Spectrum. It’s a lovely, loaded word. I like it. Disorder? Thats where you’re wrong, kiddo.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome. What I’ve just told you tells you nothing. If you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met only one kind of Autism. The potentialities of the human mind are infinite. Our neurons separate us from the pack, like fingerprints or retinas do. Everyone with Autism is different. They have similar underlying stressors, but respond in a myriad of ways, all unique to their environment and personality.
I was diagnosed at 11 or 12, after years of ADHD, ADD, and ODD diagnoses and treatments. All throughout that time, I resented being told I was different. Now that I’m older, I see what all were trying to do, but I’ve also seen what they’ve done. Seeing that my whole state of being could be rewritten with a single pill, to tragic degrees, devastated me. I worked very hard, often against my inner nature, to become whoever I needed to be to be free of the drugs. That creates a great sickness spiritually, and it came with other psychological effects. One of the few effects still with me is a hypersensitivity to labels. Labels stop thought, corrall it like rocks in a river. Enough labels-rapids.
When people hear the words autism, they fear the unknown. They seem to always believe that just beyond the curtain lie either stupidity or cruelty. For many, Asperger’s means a spectrum range from Forrest Gump to Adam Lanza (Spits internally) which is a delusional and dangerous ignorance.
My Autism’s specificity, as you can tell by this article’s tone thus far, is more emotional than social. The irony of my autism is that I have a natural skill in the social sciences, and society’s maladaptive behavior wounds me deeply, right in the soul. I feel so deeply that i can grow numb from overstimulation.
Though articulate, I’m addicted to life’s breathtaking, indescribably, ‘Yuugen’ moments. The insight I’ve gained from this worldview often puts me at odds with social norms and behaviors, not because i can’t tell the difference or don’t know any better, which in my youth was so often the case (and on occasion still is), but because I see things from a whole other psychological vantage point. Your light wavelength might be blue; I’m green. Your geography may be mountain; I am valley. Same reality, same phenomena of consciousness within existence, yet vastly different viewpoints.
The diversity and synchronicity of differing vantage points of perception are pivotal to social communication, understanding of existence, and personal wellbeing in ANY civilization, ESPECIALLY a democratic one. All of the sociopolitical ails we see in our nation today have a root in our inability to talk with each other.
Before my protest on November 26th, 2015, where i symbolically crossed a sacrosanct threshold to represent the American People taking back their rightful sovereign authority… I knew human nature. The public would get lost on the messenger, not the message. I would be received as a dissociative nutzo rather than a civilly disobedient citizen. Labels, mate. Labels change the mind’s perception, and devalues all words before they’re even spoken. It makes the labeled one’s points of view illegitimate. They place one in a box, with no way to connect, to anyone who perceives them as beyond the wall of understanding or appreciation. I knew all this going in to my protest, because I knew people’s stigma.
So why did I do it? A whole legion of saints had to exist in my life to show me i was better than who i thought i was. Stigma internalizes. Those angelic folk showed me i was more, and that i was worth fighting for. AND…SO…ARE…YOU.
The common individual is isolated, alone. The universe seems hostile, and God seems distant. Their illusion of selfhood is their torture chamber. Half alive, they press on, fighting as best they can to carry meaning in life and bring it to others. I call the average person a hero in the highest fashion.
Insanity is not a medical term, but a legal one, which exists to stress one’s grounded understanding. In short, the concept of insanity is not rooted in health, but in connection to the here and now, in comprehension of the events around us and of each other. In our cultural and psychological whirlpool that forged the word’s etymology, insanity gauges loneliness. We live in a very insane society.
Skeptical? Good! Continue to think, it’s important! I’ll quote humanistic psychoanalyst Erich Fromm from his 1955 book ‘The Sane Society’ to back me up, “Mental health cannot be defined in terms of the ‘adjustment’ of the individual to his society, but, on the other hand, that it must be defined in terms of the society to the needs of man, of its role in furthering or hindering the development of mental health. Whether or not the individual is healthy, is primarily not an individual matter, but depends on the structure of his society.” (Fromm, Sane Society) According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAOMI), one in five adults experience mental illness in a given year, and one in five youths have experienced a severe mental illness in their lives to that point. Mental Illness has BEEN normal for a long time. Accepting it and overcoming it as a society has not been.
How do I fight Stigma?
I remember we are all equally responsible for un-wellness. The problem is deeply, intimately personal, and yet, no less systemic.
The phenomena of being is microcosmic and macrocosmic, intrinsic and extrinsic, exoteric and esoteric, it is a divine experience which we all must share and process. The one thing transcending the maddening duality is our human connection. If you’re suffering, you’re not alone. If you’re well, spread the wellness and share the load. The world is as bright and as glorious as can be when we live each day together. Spectrum: what a lovely, loaded word!
Joseph Caputo graduated from the University of Bridgeport with two Bachelor’s degrees: one in Criminology and one in Martial Arts Studies. He is an avid reader of East Asian thought and philosophy, poetry, positive psychology, and differing political works. Hailing from Stamford CT, Joe is a volunteer for Curtain Call Inc., the Disabled American Veterans, and the Marine Corps. League, as well as an activist, actor, and writer, mostly known for his screenplays and poetry. His “Autism” has become his sharpest edge in “the knife-fight of living life.” When engaging in the illusion of “free time” he can normally be found learning something new or making the same mistakes.
Joseph can be found on Twitter.