I want you, my audience, to imagine something for me. Imagine you are talking to a close friend of yours, and due to maybe something you or your friend said, you get into a small verbal fight. The fight isn’t big, and nor is the issue you are fighting about, it is simply a disagreement between two people. Eventually, one of you decides that what you are fighting about is not worth making a fuss over, so the argument ends, the two of you fume, and you go about your daily lives, still maintaining the same friendship the two of you had for years. The issue is forgotten, and is most likely cast out from your mind, never to be brought up again. This my audience, is how many people operate, as most of you might know. However, according to many people with Aspergers, such as myself…this isn’t how we, the Aspie community operate.
Let me explain, a common trait I have found within myself and others who have Aspergers is that we have unusually good long term memory capabilities. I can most definitely testify to this because I can remember many things from my early child hood life that most normal people can’t even remember that far back. So how does this relate to what I have asked of you all in the paragraph above? It relates because we just don’t take events and situations we have participated in and cast em out when they have lost all relevance…no…we keep things inside. We don’t let memories go. More specifically, we don’t let bad memories go. Now before I start getting comments and mail saying normal people do that as well, let me explain to you all that normal people don’t take things in the way people with Aspergers do. It is the small things that effect us. Whether it be a singular word someone uses, a tone of voice, a peculiar body language, etc. It sticks with us..and more importantly, it stacks with us.
I am hitting on the very crux of the issue on why most people with Aspergers not only have a low self esteem, but also suffer some form of depression. We can and most likely we will start obsessing over situations years ago that have absolutely no relevance to our daily lives. Situations that haunt us for whatever particular reason. We take in the things people say about us, about how we won’t amount to anything, about how we won’t be able to live normal lives, how we won’t be able to ever get girlfriends or just even friends in general. We remember all of this, and as much as we try to let it all go, it seems to be an inert part of our nature. I should know, to this day I still find myself reflecting back to conversations with people that they themselves have already forgotten about. But it is because of just one or several little things during those conversations or events that affected us in a negative way that cause those memories to stick and haunt us. This is especially catastrophic to one’s attitude and outlook on life while they are in school, because no matter how much you try to escape those who dislike you, you are eventually going to be called a name…or physically hurt. Though for myself, I might dare say that what affected me the most were the cruel words directed at me during my time in school, rather than the physical abuse I had to endure. It is said that words cut deep, but for me, and many other people dealing with the same condition, words cut ever deeper, to the point that its scarring. And like scars, we will carry those memories for much of our lives.
If you look at what I have said from a sort of a physiologic view, then maybe you can start to understand why this is a big deal. Imagine almost every single event in which one was bullied in some way shape or form, stacking up onto one another, never to go away. It is a crippling feeling, and we cannot do anything about it. Truth be told, we simply cannot forget. Here is an example I often use, a small story, an event that happened to me in high school.
It was my freshman year in high school, middle of the year, fast approaching the holidays. All the students were stuck in portables cause the high school we were going to was being built. Looking back on it, I honestly preferred the portables to the new high school. The portables had a sort of soul to it, something that made it rather interesting to be in on a day to day basis. When the high school opened, it felt more like a prison, with its barbed gates surrounding the outside of the school’s perimeter, barred windows, plain colors, and rather boring architecture. Anyways though, I had an english class in one of the portables, and one day we were watching an old educational movie called Odysseus, based on Homer’s epic poem. It was black and white with stop motion animation for the monsters. Despite how cheesy it was, I loved every minute of it, though the students behind me didn’t seem to share in my enthusiasm. Instead they laughed and snickered at it, making fun of its look and lack of CGI now present in most modern day movies. Truth was they were spoiled snobs, spoiled by the computer effects utilized in today’s movies and really didn’t know a good movie if Citizen Kane was staring them straight in the face. So of course, wanting to defend a movie I liked, I turned around and point blankly stated, “Stop laughing, of course it looks funny, its old, so it’s a classic”.
