TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART

Posts tagged “Asperger’s Syndrome

The Benefits of a Nervous Breakdown

Below is an excerpt from my book, “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things.”  In this section of my book I am describing to my therapist a theory I had researched in grad school before my psychotic break with reality at age 28, long before I was to start my life over from scratch as a conceptually-challenged yet more feeling person.  Breakdowns can destroy cognitive functioning. It did for me. While I was never ever good at conceptual thinking, the breakdown has made it virtually impossible to understand even the most basic concepts.  Despite being on medications for Bipolar Disorder, my mind simply does not work as it once did. This is often humiliating and frustrating though I am mostly okay with it.

Yet, in the past few months, I found Mooji and am following his path– something I thought I would never do because Buddhism was so “beyond” me.  And I find myself following many Buddhist blogs. Many times reading such posts and poetry sail way above my comprehension.  But this, too, is good.  It is humbling and it deprives the ego of its food supply, which according to Mooji, is good.  A “chop” at the ego-self is needed over and over again in order to be in the Presence.  But the mind still yearns to understand.

For what it is worth here is the excerpt from a therapy session in which I describe my “theory” to my therapist.  What is synchronicitous is that the theory sounds somewhat Buddhist in nature.  It opens with me talking to my therapist, or rather, reading from my notebook, because I found it difficult to talk at times.

 

“Alpha = life in utero.  Birth = the end of life in utero—  death of a sort, a seeming death.  Birth is entering the world of light— Reality.

“Reality is too much.  People need to escape— to regress.  Therefore, the mind goes into altered states of consciousness.” I look up and stop reading and explain.  “I studied this when I was in graduate school.  I hit upon the literature of altered states of consciousness while I was in a Psych class doing a research paper on creativity and I became obsessed with the topic.  I nearly had a breakdown then because I wasn’t eating or sleeping or going to classes.  All I was doing was this research and writing.  A friend in the dorm used to make sure I ate something.  But all that time I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.  The material was difficult and I was afraid I was really going off the deep end and writing far out stuff. But in the end the professor gave me an A+ on the paper…”

“Anyhow,” I say as I start to read from my notebook again, “many altered states of consciousness have been found to coincide with the production of alpha brain wave patterns.”  I stop reading again and say, “I know this first hand because I did biofeedback once and the feeling you get when you’re producing alpha waves is the same as the one you get in mystical experiences and meditation.  Altered states of consciousness typically occur under conditions of sensory deprivation or sensory overload because overloading the system shuts it down, so in effect it becomes a condition of sensory deprivation.  The first experience of sensory deprivation occurs in the womb.  The ultimate form of sensory deprivation is death.  Death is a return to the womb.  The womb of the earth.  Therefore, Alpha = Omega.”

 

So there it is in a nutshell.  The book is mainly an emotional chronicle of relationships, and finding love, despite being very handicapped by Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome and OCD.  If you would like to purchase it for $2.95 please click on the link below:

http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html

eyelocks_612x792


Confessions of an Agoraphobic

P1130581_edited-1

I will do almost anything to stay at home. Granted I have a few chronic illnesses that keep me in but it is mental illness that is the real challenge. Mental illnesses, plural, and phobias, to be more exact. Bipolar Disorder, Asperger’s, OCD, Emetophobia, Claustophobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Agoraphobia. And I do what mentally ill people do.  I isolate.

Life can be lived through the ethernet. Luckily for me and many others. One can stay in the apartment for days. Today, however, I had to go out. My husband asked me to check the car. And there was shopping to be done and a trip to the post office required. Shit! Forgot to take major meds last night and was not in good shape yesterday either.  Dreading going out!  A one mile errand for me is like a trip to China. First off, take the missed meds. And make the preparations to go out, hiding money in case of a mugging, packing a phone, emergency meds and emergency numbers for my husband, etc., etc., etc.

