More Hank Than Max – Part 4: My Asperger’s
I’m still peeling away layers of that onion of Identity I spoke of in Part 1. I’ve examined the outer layer of “how I look,” from both my own point of view and from the point of view of others, and I’ve found the layer hidden beneath, and pondered the reasons for why it was concealed. But what is that layer, exactly? What is it that stays mostly hidden? What is my Asperger’s?
Sometimes I think of Asperger’s as a story I tell about myself, a story that explains and brings meaning and provides both relief and guidance. The story came to me over two years ago, a “gift from the gods” which descended upon me in the utter darkness of winter, at a time when my own internal season aligned with the bleak, dim, muddy, icy outer world through which I walked. The story of Asperger’s shed light and warmth on my soul, and helped me to understand why my life had gone as it had, why it was going how it was going, and why so much of it felt as difficult and challenging and confusing as it did.
It helped me to notice my actual experience in the world. I was now allowed to notice it. And noticing myself inside of the story of Asperger’s allowed me to allow myself, to let me be who I was, to embrace myself, to cherish myself, just as Sally had always allowed and embraced and cherished who I was.
I noticed how my days went, how I followed my many rituals and routines with almost panicked urgency, lest they be interrupted or thwarted, so desperately did I need their magic.
I noticed how much time I spent “on high alert,” and the energy it took to maintain my outer cordon of emotional and psychological fencing and razor wire, and how spent I felt at day’s end.
I noticed the many sensory stimuli that poked me, scraped me, slimed me, pricked me, blinded me, pushed me, pestered me, revolted me, and teased me to the point of exhaustion; the stray lights at the corners of my eye, the cacophony of restaurants, the irritations of fabric, the confinements of lotions and oils, the screaming wrongness of mouth sounds.
I noticed how thoroughly I discount the world of “others,” how completely the world is “all about me,” how much I miss, how much I disregard, how much I fail to comprehend, how poorly I listen, how much I presume.
I noticed how fierce anxiety and chronic worry wash across my being like ocean waves, how they fill me, dampen me, chill me, burden me, depositing me drained and limp on the shoreline of my life.
Suddenly it all made sense. My social terror and awkwardness. My abject fear of the telephone. My uncommon fascinations and lifelong preoccupations. My random squeamishness. My constant assessment of right and wrong. My flapping hands and twitching face and tapping feet. My stilted affect and truncated feelings. My controlling nature. My love of sameness and my fear of change. My lack of close friends. My inability to grok such human words as “love” and “proud” and “missing you” and “friendship” and “connection” in the way that others seemed to be using them.
I could look back over my life and begin to understand the what and why of who and how I had been. How rude I had sometimes acted. How thoughtless. How careless. How bored I had often felt. How trapped. How lost. How distant I may have seemed to those around me. How aloof. How taciturn. How difficult to understand. How I had needs for quiet and solitude and stimulation and connection that were not the same as for others around me. How much pain that caused me. And how unable I was to even know what those needs were, let alone communicate them to the people around me in such a way that the needs might be met.
I began to understand.
And in understanding, warmed by the glow of insight from the story of Asperger’s, I began to allow.
That little Timmy, that little Max, that sensitive little alien who had hidden himself in order to keep from being hurt, completed a huge portion of the journey back to himself, a journey that he’d begun many years before. The story of Asperger’s threw fresh sunlight across his path, and brought meaning and explanation and compassion and a sense of almost epic accomplishment to his journey. Under the light of a fresh dawning, he was able to climb to the next high peak.
And here he is.
And here I am.
The view is marvelous.
To riff off the great John Lennon, I am Max, and Hank is me, and we are we, and we are all together.
And we very much like ourselves now.
Because, now, we are allowed to.