We accepted that we had AS and that we needed to reach out for help.
Nobody likes to think of themselves as different and we all like to believe that we don’t need any help. However the reality of life is that everybody is different and nobody is totally independent. We all have our own unique fingerprints and DNA and everybody – no matter how tough or strong they appear to be, depends upon something or somebody else on a daily basis for their survival. When we think about the food that we eat or the clothes that we wear or the electricity that runs our homes, we realise that all of these things and many more that we depend on every day are provided by outside people and agencies that we have no control over. Everybody – even the rich and famous is mortal and if people are lucky enough to make it to old age, they also usually need to be helped and cared for every day.
One of the main problems with AS is that it is a condition that tells us that we don’t have it. As high functioning people, we often look neurotypical and do well at school or college but when it comes to interacting with other people and developing social relationships, we fall short. Another baffling feature of Asperger’s Syndrome is that it does not show up on a blood test like regular physical illnesses or conditions. Our AS is a neurodevelopmental difference that changes the way we communicate and interact with others and the only way that can know if we have AS is to assess our symptoms. The actual experience of many people and their families who have and live with Asperger’s Syndrome on a daily basis and the experience of many competent professionals like Hans Asperger has taught us some basic truths about our symptoms – and about ourselves. On page 6 above, we have listed 20 questions to help people to assess themselves or their loved ones for AS. These questions have been approved by world leading ASD experts and are a very reliable way to assess AS.
But an assessment is often not enough to convince a person that they have AS or more importantly that they need to reach out for the help and support that is available at Aspergers Anonymous. The strong willpower that can often be a great characteristic of our AS can also become a liability if we use it to deny reality or to reject the help that is on offer. Our family members can feel like they are banging their heads against a brick wall when they try to convince us to accept the fact that we have AS and to reach out for help and support. We often reject their suggestions and claim instead that we are fine and that they are the ones with all the problems and they should be getting help – not us! When our loved ones encountered this kind of resistance in us, they found that their best approach was to agree with us that yes they do need help like everybody else in the world but that there is no shame in needing help.
Another way that our family members can help is to remind us that everybody wants to be safe and happy and to point out to us that our choice to deny we have AS or to refuse to reach out for help does not seem to be working because we do not seem to be happy. Through our Aspergers support groups, we have learned that facing reality makes us happy and that reality is much less fearsome than fantasy in the long run. We have found the reality of our fellowship, the reality of our unity and service and the reality of our obligations to other people with AS and their families. We have also learned that to ignore reality and to live in an imaginary world is dishonest and therefore has a destructive effect on our spiritual and emotional wellbeing.
As Human Beings living in the same time and space as everyone else, we know that we are not immune to receiving the same wake up calls to reality just like everybody else. If we refused to accept that we had AS or to reach for the help and support that we needed, sooner or later our lives became unmanagable. Some of the dangerous symptoms that we have experienced with unassessed and unsupported Asperger’s Syndrome include social isolation, negative thinking, anxiety, alcoholism, depression, bullying, drug addiction, dependency on prescription drugs, multi drug overdose, self harm, anorexia nervosa (most commonly in girls) and misdiagnosis (usually with Schizophrenia). Sometimes our lives had to come to a crisis point and we had to reach a rock bottom before we would accept our condition or reach out for the help and support that we needed. A wise person once said ‘never waste a good crisis’! Looking back we can now see that when a crisis or rock bottom gave us the humility to accept that we has AS and to reach out for help, then that crisis became a good thing.
Acceptance is a process that brings relief, peace of mind and gratitude!
The concept of acceptance is derived from a Latin word (acquiēscere) which means ‘to find rest in’ or to be relieved of a struggle. Many of our family members felt great relief when we were eventually assessed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. However for people who actually have AS, assessment can often bring disbelief, denial and anger. We sometimes make negative judgements about ourselves and look on AS as a bad thing that makes us inferior to or less than other people. Our old way of thinking was based on the false assumption that everybody else in the world was the same and that only we were different. We can also get caught in a trap of believing that our AS is not just a part of who we are but totally defines who we are.
Thankfully most of us have come to see the error of our old ways of negative thinking. We now realise that everybody in this world has their own unique DNA and fingerprints and that variations have always been an essential part of nature and evolution. As we grow spiritually and emotionally, we begin to value our differences and to accept the fact that we do belong in this world and that we do have an important role to play in life. People with AS are simply a different neurological group with a particular set of differences in common that sets us apart from other neurotypical people who have other sets of differences. People with AS also need specific forms of help and support that are different to the help and support that other people need. This does not mean that we are inferior to or less than other people – it simply means that we have different symptoms that require ongoing help and support in different ways.
People with AS have often been described as being very innocent or naive this can sometimes be a very good thing. Young people with AS are usually not interested in social norms or ‘following the crowd’ and this allows for original creative thinking. Most people with AS are very honest and transparent and usually say exactly what they mean with no hidden agendas. Many people with AS also passionate about high principals like equality and fairness. Our preference for rules and honesty can make us great students, workers and citizens. In a sorely troubled world where people can sometimes be selfish, shallow and deceitful – it can be breath of fresh air to have a loved one or colleague with AS who is honest, caring and unaffected and who can ‘think outside the box’ and does not need to ‘follow the crowd’. It is widely accepted that Hans Christian Andersen wrote ‘The Ugly Duckling’ based on himself. In the video on our website, the author explains to a troubled boy that his frustration comes from his wrong negative thinking that he is an ‘ugly duckling’ and that he will soon discover and accept the reality that he is in fact a swan’. In other words, the author is urging the boy to accept himself as he is and to live in the solution with other people who are like him.
Just because people with AS do things differently does not mean we are less than or inferior to anyone else. Many great people with AS have used their differences to make a very positive contributions to mankind and to the world.
Most leading experts agree that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s Syndrome as shown by his original creative traits and open minded attitude. Einstein was very unhappy and was bullied at school and did not ‘follow the crowd’ or fit in with conventional thinking. In fact Einstein’s childhood teachers in Austria told him that he would never amount to anything! Yet here was a man who made the most of his differences to become a genius and went on to say that everybody could be a genius if they learn to accept themselves as they are and get to know themselves and how they work:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid!” Albert Einsteen
It has often been said by spiritual people that ‘gratitude is the highest form of acceptance’. However, it is usually very difficult for people and their families to accept that they have AS – yet alone be grateful for it. Yet when we take another look at this attitude we realise that we actually do have a lot to be grateful for. We are alive, we have 5 senses in more or less good working order. Most of us are not physically crippled and do not have a life threatening or terminal disease like some poor unfortunate people. ‘Success’ can be described as ‘getting what you want’ but absolutely nobody gets what they want all of the time. ‘Happiness’ on the other hand is ‘wanting what you’ve got’ and this is possible for all of us all of the time. Nobody can be successful all of the time but everybody including ourselves can be happy if we choose to have the right attitude and practice gratitude for the many positive gifts in our lives!
Happiness is an inside job and can only come from what you think of yourself – not what other people think of you!
Nobody should have any problem with the spiritual program of Aspergers Anonymous. Our members come from many different religious and non-religious backgrounds. We do not demand that anyone believes anything – we simply pass on our own experience of what works for us. As people who have actually experienced Asperger’s Syndrome and live with this condition on a daily basis, we feel that we are uniquely placed to help other people with AS and their families.
Accept Yourself. Who are you to say you should be different?!