I want to be frank about neurotypical beliefs that I find shocking. I attribute my reactions to having a “real world” factual and concrete Asperger brain, although I can’t say that every person diagnosed Asperger would share my reactions. We are individuals, with our own ways of seeing and interpreting the environment.
These strange beliefs have to do with death, revenge and punishment.
An jetliner vanishes over an ocean. Exhaustive searches take place long past the time interval that any passenger could survive under the best of conditions; the possibility is zero. Speculation goes on and on for months. Miracles are deemed possible: soon the airplane with everyone alive will materialize “out of the blue” due to supernatural intervention caused by prayer. The families cannot accept that their loved ones have died. They become angry if they don’t receive a body; they must have a body to prove that the person is dead, otherwise they can’t achieve “closure.”
I’m not indifferent to suffering; I’ve lost family members and it has taken years to reexamine my relationships – this process toward understanding will continue until I die. “Closure” is a strange idea.
What baffles me is the state of limbo in which dead people remain for an extended time, that is, in the mind of the survivors; as if the person is in limbo in a quantum state: is he or she dead or alive? Only Schrodinger’s cat knows. It’s as if the person doesn’t die until the wreckage is found and bodies are identified, despite the overwhelming evidence that all on board died weeks or months ago. These traditions and beliefs run deep. The “quantum dead” effect is simply strange.
A closely related belief is that “the remains” of a person contain an “essence” that can be recovered if the bones can be located and returned to descendants, or to a specific location. The act of placing the remains in a designated cemetery where “the person” can be visited, is believed to “honor” the dead and to confirm an event that happened decades before. This is an old tradition based in magic: bones are believed to possess contagious magical power. The Middle Ages were awash in the relics of saints, Kings, Queens and other powerful folk, and existing shrines are mobbed by pilgrims to this day. This tradition as deeply human, but I think it is healthy to accept that when the body dies, the person dies. What remains are memories.
What shocks me the most is that nations make a great display of “honoring” dead soldiers, but fail to honor living soldiers who have paid an enormous price in physical and mental trauma.
Any person who dies unexpectedly, due to an accident or a crime, immediately becomes the “best person who ever lived.” This story-making is repeated over and over again, and I think much of the blame goes to the media’s intent on ambushing the victim’s family just as they receive the tragic news.
Regardless of circumstance, according to family and friends, the dead person was a great humanitarian who loved the world, was kind, helpful, generous, and if religious, a dedicated member of the faith. Pretty remarkable life history for anyone, and in some cases attributable to expected social exaggeration, but by repetition these fictions become true in the minds of many. What if a long history of drug abuse, criminal activity, domestic abuse or a willingness to “con” family members emerges? The person remains a saint: is this denial, face-saving, shame? Does a social “law” exist that says only “good people” can be mourned (only good people count.) Why must people lie about loved ones?
As an Asperger, I believe that everyone counts; each human life ought to be acknowledged and absorbed into the pageant that is humanity.
Revenge and punishment = justice. This is a tough one; revenge is an impulse that can destroy a fair legal system, and needs to be recognized for what it is: magical thinking. The American system is highly variable, with laws, criminal prosecution and periods of incarceration in a “correctional institution” determined state by state. Other crime and punishment is controlled by the Federal courts. It is not these idiosyncratic systems that I can address.
Revenge as a driver of human behavior is familiar, and is a major cause of wars large and small, and drives conflict between ethnic, cultural and religious groups; between families, businesses etc. The resolution of conflict in many cultures was/is a matter of payment in kind: your uncle looses control and kills a man he suspects of cheating him. That man’s family vows revenge – kill the uncle! But an arrangement is made to “pay for” the death. This may seem cold or unfair to the victim, but the victim is already dead. Nothing will bring him back. Why should the living be dragged into an endless cycle of violence?”
This article started its life on my bookblog but has now been moved here and edited.
In 2012 Broadblogs wrote an article based upon the findings of CM Meston and DM Buss at the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas (Why Humans Have Sex, 2007). I commented on that post and Broadblogs asked if I would like to expound on those comments.
