Radio host Brant Hansen wrote for CNN Mr.Spock Goes to Church: How One Christian Copes With Asperger's Syndrome, sharing some of his most intimate experiences with Christ…
… or a distinct lack thereof.
As I read, I kept thinking "Yes…
The emotional high ended quickly as I remembered that as humans we have a tendency to relate to even the smallest things in another's world, if it helps us create our own self-identity. So I dialed down the instinct volume, and sat with it for a while.
I can be extremely emotional. In fact, I can be so emotional that people around me wonder what the heck to do with me. Meltdowns, shutdowns, unexplainable mood swings for days on end…
… some would say "Everyone has these! You're not so different!"
I might agree except that these emotional minefields are almost always directly related to sensory and proximal distance issues with people. I can't give you a "time of the month" schedule or some kind of relation to the bad weather (S.A.D), or even a bruised knee.
Relating to people + sensory stimulation + confusion over said people = recipe for a good long shutdown.
Some people disagree with the diagnosis based on this reality alone:
"You experience BIG emotions, so you CAN'T have AS."
"You don't have Aspeger's! I know people with AS and you aren't them!"
… people with AS can and do experience emotions deeply and longly. The myth of our supposed lack of empathy is also slowly being disspelled, thank goodness. I'm a differently-wired human being… not a robot. You have blue eyes, I have hazel eyes.
It's your own choice to believe me or not. And whether it's true or not seems to be less of a sticking point with me anymore. Too much fighting and explaining myself. What I CAN tell you is that when a professional consulted with a team of other professionals and delved into 20 years of my life PLUS family history on both sides, it seemed logical at the time, Captain.
… the methods of helping me learn social skills that didn't erupt in locking people out or clinging too tightly to people began to make sense. Instead of a boat-load of pills (I still have to take 2 prescriptions everyday, but that's better than 11 pills/day) or seeing shrinks who actually wanted me labelled as schizo-affective or enduring more shock therapy, or even listening to churches who told me to pray more/believe more/confess more, one brave therapist said:
"Erin, there's NOTHING wrong with you. I believe you have Asperger's Syndrome. It simply means you need to learn how to interact with the world in different ways. But you CAN and you WILL do it!"
I wasn't looking for a label. Life simply remained unmanagable for me no matter what I did. Jesus seemed careless and thoughtless. I hadn't even heard of AS until AFTER these professionals had talked at length about sticking me with a label.
My mom said it best when she told me: "It's like being left-handed in a right-handed person's world. You need to learn how to do the same things we all do and say using different techniques." (both my parents are left-handed, so Mom knows whereof she speaks… plus it made for puzzling family stories since all 3 of us children are right-handed).
Do I exercise more positive coping skills now than I did in college?
YES. (thank God)
Am I different person than I was five years ago?
YES. (but so are you)
As for being an Aspie in church… well, I guess it could be a matter of hindsight — "If I knew then what I know now…"
But I didn't.
In charismatic churches, people tried praying the demons out of me (even after they knew about the AS diagnosis).
In fundamentalist churches, I was told it was my own sin that was causing my bad friendships and lack of romantic relationships or constant butting of heads when I questioned doctrine (a bit too bluntly… although it never felt blunt. I just live in a world of questions!).
Many churches denied the existence of mental health issues or neurobiological disorders or PDDs, etc. We know this is false preaching, but it did little to encourage me to try and reach out. I couldn't formulate words about how alienated I felt. I didn't even feel like I belonged on Planet Earth, let alone a church who also considered itself an alien in a foreign land.
As for "experiencing God"… WTF????? Why does everyone else get to, but not me!!?? (forgetting the many dreams I've had that have included direct messages, I believe, from God)
Charismatics roll around on the floor in ecstacy… fundies learn Greek and Hebrew and learn through systematic theology (which I'll admit worked for me for a time, but lost its appeal after I began seeing gaping holes in the theology itself)… mainline demonimations experienced God at the Table…
Where's Jesus for me and alien-feeling people like me?
I stood under the full moon 2 nights ago and whispered: "I'm here! Can you see me? I'm RIGHT HERE!"
But then I was reminded of what I wrote for Rachel Held-Evans… "it's my faith the marks me as peculiar". Like Brant, and like the father of the possesed son, I cried out: "Help me in my unbelief!"
And Jesus loves on people who doubt… who are suspicious… who need tangible reality along with conceptual frameworks.
Will I lose my introversion?
No. I need my space or my system explodes or implodes. I can't control that.
Will I lose my bluntness?
Some of it. I'm learning diplomacy in many areas as certain ways of communicating means a good deal to the people around me, and caring for the people around me is important to me… and to Jesus.
Will I be "normal".
I'm already normal. Normal's big. Normal's HUGE. There's nothing wrong with me.
Having AS doesn't excuse nasty behaviour from me. I can't go out and call someone names and blame it on a having AS. No way.
But it does mean that when I start to cry in the middle of a family get-together in a small house… well… maybe I should just go to my room for a while, shut the music off, close the blinds, and hide for a few hours.
And Jesus will meet me there.
I might not feel Him.
I might not sense Him.
But I trust His promise that He's here. Right here.
And He loves me.
(PS. even with our physical touch/space issues, we do love and NEED hugs… we can be excellent huggers, fyi) 😀