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To you who just received the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, and is adult by Gunnel in Sweden

To you who just received the diagnosis Asperger's Syndrome, and is adult.
By Gunnel in Sweden

I, who am writing to you, have received the same dx, as middle-aged.

It was four weeks ago. And when I drove home, all by myself, with this message ringing in my ears, I was driving as if in trance. I had so many thoughts, and there were so many things that I needed to formulate.

That's why I write this letter to you, as a help. I am sure that you too have many questions, and there's so much that one has got to digest, when you get this message.

The first thing I would like to say to you, is: Welcome in the club. We are many. You are not the only one. It is a growing number of people getting this dx as an adult. We had needed to get it as children, that would have made life easier for us. But it is the way it is now.

The second thing I would like to say: It is not a disaster. On the contrary, these four weeks since I got the dx, have been my best time for many many years. So many positive things have happened to me, that wouldn't have happened, had I not got this dx. To me it has worked as a key, opening doors. What do I mean by this? Well, I have had many tough times in my life. I have had a feeling of being odd, being an outsider, been in conflict with others, got sacked many times (my first job I was only able to keep for four days, and that's just one example). And I have wanted to join in in diverse fellowships/groups/committees and harshly been rejected. In spite of the fact that I am intelligent and had no intention to do any harm to anyone. All the time I have been wondering: Why? Why does this happen? Why are they mean to me? Why do I get sacked? Why am I considered no good? And what hurts the most: Why are they so angry with me, I haven't done them anything wrong?

The dx has given me answers to these “whys”. Now I know, that I am not ill, there is nothing wrong with me, I am not about to become crazy. And the people who have done this to me, are not meaner than anyone else. They are just like everybody else.

The cause of these difficulties, is that I was created differently than most people. To belong on “autism-spectrum” means that my brain is “differently wired” to put it simple. And this gives certain specific difficulties. Among other things it means that I misunderstand people every day, and they misunderstand me. We speak different languages, it's as simple as that. So though I am not deliberately mean to them, they BELIEVE I am. But there ARE ways to come across this hinder, ways to learn how to. Provided you know what the real problem is, and have the opportunity to practice the right way.

BESIDES: belonging on autism spectrum also brings with it certain very good and strong traits. We are unique. We are more honest than most people, we have stronger tenacity than most people, we don't waste time with gossiping, but we use it on essentials. We know a lot within a limited area of interest. Not many people know THAT much about one topic. Not many people are as logical, and have such a good memory, as we. We also have the ability to find new solutions to problems in a way no one else would think of.

And there are two sides on every coin: I am sure people have told you, that you are as stubborn as sin and never gives in. And the folks around you maybe think it is a bad thing that you are so stubborn. But at the same time, you are a reliable and loyal friend to your genuine friends. You are stubborn, yes, but you don't let anyone down that you like, and you hold your view-point and your opinion in front of anybody, no matter what. It is the same thing, expressed two ways, the same tenacity.

And all this, and several more things, is caused by being created differently. And there is nothing wrong with that.

When I saw the test-scores from the neuropsychological tests, I noticed that my intuitive social understanding is TEN units lower than the level of my vocabulary. Usually, people have at the most a difference of three units, at the most, between the scores. Then at last I understood: I do not understand others the right way, so I misunderstand them. And: as I am so bright, they COUNT ON that I understand them. This is precisely the moment when they get angry with me, and believe that I am deliberately mean to them. It is no strange thing that they count on my understanding, as I understand books and text and the computer and difficult school subjects, very easily. How on earth could they know, that I have a deficit in my equipment, precisely in this? So of course they relate to me as if I understood as much as other people do. And they get disappointed.... This became evident to me.

And then a new period started in my life, the last four weeks. I have seen so many “whys?” disappear. And the very best of it, is that I don't have to feel guilty anymore of all the bad things that has happened in my life. Because I haven't had the clue, I simply couldn't help it. What you don't perceive can't direct you. And the others, who have treated me badly, and I haven't understood why, now I can forgive them. Of course they didn't know that I didn't understand, though I am bright. Most people WOULD have understood, especially if they are as bright as I am. So they thought I was mean to them on purpose, and that kind of people you throw out and reject. That is what has happened.

All the things that have happened so far, I can't change them. But now I can see it in a different light, I can forgive the others, and I don't have to feel guilty myself either. It has been misunderstandings, and none of us could have helped it.

But I am able to change my FUTURE, now that I know what the problem looks like. And I am very grateful that I have got this excellent explanation. And a extra bonus is that now I see some of my close relatives in a new light. Asperger's Syndrome is hereditary, genetic. There are some relatives that I am sure have AS as well, and now I am able to relate to them with a new understanding. They can't help the way they are created, either. And the only thing one can do, is relate to them the way they ARE, not the way everybody else is. Because they will never become like everybody else.

One more thing that has become clear to me, is why I have absolutely detested psychodynamic therapy, the most common type of psychological support. The theory it is based upon, simply doesn't seem to apply to the way we with Asperger's Syndrome are created. We are not seen as we are, in that kind of talks. And it can cause a feeling of being very offended. I am not the only autistic person who have this experience, so I put up a little warning-flag for that. But of course it can be useful to have someone to talk with, in general. There are pastors and priests and there are other nice persons who listen, and keep silent about what you share with them. Concerning the difficulties that you and I OURSELVES consider as troublesome, such as rages and not being able to cope with one's wrath, there is cognitive behaviourial therapy, that some psychologists and some therapists are skilled in. THAT method is more like a course, and you don't have to tell them about your entire life, you go straight to what we OURSELVES want to learn to cope with. It is never to late to re-learn concerning things that doesn't work well. And you and I are the ones who know what doesn't work well in our own lives.

As a whole, I would describe the difficulties we have, as consequences of a impractical way of handling life. But it is not a morally wrong way, we do not get guilty, when we fail. But we get misunderstood. The communication works like when a Chinese shakes his head, and a Swede thinks he means “no”. But in China, this is supposed to mean “yes”. It is impractical, but it is not morally wrong. There is a need for teaching on how to interpret each other's signals. THAT'S the greatest need, I think. And I am willing to learn more about it, because I want to make my future a better place to be in, than my past has been. And I suppose that you think the same way. With the insights that this kind of dx gives you, you are on your way.

Good Luck! 

©  Gunnel 2002


"We each have our own way of living in the world, together we are like a symphony.
Some are the melody, some are the rhythm, some are the harmony
It all blends together, we are like a symphony, and each part is crucial.
We all contribute to the song of life."
...Sondra Williams

We might not always agree; but TOGETHER we will make a difference.


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