Sex can be a complicated thing when you are autistic/aspergers. From what I have read on other blogs, and from my own experience, some/most of us seem to be extra sensitive to touch. As with most things in life, this goes both ways. I suppose you could say that we are extremely lucky and extremely unlucky in the lottery of sensations.
As a child I was sexually abused (CSA: child sexual abuse). It went on sporadically over a period of years. My mother felt as though my personality changed (PTSD: post-traumatic stress syndrome). Whether that change was due to the abuse, bullying or the many changes in my life while I was young is difficult to say. Life is a complicated mess and causes can be difficult to pinpoint. However, I do believe that sexual abuse strongly influenced some arenas.
Perhaps most people think of themselves as a template for how other people are. At 7 years old, I most likely thought most people experienced life the way I did. My reactions were varied and most of them I know of because my parents have told me what I was like as a child. Severe nightmares and anger/fear (difficult to tell apart) started at that age. My lying also started around that time. The command not to tell was obviously strong enough to take effect, and I suppose my personality and perhaps aspergers also pushed me in that direction. Most of my memories of that time are locked in a very tight chest inside my head and only the strongest memories (unpleasant/pleasant) have been able to seep through.
I would guess that most people would see me as a boring person with a weird sense of humor. It is that strange sense of humor that has carried me. After the awkward teens and early twenties, I came to realize that life was just one gigantic joke and the only defense was to laugh at it. Laughter has been my friend throughout my life, laughing at myself and the world and it has gotten me through some rough spots (my psyche).
Anyways, I got married and when I met my husband I was a virgin (well except for CSA that is). I’d seen some porn, read books with sexual content but knew that they could have no relation to real life. I also found out that people just don’t talk about sex and death – the two great taboos in life. So I thought that being afraid and hurting while having sex was normal. I wanted it, got horny and all of that, but when it came to actually doing it, well.
Thankfully, my husband is the kindest, gentlest and most patient person on this planet and he worked with me and tried to make things good for me. However, there is only so much you can do on your own, and no matter how optimistic a person is, having trouble with your sex-life hurts both parties.
I tried psycho-therapy. Hah, what a joke. Talking through the effects of PTSD as something that was supposed to help. Sometimes I wondered if I or my therapist was in need of help. Then I found MY psychiatrist. Granted, it took years before I did find her, but this was my miracle person.
Tool one we used helping me was cognitive therapy (more specifically EMDR). Like all cognitive therapy we worked on changing the way I thought about myself and the past. This gave me tools that I can use once my mind goes into its one-track modus of despair. Not until much later did I understand that it was more likely the chemistry between us that worked in my favor.
Our other tool was medication. Medication ALWAYS has side-effects. You should never try out products on your own without being certain that you know what you need about it. And medication that affects your psyche should not be taken on its own. You might need help coping with the side-effects. I use three different drugs and it was a matter of trial and error until we arrived at the combination.
For a long time I had been taking Neurotin to help manage chronic pain problems. My psychiatrist added beta-blockers. My god. The first time I tried them this super-tense feeling in my chest lessened and I fell asleep from sheer relief. The strange thing was that I’d walked around being hyper-alert all of the time and did not realize it until some relieved that tension. My world changed, but tension around sex was still high. No wonder, as this was my major trigger.
Then a miracle happened. And I am serious about this. A major miracle happened. My psychiatrist suggested that I tried something called venlafaxin – an efexor depot medication. Instead of being scared every time I had sex I was loving it. Sure, it had taken years for me to get there and my husband had had to endure my pain for a long time, but I have actually gotten to experience the joys of having sex. How cool is that. And we all know that my husband has been having the time of his life along with me.
I’m both Asperger and bipolar – a pair of diagnosis – with Asperger supposedly subsuming the bipolar symptoms. I’m not sure what the relationship is: my grandmother, father’s side, was bipolar. My father, Asperger, with some strange behavior thrown in and bouts of magical thinking, which did not fit with his engineering / math / science mind.
My bipolar symptoms, pre-diagnosis and medication, were quite extreme, obvious, and often “negative” – people would rightfully be upset with me, and yet, forgiving and forgetting. It was the 1970s, a “wild” decade if you were young, and I suppose much of my behavior was just overlooked.
