First Thoughts – Writing as Therapy

I have autism. I am a man in my mid forties, I have a wonderful wife and two amazing children, and I have autism. I have a good job, am well-respected in my field, and I have autism. From time to time, I’m finding that I still have to remind myself of that. I have been different all my life, but I didn’t really know HOW different until a few short months ago. Over the past few years, we had gotten to a less-than-comfortable place in our marriage, with arguments and anger becoming more common. Over the past summer, as one step toward getting the help that was apparent we needed, my wife shared that she thought I might have Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s syndrome? What was that? As someone who had prided myself on knowing everything, I had to admit that I didn’t know anything at all about Asperger’s syndrome. I also didn’t know very much about autism. Fortunately for me, and for our family, my reaction to the suggestion that I might have Asperger’s syndrome was curiosity rather than anger or frustration.

In the past few months, I have learned a lot about Asperger’s syndrome, autism, and more importantly, about myself. My therapist has told me that the emotional roller-coaster that I’m riding is in some ways a form of grieving, and that I will go through the various stages of grieving as if someone close to me had died. He added, almost as an afterthought, that I probably wouldn’t go through those stages of grief in linear order, but rather would bounce around through them, coming back to some, maybe never experiencing others, but eventually coming to terms with a different understanding of myself.

In addition to the help and support of talented local professionals, including my “Asperger’s counselor” and our “couples counselor,” I must give most of the credit for my growing self-awareness and knowledge about autism and Asperger’s syndrome to the talented and diverse autistic blogging community. I have read literally hundreds of posts from a dozen or more bloggers. While I have only posted comments on a few (at least so far!), I’ve found myself saying again and again, “wow, other people have these crazy experiences like me?” I’ve made an accordion folder full of printouts of particularly poignant posts, with sections highlighted and the margins full of scribbled notes.

In the past month, my wife and I have grown closer than we’ve probably ever been. In fact, I can honestly say that I feel closer to my wife emotionally now than I’ve ever felt to any other human being. While I can’t say that our journey, the past twenty years or the past twenty weeks, has been an easy one, I do know that her love is what has motivated me through low points. She has given me a wonderful reason to focus on myself, to learn about my different abilities and challenges, and to understand why I can be so difficult to get along with at times.

So why am I writing this now? I’ve always been better at expressing my thoughts in writing as opposed to speaking, drawing, painting, or any other form of communication. My mind is always full of thoughts, a few of which I believe might be interesting to others. Many of my thoughts are not completely formed or well organized, and it sometimes takes me a number of drafts and re-writes to capture those thoughts effectively in writing. But the process of writing helps me focus and clarify my thoughts, and also gives me a less-threatening way to share them with my wife and others. It is my hope that some of my thoughts might inspire others to learn more about themselves, or to identify strategies that help them with challenges they face. It is also my hope that others will offer their own thoughts and observations, because I still have much to learn.

I expect that some posts (like this one, for example) will be exclusively mine, while other posts will be from my wife and some will be joint efforts. We will try to be clear in who has written what, when possible. We have chosen to remain anonymous for the time being, as I have a somewhat public job and have only shared my diagnosis with a few of my closest colleagues.

We welcome any comments or questions, and we thank you for stopping by.

AspieKent (the autistic half of “Aspie and Allie”)