I am sitting in my usual spot having just put down a book called, “Been there. Done that. Try this!” which is subtitled, “An Aspie’s guide to life on Earth”. I notice though that I am reluctant to say that the book is edited by Attwood, Evans and Lesko. Why am I reluctant? Well as I wonder along the path that is my life, I find that at this moment it is with other autistic people that I want to connect and not people that have studied people with autism (Attwood) or people who have lived with others on the autistic spectrum (Evans). They represent people that are looking in on my world with a different mindset to mine and for now, I want to connect with others that have experiences more akin to mine. But this is why I am reading this book in the first place because aside from Lesko, there are twenty seven other people on the spectrum who have contributed short essays to the book.
I wonder if I am becoming an Autistic Advocate? I feel though that that is a bit of a distraction for the moment. The first topic in the book is about anxiety. According to the book anxiety causes the most stress in autistics and affects 86% of them. I am one of them, which is why I was looking. Since my last visit to my support worker, I have been obsessing over my identity. My worker gave me a list of books that might be supportive of me during my transitional phase after the Asperger’s diagnosis was officially confirmed. I read the list and decided on three initial books. The first was really for my partner to try to understand me and is called, “22 Things a Woman Must Know (if she loves a man with Asperger’s Syndrome)” by Rudy Simone. The third is titled, “Living Sensationally (Understanding your senses)” by Winnie Dunn which apparently would be good for everybody to read.
An side: What is it with these titles, presumably catchy titles sell more books but if you target audience is autistics, wouldn’t you keep the titles straightforward? Wouldn’t you use the subtitles instead?
Now while I agree that all these books provide good and useful information, I have to say that I went into information overload and found even browsing the books all too much so I tried concentrating on one of them. One of the things I hope for is to understand better how my partner is experience my transition, so the 22 Things book seemed like a good place to start. It was an easy read in the short chapters, easy to digest kind of way, but the portrait of the person it paints is rather horrible. I can see myself in the book, but on the whole I don’t think I have the arrogance that comes across. Well, at least not most of the time, I do know I get too fixed and black and white when I get overwhelmed but a lot of the time, I like to think I am being considered but perhaps that is a self-delusion. I feel depressed when I read the profile of an Asperger’s person because that is not the person I want to be. My societal programming tells me that is not the man a woman should be married to. My head tells me that that is not the kind of guy I want my children to marry.
So it appears that if I am the man talked about in the book, then I don’t really like or respect myself. Yet I am a man that is married, I do have kids that love me, and I have friends that find me supportive so there must be more to me than those 22 Things. There must be. But my mind has gone into a whirlwind of difficult thoughts. I tie myself up in knots. It is apparently not unusual for a person to become more autistic after a late diagnosis. This seems logical to me after all. I’ve spent so long pretending to being someone else, why shouldn’t I let my true self out for an airing even if it means upsetting some people? To problem though is knowing who my true self is. This is where the anxiety kicks in.
Getting back to the Try This book then, I read most of the chapter on anxiety. There were various methods of dealing with anxiety most of which I do anyway though it is helpful to reiterate to me the need to take care of the levels of exercise, sleep, and food intake. The most useful bit of advice I found though was the observation that “it is not worrying about anxiety that has brought my anxiety levels down” in Richard Maguire’s essay. This combined with “all bad things will pass” and identifying anxiety with anticipation of things outside my control (Bob Castleman) then I can feel an escape route ahead.
At this moment in time, I am trying to figure out who I really am. I can’t do it. That is okay. Transition by its very nature involves change, and change triggers anxiety. It seems a perfectly reasonable thing to be anxious about myself but I know this anxiety will pass. As for who I am, I am the sum of my experiences and my diagnosis and the travel that follows on adds to the person I will become. I may be a man home to the 22 Things that are difficult to live with, but I am also the man who is loveable and loved. As Bob Castleman says (amongst many others I am sure), knowledge is power and I am getting to know, what I used to think of my dark side better. If I understand my Asperger’s side better than I will be able to look after myself better, and I will be a happier person for it. I think that was the point of the diagnosis after all.