Then comes the moment of truth, going out the door. Meet a neighbor and surprised that could handle her in my fragile state, and was, in fact, good with her. Not always the case. Helped a new neighbor and walked out the door into the street. A man coughing. He may vomit. Terrified of vomit and vomiting. I search out the streets and buses for people who look sick or sound sick, coughing, etc. The origin of this phobia– an alcoholic father who was often sick, but knowing that does not help matters. Make it past the coughing man and note his location to look for vomit on the way back.

Then there are all the unknown. This is New York City after all. Dirty, smelly, overstimulating, overcrowded, noisy New York City. People approaching you for good causes, bogus causes, begging, anything is possible. It is not like I am a newcomer here, having lived in New York City for six-plus decades and worked all over the city for three of those decades. Until I couldn’t any more.

Someone once asked me what was there to be afraid of? What could possibly go wrong? Oh, wrong question. I could easily rattle off twenty-five scenarios of disaster and then some. But this morning surprisingly and unusually, am happy to be outside. Greet my Indian newsstand lady friend and my friendly Hispanic super next door. All goes smoothly. The clerk in the post office ends on a kind note after my botched addresses had to be fixed. It actually, and can’t believe I am saying this, but, it actually feels good to be out.  Give a beggar a dollar and talk to him. Feeling good outside is a rarity. Perhaps it is the missed medication. Secretly I still believe the medication takes away something good in me. Still suffer from the delusion that all ills come from the medication, though “know” I cannot function without it. Actually perhaps it is doubling up on the dose that helps. Perhaps I should be on a higher dose of the anti-psychotic. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…

Trip over. Glad to be back home. Didn’t feel faint until back home. One of these days  will venture out to shop for a new pair of jeans. One of these days…

(For more writing on battling mental illness please see my e-book, “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things” on Amazon.  Also available on Smashwords, iBooks and Nook.)

 


Review of Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things: Learning to Love as a Bipolar Aspie

Kitt O’Malley over at Kittomalley.com, so generously reviewed my book on being Bipolar and Aspie and the  fight for sanity and love, in a post on her blog.  Kitt, a psychotherapist and mother and wife,  writes about vital and informative topics pertaining to mental health, ranging from being a Bipolar parent to a relationship with God. She can also be found at @kittomalley on Twitter. A big THANK YOU to Kitt for posting this review.

Kitt O'Malley

Book Cover of "Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things: Learning to Love as a Bipolar Aspie" Buy and read this book! I did.

I greatly enjoyed reading and highly recommend Ellen Stockdale Wolfe’s autobiographical story of love alongside psychological and neurological growth: Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things: Learning to Love as a Bipolar Aspie. In her memoir, Ms. Stockdale Wolfe writes of her struggle with Asperger’s and Bipolar Disorder with psychotic features. Her autobiography traces her growth in her ability to love deeply and truly, her mental health history, and how she overcame challenges of her unique Aspie brain (Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder). She uses that unique brain as well as her sensitive soul to create beauty, whether it be this memoir, a poem, photograph, or painting. To see more of her stunning work, check her out at StockdaleWolfe.com, her site is appropriately entitled  | TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART.

.

View original post



Rapid Cycling

Patterns of the microcosm
echoed in the macrocosm
vibrating thoughts
no meditation
lots of frustration
can’t calm down
do the Hong Sau
Yogananda method
the only hope
in this mind
doing 120 mph
in a 35 mph zone

 

time soon for sleep
frogs singing
a pre-dawn high
drained at noon
rapid cycling
twilight now
back to racing
raving
raging mind
need gentility
humility
quietude
to feel awe
to ponder
hit “Pause”

love in the afternoon
a natural anti-
depressant
sent sight soaring
in space
seeing patterns
everywhere
echoing symphonically
in noisy ears
the hum of quiet
seems too loud
flashing lights
status migrainous
with all over
crawling feeling
“not-theres”

stop I say
stop I pray
stop the way
the world spins
hurling in space
the race
the pace
exhaustion
please
take this body
in your arms
work your charms
on this alarm-
ing state
with alacrity
the paucity
of peace
needs mending

Oh evening
send hope
for ending
these frantic antics
quell the panic
break the day
and bring on
the dawn
of dreams


Eye-Contact and Animal Healers

P1080682_edited-3Scan5_edited-2_wm074016 copy

As someone with Asperger’s who spent much of my life avoiding eye contact until I was properly medicated, I still feel uncomfortable with eye contact in human interaction.  Yet I actively seek out eye contact with animals.  I am not alone in this.  For people with Asperger’s and Autism, eye-contact with humans is fearsome and yet with animals, sublime.

