(My) Asperger’s / autism & the self-like Within [Mental Health Monday]

This may sound hopelessly cynical, but the concept of “self-love” has always seemed a little eyeroll-worthy to me.  Maybe it just sounds too mushy.  Maybe it conveys a sense of intimacy that doesn’t seem appropriate.  I’m not sure.

Either way, that doesn’t mean it’s not a valid concept.  I’m just uneasy about the semantics is all.  The concept itself could swing either way; it could be healthy, or it could become overinflated, too big for its britches.

I’m not exactly ready to embrace “self-love”; it almost overwhelms my Aspergian emotional saturation point.

But the practice of self-warm-fuzzy isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing deal.  Life is not, after all, black and white.  I’m learning to see beauty in the gray.  Go me. 😉

I can break it down into baby steps, each one standing on its own and yet, building on the last.

I’ve mentioned self-acceptance before.  There’s a prerequisite to that, though: the cessation of self-abuse and self-blame.  I had to break the chains that tethered me to self-judgment before I could learn to get up and fly.  I’m not even sure if I’m flying yet.  I think I’m still discovering my wings.

In this stage, I had to Get Real with myself, to acknowledge the quirks I had forever cursed, damned, and buried.  I had to stare them in the eyes (eeek!  Even making proverbial eye contact with concepts can be daunting and uneasy) and I had to admit that these quirks were parts of me.  Then I had to tell them they were OK, invite them to stay, pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, whatever.

And I had to tell myself to resist the urge to keep trying to boot them out, shove them in closets, push them toward the backs of high shelves, forget about the cobwebs.

The next step was to zero out the balance sheet of shame and self-consciousness.  I’m not sure it’s exactly zero just yet; there might be a fraction in there somewhere.  Or, on certain days, a decimal point.  But the important part is, the numbers are getting smaller.  They elbow me in the ribs a whole lot less often.  They’re almost learning manners.

Socialization of my balance sheet.  Who knew.

Once I had the self-acknowledgment well underway, the self-acceptance was next.  I swung from one to the next, not entirely sure if I had let the previous monkey bar go, but I grabbed onto the next regardless.  It might have been premature.  Who knows.  Who cares, at this point.  Because that’s well underway, too.

Progress.  Whodathunk?

Maybe after that, my next monkey bar will be labeled “Make Friends With Self”.  If I squint hard enough, I can begin to make it out in the mist, and I think that’s what its label says.  I’ll have to get closer to be sure, but that’s what it’s looking like it’s shaping up to be.  Or, if that label is too long, then maybe a simple “Self-Friendship” might suffice.  I’ll know what it means when I see it.  And that’s what matters.

It’s the thought that counts?

Once I’m friends with myself, who knows where that will take me?  From there, the stage of “Self-Like” may actually become a co-incident concept.  After all, being friends with someone generally assumes a certain level of liking them.  I don’t make friends with people I don’t like.

Maybe the Self-Like comes before the Self-Friendship.  Because maybe I have to like myself enough first, to want to establish a friendship.

What kind of friend would I be to myself?  Ah hell, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it?  I already know that I’ll be a Chatty Cathy, if the last 40 years (yep, all the way up to the present day) is any indication.  Maybe, though, I’ll start checking in with myself periodically, like what friends do for each other in times of crisis or emotional hardship.  If there was a proactive step to be taken by the one going through the tough time, then the supportive friend might act like a spotter in a gym by saying, every so often, something along the lines of, “OK, girl–accountability check–what steps have you taken lately?  Where are you at?”  Kind of like a pre-Facebook-style request for a status update.

Maybe I’ll sit down and have heart-to-hearts with myself.  Those conversations when one party shows another tough love, pearls of wisdom, words of advice, and terms of endearment, all rolled into one.

Wait–this insinuates that there are two parties.  Except that I’m one person.  Should I be worried?  (Be afraid; be very afraid)?

Meh, that’s probably harmless.  It’s not like I’m dissociating within myself.  That’s the Thing (I’ve heard) about Asperger’s/autism; some people are tempted to believe that the autism spectrum is a mental illness, or that we have “co-morbidities”, evidenced by our talking to ourselves.  They like to use that as an excuse to keep it residually linked to schizophrenia like it had been so many years ago.  A refusal to break the tie, to dissociate the two extremely different conditions.  (Or would it be saving face or ego?  Who am I to say?  I’m not the one making or preserving those pesky associations.)

History of autism and self-conversations aside, I’m not dissociative or schizophrenic.  Just because I entertain myself with monologues or process an event vocally under my breath, that doesn’t mean I hallucinate or that I’ve lost touch with reality.  You can be autistic, talk to yourself, and still be in complete touch with reality.  I should know, and I’m not unique in that regard.

So…where were we?  I didn’t stray too far; conversation occurs between friends, after all, and maybe, just maybe I might become friends with myself.

