This post was originally published at http://thethirdglance.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/the-third-glance-thethirdglance-to-i-wish-i-didnt-have-aspergers-autismpositivity2012-flashblog/ and is reprinted here with permission from the author.
This post is part of the Autism Positivity Day #AutismPositiity2012 Flash Blog for April 30th, 2012. For more information about the flash blog, and the Autism Positivity Project, and a compilation of many other fantastic posts, please visit autismpositivity.wordpress.com – Thanks!
To the person who typed “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s” into a search engine, and to all of those who have felt this way at one point or another,
When I see the words “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s/Autism”, I would love to be able to say “I can only imagine what you’re feeling”… but the truth is, I probably know exactly how you’re feeling. (*gasp* an Autistic person with empathy?!) We live different lives, have different hobbies, interests, families, friends (or lack thereof), and issues. But I, too, have typed similar things into google. At times, I felt lost, dejected, outcast, lonely, and broken. Like no one will ever like me or appreciate me. As if I’m from another planet, and the world is just too confusing for me to follow. I’m surrounded by people who just don’t “get” me, and it can be incredibly isolating. I bet you’ve felt most of these things before, and maybe the event that triggered your googling “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s” caused you to feel all of that and more. I’m writing this today, to tell you that you’re not alone. There’s lots of us out there, going through the same thing, all looking for come comfort and understanding.
Having Asperger’s or Autism can be hard. It can be painful. It can be downright depressing. When I was growing up, I didn’t know I was autistic. I just thought there was something wrong with me. That I wasn’t trying hard enough, and that if I just could do better and work harder, the other kids would like me and be nice to me. I thought that my parents would stop abusing me. I wished that I could be just like everybody else, and wished that things would be better. I wished that I could just be like everyone else. I internalized all those negative feelings about myself, and was very unhappy. I didn’t have the word “Asperger’s” in my vocabulary back then, but I’m sure that if I did, I would have used that sentence exactly. Well I’m still Autistic, but things are definitely better. I do have to tell you, though, that the word “Asperger’s” saved my life, because it gave me an understanding of why I didn’t fit with the others, and why I was so out of sync with the rest of the world. More than that, it gave me a way to unlock the tools I needed to function better in the world.
There’s a lot about myself I’d like to change sometimes. I think that’s true for everyone, though, neurotypical or autistic, ablebodied or not, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or anything else.. We all have flaws and difficulties. But we also all have strengths and greatnesses, and there’s also a lot of stuff about myself that I wouldn’t change for the world. I am Autistic, and I see the world differently from most people (quite literally). I hear and see things most people don’t, and have an astute eye for details and continuity. I love to collect and synthesize facts, and I am working on a PhD in the sciences. I’m a good teacher, and want to become a professor – I’m even on the pathway to achieving that goal. When I am working with things that interest me, I am incredibly happy, focused, and skilled. Asperger’s has given me a great set of tools that I can use to make a difference in the world, learn new things, make discoveries, and live a life I enjoy.
Autism and Asperger’s is so often seen as exclusively a bad thing, with people stuck in their own worlds, unable to feel love or joy, or happiness. Unable to communicate, and unable to be “fully human”. This can’t be farther from the truth. And the worst part about it? It’s all perpetuated almost exclusively by a few people who are NOT autistic, and most of them don’t even have autistic family members! Who are they to define us? Far too often, there’s a focus on what Autistic people can’t do. So much that people erase what we CAN. But if you focus on the CAN instead of the CANNOT, you’ll find you are capable of so much more than you realize.
I want you to know that you are NOT broken, you are NOT sub-human, there is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU, and most of all, you are an AMAZING, UNIQUE PERSON, with a distinctive skill-set that will help to make the world a better place. Because of the card you have drawn in life, your life will never be easy. But easy is overrated, and I wouldn’t trade myself for anything.
When I used to think (effectively) “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s”, it wasn’t my wish to fundamentally change who I am – I love being Autistic. I love the way that I am able to focus on little details for hours on end. I love the way that I can tell exactly who is walking by a room without ever seeing them. I love that I can become immersed in a topic of interest so completely, that I can become an expert in a matter of days. And I love being the person I am. My wish isn’t that I didn’t have Asperger’s. It is that others would understand that when they slam doors near me, or touch my shoulder unexpectedly, it makes me incredibly miserable. I wish that others would accept that sometimes I rock back and forth or tap my fingers together, because I’m listening to them. I wish that others would acknowledge that when I am conversing with them, my brain is firing at an incredibly fast rate, significantly faster than theirs (from what I can tell), just to attempt to keep up, and that instead of cutting me off or ignoring me, they would listen when I finally have something to say. So no, my wish isn’t that I no longer be Autistic. My wish is that the rest of the world would treat us with the respect that we deserve.
I’ve been thinking (and agonizing) about what I would say in this letter. It’s not my job to change your mind – everyone is allowed their own feelings, especially about themselves. But I do hope that when you read this, you will realize that you are not alone in your struggles, that there are hundreds out there like you, all trying to make our ways in this world, and we are here for you and for each other, to support through the challenges and celebrate the triumphs. I want to leave you with a feeling of hope, with the knowledge that you are a worthwhile person. And the understanding that being Autistic doesn’t take that away from you. In fact, it makes you even more special and needed in this world.
And I also wanted to say “Thank you!” to you, for having the courage to say “I wish I didn’t have Asperger’s”. Your websearch came to just the right blog, and brought about an amazing event, where hundreds of people have blogged about being the positives of being Autistic. You have brought together an incredibly diverse group of people, both within the blogosphere and outside of it, to tell not only you, but the millions of autistic people out there that they are loved, accepted, and appreciated. You’ve brought together parents, autistic adults, and even autistic kids, to work together to create a positive message. And that is one of the most powerful things that anyone can do. So thank you, for being a catalyst for good. See? You ARE a worthwhile person, not despite your Autism/Asperger’s, but BECAUSE OF IT.
So here’s to all of you out there, who may be struggling to fit in to this world that wasn’t meant for those us. And to all of you out there who have found happiness. And to all of the amazing parents, friends, siblings, extended family, staff persons, teachers, and wonderful people who believe in us, and are committed to helping us reach our full potential and to making the world a better place for ALL people who live in it. Because in the end, this isn’t just about Autism. It’s about humanity. It’s about cultivating the respect for and acceptance of diversity that allows everyone the opportunity to live a good, happy, fulfilling life, for whatever that means to them. Thank you for being forces of good in this world.
This Autism Positivity Flash Blog Event is the brainchild of Thinking About Perspectives, a group of bloggers committed to increasing autism awareness and acceptance via open and respectful dialogue. We are: 30 Days of Autism, Outrunning the Storm, The Third Glance, Aspie Kid, Flappiness Is, Quirky and Laughing, Life on the Spectrum, Fairy Tale Forgotten, The Aspie Side of Life, and Inner Aspie.