People say eye contact with animals is less threatening, yet I believe there is more to it than that.  Gazing into the eyes of an animal, I feel love, depth of consciousness, and connection– all qualities quite impossible to feel with humans, except in fleeting moments with my beloved Aspie husband who, too, has problems with eye contact.  Perhaps because Aspies and Auties are so starved for affection, so hungry for a form of love that they CAN handle, animals offer pure and simple love, and unconditional acceptance. The truth is animals are excellent therapists and natural healers!!  P.S.  Animals are good for depressives, too.

(For more information on eye contact and Asperger’s and Bipolar Disorder, see the memoir I wrote of my experiences with love, called “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things” http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html)

RSCN1970_edited-3


Interview with Slade Suiter of Authenticity Radio on Being Bipolar and Asperger’s

“http://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?autoplay=false&episode_id=3642270”


Dark Clouds Overhead

Dark Landscape_wm

 

Things have spiraled out of control.  I am following far too many blogs and comments and finding it hard to keep up with all the new posts I want to read.  I am on too many animal rights, environmental and political lists.  Right now I have had a few weeks of migraines nearly everyday and am finding it hard to get myself to Physical Therapy to treat some problems that need addressing.   I am losing my temper at my loving husband and he, in turn, is under so much pressure at his clinical social worker job that he is losing his as well.  Clearly something has to be done.  I cannot stand the person I have become.

This means I will not be posting for awhile and I am not sure how long, or, if this is turning into a bad thing altogether.  I will not give up the animal activism and environmental lists because this is one of the few ways I can give to the world.  There is a reason I have been on disability for the last 13 years.  I have a major mental illness, Bipolar Disorder, and Asperger’s and these take their toll on my life and those around me.  So please forgive me if I don’t read all your posts, or read them and don’t respond.  I love some of you, and care for many of you, but now have to get my life back.  This means more meditation, more Reiki, possibly learning Qi Gong and lots of prayer.  It feels too bad right now to stay on the road I am on.  

Good-bye for awhile and my warmest regards,

Ellen

 


Supposed Indifference in Asperger’s

P1100160_edited-1-1

I climbed down

from the tangled branches

of my thoughts

to greet you

but it was too late

you were gone.

Don’t give up on me

I love you can’t you see

but there is such difficulty

all because I am Aspie.

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)

 


“Couldn’t Look Away” – Book review by Alistair McHarg of “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things”

I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in psychological exploration – from clinicians to self-diagnosticians to concerned family members to lovers of extraordinary tales well told.

Do not imagine that this is a lesson-plan about Bipolar Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome, for that matter. On the contrary, we see Ms. Wolfe wrestling with a panoply of symptoms residing on different points of a spectrum – we never know exactly where we are, and neither does Ms. Wolfe. We get first person, real-time intimacy – the raw data, not the spin.

Asperger’s, autism, schizophrenia, paranoia, mania, depression, and challenging questions of gender identity blur back and forth until one is overpowered by the sense of a shape-shifting, ghostly enemy. We witness Ms. Wolfe inaccurately interpreting social cues the way an anthropologist might puzzle over artifacts from an alien civilization.

The writing is austere, elegant, forceful and almost chillingly honest. There is not an ounce of self-pity to be found, or self-aggrandizement. Serious students of these illnesses could hardly find a more useful document because – using meticulous diaries she kept through the years – Ms. Wolfe has made scrupulous accuracy her battle cry.

