Monday, July 28, 2014

On Writing: Just One of Those Moments You Can't Put Into Words

This post has nothing to do with Asperger's Syndrome. It's just a little thing about writing.

Ever have a moment in your life that is too abstract to translate into words? There is a moment from January or February of 2013 that keeps coming back to me, one of those moments that I just remember so clearly. Not just the moment, but the sensory aspects of it. What I was feeling, mentally and physically. But even describing that does not do justice to the abstract interpretation that was going on in my head. 

Background: I was in the process of losing weight, with the goal of reclaiming the long-lost thin, healthy body I had growing up, particularly the athletic, muscular, robust body that I had in high school when I was running track. I had battled a weight problem for eleven years, and in the fall of 2012 I hit upon a solution that worked for me. The biggest change that precipitated the weight loss was not figuring out the process itself, but rather getting in the right state of mind to fully implement that process. It was as if I suddenly flipped a switch in my head and was pursuing this goal with a single-minded focus. Don't ask me how it works; if I could bottle it and sell it I'd be rich (forgive the abuse of an old cliché here). 

What was the moment itself? It happened three or four months into my weight loss journey. I was exiting the Dodge YMCA in Brooklyn, still in the throes of an intense high that I had induced from yet another extreme workout, and feeling refreshed from the shower and sauna that followed. I was acutely aware of every sense that was activated. I have no idea if this was physiological, a side effect of the endorphins that I generated from exercise, or if it was entirely psychological.  I felt a little sore from the workout, a dull aching in my arm and leg muscles, but that was good because it meant I was making progress, slowly turning fat into muscle and strengthening my heart. I was warm from the shower and sauna, and the blast of cold air contrasted it in an interesting way. I hate the cold but for some reason I enjoyed the feeling of it on my face that day and welcomed the crisp smell. I was wearing a winter coat that I had bought when I was thirty pounds heavier, but at that moment I suddenly noticed how huge it was on me, hanging off of my now lean frame. I had a big, involuntary grin on my face. And on top of all this, I was plugged into my iPod, listening to the indie rock song "Hands of Hate" by transgender musician Ryan Cassata. Despite the title, the chorus sounds hopeful, not just in lyrics but in tune. It was when I was listening to the song's chorus that all the other senses I previously described where hitting me full force. It seems that the song was the factor that sealed the moment, if that makes sense.

I was extremely aware of these thoughts and sensations in the period of a few seconds, and yet they just took me several sentences to explain. I just told you what was going through my head and what I was feeling, but I am lost at how to show it to you. You would just have to get in my head, I suppose. But maybe I'll figure out a way to do it. That's one of the challenges of writing. And it's also a testament to how everyone has his or her own subjective experience and often cannot get anybody else to understand it in quite the same way. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

They are Hurting

I was thinking about some misunderstandings that I experienced while growing up. I think it's important that I share them. I hope this brief list will help clarify to parents what they are seeing in their children with Asperger's:

Children with Asperger's generally don't scream and throw things to get attention. Often they are frustrated because of how the world doesn't understand them. 

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's don't hit themselves or engage in any other kind of self-harm to get attention. They are frustrated at the world for not understanding them and angry at themselves because they feel they can't do anything right.

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome who cry at the drop of a hat are not necessarily "immature". They are phenomenally frustrated and there is only so much frustration they can take.

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome who retreat into themselves are not doing it because they are immature, rude, or "not brought up right". They have too many emotional scars, possibly from bullying, and are afraid of experiencing further problems with others.

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome who storm out of a room in anger to get away from people who are frustrating them are not spoiled, selfish, immature brats.

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome don't hit the kid who was calling them names because they're "psycho". There is only so much they can take before they fight back, even physically.

They are hurting

Children with Asperger's Syndrome who cry because they were the last to get a lollipop are not upset because they're just immature and have to learn that they can't always go first. Rather, they are tired of being last at everything, left out of everything, even in a situation as trivial as this. 

They are hurting.

Children with Asperger's Syndrome are not crazy.

They are hurting.

I can only imagine how many people with Asperger's Syndrome were institutionalized back in more ignorant times. Those poor, tortured souls. Sometimes I imagine I would have been institutionalized had I been born in 1950 instead of 1980.