In the movie ‘The Matrix’, the main character, Neo, is living what he believes to be a normal life. He goes to work as a software developer, comes home to an ordinary apartment/flat, and even helps his elderly neighbor take out her garbage.
But not all aspects of his life are so open-and-shut. He knows on an instinctive level that something isn’t right. He can’t quite seem to shake the feeling that there’s a disturbance in the force (to borrow shamelessly from Star Wars). He struggles with insomnia, eventually passing out at his computer in the wee hours of the morning, clearly at odds with a nagging internal discord that gnaws at his core.
After a series of messages containing hidden meanings that catch his attention, he wisely follows his gut instincts and, to make a long and bizarre story short, he suddenly discovers that the world he’s taken at face value was nothing like he had assumed, and the life that he’d thought he’d been living was revealed to be a complete illusion.
His real body was located, and his real mind and body were forcibly liberated from the shackles–the wiring and the individual pod in which he’d been unknowingly held captive, and he awoke, for the first time, into a frightening world.
Suddenly, he realized that his friendships, activities, daily routine, frequented places, thoughts, emotions, and memories, up until that point, had all been a complete sham, based on that elaborate illusion.
And then his life began for real; he was living, truly alive, for the first time. He had to acclimate to this new and unfamiliar world, developing senses and strength. He’d never used his eyes or limbs before. He trained tirelessly and intensely, speed-learning survival strategies and other skills.
The discovery of my Asperger’s/autism spectrum status was eerily similar for me, except for the “frightening world” part (the world into which I awoke is colorful, peaceful, comforting, nurturing, supportive, validating, connected, and loving). This was only made possible by the loving, supportive, and comforting people and blogs I found early on, however. Otherwise, despite an increased understanding, the world might have become an even colder, pricklier place.
Like Neo in “The Matrix”, I, too, realized the truth about the world, the truth about my role and my place in it, and indeed….who I really was. I realized that my own interaction with–and responses to–the world were based on an illusion of my own: the illusion that I was neurotypical and the accompanying assumption that I “should”, then, be like the “rest of the world”.
I, too, realized that my life up until that moment had indeed been lived under false pretenses.
It was as if another main ‘The Matrix’ character, Morpheus, was whispering in my ear, guiding the moves I made.
“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
I, too, realized the true nature of myself, and felt myself awaken for the first time. I, too began to view the world in a new and unfamiliar light. But I, too, realized that as strange as this new dynamic between myself and the world at large appeared to be, it was the truth.
“After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
I obviously took the Red Pill.
And in a way, I have to retrace my steps and make a correction to something I said above–the part about the “frightening world”. To be clear, it’s not the world of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum that I found frightening. I actually find the Asperger’s/autism spectrum world infinitely more peaceful and comforting. Rather, it’s the general world at large that eventually has some changing to do. Inclusion and accommodation benefit everyone.
The “rest of the” world became a bit more frightening to me. Not the anxiety-inducing kind…more of the appalling, disgusted kind. Suddenly, I had given myself permission to view the world through a raw and honest lens, and it revealed itself to be one of irrationality, obnoxiousness, boorishness, confusion, rash judgments, and harsh criticism. I gave my permission to be honest with myself about what I saw, and what I saw was unpleasant.
I realized that it made me uncomfortable. I realized that it overwhelmed me. I realized that in order to survive and carry out my daily functions and life purpose within it, I was going to have to make some serious adjustments.
The armor went on. The defenses went up. I was armed. But even with all of the protection I afforded myself, I realize that, similar to ‘The Matrix’, the only true shelter and safety exist within the narrow confines of the safe-ship. My sanctuary is my safety net, my Friendly Space. The walls are my protection, within which I can control my surroundings. Everything outside of my sanctuary is a potential danger, and everyone outside my inner circle is a potential threat.
The important part is, I know that now. It’s not that this is a new concept for me, it’s just that it’s newly realized by me. It’s always been the way it is; I’ve just now become aware of it.
And now, like Neo in ‘The Matrix’, I can live a real life, a life of truth, and truly alive.
The lovely comforter bedspread of blogs I fell into early on became the collective chorus of Morpheus:
“Welcome to the real world.”