From very early on I found myself caring about what happened to Ms. Wolfe, wanting to know more. I sensed sweetness, innocence, and vulnerability – and that made me want to protect her. Consequently, the dread I felt as I watched her struggle with her own mind – and the outside world – created the tension of real drama. One would have to be a cold fish indeed to not suffer along with her as she trudges ahead with heroic determination.

Ms. Wolfe has achieved something quite remarkable. She has applied the direct simplicity of science to a human ordeal and, in the process, accomplished what art does, when it is at its very best. She has fearlessly and generously taken us into her world and – in doing so – enriched us all.

Alistair McHarg

eyelocks_612x792

 Click on book to purchase.


“The Club”

It is Friday night.  Ten thirty and I still have not eaten.  I walk into the kitchen, take out a can of soup and dump the contents into a pot.  I walk into the bathroom, open the medicine cabinet and stare at the three bottles on the top shelf.  Mellaril.  Stellazine.  Valium.  I have already taken my Stellazine.  Valium is the drug of choice for the night.  I take one of the yellow pills out of the Valium bottle, go into the kitchen again and pour glass of wine.  The pill goes down.  The wine goes down.  And the soup goes into a bowl.  I sit in the yellow light at the kitchen table, and force myself to swallow the soup that doesn’t want to go down.  Another glass of wine.

SHIT!  IT’S 11:00.  YOU’RE NOT GOING TO PULL ANOTHER STUNT LIKE LAST SATURDAY.  DRESSING AND UNDRESSING.  GETTING UP ALL THE NERVE AND LOSING IT.  HIGH.  SO HIGH.  READY TO GO FINALLY AT 1:00 A.M. AND THEN DECIDING IT WAS TOO LATE.  TOO LATE TO GO ROAMING AROUND NEW YORK ALONE.  YOU CAN’T DO THAT AGAIN.  BUILDING UP ALL THE TENSION AND THEN JUST GOING TO BED.  YOU CAN’T DO THAT AGAIN.

I wash the dishes.  Brush my teeth.  Comb my hair.  Change my blouse.  Change my shoes.  Comb my hair again.  Change into a different pair of shoes.

SHIT!  11:30.  GET OUT OF HERE.  GO!  JUST GO!

I walk into the street and into the late February night.  It is freezing.

TAKE A CAB.  A BUS.  NO, WALK.  IT’S OKAY.  WALK.  JUST MOVE ONE LEG IN FRONT OF THE OTHER AND WALK.

72nd St.  68th St.  66th St. The streets go by so fast.  Too fast.  65th  St.  I approach the door.  This is it.  A camel flashes in red neon lights in the window and above that a sign painted in gold appears to vibrate in the neon light—  “Arabie”.  “The Club” as it is known.  Four women are in front of me.  Two guys hanging out in front of the disco next door make comments.  The women make like they don’t hear.  I can’t make out what the guys are saying.  I just follow the four women in through the red door.  I’m doing it.  I’m actually doing it!  A stout man asks me for five dollars as I get to the door and he gives me two tickets.  The tickets say they are good for one drink.  I follow the four women inside and line up to check my coat in the cloak room on the left.  It is lined in red velvet.  I fumble with the coat check ticket as I try to take the whole scene in at once.  The walls are also lined in red velvet.  I feel as if I have walked inside a giant womb.  The air is filled with smoke and a flood of voices overwhelms my ears.  Twinkling lights line the reflection-laden mirror behind the bar.  I try to take a breath.  I see women everywhere. Sexy looking women.  Butches.  Dykes.  All kinds of women.  Women talking.  Women hugging.  Women kissing.  I feel dizzy and giddy.  I feel all eyes are upon me, but walking up to the bar to order a drink I relax a bit and I see they are not.

THIS IS PERVERTED STUFF.

My legs want to run back out of the door into the street for a breath of air.

