Balancing the World; thoughts on leadership and autism

My entire life, like many on the autism spectrum, I have oftentimes been misjudged, misinterpreted, and misunderstood. When I finally, after over four decades on this earth, located individuals with like minds, I was overcome with mixed emotions. I’d finally found “my people” and at the same time lost a piece of myself that I thought was extremely different. Lost in the sense that I came to realize, after conversing with other autistics, that I wasn’t so different and “unique” after all. However, this was okay—extremely okay. Finding a home base community in which I was at last understood, accepted, and supported far out weighed any sense of loss of elements of self.

Four-plus years later, after an outpour of online writing, and I am navigating another aspect of my journey. I am entering another unfamiliar zone—a place of no predictability. I am facing a wide-open space of new people and new encounters. In addition, I am trying my best to maneuver in rarely frequented territory: that of an autistic leader.

Autism, in my case Asperger’s Syndrome, comes in all shapes and sizes, multiple colors of the rainbow. It is truly a spectrum. With autism, there are the typical “gifts” and tribulations. For me, the beneficial attributes of my ASD are profound empathy and insight, prolific writing, poetry, and the ability to put into words my suffering in a way others can understand. In this way, I am able to make the loneliness of some less of a burden, and I have been able to serve as a sort of gateway into a supportive community of other autistics. A community in which we find ourselves in one another. I don’t say this lightly. There have been streams of individuals filtering through the pages of my blogs and social media pages to essentially say that they now have at last found hope—and some a reason to not end their life. I don’t say this to brag, either. Those that have known me, know my heart, and it is for them I speak.

The trouble today is not so much my tribulations related to ASD, such as peak moments of heightened anxiety, bombardments of feelings that at first look are hard to decipher, the jarring reminders every hour of my waking day that I am somehow not built like most others, the intense heartache and lack of breath from searing pangs of empathy, and the worries brought on by my minds ability to steer off into complex, multi-level corridors of discovery. No, it’s not so much in that—though “that” still consumes me. More over, it is this new place I find myself, in where I am exposed.

I am a natural born leader; I always have been, despite my own qualms and misgivings. Despite my protest. Despite my quirks and challenges. Overall, I tend to end up as a voice of some sort–usually for the downcast or underdog. And it’s not amongst my favorite of tasks—this speaking up for myself and others. Indeed, it would be fair to say, I dread many moments beyond the comfort of my home. Still, there are mornings of great hope and gratitude for my ability to reach out, and with this comes waves of great peace; but there, on the other end of the pendulum, is the bareness of naked vulnerability, the removal of shield, the entranceway for stinging spears. There, in the darker zone, lives my fear and weakness, and the very brittle fight to survive exposure. For I’m not the average person, I’m not made the way of the masses. I am very much, despite where I stand, still autistic.

I am hurt daily, by my own accord, by the acceptance of others’ truths as mine. By the energy it takes to abstract and remove everything that doesn’t ring true to me. And to then wade through the muck of others’ ideas, input, feelings, insights—and on an on—to hopefully decipher what is valid and necessary at this time. I am not only balancing myself, which those on the spectrum readily know is a gallant effort, I am also balancing everyone within my reach. In this way, it is hard to be outside exposed in the “real” world.

It is especially challenging when outsiders (who do not know me and often see a reflection of their own self) try to pin their tail of identity onto me. I feel smothered, unrecognized, and brought back to the bastardized halls of my high school years. Brought back to the pettiness, the name-calling, the finger pointing, and relive the nightmares over again. It is equally difficult when another, particularly in the autistic community, starts proclaiming how I should tailor my words to suit their needs—the current societal trends—the current “right way.” To see this conglomeration of “do-gooders” with supposed good intention in mind, attempt to steer me into what is the most well accepted approach of the day is excruciatingly exhausting.

I can only be so much. I can only do so much. And I don’t understand why my own tribe would not see this. They forget that I am autistic. They forget how dreadfully scary this is. How frightening to attempt to build a bridge from the autistic world to the non-autistic world, and to appear “normal” enough in the typical arena to be heard and listened to, and “autistic” enough to be trusted in my own community. It is a fine balancing act in which I am continually on a high wire with a long heavy pole. Constantly pushed off balance while attempting to get to the other side to the unknown. I am walking step-by-step toward something that is neither a goal nor destiny, but rather a calling. I am serving, I am giving, I am loving, I am supporting, I am being my all. Yet no matter how I struggle, no matter where I step, to some, as is this world—it is never enough.

 

(I normally post at my blog Everyday Aspie, but my WordPress options were not working accurately there today.)

 

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

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

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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

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.

