The Englishman Who Went Up a Neurotypical But Came Back an Aspie

As I said earlier, Sally and I are making moves to have a greater presence back in North Carolina, as it feels like the place we need to be to do the work we wish to do. Exactly how this will look we are not sure, but it will likely center around a home base somewhere in the Triangle area, and probably back in Chatham County.

I have a slurry of mixed reactions regarding this move. On the one hand, I’m excited at the thought of being back in a place where Sally can more easily share her great gifts. And there are possibilities that open up for myself as well, including working with Sally as a partner and facilitator, and getting involved with music and theater. The writing I can do anywhere, as long as my life is set up to minimize distractions.

On the other hand, the summer heat and humidity will be a constant source of discomfort, if I don’t find a way to make peace with it, and even embrace it. And the driving… It has been so nice, to live in small villages where I did not always have to get in a car.

But perhaps the thing I’m most concerned about is coming back to people who knew me before. Because I’m not who I was then. I’m eight years further down my path of discovery and understanding. And it feels like one of the most difficult things in the world is changing the way in which others think of you based on their past experience.

The most obvious change is that eight years ago Asperger’s was not even on my horizon as an explanation and self-descriptor. (At one point early in our relationship, I explained my reserved nature to Sally by saying that I was British, tapping into that myth in order to get to some piece of my truth.) Now Aspergers is something I think about, read about, and explore in my writing, as the diagnosis provides new and helpful insight into why my life has gone like it has, and helpful guidance about how to live in my day to day world.

But the word comes loaded with judgments and associations, and to use it with others who “knew me back when” risks a variety of possible reactions. This was made plain to me over the weekend, when a long conversation with an old friend, a conversation which included catching him up about the whole “Aspie thing,” evoked a reaction of disbelief and discomfort which included the word “contrived.”

I comported myself well, I think, and managed to explain and defend my use of the word Asperger’s as useful and appropriate. But the word “contrived” has bounced around inside of me since, poking at my heart and mind. It touches old traumas, pricking them to wakefulness, and my head fills with imagined conversations of self defense. And I don’t want to be in defensive mode.

None of it comes as a surprise. Every Aspie writer I’ve read has cautioned that one enters into disclosure at one’s own risk. I dove into this blog, and my own disclosure, knowing full well that it would not always be easy. But there’s a great difference between exploring my Aspie nature online through the written word, and speaking of it face to face with other human beings who knew me before. It’s hard. And going back home, reinserting myself into that old community, looks all the more difficult because of it.

And while none of it “comes as a surprise,” it’s also true to say that all of it comes as a surprise. Despite my fifty eight years of experience with the reality of the acculturated human ego, there’s a part of me that holds onto the fantasy, the vision, the hope, of who humans can be at their very best, and the great clarity and self-knowledge they are capable of. So I’m doomed to be surprised and disappointed, astonished that people keep turning out to be as limited and reactive as I am. Who knew?

Perhaps the thing that makes this all the more triggering is that it’s not the first time this has happened. In a similar way, I “went away” from my previous life and marriage, and the families of origin in which I was embedded, and embarked on my journey of healing and growth with Sally. The Englishman Who Went Up a Mainstream American But Came Down a Fully Feeling Outlier, perhaps. Only then, it wasn’t an Asperger’s diagnosis that had changed me, but the evil machinations of that scary™, prying™, therapizing™ woman with whom I threw in.

When you go up a mountain and come back down, you can lose people. Not everybody is up to taking the journey with you. And not all of them want to hear the tale upon your return.

I don’t know that there’s anything to be done about this. I’ll just continue along, doing my best not to hide anymore, speaking who I am, and trusting that it will work out as it should. There are exciting prospects ahead and I’m ready to get to them. That’s where my focus is. The rest will have to sort itself out as I go along.

4 Comments for “The Englishman Who Went Up a Neurotypical But Came Back an Aspie”

Sally Erickson


It occurs to me that it is worth time, thought, and care to consider how to respond in the future to responses such as the one you encountered this weekend. As in all communication snaffus it is so automatic and understandable to jump to a position of defense or explanation. But as you say, you don’t want to be in that position. So what other position might you, or I, or we take?

Of course you already know the answer but it doesn’t come spontaneously when in the fog of the situation. In fact there are likely many positions that one can take depending on circumstances. But the one that we might pick for those people that we really care about and want a deeper relationship with would be the position of enquiry: ” Why does the identification of Asperger’s seem contrived to you?” “What’s it’s like for me to tell you this?” “What’s been your experience with Asperger’s?” “How would you handle this situation, if you had discovered something that was fundamental to how you are in the world but that something that others might have a very hard time seeing?” A thousand questions could be asked to deepen the conversation. It’s hard to remember to take the perspective of trying to understand the other when one feels misunderstood. But you are so good at it when you remember! Remember, your tag line is “Everything is Research.”

Timothy Scott Bennett


Yes. I’ve had the thought that we’ll need to be more conscious about how we do this as we reintegrate back into the old community. Have a plan. Work out some language. Write up some talking points. Etc. There’s only so much we’ll be able the control, of course. The rest is just grist for the mill, I guess! W

Heidi Reidell


It seems to me that a life lived without full understanding of who and what you are and why is the life that is “contrived.” You are a brave man, and your Sally is a loving walker alongside you on the path.

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