NO.  YOU’VE GOT TO SEE.  CALM DOWN.  LISTEN.  HEAR THE MUSIC.  IT’S COMING FROM THE BACK.  THERE’S AN UPSTAIRS.  GO TO THE BAR.  GET A DRINK AND THEN GO TO THE STAIRS.  CLIMB UP THE STAIRS AND LOOK AROUND.  YOU’RE JUST SCARED.  YOU HAVEN’T COME THIS FAR JUST TO RUN OUT THE DOOR AGAIN.  RELAX.  LOOK RELAXED, GODDAMN IT, OR THEY’RE GOING TO THINK YOU’RE STRAIGHT.  RELAX, YOU FOOL.

I down the rest of my drink and go over to the bar to order another.  I gulp.  My body slowly loosens to the effects of the alcohol.  The tension in my muscles unwinds in hot little waves.  I want to dance.  Women with women.  It doesn’t seem perverted anymore.  I decide I like it.  I feel safe.  I feel free at long last.  Free to be me.

I watch a woman in a long white skirt dancing near the bar by herself.  She sees me looking and smiles.   Is she smiling at me?  I look away.

I sip the rest of my second drink more slowly.  More women are coming upstairs to dance and the dance floor is filling up.  The wall opposite the bar and the DJ station is all mirrored and the reflections of the dancing bodies double the size of the crowd.  I begin to feel giddy with the smoke and the reflections and the music and the alcohol and the bodies.  I lean against the bar to steady myself.  I watch the dancers and through the sea of undulating bodies I see a woman leaning up against the mirrored wall watching.  She is alone.  Tall.  Black.  Well-built.  Dressed all sexy with a blouse open at the neck and tight fitting jeans and boots.  She stands straight and cool with her shoulders thrown back and her head held high on the muscular body of a dancer.  Her eyes a counterpoint of pride and vulnerability.  She sees me looking.  I keep staring and when the woman looks over to me again I let my eyes meet hers.  Our eyes play a game of flirtation across the room, between the sea of dancing bodies which separates us.  My courage is building.  When the woman looks over again, I smile.  The woman smiles back.  She walks across the room to where I am standing at the bar.

“Would you like to dance?” she asks in a sweet, accented voice.

From Chapter 6 of my memoir on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Eye-locks-Other-Fearsome-Things-ebook/dp/B007TOOF56/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345051643&sr=1-1&keywords=eye-locks  Also available on Barnes & Noble Nook, iBooks and Smashwords.


Mania Free-flow

This is the mind in mania, a sampling of the free-flow of racing thoughts and rhyming words that occur.  On first glance, the meaning may seem random but in the context of the memoir, themes of paranoia and the flip side of mania, depression, are apparent.

I catch the Number Four bus.  The bus is crowded.  The motor in my head starts racing again.

IT’S PANIC.  AND THEY’RE PUSHING.  PUSHING AND SHOVING.  AND THE STREET LIGHTS ARE FLASHING— GREEN VENOM/BLOODY TEARS ALTERNATELY ON THE RAINDROP WINDOWS OF THE BUS.  AND THAT WOMAN OVER THERE IS STARING, DAMNED BITCH!  AND THAT HAIRY MAN— THE EYES ARE PROBING AND LOCKING.  IT’S SHOCKING.  THE MIND MOTOR’S GOING FASTER AND FASTER STILL.  NERVE ENDINGS FIRING.  AXONS AND DENDRITES SYNAPSING ALL OVER THE GODDAMNED PLACE.  AND THE STREETS CRAWL BY.  FLIP FLOP.  THE CAMERA SHOP.  GOTTA MOP THE CAMERA SHOP.  FLIP FLOP.  THE BUTCHER SHOP.  CHOP.  CHOP.  RAW MEAT DROPS AT THE FEET OF FAT FLESH.  TICK TOCK.  THE ROUND, WHITE INSTITUTIONAL CLOCK TICK-TOCKS TO THE CHOP CHOP OF THE BUTCHER SHOP.  A SEAT.  SIT DOWN.  CLOSE THE EYES.  YEAH.  THAT’S BETTER.  NICE AND EASY DOES IT.  TRANQUILITY.  SENILITY.  DEBILITY.  THE MIND MOTOR’S RACING.  THE HANDS ARE SHAKING.  GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR.  YOU’LL GO FAR IF YOU GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR.  KEEP THE EYES CLOSED AND GRAB HOLD OF THE BAR.  THE BLACK HOLES IN SPACE TAKE THE PLACE OF THE RAY OF HOPE WHICH LIES LIKE A DOPE BURIED UNDER THE FALLEN STARS.  A MURKY MIASMA AT THE BOTTOM OF THE UNIVERSE. REHEARSE THE HEARSE.  ANOTHER STAR IS DYING AND TRYING TO REST AT BEST IN THE BOTTOM OF FOREVER.  AND PEOPLE ARE LEAVING.  AND THERE’S MORE SPACE.  AND I’M DOWN IN THE VALLEY OF THE DESPAIRING DAMSELS, SITTING WITH THE DOTTED, SPOTTED DALMATIANS, IN THE PURPLE PANTRY PUDDLES OF THEIR PISS.

