be different

tuesday 8 may 2012

Be Different is the title of John Elder Robison’s latest book. I haven’t read it, though I’ve read his first book (Look Me In the Eye), all of his brother’s (augusten burroughs’) books, and have just finished his mother’s (margaret robison’s) book, The Long Journey Home. I also have a book of her poetry. This family spent a good chunk of time living in western mass, where I live. There’s depression in this family, and anxiety, so I have an interest. There’s Asperger’s in this family too, so I have an interest. And like mother Margaret, I too am an artist and poet, so I have interest.

But I can’t read John Elder’s latest book. It’s the title that’s barring the way. There are indeed Aspies out there whose lives have gone the way John’s has (from what I know of it, which isn’t vast knowledge to be sure). While very young he was lucky enough to know people who knew people in KISS, and so he found a great niche there designing special effects and sound systems. Tinkering with machinery is one of John’s Aspie perseverations (most Aspies have them), and by all reports, he is a whiz at such things. He was able to start his own auto repair business. He is, as far as I know, currently married to his second wife, which means he found at least two women in this world who could love him and make efforts to understand/live with his Aspie differences. For him, and for some other Aspies, being different has paid off.

Then there are the others, and I know full well that I’m not the only one. Those for whom being different has only brought repeated failure, repeated bullying of a dizzying variety of methods, repeated doomed attempts to find a human being who can give love, who will stay, who will learn about the condition. There are Aspie success stories, and there are Aspie non-success stories. In this blog and in my book (www.autisism.wordpress.com), I’m here to write one of the bleak, non-cheerleading stories, hoping that in at least some very limited way, I speak for other Aspies for whom being different has not paid off.

So the title bars the way. I fear a book of excessive optimism, a book of happy phrases telling us how great it is to be autistic, what great things we can do, what great, understanding neurotypicals we can find. My fifty-odd years of living have not borne out all this greatness, and I constantly find other Aspies online whose lives have also not borne this out, this laudable, promise-laden state of being different. For those Aspies (Temple Grandin, Jesse Saperstein, John Michael Carley, and many more) who have been able to find the niches and the people in whose safety they could shine, and do shine, optimism I’m sure makes total sense. But from where I happen to sit at age 50+, and from places where other Aspies of varying ages sit, optimism comes very close to being denial.

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3 Comments

  1. mishibone said,

    May 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    many thanks to the new followers

  2. witchwillow said,

    May 15, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    You make an excellent point–certainly not everyone with autism/Asperger’s has the amazing luck that seems to have followed John Elder Robison for much of his life–I read Look Me in the Eye a few years ago and was struck by the same thing. Certainly I haven’t had that luck (if in fact I have Asperger’s, which I well might), never having found my niche.

  3. mishibone said,

    May 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    danke schoen, willow, for both your like and your comment. and if you read some of the other books by aspies that I’ve read, you’ll see an awful lot of good luck in most of them that many of us aspies don’t get.


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