Making Peace: Autism and Acceptance

I attended a geek/fandom-based bible study last year. It’s a small group full of Christians who are into geeky things. It’s pretty cool actually. We were talking about Pokemon, Jonah Chapter 4, and making peace that evening. I’m not a Pokemon fan but I have tried one of the early RPGs on a Gameboy and can see why it would be so much fun to get into. I thought of something when it came to making peace and acceptance of autism that evening but it came to me while walking home from the bible study rather than earlier in community.

While I brag hard about accepting autism as a part of my identity, the hardest thing for someone like me to make peace with is accepting the daily struggle. I deal with quirks that are incurable and there are times when I’d rather live as if Aspergers doesn’t exist. Last year, I have made peace with the fact that God doesn’t have to answer to me, although he answers my prayers HE feels should be answered. I made peace with the fact that God will somehow use Aspergers through me for His glory, even though part of me for a fact knows that this seems rationally ridiculous.

Religion tries to make Aspergers an obstacle or a “demon” to be dealt with. Certain sects of Christianity claim that autism and Aspergers is just a lie and something I can easily get over. These are wrong on so many scientific, psychological, and even spiritual outlooks. Real spirituality accepts what can’t be humanly changed, but relies on the wisdom of a deity to work with the gifts and the weaknesses Aspergers brings to the forefront (but not be a fruitcake like hyper-pentecostals and what not).

Some days Aspergers is a curse. In times when I socialize, I feel stressed and overwhelmed. Sometimes when I work, I want to break down and cry like a baby. Many other days Aspergers is a gift. In times when I create these blog posts, in times when I write and perform or spin music, in times when I pray and meditate, I feel like I shine, even when no one is watching.

I’m not sure how I can end this post. I’ve been praying the serenity prayer lately because sometimes I’m not even sure what to pray to ensure God’s will happens for some of my situations and not my own. So I’ll end with this; if you struggle with autism or Aspergers and am not sure what to pray, here’s the serenity prayer that you can use:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen. – – Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Getting Over Shyness and Other Autism Myths

So I was talking to a person who I thought was a friend. We had gone back years. He saw how I grew and struggled with Aspergers Syndrome throughout the years but I made the error of not telling him until a slightly heated conversation we had. I still believe he saw how I tried my hardest at getting over shyness and how I surpassed other stereotypes found in autism while still pushing against my social awkwardness. While I don’t remember our entire conversation, our dynamic in our friendship had changed as most friendships do when people drift apart or when people get married. When we met again years later, he claims that I purposely ignored him. But when people have different lives, that’s kind of what happens, right? The truth is that I had a hard time keeping up with him. He was a social salsa dancer who wanted me to relax with others. Another problem I struggled with without saying anything is that in a large social group I have a hard time keeping up with conversations. In more complex social situations with lots going on, I need more time to take in the invisible social matrix and its effects that occur in a situation since autism slows me down. I may seem like I had lots of friends when we hung out, but in reality I felt alone. There was just too many conversations and people to keep up with. People with autism and Aspergers like myself need much more time to process conversations and to realize what’s really going on in social situations. Not to mention, we need someone else to expose certain elephants in the room. We’re not being ignorant and purposely blocking people out. We just have a harder time focusing with what’s going on. As a response, we’re delayed in responding to what’s happening around us and we only look like we’re focused on ourselves. If only my “friend” understood what the hell’s going on with me when I told him its autism, maybe he wouldn’t make such an outrageous claim of being purposely ignorant. Maybe he would understand that autism is the cause of my shyness rather than to tell me to just get over it.

Now that I’m past the ranting, here’s my point. People who misunderstand or have never had frequent exposure to autism see it as a devastating social disorder that prevents someone from ever being able to function in society.

There are many myths and even more debatable debunked hogwash about autism than I care to dive into, but this one is the most common. Many people hear “autism” and imagine children or adults who are permanently in their own world who can’t or have difficulty talking or interact with anyone else (AKA can’t get over shyness), who get pissed off for no apparent reason while throwing things around, and who will never be part of society of individuals who are properly neurologically wired. Autism is a spectrum disorder for a reason: autistics range from people who are have no ability to communicate in any way with others, all the way to people like myself who live ordinary, productive lives and just seem a bit unconventional to the rest of the world. Autism is a difference in the brain. It is not a disability. It contains a part of the brain that is wired differently. And no, vaccines have nothing to do with how it came about.

I, the writer of this blog, am living proof that autism has very few limitations no matter how severe or mild it can be. Even low-functioning autistics who need a caregiver can lead a perfectly happy life. There are also stories of autistic children conquering their quirks with therapy. Sadly, most mainstream organizations looking for a cure for autism are the ones who spread these lies by only focusing on what’s related to low-functioning autism. They’re almost entirely ignoring the existence of high-functioning autism, those with Aspergers like me, and autistic people who accept themselves for who they are without a need to be fixed or “cured.”

We as autistic individuals or Aspies may never be able to get over our so-called “shyness” or eccentric behaviour or awkward body language. We may even be seen as insane or dare I use the “R” word. And that’s perfectly fine by me. I’m at the point now where I don’t care how people see me. Ignorance doesn’t phase me anymore. I may constantly be “shy” around people. I may only be able to have a career if I work at home. Whatever! I’m proud of who I am. I can literally talk a ten miles a minute about something I’m passionate about. I’m a musician/DJ slowly but surely making a name for myself in Winnipeg and online. I’m married. I’m involved with my community, and believe it or not, I actually do have a job where I work outside of my house. If that’s not convincing enough that those with autism can overcome their quirks such as sensory overload or communication issues, maybe virality of more testimonies from others in my neighbourhood with Aspergers or autism is needed.