A little while back, I found the message below scrawled on the wall inside a toilet cubicle in the womens’ bathrooms.
“I found out I probably have Aspergers.
Now I’m going through all the existential crap I went through in my teens, including writing on bathroom walls.
And the real kicker is, I’m not even that brilliant at anything.
All of the broken bits and none of the good bits”
None of the good bits.
Asberger Syndrome is a condition which sits under the umbrella of Autism spectrum disorders. People with Asbergers typically experience difficulties in communicating and developing social relationships, tend to lack empathy and may also appear physically clumsy. They often have repetitive behaviours or interests and preoccupation with particular routines or rituals. In other words, they’re quirky individuals, perhaps obviously so, to other kids growing up around them.
Perhaps for a person with Asbergers the ‘good bits’ might be, that one day, you are the one of the ones on the inside looking out, not the one on the outside looking in.
Asbergers is different from other developmental disorders on the spectrum because early development and language is normal, so it is not uncommon to be diagnosed later in life or in adulthood. Children with Asbergers find it hard to ‘fit in’ but may at the same time be gifted in other ways. Think child prodigies, brilliant mathematicians or kids who get university degrees in quantum physics before they even hit puberty. I’m thinking of my own eccentric uncle who although extremely intelligent, has little common sense and a complete inability to self-censor. The family dynamics are never boring. But he’s also extremely funny. At least he thinks so…..
Several years back I read John Elder Robison‘s book Look me in the Eye which is his account of his life as a person with Asbergers. He had a hard time growing up because he was different from other kids. Other kids were cruel and he found it difficult to make friends. He had a lonely childhood. Despite that he learned how to behave and what to say and how to read circumstances so he said the right thing at the right time, even though he may not have felt it. In his book John says “As I got older, I found myself in trouble more and more for saying things that were true, but that people didn’t want to hear”. Despite that he eventually learned to play the game, survived his childhood and moved on to greatness. At the age of 13 John dropped out of school and spent all of his time at the university where his parents worked and emmersed himself in the study of electronics.
John went on to have an extraordinary career in the music business, designing and hand making exploding guitars for the band KISS. There was nothing he couldn’t fix, build or design if it contained electronic circuitry. He later went into the car business repairing vehicles which others said were unrepairable and eventually expanded his business to employ 12 people. John is bright, creative and has a very fulfilling and rewarding life, eventually marrying and having children.
He was officially diagnosed with Asbergers in his forties when a friend handed him a book called ‘Asbergers Syndrome’ by Tony Attwood. John devoured the book and says “Just reading those pages was a tremendous relief. All my life I felt like a fraud…but the book told a different story. I was normal, for what I am”. Finally, in his forties, John realised he was not alone and there are others like him. In knowing that and understanding that, he finally found a sense of peace, acceptance and identity. Now he helps others. John talks about the socially crippling aspects of Autism and the complexity and diversity of the spectrum and what we need to do to fix it.
To the person who wrote the message I would say this. Getting the diagnosis must be a shock. But perhaps it can also be the key to unlocking who you really are and to finding those ‘good bits’. They are in there for sure. The ‘what’ has been answered. And although the ‘why’ may never be, at least you can now see the road ahead and can take the first steps on the journey to your true self. Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it. And in doing so will start to put the ‘broken bits’ into a pattern in your life which you might quite like.
You can do it.