My daughter phoned. Her oldest son had been diagnosed ADD, ADHD, had been on Ritalin, and barely eight years old, had been the subject of repeated bullying and school yard ostracism. “It’s Asperger’s Syndrome, Mom, and you and I have all the symptoms!”
That was seventeen years ago, but I vividly recall the conversation.
As we discussed the list of traits of people with Asperger’s, relief flooded through me. At last I knew what it was that was “wrong” with me!
Anger came later, as I processed the information and with it, an understanding of my nature and how the very people who were close to me had taken advantage over the years.
And then grief. Oh yes, I grieved the loss of the possibility of ever being ‘normal’. I grieved for the child I had been, for the loneliness and isolation of all those years of trying to join our societal mainstream and just not getting it.
And I felt rage, too. A deep anger at being shoved aside, at being made an onlooker, a non-participant, when I so poignantly wanted to belong.
And pride. Pride in my ability to accept, even as a teenager, that the best I could be was ME, with all my faults and failings, my oddities, my strengths and weaknesses. Yes, Asperger’s made me an easier target for my abuser, but the different way of thinking helped me to end that abuse as well.
And so I felt joy. The joy and satisfaction of finally belonging somewhere. Of finally finding that there were others, many others, like me. Of understanding the close bond between my daughter and I. Of finally feeling that I was, in my own newly recognized niche, a part of a larger entity. I was not alone in my weirdness. in my unusual way of perceiving situations, patterns and people.
As an Aspie, I was fine, just as I was.
I still struggle some days. As one of my friends says, “Margaret will always default to the Aspie truth.” It’s his way of recognizing our straight forward approach to life.
He also says, “I know your intentions are always good. That’s a no-brainer.” So no matter how wrong something turns out, he understands that it was not my intention to create havoc. This is the most reassuring response to my Asperger’s that I have ever had, and I bask in the glow of it.
Acceptance. That’s what we all need. To not only be accepted, but to be celebrated for who we are.
As I note in my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, it is easy to forget the most important thing: You are perfect, just as you are.