“God doesn’t make rubbish, and S/He/It doesn’t make mistakes.”
Here’s a novel, possibly even radical, idea. Being autistic/ADHD is an incentive to change, rather than a barrier.
Seriously. After living with my diagnosis for the last three and a half years, this is the conclusion I have come to. Yes, there is hope after all!
And when I say change, I don’t mean as in trying to change myself in order to fit into a neurotypical mould, thereby becoming more like them. I’m talking about the opportunity to embrace who I am, to become all that I am meant to be, to fulfil my god-given potential, as opposed to living up (or down) to the man-made expectations which tell me that I am limited by my ‘condition’. For this we have the help of the Serenity Prayer,
‘God grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.’
I cannot change the fact that I am an Asperger with ADHD, but I can change the way I manage it in order that it doesn’t impede on my life, but rather enhances it. It all comes down to how I choose to view it, which in turn determines whether it becomes an asset or a hindrance. Just like with most things in life, actually, there are always two ways to look at a thing – from a negative or a positive perspective. It just takes a little practice finding the positive when you’ve become really well-honed at seeing the negative, like I have. And especially when you’ve absorbed the idea that being negative is part of being autistic, and cannot be changed.
I have discovered that I am not naturally the gloomy, despondent, negative Eeyore that I long believed I was. I am actually more of a Tigger – I bounce back so often, and don’t stay discouraged for very long. To borrow a quote from Rabbit, from The House At Pooh Corner, “Tiggers never go on being Sad. They get over it with Astonishing Rapidity.”
Yes, I have suffered from an excess of negativity and despondency in my life when I was floundering around, not knowing who I was, or where I was going, and unable to comprehend why I struggled so much with life, and with things with which other people seemed to deal with ease.
I also now understand that I am such a sponge for other peoples’ emotions and energies, so I would be carrying around with me all that stuff that I had absorbed from the outside world. And, for the first twenty-one years of my life, I lived with my dad – a seething ball of gloom and negativity, from whom I learnt and absorbed a great deal, most of it not very helpful - though he did teach me how to cook and do housework, for which I am now eternally grateful as it gave me some measure of ability to live independently.
So my journey has involved working out what is really part of my individual personality; which bits I have assimilated from other people; and how my autism/ADHD fits into the whole picture.
Having been introduced twenty-five years ago to the AA programme of recovery, and the concept of a loving Higher Power, some force greater than man which is directing the universe, I have learnt that there is a reason and a purpose for everything, even when I can’t see what it is. But that when I am ready and willing to see the truth, and open my mind to it, it will become clear to me.
I believe that this is what has happened with my autism/ADHD. My perspective is finally shifting, for the good, and I now believe that God (a term I use as shorthand for referring to that higher force) had a reason for making me autistic/ADHD etc, contrary to what a great deal of the man-made world thinks about it. But it’s taken a while to get here: and why would it not, when I am surrounded by such negative viewpoints about the whole thing?
From what I have read about them, it seems that a great proportion of the world (including a number of Aspergers and ADHDers themselves) consider them to be a blight, something from which we suffer. Indeed, there are people out there, scientists and the like, who spend inordinate amounts of time researching these ‘conditions’ with the sole aim of finding a cure.
Do they not realise that such an attitude often contributes to making people like me feel as if there is something ‘wrong’ with me; that I am inherently flawed, and therefore inferior? This is how I felt three years ago when I was initially diagnosed. It’s also the main reason I was so resistant to the idea that I might be autistic when it was suggested to me three years prior to my actual diagnosis. After all, who in their right mind would want to be such a thing, having read that stuff?
According to them, Aspergers were limited in what they could do and achieve with their lives; they couldn’t change; they suffered depression, loneliness, isolation; they were weirdos who were shunned by society because of their non-conformity; and worst of all (in my eyes), ‘it’ degenerated with age – progressing like some rampant disease, until they were inevitably, and totally, incapable of any level of independence, thereby resulting in the need for the intervention of care workers, or being shunted off to live in care homes. What a fucking depressing prognosis! With these terrifying prospects in store, is it any wonder I refused to consider the possibility for so long?
So is it any wonder we often suffer from depression, and other negative consequences, when there is such a level of non-acceptance (not to mention ignorance about the subject) in the world for us, an attitude which we then absorb into ourselves (being, as we are, so sensitive to such stuff), which in turn leads to a lack of self-acceptance?
I believe that people often make the mistake of attributing all depression, and negativity, to the fact that we are autistic – almost as if it is an innate part of the ‘condition’ itself. We all have different personalities, just like non-autistics: and just like some non-autistics are depressive in nature, so too does the same truth apply to us. We are human beings who happen to be autistic, NOT autistics who happen to be human beings. It’s taken me a long time to recognise this, and stop thinking of myself almost as some kind of automaton.
To pinch another quote, this time from one of the stories in the Big Book of AA (page 449 in the third edition),
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation – some fact of my life – unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake... unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”
I cannot change other peoples’ attitudes or perspectives about Asperger’s/ADHD: there will continue to be those who consider it a blight, an illness, a flaw in our genetic make-up. However, I can change my own attitude, and stop reading that stuff, and stop believing what other people say about me.
It’s now three and a half years since I was officially diagnosed, and I have to say that, though the journey has been extremely difficult at times, I am no longer in the same place that I was back then. I have come to know the truth (or more of it) about my Asperger’s/ADHD, and you know what? All those people who believe that we’re somehow disadvantaged, sick, not right, in need of their pity and their interference (sorry, I mean help), have got it wrong. They’ve missed the point.
The fundamental point is that being autistic with ADHD makes me individual, gives me a unique perspective on life, and offers me an alternative set of circumstances to navigate – which, in turn, provides me with a divergent opportunity for growth and change.
As my best friend often reminds me, “There are many ways up the mountain.”
And, as Aslan says to Aravis in The Horse And His Boy, “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
And my story is my own, and no-one out there can tell me what it is.