484: Communication Barrier: Aspergers

Fixation on another person is an ego attachment that represents no true or stable emotions of affection. It is my attempt to connect to source through hyper-focusing all of my energy like a laser beam onto one entity. All thoughts of the reality of the person and my own personhood are lost. I long to own the individual, per chance I might feel the love of God and fill the emptiness and void of being here on earth. For me the object of my attention can be anyone—marvelous or messed up. I am blind to the reality of the situation until the fixation passes. My brain needs a puzzle, something to solve, something to fixate on. This temporary ‘one’ becomes a portal that sucks up self and pulls my mind into a different realm or fantasy. The process is both a form of escapism and the relief that comes through the act of rearranging aspects of a puzzle; the intensity is insurmountable in moments, akin to an underwater tunnel pulling me under into a vortex. When I resurface, I am amazed at the way in which I have imprisoned my being.

~ Sam, Everyday Aspergers

Sometimes my fixation is an attempt to be seen. For most of the time I walk in this world, I feel utterly invisible.

Here is how I currently view communication:

I see two lines, two vibrations, almost like sound waves. (The two lines are parallel and horizontal.) And the top line, the top wave, is what is coming out of a person’s mouth, and the bottom wave is what I am feeling, what is underneath what he is saying: his insecurity, his fear, the reasons why he is forming the words he is forming, the sentences he is forming based on his own insecurities and needing me to fulfill a part of him. Since he is always focused on his fear and the outcome, he is not focused on connection, he is not focused on me. I don’t need him to be focused on me for ego-needs, I need him to be focused on me so I can feel him. As long as there is a discrepancy I can see in the two vibrations, there is no connection.

In being that there is no connection, I am constantly looking at two conversations at once. I am looking into what is coming out of his mouth, but I am also simultaneously listening to what is at his heart-center, what is at his core, all of the things he is not saying and that he wants to say. Often I can pick those up, and I can tell the person exactly what I am thinking and feeling, and this frustrates him, because I am more than likely correct. This creates this constant communication barrier in which I am listening and knowing what is being said is not ‘true.’

When I talk to someone with Aspergers that discrepancy between the two wave lines is not there. It is also such an intense communication that if one of the other participants fluctuates and he/she tries to hide something, the other person will point out the discrepancy in communication, no matter the distance. Whether the two be in different states or countries. From a distance, she might say, “That doesn’t match what you are feeling. What happened? How did your energy shift?”

When I am with a person with Aspergers, I am no longer alone. I am seen. I am not invisible. To most of the world I am invisible, and it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying being a person who can look at people and see entirely inside of them, and see their fears, and see their blockages, and listen to them talk and know most of what they are saying is just an imaginary game. And to realize I am not really connected at all, but rather some free-formed ghost waiting to be seen.

482: The Greatest Casualty

sam

I woke up with three pages of information involving archetypes and symbolic representation, and the challenges I face of being keenly aware to the illusion of life; in so much that I am aware of the way I must choose icons in order to live and communicate in this dimension. This followed by the off balance of duality at my core level, if it be off, in that I am primarily feminine energy. Then I was conceptualizing the time space continuum, in regards to how I can’t think in simple format but instead in what is a visual expansive viewing in which, in a short amount of time, it seems I am viewing a series of variant options and pathways to conclusion.

It is impossible for me to think in a linear fashion.

I think in where some are persecuted and ostracized for perceived secrecy and aloofness the opposite occurs with me. As I am interpreted as smothering, over-sharing and clingy. But in truth I am at the same point as the latter, in so much that I am overwhelmed with thoughts and information, and my coping mechanism manifests itself as verbally processing likely to off set the feasibleness of insanity. Couple my intensity of thoughts and emotions with my capacity to remote view others emotional, say spiritual state, from a distance, and I become bombarded with such vast amounts of data I overload.

I struggle with being seen beneath what appears to be a constant shifting of perception and representation of what I am. I become that which I am observed by, and, in essence, I am reflected to that person through his limited capacity to view what is before him. In this sense, I remain entirely isolated and invisible, much lost to my own self with intense longing to be seen. Ironically unable to see myself as nothing more than fluidity.

The greatest casualty for me, in great contrast to some, is my advanced empathy and ability to tap into another’s emotional field, as this capability serves to intensify my awareness of suffering, isolation, and the tendency for most of the world to be asleep, if not lost somewhere trapped within what they perceive and what is. My greatest discomfort comes in craving to be seen as a true representation of love and compassion, vibrating at a frequency that is both beneficial and of comfort, but feeling the discrepancy between who I am and what the other is interpreting.

I am that I am, yet others in their closed ways turn me into their wishful dream. I long to break out of the isolation and this brings the fever to my writing. However, the more I try the more blinded I become to the rest of this existence; in essence, sinking into this self I neither know nor understand.

I cannot see faces in real life. I have no idea what I look like. Each moment I shift as do others. This makes the world very uncomfortable for me. Perhaps it is the eyes that are the only thing that remain constant. ~ Sam