“As an aspie, autism makes me who I am, but doesn't stop me being who I want to be.”
“As an aspie, the "Asperger's" label is to aid understanding. It describes me, but doesn't restrict me. It doesn't scare me either.” Leigh Forbes
Have you ever noticed how many labels get attached to you throughout your life? Or, for that matter, how many you seek out and voluntarily apply to yourself? I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel like a piece of well-travelled luggage.
If I believed in an actual place called Heaven (which I don’t), and the human personification of God as some ancient, white-haired, Father Christmas-type bloke floating above the clouds (which I also don’t), then I would imagine myself arriving, covered in labels, at the pearly-white gates, where God would proceed to remove them from me in order to get a clearer view of just who was hidden behind all this extraneous detail, and return me to my true Self, that which cannot be categorised because it is All (God is All, All is God, I am part of the All that is God: nuff said!)
It would be like the luggage area in an airport – those about to depart (gives a whole new slant to the phrase, “Dearly departed”), and those arriving. Instead of luggage, people would be sitting on the conveyors, waiting to be claimed (by God, or His minions: the ultimate baggage handlers), or to be launched out into the ether, on their journey to earth. And then there would be the lost baggage department, for those who don’t know where they are, or where they’ve been, and who end up going back down again for another go – the reincarnated lot, who don’t stop long enough to take stock of the last life they led, so are likely to end up repeating the same mistakes ‘cos they can’t remember any of it.
Of course, when I arrived here on this planet, and this plane of existence, I didn’t have a single one. At least, not that I was aware of. But, even before I was born, the rush to stick a label on me had begun – the first significant one being “It’s a girl!” And, based on that, the race to compartmentalise, and treat me like ‘a girl’, began. I was going to be dressed in pink, because that’s what girls like – and, for those unfortunates who can’t tell the difference between a male and a female, it helps identify which is which, of course. Pink for girlies, blue for boyos, and yellow for the undecideds. And I’m sure that someone, somewhere, must have come up with a theory to explain homosexuality, and other such gender ‘issues’, as being due to the confusion produced by being dressed in yellow at birth.
And frills, of course, ‘cos girls really love all that frilly stuff, apparently - no matter that it might make you look like an enormous, multi-tiered wedding cake on legs, or itch the arse (or tits) off you, the way my first bra did – AND it was pink! (And no, I didn’t get to choose it.) And be given dolls, tea sets, and miniature cookers and washing machines (already being primed for the role of mother and housewife, eh, just because I happen to have a womb and ovaries?), and other such ‘gentle’ toys. What a shocker it must have been for my mum when I arrived – boisterous, rambunctious, unmanageable, and chronically averse to being ‘girly’. Anything but gentle.
So, labels, I have discovered, have a major impact on me (tell me something that doesn’t). They are a double-edged sword; on the one hand, had I not finally found out that I am autistic, and been ascribed the label Asperger’s, I would have continued to blunder my way through my life, with nary a clue as to why I couldn’t get very far in my attempts to change and progress, all the while becoming more and more frustrated with myself.
On the other hand, because I tend to take things rather literally, seriously, and personally (after all, who else could they be talking to?), I have since found myself becoming impeded by self-limiting beliefs based on the attendant information and myriad opinions that I have read, a great deal of which are along the lines of how limited autistics are due to their illness/disease/disability/impediment/disorder/handicap/ailment/affliction/malady (delete as applicable).
It’s not intentional, nor am I even aware that I’m doing it most of the time. It’s part of that sponge-like ability I was born with, to absorb everything around me, especially if it’s negative. It’s taken a long time to recognise what’s been going on, and then to actually accept that this really is true of me in order to become conscious of, and try to curtail, the very behaviour that propels me into this mess – going in search of other peoples’ opinions of what autism is, and what they decide I can and can’t do. And ditto with ADHD, obsessive compulsive, being an artist, a writer, a yogi, a crafter, single, childless, a redhead with blue eyes and freckles, a female...
Labels, I believe, were primarily intended to make things simpler, an aid to identifying and understanding. Unfortunately, due to the tendency for human beings to complicate things, they often end up adding to the confusion because people will redefine the original interpretation, adding on extra bits, and using the terms indiscriminately.
And rather than viewing them as the starting point to guide you in the most productive and effective ways to help you attain your goals, and to grow and change, some people use them as the defining parameters with which to keep people boxed in, reinforcing the idea that this is 'The End’ result, rather than simply the beginning. (It’s the name of a song by The Doors: that’s why it’s in capitals, in case you were wondering). I have to admit to being one of these people, having drifted in and out of this category during the last three years since I got my diagnosis. I’m hoping to put a stop to the drifting now ‘cos it makes me feel a bit disoriented and rootless, like a piece of fluff, blowing in the wind.
It’s true, being autistic is always going to influence the way I view, and interact with, the world – but so what? These are the raw materials I was given by God, to build and create with as I please: I can either build something akin to an outdoor toilet (affectionately known as a brick shithouse in certain parts of England), or something beautiful (and a little more pleasingly fragrant). Or I can refuse to build anything at all, but just leave the pile of materials there to rot and disintegrate.
And the great thing is that God allows me the right to choose to do any or all of these things, without punishment. S/He’d probably like it if I progressed toward building something beautiful, and that I did it sooner rather than later in order to alleviate my suffering, and give me longer to enjoy the wonders of life on this mortal coil – but it’s down to me how long I take. Which is a relief, considering how slow I am to change.
It’s rather amusing to note that the label ‘Asperger’s’ is now, apparently, defunct in America, where the American Psychiatric Association have deleted it from their diagnostic manual. So, according to a bunch of people who are not autistic, I no longer exist as an Asperger – I now have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily, does it? “Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m an ASDer... an autistic spectrum disordered person?” It’s not designed to make my life any easier. Figures.
Which goes to show that you really shouldn’t place your dependence on labels defined by other people, to determine who you are. Our labels are not the sum total of who we are – they are a man-made invention, developed for convenience. I don’t believe that God sent forth Her/His creations with name-tags attached. In the world of the spirit I am beyond my labels, my capacity for growth is limitless; I just have to believe it, and stop reading those bloody depressing, limiting articles by people who can’t see beyond the boxes they keep constructing for me. I am, and can always become, more than this. Bloody good thing, too, or it could get very tedious down here on this planet. And you know how much I hate boredom!