From Chapter 2 of my Bipolar/Asperger’s Memoir.  For more information see: 

http://www.amazon.com/Eye-locks-Other-Fearsome-Things-ebook/dp/B007TOOF56/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363364264&sr=8-1&keywords=eye-locks

Also available on Barnes & Nobles Nook, iBooks and Smashwords


“For the Truth Shall Set Ye Free”

I first remember things going wrong at age 5.

I am standing in the corner of the bedroom with my mother beside my brother’s crib.  She is telling me I am cold and selfish, like my father’s mother whom she hates.  I now think she hates me.  She tells me I will wind up all alone.

It is just after the births of my brother and sister, only 11 months apart, and my 25-year-old mother, is totally overwhelmed.  My brother is the apple of her eye, with Mom’s dark coloring and the looks of her adored Sicilian born-father.  My sister is Daddy’s little girl.  I remember feeling all alone, and being cold and hard at that age, confiding only in my stuffed lion, Leo.  Many, many years later I come to see this cold, hard me as a dissociated self.   Many years later my mother apologizes to me.  And I apologize to her.

I set out on a life-long struggle to be different from my father’s mother, doing everything to try to be warm and loving like my mother’s Italian family.  I fail.  With acute stage fright most of the time, I cannot initiate a smile, nor greet people.  The most basic social skills are lost to me, much to the chagrin of my parents.  Often I cannot respond to people.  At times I cannot organize my thoughts well enough to speak.  I feel evil and selfish.  I want to fit in and can’t.  I want to pass for normal and don’t.  I want to have a family and never will.  I want to find love and it will take me decades to do so.

The “defensive personality” serves me well, covering up many, but not all, of my autistic symptoms.  I live dissociated from many of my numerous fears.

My story begins when I break down.  My fiancé, Sundra, goes back to Sri Lanka.   I change library jobs from a relatively comfortable clerical position in a small library to a position cataloging art books in a huge office.   The new job is in a giant room with three different departments and about 40 employees of all ages and ethnicities.  There are no cubicles or dividers so everyone can see and hear everyone else.  It is as gossip-ridden as a small town.  There is no privacy and there are fluorescent lights.  It is all too much.  But it is here I meet Danielle who is to change my life forever and, later, Jimmy, who becomes my husband.   My journey begins when my autistic shell breaks, at age 28, when the “superficial personality”, the dissociated me, falls apart.  I seek therapy and am diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  Not until thirty years later do I find out I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, as well.

I write my story as a message of hope to all those who are as lost as I was, to those who think, as I did, that they cannot find love.   I open my heart to help others avoid the suffering I went through and caused.  I nearly lost my job and my mind pursuing love.   I hurt other people.   I could have been seen as a stalker due to my typical Aspie approach to a romantic interest.  Love threw me over the brink of sanity and made me psychotic at times.  I didn’t know I was Bipolar and my psychiatrist didn’t know I had Asperger’s syndrome.

Finally, I write this book to psychiatrists and other therapists that they may understand their patients who have the same issues and delusions.

