I’ve said before (probably too many times) that as an Asperger’s/autistic person, I tend to think and process information differently.
I think I repeat this tidbit fairly often because a precious few members of the general public seem to understand (except of course, for the awesome people reading blogs like these!). The world at large is still stuck in “Autism Is a Pathology” Land.
Not only do I process the world differently, but I tend to operate differently in pretty much every aspect of life.
There’s no harm in that. Left to my devices, there’s not even much difficulty in that.
But I can’t live left to my own devices for prolonged periods of time, of course. The way my life works, I do depend on other people. I do crave their company (at least some of them, at least most of the time).
Chances are really high, though, that the people I tend to need to interact with in order to live my life are probably not on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. This means, of course, that they’re not going to operate the same way I do, and vice versa.
Shit happens. 🙂
The difficulty arises, then, in the culture clash between the two Neuro-worlds. “They” aren’t predisposed to understand me, and I’m not predisposed to understand them.
I’m at a disadvantage right out of the gate, simply because I’m severely outnumbered. To top it off, I can have trouble expressing myself. This is one of several deficits or weaknesses, relatively speaking, that become the focus of such a clash, fueling a discussion of which I bear the brunt of the blame for the breakdown in communication or any other aspect of the relationship.
But what is often overlooked (sometimes purposefully, and at other times merely conveniently forgotten or maybe even genuinely not understood), is the fact that wherever there’s a deficit/weakness, there is also, frequently, ironically, a gift/strength.
One such strength is my ability to think very logically, sometimes so much so that I can separate emotion from that logic, sometimes even factoring that emotion out of the equation altogether.
This doesn’t mean that I’m cold, unfeeling, or emotionless; it just means that I can usually accept facts for what they are and comfortably call a spade a spade, sometimes much to the chagrin of some of the non-autistic people around me.
When I process the information and arrive at my conclusions, which are typically quite fact-based and logic-rooted, it can be tough for me at times to wait for others (“everyone else”) to “catch up”, and depending on the situation, some people never quite do so.
Yet, I can see these facts and make the connections between them so clearly and efficiently; I guess that’s what people (in general) might call the “black and white” thinking. During times like this, I sometimes fail to see how others could not (or could “fail” to) see these things so clearly.
Confession time: I get impatient. My brain is racing a mile a minute, saying, “don’t you see? Can’t you think this way?”
Patience is a virtue, they say. I must not be very virtuous (?). Peeps of the jury, I’m doing my best, I promise.
I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a character flaw on my part, or if it’s a simple brain-trait, brought to us by my different operating system.
I’m also aware of the flip-side of all of this: the times when I need some extra understanding, extra patience. Sometimes I don’t have the words to explain what I need or how my brain works. And it’s during times like this that non-spectrum people might get impatient with me.
I don’t exactly have any clear-cut answers or solutions to the issue. It’s just something I’ve noticed over the years, especially during this last one, in which I’ve been aware of my neurodiversity.
The culture clash didn’t suddenly pop up out of nowhere; it’s always been there; I’ve always felt it. I never had a name for it before I realized that I was (am) on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.
Now that I know, I’m now aware of the nature of the difference. I have a name for it. I even have a new vocabulary for it. And there’s also a list of traits to explain it.
But that doesn’t erase or even soften the invisible divide or its impact on the lives of myself or anyone else around me. It explains what it is and it gives it words, but it doesn’t solve anything or prevent every misunderstanding.
I still maintain the idea that knowledge is half the battle, though. The awareness provides a potential starting point. It explains the situation and helps by liberating me from the previously-held curse that every misunderstanding was my fault, that every conflict was because of my personality flaws, and that it was always I who needed to change or work on something.
I might not have answers, at least not yet, but I do have a springboard, a jumping off point from which to start.
And that in itself is pretty cool.
What’s cooler yet are those around me, the non-autistic people in my life who actually admire my alternative way of thinking, my alternative wiring, even if it means that sometimes one “side” or the other feels confused or less intelligent until an understanding can be reached.
And the good news is, an understanding of some kind can be–and often is–indeed reached. Maybe it’s not perfect understanding–we’re running different operating systems, after all–but it’s something. It’s not hopeless. It takes effort and energy, more so than it would if we shared the same neurotype. But it’s not the end of the world.
In fact, one could say it’s the beginning.
(Image Credit: lincochuan)