That leads to the next head-scratcher: how in the hell do I be my own friend?  What do friends do?  In friendships, I’ve often ridden on the social coattails of the other person, taking my cues from them, altering my part of the interaction just enough such that I didn’t come to resemble a parrot.

But when you’re friends with yourself, who do you take your cues from?  Can I generate enough camaraderie on my own?  Can I keep the momentum?  Can I be reliable?

What does one say?  Maybe someday, I’ll give myself words of encouragement.  Helpful suggestions.  Constructive advice.  I might even help myself out of a jam.  I might soothe myself after stepping into an inevitable periodic land mine, and nurse the post-explosion wounds.  I might even change my own virtual dressings and stave off proverbial infection.

I might even make a good friend.  God(dess) knows I’ll be up at most hours of the night, given my past-seven-year track record; when everyone else is asleep, I’ll still be there, awake and available.  I know that goes without saying, that you’re only there for yourself when you’re awake.  That’s a “duh” concept–but what might not be is the devil in the details: the fact that I’m awake when no one else is.  During the day, I can tap on the shoulders of any (small) number of people and say, “hey, got a minute?  I need to talk/rant/process/whatever”.

But late at night, it’s not exactly kosher to start texting your friends, unless you know for a fact that they’re night owls in general, and that this particular night is no exception.  Sometimes, during times like these, your own friendship is all you have.

Wait–this was going to be about me.  Let me rephrase that: sometimes, during times like these, my own friendship is all I have.

Because you see, it’s easy for me to say “you” and “we” and “they” – all the other linguistic tenses, maybe because subconsciously, the other linguistic tenses deflect the responsibility and accountability off of myself.  All this time, I’ve been talking about myself, or life as I know it, life as I sense it, or even the Asperger’s/autism community based on my own experiences, based on my own observations…as interpreted through my own filters.  It’s not as objective or authoritative as it sounds.  And god(dess) knows I can sound “authoritative” (read: “bossy”).

In truth, I may have researched a lot.  But perhaps (certainly) I still know little.

So now, I’m coming back to me.  Returning toward what lies Within, at my Center, at my Core.  Eastern philosophical figures of prominence have long advised the world that the answer does not lie out there; it lies in here, inside each person.  It lies Within.

So, it’s time for me to reconnect with my Within.  I’ve met it before.  We were even on friendly terms.  But in recent years, a series of events and situations and challenges had allowed me to become distracted, and forget about my Within.  It’s time to reconnect.  It’s simply Time.

Will my Within be exactly as I left it?  Had I even left it entirely, or did I keep watch over it out of the corner of my eye, like a rearview mirror when you’re driving down a desolate highway?  The mirror becomes secondary, or even tertiary; there’s no one else on the road, and you’re driving in the forward direction, so there’s hardly any need to look back; you’ve seen it all before.

Ahem–I’ve seen it all before.

Back on task once again…

Will my Within be well-preserved?  Will it be like riding a bike, where I just get back on after years of not riding, and ride flawlessly into the sunset as if I had never dismounted?  Or will I be wobbly for the first few minutes?  (Or hours?  Or even days?)  Will I feel like I’m about to fall over as I struggle to gain my balance, my equilibrium, my confidence?

Stabilizing my Within.  That sounds pretty refreshing.  It also has this interesting ring to it: the Echo of Necessity.  It simply needs to happen.  I need it to happen.  I need to make it happen.

See what I did there? 😉

Maybe my Within will even like me back.  Maybe, just maybe, it might begin whispering to me.  It has been faithful, continuing to whisper hints on the wind, in the form of what the world at large calls “gut intuition”.  I’ve got a great gut, at least in terms of intuition (the literal gut, well, that’s another story).  Maybe the whispering will morph into muttering, or something else.  I’m pretty sure it won’t scream at me, though, unless I do something egregiously ridiculous.  Which, is never completely out of the question.

But I have the feeling that my Within will be gentle.  It will give me leeway.

I just might make a pretty good self-friend after all… 😉

***

This is one of my more popular posts!

Advertisements

29 Comments

  1. Yes! This very much resonates. Love the monkey bar analogy! ❤😀I think you really pinpointed some of my distaste with the phrase “self-love”. But, self-like? Yes, maybe, just maybe, I can approach that. I know deep down I long to. It’s like digging at layers, though. A whole heap of hatred and abuse has been piled on through the years and, just when I think I have hit the bottom of that crud, more muck surfaces to sift through. But, thankfully, I am a heck of a lot further than where I was! Thank you as always for sharing your heart. Helps so much! ❤❤

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you very much, luv!! 😍. I feel your progress, I really do 👍🏼. It’s such a hell of a process. For me it was a daily thing for about 3 years, finally culminating with the Asperger’s diagnosis. But I had started “shedding” a bunch of junk long before that. It was *hard*! Hopefully you’ll have an easier time with it 💓💓. You described it perfectly – “layers”. I can totally relate to that 👏🏼. It’s all about the day-by-day, isn’t it? 😘. Keep on keeping on, dear friend! I’ve got your back 💪🏼🌺💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe it’s just me, but self love always sounds like you want to have sex with yourself. I still can’t understand why people think “self love” sounds encouraging or strong.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I was thinking of collaborating on a post dealing with something like “ten things you don’t say to an aspie” and was wondering if you’d be game?

