Today, I received a question which deserves a post-long answer:
I am curious to know how other ‘Aspies’ think about this article.
My personal opinion is that there are troubled people from all walks of life, from all races, of all religions, in all socioeconomic groups and all that. It would be surprising if, every now and then, there were no troubled people who also have Asperger’s.
That was the ‘general’ answer. This article, however, was about a person who considered himself victimized for having Asperger’s – for having been born an Aspie. So, I will go a little deeper into this specific case.
The troubled young man wrote of his ‘right not to have been born’…I think that bit tells us a lot about him: he may have had Asperger’s, but what crippled him was depression.
Unfortunately, it is not all that uncommon for Aspies – especially adolescent and young adult Aspies – to suffer from depression. This is – and I am guessing here, not making a medical diagnoses – likely because in that stage of our lives, we learn to grow apart from our parents and begin to form our individual identity. All young people who perceive themselves to be somehow stigmatized and thus not valued by society, for whatever reason, are at at increased risk of depression during this process.
This is because they may perceive their ‘differentness’ as a serious flaw which will prevent them from having a healthy self-image…which is where the depression sets in.
That is why it is essential that Asperger’s is not treated as a disease or a disaster.
I’ll illustrate what I mean by contrasting two examples:
My friend has three kids. When her middle daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s, the whole family took the diagnosis as a disaster. The older sister came to talk to me and was crying about the ‘horrible sentence’ her sister was dealt. The father turned more religious, and spent a lot of time praying to God to ‘fix’ his daughter and take that curse off of her….
Needless to say, the Aspie daughter took was devastated by all this and spun into a depression…would not get out of bed, flunked out of high school and lost all interest in just about everything. It took two years before she started going to a special school to try to finish her high school.
She considers herself as being victimized by having Asperger’s.
On the other hand…there is my younger son. My husband and I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s when our older son was and they did a battery of tests on all of us and all three of us came up Aspies… In addition, many of his cousins are also Aspies – including his favourite one whom he has always identified with and emulated.
So, years later, when he was ALSO diagnosed an Aspie, he was thrilled!!!
He said ‘Finally, I’m one of you guys!’
And, I even got a call from his teacher to please ask him to tone it down with his Aspie pride, because he was making the other children feel inadequate for not having a diagnosis of Asperger’s…
I suspect that the difference in attitude towards the diagnosis of Asperger’s is what makes a huge difference in how people will cope in life.
Because, cope is what we must all do – Aspies or not.
Each one of us has personal traits which are positive and negative, which make it easier and harder for us to succeed in whatever we do and how we live. It is up to each and every one of us to maximize our positive traits and minimize our negative ones – or even find a way to make them work for, instead of against us. The attitude with which we approach this will make a very real difference.
If we lament our negative attributes ans feel ourselves aggrieved and victimized by them, if we wallow in self pity, we will grow into bitter and unpleasant losers.
If we accept ourselves for who we are, but think we cannot change our selves – including our negative qualities, this will become a self-fulfilling prophesy and we will not improve ourselves.
But if we accept ourselves for who we are and understand that, for whatever reason we got our traits, each one of us is now an individual who is responsible for all of ourselves, and for what we do with our traits, we can utilize both the good and the bad to our best advantage and improve ourselves. We can develop coping mechanisms to overcome the bad traits and capitalize on our good ones.
And, we will be able to take pride in who we have become because we will understand that we have maximized our potential!
Asperger’s is not a disease or an illness – it is a set of personality traits that require specific strategies to properly integrate into society. Some Aspies despise the expression ‘being diagnosed with Asperger’s’ as they consider it stigmatizing. They prefer the term ‘being identified as an Aspie’. Perhaps this difference in attitude is more important than we know: you don’t get ‘worse’ because you were diagnosed – you will be exactly the same, except that now, you will have identified some of the tools that may be helpful to you to overcome your negative traits and maximize your positive ones.
But, I digress…back to the example at hand.
This man said he was self-diagnosed as an Aspie. This suggests that he never received specialized help in how to overcome his difficulties. Perhaps that is why he could not maximize his potential: he did well in a highly structured environment, like school (he had master’s degree in engineering – they don’t hand those out for just showing up), but could not cope with the unstructured world outside of academia. His father and his father’s girlfriend were also academics – so they would not have been particularly useful in helping him integrate into a non-academic world, which is very different indeed.
In fact, there is very little in our school system to prepare people for the non-academic world, but that is a different rant. Suffice it to say, a person who has difficulty with social integration, but who had successfully (masters in engineering) integrated into the academic world would indeed have terrible difficulties adjusting to the non-academic one…and without help, he might indeed ‘crash-and-burn’. If, in addition to this great disappointment in himself, he also has the attitude of wallowing in self-pity and not taking responsibility for himself (which are personality flaws not associated with Aspergers – they occur across all of our species), such a person might indeed commit a horrendous act…
But blaming his dad for passing on Asperger’s genes is just scapegoating, nothing more!