Thursday, February 11, 2010


(Unidentified Flying Emotions)

It’s unnerving to be reading what is generally seen as the definitive work on Asperger’s Syndrome and suddenly forget who it is you’re supposed to be reading about. How is it that phrases I’ve used throughout my life to describe the way I make and keep friends, the way I find solace in solitary creativity, and the way I just “don’t get” my peers, are written verbatim within the first twenty pages of this text book? Is it Gavin I’m grieving for? Or myself?

Certainly I’m not a 100% fit for the clinical profile as set forth by the psychological community. The author, Tony Atwood, describes the characteristics of Aspergers as a 100-piece puzzle. The most critical pieces to making sense out of the picture are the corner and edge pieces. After that, when at least 80 of the pieces fit, you can say with certainty that the person in question’s puzzle shows a picture of Asperger’s Syndrome. Lots of people may have 20 or even 40 of the pieces without being over the critical threshold that leads to a diagnosis. I think my edge pieces are there, but maybe not so much in the middle?

But it also talks about how girls and women and those with higher than average intelligence are often able to compensate for many of their social inadequacies and seem to defy convention by having lasting friendships, reciprocal emotional relationships, and responding appropriately to nonverbal signals from others. Screw whoever thinks I’m conceited, but I do have a higher than average intelligence. And I’m female. Have I been “passing” for normal?

HAH! I was once at a party where the only people I knew were the two hostesses and my little brother. Completely unable to make small talk (and, honestly, not seeing much value in it) I spent the entire evening talking to my brother. After the party, one of the hostesses (now my brother’s wife) related that another guest wanted to know if she was jealous of the girl who was shamelessly flirting with her boyfriend. She responded: “That’s his sister.” Passing for normal?

I think what’s bugging me the most—you’ll appreciate this, Pete—is that the strengths and positives of Asperger’s as described in this book are exactly those things which fuel my sense of spirituality. Suddenly I’m wondering whether all of my creative and spiritual tendencies aren’t just the product of a personality disorder. Where’s God in that? On the other hand, maybe that’s just the nature of spirituality and I could spend all year dissecting the chicken-and-egg nature of this conundrum.

Atwood is clear that Asperger’s, while labeled a “disorder” or “syndrome” is essentially just a description of personality along a continuum. In some ways, it’s like saying the fact that the sky is blue is a product of Light Bending Syndrome, a continuum wherein the expressed color is dependent upon the angle of the bend.

Who cares? In the immortal words of Popeye: I yam who I yam! Waitaminute: didn’t GOD say that to Moses? Probably didn’t sound quite the same.

1 comment:

  1. Rebekah, one of the very first lectures I received in my undergraduate abnormal psychology class was this: "You are all 100% normal. You are all okay. You are NOT disordered. Normal people manifest the symptoms of various mental illnesses over the course of their lives, sometimes frequently. If you are functioning well in your current environment, you are fine."

    'Cause, I can see myself in anything, and everything. I'm that "good". :)