My Autism Is (Sometimes) a Gift
If you've been following the news lately (or even if you don't), you've probably heard of Greta Thunberg. A 16-year-old girl from Sweden, she made waves recently by speaking at the United Nations Climate Summit, making a fiery, emotional speech chastising world leaders for not taking enough action regarding climate change.
And since you're reading this, you're probably also aware that Greta Thunberg has Asperger's (a form of high-functioning autism).
I've watched as the drama unfolded regarding her speech, and the response to it. Unfortunately, some that have criticized Greta have chosen to go after her Asperger's, calling her "mentally ill"
Greta, in an interview, has also said that her Asperger's is her superpower.
Sadly, I've watched this statement divide the Autism community. Some are rallying around her statement, agreeing with her that Asperger's is a superpower.
Others don't feel the same way. For them, autism is a challenge, and a burden. They don't consider it a superpower. And they've clashed with those that do. I read an account by one such person who, after sharing that they don't agree that autism is a superpower, found themselves blocked on social media by the person they disagreed with.
So where do I fall in all this? Do I consider my autism a blessing or a burden?
The Gift of Autism
There are times when I consider my autism a gift. For me, it gives me certain strengths, like remembering facts and information, seeing structures and organization, and making connections.
Those strengths brought me to the insights I share on this blog. I found them in a quest to better understand what goes on in my own head. It is much easier to see connections between ideas and facts when I can hold those pieces together in my head.
There are many, many pieces to the puzzle that is autism. As I've talked about before, this quest has taken me into many different disciplines of science, including biochemistry, neuroscience, nutrition, microbiology, gastroenterolgy, immunology, and others.
None of these are easy fields to self-teach yourself. But I've found that in order to better understand what is happening differently or going wrong in autism, I have to understand how things normally happen. So into those fields I dive.
And my strengths have helped me to learn them, and to create connections between them. I've barely scratched the surface of these, and there is a lot left for me to learn, but the quest is worth it.
The Burden of Autism
There are times when my autism can be a burden.
There are times when I go into sensory overload. In particular, sounds can be too much for me. When I'm tired, or trying to wake up in the morning, sounds can be overwhelming.
There are times when I can't communicate properly. There are times when I can't find the words, or am having trouble getting the words out of my mouth.
There are times when I get overwhelmed socially. Eye contact can be too much. Or I reach a limit when I no longer want to interact with people at all. This can be especially hard when I'm in circumstances that require me to be social, and that I can't escape.
Finding the Balance
So, I have to find a balance between the gift and burden of autism - for me, neither can be without the other.
Sometimes this means doing things differently. I have to make time or circumstances where I can de-stress or calm down. There are events that I have to skip, or leave early, because the social demands they present are too much.
And I have to be careful not to get carried away in studying. The autism work I do is important, but I have a wife, home, and job that need my attention. I can sometimes get hyper-focused on things, enough so that other things can get neglected.
So, I have to find the balance. But that balance is so very worth it.