“It’s a Classic”, that was the name they called me and goaded me with for weeks on end. For some reason, they found my defense humorous, and decided to use it as ammunition against me to make me feel bad. Any normal person though wouldn’t think much of it, they would probably just shrug it off, or maybe even come up with a clever defense to put a early stop to their games. But me…well…I took it hard. I took it hard because something that I said was turned back onto me and used as an insult. I was afraid to say anything else, because I thought that whatever I said, it would be more fuel to the fire. I was very silent those few weeks, but eventually the name faded away like most terms bullies use…but the constant goading and laughing still haunt me to this day. It is not something I can let go, believe me…I tried…it is just part of my nature to internally keep all the negative things people have said directly to me and let it stew for years on end. Though I guess the difference between me and some other people who also have Aspergers is that whenever I think about it, I don’t get sad, I get angry…which was explained in my last blog post. It is a coping method when dealing with those pesky memories, which explains that while yes, I am quite sure I do suffer from a form of depression, I do not suffer it quite as bad as other people with Aspergers. And from what I have read on other blogs written and managed by people with Apsergrers, I am not the only one that deals with this.
From what I observed, people have other coping mechanisms to deal with this as well. It is what keeps them sane. Believe it or not, there is a high suicide rate within the Aspie community for the reasons I stated above. The pressure of what is stored within their minds become to much to handle and they no longer wish to suffer the pain. That is why people with Aspergers have coping mechanisms. Responding to the memories with anger is one such mechanism, though for me, one isn’t enough. I have another that works just as well. Isolation. My room is my shelter from these memories, and often times I will spend many hours of the day, no matter what weather, sitting in my room, watching TV, playing video games, reading books, or even typing up blogs to simply not have to deal with the cruelties of life. Isolation, is a necessary mechanism for me. I do not like socializing. Oh, I can do it, I can do it pretty well compared to my younger years, but socializing is like going to any educational establishments, I hate it and I always will. The only time I socialize is when I feel safe with a particular person. I will use my best friend (who will not be named) as an example.
Though I do not like socializing, I know I have to go to work, and I have to go to college, so I do so. Obviously, you cannot escape social interaction while doing these things so during this time I just embrace the fact that this presents adequate opportunities to interact with my fellow man. It is because of work that I met my best friend, who also has a form of Autism (it is high functioning, though not Aspergers). It is because of our ailments that we can relate to each other, and be on a degree of understanding that even our own parents have trouble getting to. We are interested in the same things, and we motivate each other. We were practically meant to be brothers. And you see, that is the type of person that I want to be my friend, someone who can have a degree of understanding of what I go through. Because I have Autism, it makes it difficult to find such people, because most people do not understand what it is like to live with a (for some reason, I do not like typing this) Autistic mind. But at the same time, there is a conundrum…I wish to be as normal as possible, and not just have friends who are on the spectrum. No, I also want friends not on the spectrum, friends who are completely and utterly healthy in terms of physical and mental health. But that is almost impossible no? Because who can say that anyone not on the spectrum could even come close to understanding how we feel? Get the dilemma?
And now we come to another coping mechanism, one I see all to often and is a very big mistake. I call it the “Sunshine and Rainbow” vision. People with Autism will put themselves in a box and almost force themselves to believe that there is no dark side to the world…there is no dark side to humanity. They live in a perpetual illusion, a lie created by their obsessive fear to never get hurt, both mentally and physically. You see, for me, my room is that box, but because of life, I have to get out of it and go participate in life’s activities in order to live comfortably. People with the Vision, they take their box with them, and while it may be normal for them, on the outside, to the viewers staring in, they see a weird individual smiling all the time, but they know…and it is as clear as day, that false happiness is a front, a defense to keep out the inevitability of life’s challenges. And while that defense is strong at first, something is going to eventually break through, and when it does…it will hit hard….very hard. More often than not, the people who choose to do this are the people who choose to sink into sadness and depression when the memories begin to take its toll. Which is why one day they decided to refuse the fact that life is hard. They are constantly in denial, and it is the most dangerous state of mind to be in. Unfortunately, even if this is explained to the individual who suffers from this…it will in most likelihood not reach them…no…unfortunately for people like that..they will have to learn the hard way. But if they are able to pull through, realize that there way is not the best way, and act accordingly to that…then they will be on the path to a better future.
So the entire point of this post is to deliver a warning. When speaking with a person dealing with Aspergers, or even those with high functioning Autism, watch what you say…watch what you do. The littlest things will affect us, and it will stick with us. You may inadvertently put us down a path that we do not want to go on, and life is already hard enough as we wage a constant war within ourselves to achieve our dreams and aspirations. We do not need any more enemies to fight.
Stay tuned for my next blog post!