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Awkward Spirit

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I debated with myself during the course of writing this article as to when (in the course of the article) to disclose that I have Asperger Syndrome. Should I come write (pardon the pun) out with it or should I build suspense until the end? Needless to say I came right out with it (a very special co-worker suggested I fill you in at the beginning).

I have spent most of my life wondering what was wrong with me and why I was so different. For the longest time I didn't have any answers and neither did anybody else. Not that many people wanted to know. It seemed no one wanted to get to know me or understand me. But I must say I didn't know or understand myself either. I didn't have any friends. Sometimes that really hurt yet at other times it didn't bother me at all. I was quite content to do my own thing. What a strange contradiction.

There were many issues with family members. I remember my aunt telling my partner (about 10 years ago) that she would have her version of a pep talk with my cousins before we went for a visit. It went something like this: Okay boys, your Auntie Marilyn and the kids are coming for a visit. We all know how Terri can be so we need to tread lightly. This isn't an exact quote but you get the gist of it. I'm still amazed that after all these years these words still have the power to devastate me at times.

There were, and are, good things about me, special gifts if you will. Yet not many seemed to notice. I excelled at academics, music and sports (hard to believe given how uncoordinated and clumsy I am) but people only seemed to see my "obnoxious and socially unacceptable" behaviours. I wanted to shout "there is a fun and enjoyable person in here" but I couldn't because more often than not I wasn't even aware of it myself. I was ostracized and bullied in school even though I was bigger than most of my peers. To quote a very famous amphibian, it wasn't "easy being green".

So I did my own thing and got in trouble a lot because I didn't conform to the norm. Just what is the "norm" anyway? It took me many years to develop coping skills and techniques to enable me to do those things I wanted to and knew I was capable of doing. At the time I didn't realize I was developing these skills. Through all my struggles I was very blessed to have 2 or 3 people who accepted me and loved me unconditionally.

My music and my love of reading helped through the tough times (of which there are still many). When I was playing the trumpet, and later the euphonium, I was able to put all the hurt, anguish, shame and joy into my music. No one was intimidated by the depth and breadth of all that emotion. What an experience. There was much more to my life than I was able to appreciate at the time.

My diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome came late in my life; well, at the time I thought it was late. I was in my early thirties. Initially the diagnosis was ADHD yet that didn't ever seem to fit. My partner and friends (the 1 or 2 I had) didn't agree with the diagnosis because I met very few of the criteria. However, that's all I had so I went with it. A few years later my psychiatrist mentioned Asperger Syndrome; he believed I should be the recipient of such a delightful diagnosis. Lucky me, I'm an Aspie!!

Actually, he was bang on. As I started reading more and more literature (what there was of it at the time) I realized I could have been (and still should be) the poster child for Asperger Syndrome. What an incredible relief. I finally had something to hang my hat on. For those of you who are reluctant to label your child (or yourself) I encourage you to go for it. There was a reason I did all those strange and wonderful things as I was growing. I wasn't just a freak who didn't fit in anywhere that nobody liked. Now I'm a freak with a label and I love it.

I have come to a place in my life where I respect, love and honour who I am and my uniqueness in the world. I still don't always fit in, but that's okay because I have my own space. I don't always behave appropriately or say the right things in public but when my family and friends need my support I somehow figure it out. I am honest to a fault and loyal beyond belief. Once you've climbed my walls and seen through the behaviours and mannerisms that offend you, you will find I have a very special place in your heart. As you do in mine. Love and accept me for who I am and you'll find the rewards are tremendous (so are some of the challenges but hey, that goes with the territory).

There is a wonderful quote by Mary Anne Radmacher: "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.'"

It takes courage each day to get up and take on the world of Asperger Syndrome. But do take the journey with your student, child, family member or friend as you both grow and learn. Remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have found mine and it grows brighter each day.

Copyright 2009-2012 - Terri Robson