Explaining Myself

Over the years since I got my diagnosis, I have found it useful to explain myself, at least to some degree, in appropriate circumstances. it’s not always necessary to use clinical labels.

When I’ve had a ministry in a school, I have confided in the Headteacher that I am autistic. I trust Heads, as educational professionals, to keep confidences and understand something about what a diagnosis of Asperger’s implies.

As a newly appointed parish priest, I haven’t used the clinical label. Rather, what I say to my new parish council goes like this: In seminary, we are encouraged to became aware of our own personal strengths and weaknesses. What I learned about myself is that I am very head-centred, and in committee meetings I might focus to exclusively on the task at hand. I might not notice if I have touched a sensitive nerve for one or more persons present – so if that should happen, please bring it to my attention.

With friends, it gets a bit more difficult. When a friendship becomes close enough, I do disclose my diagnosis. But here the tricky part is around how I talk about communicating affection. I can say, quite truthfully, that if they feel warm towards me, I will not pick up on that warmth unless they communicate it very directly through an unambiguous word, action or touch. But it’s almost impossible to explain this without it sounding like ’emotional blackmail’ – ‘Unless you tell me that you care about me, I won’t believe that you do!’

So, gentle reader, if you have a friend who is an Aspie, let me ask on their behalf. If they were deaf, you would speak up, wouldn’t you? So in this case, check what they are comfortable with, learn their love language(s), and when you find yourself naturally emoting, amplify it to become a big, unambiguous gesture.

I once read an account of someone who arranged for a group of badly disfigured World War II pilots to each have a beautiful female companion for a special evening event – actresses who were well able not to betray any feelings of disgust at the wounded faces. The story touched me deeply, because it showed that someone understood the need “to be loved” is present in people who are repulsive for reasons beyond their control. So if you care about your Aspie, tell him or her, even if communicating it so clearly takes you out of your comfort zone. Isn’t this what you’d want someone to do for you?

One thought on “Explaining Myself”

  1. I truly love this post.. this has been a challenge of mine.. perhaps one of my ‘non’ aspie traits as a woman who does have AS is that I really enjoy sending little notes to my close friends. I am, as one might say “old school”. I have always felt I was dropped into a different era. I have a very close friend who is also an Aspie who will on some occasions still write me a note as well. I love it when he does because it is concrete evidence that he cares. As someone with AS myself… I really treasure being told that I am cared about. This friend has a way of looking at me and I just know I am ‘home” , that I am cared about, that I am loved… but he has a very hard time expressing it verbally.

    Anyway, I used to think that I shouldn’t be so transparent or caring with him because I wasn’t getting the verbal aspects back to me as much.. but I could feel the love in the way he looked in my eyes and cared for me in other little ways. I used to get very frustrated by the lack of “concrete evidence” even when we were dating. Now it all makes more sense to me from what I can tell of the Aspie experience.. we were coming at it oddly enough very differently in our struggles to connect.

    So thank you for this post! Beautifully written!


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