            Liked by 1 person

  2. And I thought I thought too much about stuff like this 😉 (and talked to myself about it). Not just you though when it comes to the cynicism about ‘self love’….for me, its too close to narcissism and I know too many with that issue!! Self liking and self friendship I can live with (one day).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lol 😉. Thank you for the smile and the chuckle 😉👍🏼. I agree with you, absolutely. I’ve always been sort of concerned about the idea of “self-love” creating a world of narcissists, and since that’s SO not me, I shied away from that concept, too 😊 And oh, do I feel you about knowing people with that issue! Ugh 💐. As for the rest of it, it’s baby steps. The others are concepts that often take time to wrap one’s head around (at least, they did for me). It was a lot of work, and I often oscillated back and forth, but over time, I got there. I do still have my days when I’m really down on myself, but they’re fewer and further between, and less severe when they do happen. You’ll get there too! It’s all about the one-day-at-a-time 😊👍🏼❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so me! Or I am so you. Talking to myself. Out loud sometimes even. Tangents. There’s a point, I promise 😏 Brilliant, fantastic, awesome post! 🙌💘💐💫👏💝👍💕💛💣💚🌻💙🐲💜💃💌👣☯😎

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The usual “self-love” stuff sounds way too fake. As in American-style, fake as in TV newscasters feigning excitement and interest kind of thing. Absolutely nothing natural (and makes you wonder everytime watching or just hearing) about said newscasters life… are they really that empty?
    Anyway… yes, self-improvement, self acceptance are better. And less fake.
    I struggle with most of my friends living in Europe while I’m in US. Timezone thing, so can’t exactly call or text like ever. Or people forget and want to call my 5AM my time… sigh. (And the other part of the Europe/US thing: cultural and communication thing. So many things get misinterpreted by Americans just because of being an aspie who doesn’t do all the small talk dance)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! I can very much relate to everything you said – every word! Wholeheartedly agree with the “fake” concept. It really does seem that way. And for most of the population, it probably *is* that way. It’s almost like they’re trying to convince themselves. But because they don’t truly believe it, it rings hollow. That doesn’t stop them from flapping their feathers and making noise about it, it just makes people like us sit back in the shadows and shake our heads. I’m assuming again, but hopefully I’m not too far off lol 😉. Thank you for adding your comment! Excellent food for thought 👍🏼💙

      Like

        1. Absolutely, 100% agree 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Of the NTs I know, the ones who are the most genuine and honest (with themselves and everyone else), are also the happiest, most peaceful, least drama-happy, least combative, and most logical. They’re also the most pleasant for me to be around 😊❤️

          Like

  5. I’m actually okay with self love, for me it goes hand in hand with self care. I do like your concept of self like and self friendship though. If you have self- friendship you also have self-trust because friends trust each other. Self-trust is in very low supply for me at the moment – I have very little trust in my own abilities and tend to think that others are much more likely to be right than I am. I’m very much stuck in self-judgement and self-criticism right now. This is not a permanent state of mind, but even so I haven’t had proper self-like or even self-acceptance in a long time. 🙁 I apologise for basically using you as my therapist but your post has reminded me that I need to work on this. I think it’s going to help me as well so thanks for writing it 🙂😘🌃

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not sure I even get what people mean by “self love” … although maybe I have a better idea now, than I ever did?
    … But I think I am going through a similar process/experience – since my diagnosis earlier this year (at age 54) … which came as a result of a build up of problems at work, from what I didn’t realise at the time, but now know was years of a cycle of low self esteem->anxiety/depression->less executive function->less ability to keep up with work->low self esteem->etc … building up gradually until it got so bad I was totally not coping with my job, and, because it had all been handled totally the wrong way by my employers (who should have known better), I fell apart (and also ended up with Adjustment Disorder – which threw an extra spanner in the works). In the process of the Autism diagnosis, and some help from a psychologist or 2, I then gained a heap more insight/understanding of what was going on with me … and I learnt to accept myself, and feel a lot more “comfortable in my own skin” (I can’t remember where I read that phrase – but i have “borrowed” it, because it describes it so well – lol) … interesting how, after a whole life feeling like “the odd one out”, I am now finding so many people I have so much in common with – lol

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s