After I began treatment with Lithium, I changed. It saved my life, but took away the person people had known. This was not a problem for me, but other people reacted negatively to the less exciting, more deliberate and calm me. Those I told about being bipolar simply vanished or “pretended” that they didn’t know. It was as if the new better me had the “cooties.” At grad school I was referred to as “one of the Lithium kids.” This was mild: in general, people are very ignorant and behave badly toward “mentals.” I stopped telling anyone.
The various psychiatrists that I have engaged over the years often expressed delight with bipolar people. We’re fun and talkative and kind of entertaining. From what I’ve been told, run of the mill “mentals” are inconceivably dull. Some psychiatrists even get “confidential” about their opinions and worries; at such times I’ve considered invoicing them for my time. Well, we’re all human aren’t we?
Asperger’s is another game entirely. There exists a barely hidden streak of hatred toward autistics and Asperger individuals. There are a few people around who know I’m bipolar: I was shocked at their reactions when I decided to “share” being Asperger. ……….
One of the many reasons I have NOT gone ahead with getting a formal diagnosis is the below look into how getting a diagnosis can bring its own set of problems:
Hadde jeg visst hvordan «oppfølgingen» ville bli, hadde jeg kanskje ikke bedt om utredning. Med ett var jeg diagnosen, og ikke meg selv.
At this time of life I seldom play the “if only” game. However, there is one thing I dearly wish could have been different. Knowing about my own autism would have made understanding what was going on in my oldest son’s life so much easier. Instead, I thought he was just an odd version of average – much like myself. But, as we all know, the past is over and done with.
My asperger son struggles with social phobia (the full-blown kind). Not until puberty did we notice anything untoward. Slowly the monster inserted itself into his mind until panic-attacks were a daily event. We (my son, husband and myself) believe that puberty must have been the triggering factor.
Social anxiety seems to be a common problem for teenagers. According to US statistics 13 years is a starting age for social anxiety for many. On Health Center I found a description that puts into words what I observed in the early stages of my sons’ condition:
Mike, 15, has always seemed like a loner. At school he sits by himself in the lunchroom, and he has no friends, although no one particularly dislikes him. He never initiates conversations with his fellow students, and when someone tries to initiate a conversation with him he looks at the floor and speaks very quietly. He always seems to be on the outside looking in with the kids in his class. One night recently when he needed to call a fellow student to work on a group assignment, his mother noticed that he agonized over making the call for hours and seemed extremely anxious at the thought of it. He often gets stomachaches and extremely sweaty when called to the blackboard or asked to read in class. His parents have always just thought that he was shy, but they are beginning to wonder if something else might be going on.
We were those parents, until reality showed us that matters were much more serious than shyness. “Mike’s” level of anxiety was my level of anxiety back in my teens. At this level, the person suffering from social anxiety will not always need outside intervention. Perhaps my autism helped me overcome my struggles by its tendency to help me focus on matters I am really interested in. I was extremely interested in winning over my fears.
Life brought too much chaos into my son’s life over too short a time-span. Death of a loved one and the severe illness of another brought his ability to deal with life and anxiety to a stop. This was a dark, dark time for him. He had periods when taking his own life was extremely tempting. What kept him from actually following through was his fear of the potential pain around death and his desire to do interesting things again. As his mother, I would have understood if he actually did kill himself, but I am incredibly thankful that he did not.
What finally enabled my son to see past his social phobia had to do with two factors. The most important one was being diagnosed with aspergers. He now understood himself better. Hell, I understood myself better. Both of us realized that we were just regular Aspergers. The other thing that helped him was the apparatus that came to life with his diagnosis. The System also realized that there was more to him than a stubborn disorder keeping him down. This, they could work with.
And work we have. There are days like today, when he is not able to attend school. Then there are others when he does. One step forward sometimes leads to falling ten steps back, but he manages to improve ever so slowly. Being an asperger is a teeny problem compared to struggling with Social phobia. As always we take things one day at a time and accept that we and life is what it is.