all. How could I, so sensitive, so attune, so empathic, not ALWAYS care what people thought?

The truth is there came a point where I didn’t have a choice but to let go, because the two camps, my only options, were clearly marked: 1) Care about what everyone thinks about you and constantly yoyo back and forth in your self-perception and self-worth 2) Realize no one’s perception of you is accurate.

The latter took some hard looking and soul-searching, and some help from above—call it collective unconscious, angels, God, or aliens, no matter. There came a point where I was truly shown the light. I was given the vision of a room full of people, each standing on a soapbox and taking a turn to talk about me. Each was pulling from their random memories and past, from what they had chosen to collect, and then again chosen to remember. It was subjective to the third degree. Everyone’s view of me was first, and primarily, based on their own lives and gathered ideologies, belief systems, personalities, experience, etc. I was merely a random interpretation. I was a flower being dissected by multiple viewers. Some loved me for my sweetness. Some adored my beauty. Some merely saw me as a weed to be plucked. Some thought I stunk. Others inhaled and couldn’t get enough. Still, regardless of the onlookers, I remained a flower. Or at least that chance name I’d been assigned by society.

I theorized, in reviewing this vision, that it wasn’t just the loose interpretations of me that sporadically changed (and were skewed based on the onlooker and all the onlooker brought to the table from his or her past), but also the onlooker him/herself. Everyone’s view altered in any given random point of time. People were affected by their past (foundation they’d built up as truth) and by the moment in time they drew conclusions.

I realized also that any word, action, or subtle way in which I lived could bring about an altered interpretation. If I left my husband. If I abandoned my children. If I joined the circus. How would this audience interpret me then? And if they, the viewers, made any life changes, or faced crisis, or shifted consciousness or outlooks, how would their view of me change?

I saw how I had altered the way I looked at the world and others in the past years, and in so doing the people I thought I knew appeared different to me. It was only logical to conclude from my reasoning that I, ever-changing, would remain incapable of stagnant being based on continual transitioning. And that likewise others remained incapable of stagnant being, and thusly incapable of stagnant viewing of me.

In understanding I was nothing more than gathered evidence, and that the evidence itself always shifted based on the moment, circumstance, and the observer, I understood that I, this loose interpretation of I based on others’ viewpoints, was never stagnant in interpretation enough to be called factual.

With this, I saw that all opinions of me no longer mattered. Even the so-called ‘positive’ comments were not able to penetrate me. It made no sense to attach myself to fleeting ‘positive’ descriptors based on the once again random observers with their random viewpoints. Plus, if I was an information gatherer shifting my gathering, (what I caught in my positive net based on my shifting self), then how could I ensure what I gathered was substantiated by any form of non-stagnant truth?

Sure, I could know someone for years, and they could view me as consistently steadfast, sweet, and loyal, but what in that individual’s life made them an expert on those ‘virtues,’ and how much of me had she seen, had she known, and what had she missed? I could get a round about idea of who I was, but only based on a round about idea of who someone else was, (and where she’d been, what she’d experienced, and what ‘truths’ she momentarily upheld as valuable.) The complexities of attaching my being-ness to an outside source soon became an intellectual burden and a tiring mind-puzzle lacking any sort of sense-making end mark.

And beyond this, if I had latched on to semi-permanent, most-likely-true and reasonable interpretations of me, then how could I be judge and jury of self? How was I to decide what was me and what wasn’t me? How was I to allow myself to collect everything flowery and rosy and make this me, while disregarding and discarding the rest? How could that not be some extreme form of ego-lust and ego-building? It seemed logical that the only way out of the process and habit of decorating my self based on outlookers’ viewpoints was to disrobe myself of any and all doings and opinions of others.

From here it followed that in order to dispel the potential hypocrite inside of me, that if I were to discount others’ opinions about me in totality, then in equal balance it was essential that I discount my opinions about others. In other words, if others could not define me, I reasonably could not define others.

Next, the process became a matter of what to see, what to believe, and what to qualify as truth of those about me. And the only natural conclusion, that arose no further conflict or query within myself, was to apply love to all, to choose to see another being as another being and nothing more, to love the light in all, and to overlook the illusion of what appeared to be ‘wrong’ or ‘against’ me.

In a sense I had annihilated self through logic—the act of rationalizing no stagnant representation of ‘me’ existed. Without a true ‘self’ I had no true or stagnant opinions. In reality, my opinion couldn’t be trusted. My thoughts were just that: thoughts. Nothing more. Nothing less. Not bad, just not real.

If I had based my ‘wrong’ and ‘against,’ and the concept of me, on my limited scope of life, if I had based my judgment and view of the world on only what I had been exposed to, able to process and assimilate into memory, and able to recall with any ounce of reality, and then based all this recall on my current state of thinking, emotions, and environmental influence, if this be true, I was a constant changing judge. So to enlist my personal arsenal of evaluation on another was a form of temporary fallout and nothing more. It was adding illusion to illusion, and agreeing to be a game player in a game I no longer believed in.

And so the act of evaluating another became self-abusive. It actually hurt. It hurt because my mind was bombarded with this sequential reasoning that again and again reached the same conclusion, despite my ever-changing hypothesis: no matter what I thought at any given moment, it wasn’t permanent enough to remain true.

In addition, it is obvious to me, now, that I am dying off and I am regenerating. Some part of my body is digesting and decomposing, and another part is fighting and refueling. And just as the interior microscopic parts merge and shed, the exterior view of my life follows suit. There isn’t anything I can hold onto. And in this way there is no one I can hold onto either. I only have a fleeting moment in which I spot someone, and then he has changed as much as the rest. I cannot define self. I cannot define another.

And in this place of no definition and no judgment, I am freed. I am freed from the burden most of society carries. Freed from attaching to one ideal or concept or way of life. Freed from battling to make my opinion heard. But most importantly I am freed from needing to be seen.