I am Asperger’s, Asperger’s is Me

An autism diagnosis changes everything. Life after autism will never be the same. Or will it?
Painted Desert National Park, Arizona, January 2008

Before I studied Zen, mountains were mountains, and water was water.
After studying Zen for some time, mountains were no longer mountains, and water was no longer water.
But now, after studying Zen longer, mountains are just mountains, and water is just water.
~ Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin

An autism diagnosis is a lot like this. Inevitably, there is Before and After.

Before, I was me and Asperger’s was Asperger’s. My thoughts and actions were shaped by my personality, my upbringing, my environment and my choices. I thought of them as my own. Asperger’s Syndrome was something that described other people.

After learning that I have Asperger’s, I was no longer me and Asperger’s was no longer a label applied to others. Suddenly, I was Asperger’s and Asperger’s was me.

After, everything I do, say, think, feel, experience is Aspergerized. Exhausted after a long shopping excursion? Sensory overload. Tripped and fell while running? Motor planning deficit. Didn’t think to send my daughter the title to her car when she told me she was selling it? Poor executive planning.

“I’m an aspie” is my default explanation these days. I no longer know where Asperger’s ends and I begin–yet I constantly attribute my actions, thoughts and behaviors to this separate thing called Asperger’s.

While I appear to have a deeper understanding of myself thanks to my newfound understanding of how Asperger’s influences my behavior, there is a long journey ahead before “mountains are just mountains.”

The me that I was before learning about Asperger’s will never exist again. But the me that I will become–the me that no longer needs to differentiate between Asperger’s and I–that me is still a long way off.

When I arrive in the place where I can say I am just me and Asperger’s is just Asperger’s, before and after will cease to exist.

In that place, there is only now.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico, Oct 2006

4 thoughts on “I am Asperger’s, Asperger’s is Me”

  1. It seems many take the “I” out when diagnosed, and spend along time reasserting the “I”. I help people find their “I” again. Sometimes it is difficult: especially when someone else has stripped them of identity and imposed their version on them. I am working with a young man that loves cats, and empathises with animals. It has been drilled in him that he has no empathy and could not possibly take care of a cat. Grrr . . . He now has a cat. He tends to the cat and has a perfect relationship with the cat. In fact, I can use the cat as a measure now as to the mental state of the gentleman. I believe the cat to be a better support worker than most my colleagues.

    I strayed from identity . . . But I am who I am, I learn pieces of myself but never try to attribute actions on anything but myself. I am a poet–I do not say that I cannot do Math because I write poetry. I was always genius at mathematics: I did not let it stop me from writing. My mind is not the same as others–I hope not, it is my mind.

    A mountain is the sum of all parts that make up the mountain. It is still just a mountain: it may have new wondrous growth on it, or suffered a wild fire, or eroded a bit. It is still a mountain. Perceptions change. I am a changed me . . . A rambling me

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The concept of “I” and who we are and the implications of a diagnosis feels like a huge subject and yet something that’s very simple, all at the same time. I am me. And yet . . .

      I’ve written another post using a mountain analogy, a bit in the vein of what you’re written here, based on the quote by Lama Govinda. I’ll try to get it up this week. I’m letting it breathe a bit first.

      Animals seem much easier to understand to me than humans because they’re quite straightforward in their needs and moods. They are unconditionally loyal once a bond is formed. They understand the importance of a daily routine and, indeed, insist on it. There’s a post developing here . . .

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