Monday, April 30, 2007

The Battle With Asperger’s

Many of you have read headlines describing “My battle with Asperger’s.” If not "my battle," certainly, "someone's" battle.

Is that real? Do we Aspergians battle our condition every day? Do we wake up and say, “This is it, damn it! This is the day I am gonna whup that Asperger’s!”

Right on!

I myself have never said such a thing. But I can’t speak for the other Aspergians out there. Perhaps a few who repeat that phrase every morning will chime in . . .

What is the difference between a “battle” and a “struggle?” To me, a battle involves weapons. A struggle does not. Also, battles end with more finality.

I battled the hungry bear that climbed onto my porch. After vanquishing him, I warmed the grill and had bear steak.

I struggled with my teenager over his homework. In the end, I sent him to his room, to remain there until the work was complete.

The difference between a struggle and a battle is, I hope, made clear by the above examples.

So do you struggle with your Asperger’s? I don’t.

What do I do?

I strive to fit in. I want people to like me. But I understand that I behave in ways that will be unsettling to some folks. For example, I am honest and direct. As a result, I know that, when I talk, some people will say, that’s admirable! Others will say, you rude arrogant bastard!

But it’s not a struggle. It’s just how I am. I don’t have to STRUGGLE to tell you the truth. I have to REMEMBER to do it with tact and finesse, so your feelings won’t be hurt, or you won’t be insulted.

If I want you to like me, I sometimes have to REMEMBER to tell white lies to get along better. For example, if I haven’t seen you in a while and you have increased in size, I now know that “You look fatter,” while true, is more likely to strain my relationship with you than “You look good.”

As an older and somewhat wiser Aspergian, I will probably (but not always – even I slip) say you look nice. As a teenager, I would sure have said you look fatter.

My natural state is to be honest and direct. Is that so bad? What does it say about our society that we Aspergians must remember to lie in order to get by? Even if the lies are harmless.

But that’s not my point. My point is this: We Aspergians do not battle Asperger’s. We don’t struggle with it. Battle and struggle are just words that happen to be in vogue right now.

What we do is STRIVE TO GET ALONG. Just like everyone else. We just have a harder time, some of the time.

I’ll bet struggle appears in my book. But I’m going to remember, from now on, to STRIVE, not STRUGGLE. You parents should remember that too. You may struggle with the schools. You may even battle the administrators in the parking lots. But it’s only because you strive to create a better life for your children. And you should have that goal for any child, Aspergian or not.

8 comments:

Michelle O'Neil said...

Hmmm.....

My daughter does seem to struggle. Mostly with the fear that often overwhelms her, but I like strive better.

Strive is more solution oriented.
Less victim-y.

I like it.

Thanks.

Kanani said...

Hi John,
I just found your blog. I've emailed you and hope you will have time to answer. I'd like to read an ARC.

What a great article. You strive to fit in. So does my son, so does my husband. My husband's parents --one who had asperger's the other who was cyclothymic, gave up trying to fit in. The result was nothing less than tragic. So when I look at my husband and see how much he has accomplished despite their inability to cope in so many ways, I'm amazed. And when I see my son trying, yet fighting something inside that compels him to flail, I know he has a long way to go.

And for those of us who are non-aspergians, or asperger's by proxy, not fitting into your world can be very painful as well.

Keep on striving....

Jerri said...

No matter what our challenges, it's better to strive than to struggle.

Thanks for reminding me of that.

I'm looking forward to your book. Best of luck with it.

Drama Mama said...

We had a struggle today. It was a beat-down actually; my daughter and I versus the Anxiety Demon that appears once in awhile. That SOB would NOT let go.
Tomorrow, we strive not to struggle.
Thank you.

John Elder Robison said...

Drama Mama, I have the same troubles some day. A small thing can set me off, and I'll sink into a dark depression for the rest of the day. I know I should resist it, but I can't. Luckily I am usually OK the next morning.

If I'm any indication, that may never leave you.

I've read how that kind of up and down is common in creative people. On balance, I would not want to trade creativity for occasional depressions.

Holly Kennedy said...

Until last year, I didn't realize that I'd spent most of my life struggling with (and it has been a struggle; there's no better word) crippling anxiety that often spins off into bouts of depression.

I've been told creative people have 'thinner emotional skin'; that we FEEL things at a different level than others and therefore are more easily prone to anxiety/depression.

This sure does seem to be the case.

Sara said...

Hi, this is the first time I've looked at your blog. I loved this post. Very positive. Thanks.

amysue said...

Hey, John if you're gonna be tactful than who can I trust for a clear, honest opinion?

The book was great by the way I could not put it down, which led to much sleeplessness the next day.

I'll be out your way in a week or two and hope to catch you and the family then. There's 50lbs less of me so feel free to comment!