From the Prologue to Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things:

http://www.amazon.com/Eye-locks-Other-Fearsome-Things-ebook/dp/B007TOOF56/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1345051643&sr=1-1&keywords=eye-locks


Aspie Empathy

There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

By Dalai Lama XIV

Pema Chodron says Pain has its virtues.

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autistic Spectrum Disorder on the mild end of the spectrum, is often characterized by a supposed lack of empathy. What it really means, and many professionals still do not know this, is that there is a different kind of empathy. An empathy in which we, Aspies, are so overrun with feelings that our system crashes– to use a computer analogy.

For example, my aunt is on death’s door and my cousin calls to give me the news. Suddenly she starts crying hysterically and shouting that her mother can’t die and leave her, that she needs her mother, and conveying a powerful sadness. I start crying, too, and try to say some words of comfort or of wisdom acquired from losing my own parents. All pales and I am reduced to stuttering. Why does this happen? I am overcome with her feelings and feel them myself. And the computer freezes up. System crash– whereas, a Neurotypical (NT) would know what to say and be sympathetic and empathetic and help my cousin. I make vague attempts that wind up as feeble words. Does that mean I am an unfeeling person? No. Ineffectual, yes. And maybe seen as heartless despite my attempt to convey love and sympathy for what my cousin is going through.

Another example shows me as a monstrous teen. I am 15 and my mother gets a phone call and starts crying hysterically.   I immediately know it means that Grandpa is dead. I adored my grandfather and had a very special relationship with him. In some ways which I will not go into here, too special in a not-good way, especially for so young a child. I know there is no room for my grief. It is only my mother’s that counts. There is no one to go to with the devastation I feel inside. So how do I express it? Do I cry? No. I say to my father, “I guess we won’t be having hamburgers for dinner.” A totally callous remark. And my father chastises me for being “unfeeling”—for my lack of empathy, when all the time I am in great pain inside. This on the surface is what Asperger’s lack of empathy looks and sounds like. Underneath the surface there is a chaos of feelings rampaging within. Now an NT might actually feel less deeply, but would act and say something appropriate and certainly wouldn’t make a remark like the hamburger one. It is not that I wanted hamburgers– I hated them. To this day, I don’t know why that remark slipped out.

Things like that still happen.   I did not get officially diagnosed with AS until age 61, though I knew I was autistic decades before, having worked with autistic children on the serious end of the spectrum. Aspies feel emotion and shut down, just like an overloaded computer. It does not mean that they have no feelings nor empathy. It is a different kind of feeling and empathy.  And I have noticed a tremendous reservoir of feeling for animals that can be expressed more easily, for animals are so less threatening and more straightforward than human beings.  If I were more intelligent, I would become a vet.  Now, whenever I can the chance with an animal, I give Reiki, which many animals respond to quite naturally.  It is definitely easier to give Reiki to an animal rather than to a human being.  My husband is the one exception.  He is a special case, lumped in with non-humans simply because I am so comfortable with him, a high-functioning Aspie himself.

I learned to try to pass for normal– in some ways, quite successfully. I became an expert observer of people though I could not, and still cannot, interpret what I observe. But I owe my success to my mother having a mood disorder which got passed down to me as Bipolar Disorder– and to my father being an alcoholic. Why? Because in order to survive, to minimize fear and pain, I had to become a keen observer of my mother’s moods before she lashed out at me. I would scour her face for every nuance of mood although I still seldom knew what was to come.  This extreme vigilance served to protect myself. Similarly with my father. I would study him, scrutinize his behavior when he came in the door on the  rare nights he came home when he said he would, and did not stay out drinking.  Just because he came home early did not mean he was not drunk. A facial expression, a different gait wherein he tried to walk normally, the way he said hello,  would give it away. I became expert at detecting drinking, often knowing long before my mother did that he was drunk and would tell her. She wouldn’t always believe me.  I was terrified of my father when he was inebriated. Once, as a very little girl, I heard him sick in the middle of the night and my mother was with him in the bathroom, semi-hysterical, yelling at him for my father was obviously out of control.  I felt sick myself, tried to drown out the sounds with a pillow, and was scared to death I would have to run to the bathroom and be ill also. This turned into a life-long phobia and obsession. I loved my father but when he was drunk I didn’t want him anywhere near me. And sometimes, especially when drinking gin, he could be mean.  Were his true feelings coming out—“In Vino Veritas” or were they just drunken ramblings of a disturbed mind?  For he did have a disturbed mind, an outcome of a tragic childhood and he used alcohol to self-medicate his demons.  His father was an alcoholic, too.

