Monday, April 30, 2012

Asperger's Illustrated to "I Wish I Didn't Have Asperger's": #AutismPositivity2012

I'm doing fine now, but I was in your place once.
I've been you before.

I was diagnosed what seems like a long time ago now on July 4th, 2009 at the age of 20. I turned 23 five days ago, and in that time span my outlook on my diagnosis has changed tenfold.

 When I was first diagnosed with Asperger's - and very high-functioning Asperger's, at that - I was relieved. There was a name for why I had trouble fitting in with people. It was really, really nice to know that it wasn't me, but that it was a difference in my brain that caused me trouble. Since I was diagnosed after my sophomore year in college, I'd been socialized my entire life like a neurotypical child, which was an unintentional blessing because it helped me actually learn how to talk to people (I frequently am told to this day that I "don't seem like I have Asperger's," but that's another issue that I'll discuss at a later time). Things seemed fairly nice then.

And then I went back to college.

I began to analyze every single social interaction I had. I became silent in class, afraid to speak up because I thought I sounded obnoxious. I second-guessed myself every time I said anything. I fell victim to the stigma of Asperger's, letting it remove any self-confidence that I had in myself. I knew many people saw autism and Asperger's as something bad. I began to see it as something that stopped me from living like a normal person, something that exposed me to judgment, particularly negative judgment. The fear of people being harsh and cruel like they were during my childhood came back up, and I began looking back on my life and remembering every single negative social experience I'd had in my childhood and connecting my Asperger's to it. Generally, it made me feel both vindicated and horrible about myself, which was a strange combination.

Then I had a professor my senior year of college who inspired me to start this blog. In her class, I opened up about having Asperger's to a group of people I didn't know well for the first time, and nobody passed judgment. They listened instead. I was stunned. It turns out adults are more accepting of certain things because they're less subject to the peer pressure of a school environment. Almost in tears, I resolved to start Asperger's Illustrated, combining my loves of cartooning and writing.

And you know what? The more I wrote, the better I felt.

I made friends with Asperger's online. I was able to better analyze and accept my own feelings and differences. I was expressing myself and talking about my struggles, which other people on the spectrum were able to relate to. I belonged somewhere. There was a community of people just like me.

It was around then that I started accepting myself again. I realized that Asperger's is a gift of mine - that it lets me be the insanely creative, intelligent person that I am. Because my brain is different, my creative output is through the roof. I'm an extremely gifted writer. I notice the things that other people don't. I'm literally able to find just about anything, which helps me in my career as an archivist. And let's not forget the photographic memory that goes along with having Asperger's, too - once I learn something, I don't forget it. Ever. It makes me an incredible sportswriter because I can recall statistics and little anecdotes with such ease. (For more on Asperger's and creativity, check out Aspienaut.)

If you have Asperger's, you're blessed, believe me. Talking to people is harder, yes, but the people that deserve to be in your life really won't care. They'll be good to you because they love you and care about you. Asking for help is just fine as an adult - or even as a kid. Asperger's also gives you the ability to see things differently than other people, so you notice different things, a great skill for those in the creative arts as well as in business, engineering, and all sorts of other fields. It's more and more of an asset than anything else - it's really not too detrimental.

So...what I'm really trying to tell you here is that it gets better, as stupid and cliche as that sounds. Explain things to your friends and family members so they become more aware and are able to support you, and if you need anything more, there's a whole community of us online here that you can turn to. We're here to make sure you make it and succeed no matter what - and believe me, succeed you will. If I can go to college four hours away from home, graduate successfully whilst writing two senior theses, become a sportswriter, and make plans to go to graduate school - in the busiest city in the world, New York - to become an archivist, there's no telling what you can do.

And remember, we're all in this together. I'm glad you have Asperger's.


  1. great post, thanks for sharing. nice to see youve found writing on here has helped you. i'm starting to feel the same about my own blog. its only new but helping me to see things in a slightly different way! JSx

    1. Oh, gosh, I'm so late in answering comments on this blog! I need to get email notifications or something. Lemme go add your blog to my blogroll on the side there!

  2. I just discovered your blog but I wanted to say how great I think it is! Like you, I also have extremely high-functioning Aspergers, and what you wrote above perfectly hit the nail on the head of what its like. I myself have found myself facing much of what you mentioned, though the one difference is that I knew from more or less the beginning that I had Aspergers. My parents refused to let it limit me, however, and socialized me in a Neurotypical way. I myself actually grew up not wanting the label and have only embraced it recently in order to help me fight for Aspie rights and pride. Like you, this gave me the advantage of speaking nearly fluently in Neurotypical, though I still revel in my distinct Aspie tendencies and abilities. This is a great blog that really brings an important element of optimism to the Neurodiversity movement. I myself have one if you're interested:

    Here's to meeting a fellow Aspie and continuing the good fight! :D

    Adam Michael

    1. My word, I think we're almost exactly the same person! Although I got my diagnosis late I had a feeling I was different for some reason, but I learned to be practically neurotypical.

      I'm starting to just learn to embrace my "powers," so to speak - it dawned on me that they'd make me very good in my career field (being an archivist), so I'm not feeling down about 'em anymore!

      Added your blog to my blogroll, too! And I really need to get email notifications sent to me when people comment here since I'm several months late in replying here. .___.