Pain has its virtues. I learned to study people and became so astute that it hid my Asperger’s symptoms for years. Female Aspies seem to be better at hiding their disability than males. I learned to study people but I still cannot decipher what expressions mean. I can see something happening on the face but am often still not be able to tell what it means.  This just increases what is already acute social anxiety and is hard to translate into socially appropriate responses.

“Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” Certainly my childhood was not a tragedy by any means. But parts of it were tough and those parts made me strong.

Next time you see an Aspie act without empathy, especially a child, you might check in with them to see just what they are feeling. I would wager that they are feeling a great deal and simply cannot process or express their feelings.

 


Traits of Females with Asperger’s by Samantha Craft

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)


5 star Book Review for “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome” by Tony Attwood

A Must-Read for all therapists and special ed teachers!,April 27, 2012

Tony Attwood is the patron saint of “Aspies” and this book holds true to his dedication to, and total understanding of, those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome. His understanding of all aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome is astounding and he is particularly gifted in his understanding of girls with Asperger’s Syndrome. He totally “gets it” when it comes to theory of mind and emotions in Asperger’s Syndrome. Would that all therapists could understand and have the knowledge he has and so clearly presents in this encyclopedic covering of AS. Reading Tony Attwood’s guide brought me to tears– that someone could care so much about those of us with the syndrome and understand us so well. He explained me to me in ways no one else had and eventually brought me to the point of getting officially diagnosed at age 61. “Congratulations, you have Asperger’s syndrome!” says it all. He accepts the syndrome as a different way of thinking and feeling which is presented in a positive light, without making light of the difficulties involved in having AS. He understands that the diagnosis often brings relief, particularly for those of us who fell through the cracks and were never treated, and carried lots of guilt and poor self-image for our “failings.” Can’t recommend this book highly enough for all those who need to understand AS– therapists, parents, teachers and, last but by no means least, for those who have AS.

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)


5 star Book Review for “Nobody Nowhere” by Donna Williams

A huge thank you to Donna Williams for this book!, May 16, 2012
I have read this book three times. The first time I grabbed it to read, along with “Somebody Somewhere,” because I had worked with autistic children and was totally fascinated by them. My student teaching supervisor in college had pronounced me autistic at the time but I paid no attention to what he said although I could relate to “Nobody Nowhere,” and loved the book. Donna Williams held me as a captive and admiring audience and I couldn’t get enough of her work.
The second time I reread this book was on a whim, long after suffering a breakdown myself. I was much older and wiser on this second reading and, as I reread her story, I realized that I, too, was on the spectrum, as I had begun to suspect. This book gave me the courage to get diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 61.
The third time I reread this book was as an author of my own experiences of learning to love with Asperger’s and Bipolar Disorder. My admiration for the book withstood all three readings. In fact I am more impressed with her work and her life now more than ever. She is very high-functioning and has given the world of autistics and Aspies a reality that other people can relate to and understand. It is a real contribution to those on the Spectrum and to their families, teachers and therapists. This last reading also brought home how the abuse Donna suffered was appalling and, yet, I totally understood how, as she writes, it actually helped her to overcome many autistic ways. Love is very problematic for Aspies and Auties and sometimes we prefer distance to closeness because closeness is extremely painful for autistics and, to a lesser degree, for Aspies.
I would recommend the sequels to this book: “Somebody Somewhere,” “Like Colour to the Blind,” and “Everyday Heaven.” They make up a set. Donna Williams’ poetry is also very special. Read “Not Just Anything.” She is a brilliant woman and has conquered her pain with courage and intelligence and creativity!
(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)