Tag Archives: Aspergers syndrome

Truth Teller

I came out to my friends on FB about my Bipolar Diagnosis, to mixed reviews as you can imagine. (If you want to see the exact post I put on FB you can check out my post called My Secret Kills).

I’m sure my post made people uncomfortable, it caused a stir. I have a large variety of friends on FB, some who know me well and others not as well. My close friends, some who I’ve known over twenty plus years offered kind words, support and prayers for myself and my family.

My more casual friends that I know through sports, or local social events, commented less, because I’m sure they just didn’t know what to think or say. At first it was hard to make peace with the fact that I just pushed a status button and let people see into the depth of my life. I would see them in the grocery store and on the baseball field and almost immediately I would feel embarrassed or awkward and question the sanity of my choice to reveal. And now some time has gone by, and I’ve made peace with it, the fall out being what it is.

I had many private messages from others with mental health diagnoses, some I knew of and some I did not, because they were quietly suffering as well. Others told me they thought I was brave and that they were proud to be my friend.

A few people out right laughed and mocked my post, of course not to my face but behind my back. I’m even ok with that, because it reveals to me where they’re at in their lives. Some people are not ok with truth, and they hide away from it because honesty can be painful at times, it can make you see things about yourself that aren’t pleasant and need some work. I’m ok with them not wanting to live honestly, but I want no part of it, I’ve worked too hard to deal with reality to live anywhere but.

In all this, I remember why I chose to come out. I was hoping to bring awareness to mental illness, I wanted people to see a face with it, to make it real, to make people realize they know someone who suffers from mental illness. That it just doesn’t look a certain way, this illness can take on anyone, at any economic level, any social status, or religion, any intellectual level, either sex, any race, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

I wanted to create a place where people could be real, and not have to hide behind the illusion of some perfect life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see pictures of my friends and their families, I’m ok with others success and joy, but it also cuts away at my heart when I’m struggling and it appears that other’s lives flow so smoothly. I just wanted a balance, I want to know my friends in truth, their joy and pain.

Being a truth teller has opened a door with my children. My 12 year old has now heard open discussions about Bipolar Disorder and he has seen his mother struggle but also strive to get well. He has a better understanding of real life, and the real work it involves. Though to him it isn’t a total surprise because we’ve always been open about his Asperger’s syndrome and so he knows there is no shame in honesty, in learning about and accepting one’s self. And I’m glad for him, and pray that I’ve saved him some time in embracing himself and his God given strengths and weaknesses.

My friendships feel more authentic now, I feel more authentic now. I don’t have the emotional energy to pretend to be someone I’m not, and I don’t care to. I’m starting to feel ok in my own skin, and I’m ok embracing others that are hurting, struggling with illness, with life. I’m not uncomfortable when people confide in me about their personal life. I don’t feel a need to fix them, or their situation, I just try to sit with them and listen and be present. Isn’t that what most people want in a friend anyway? It’s what I want.

I talk to my real friends, about our real lives and it’s freeing, to not be alone, to know that we all struggle on different levels with different things. I feel like struggling with mental illness has almost given me a window into others souls, not in any spiritual or magical sense, just that I can look at others and sometimes see pain in them despite the smile they put on their face to make others comfortable. It’s a hard earned gift, as is empathy, but it’s real, its truth. These days I almost prefer the honesty of AA to church, because nobody hides behind their sin, their struggle, it’s open and real.

I love truth now, I love the grace that goes with it, and freedom that it allows. I love the real acceptance it can provide for myself and others. My real friends and I accept, truth and grace. I hope that you can find this in your life and embrace it as I have.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

When I was 9 years old my Mom bought me a cross stitch sampler, which read, “Bloom where you are planted.” It hung over my bed for years in a little gold etched frame. And now at 41, I finally understand its meaning.

When I was young and things were not going my way, I would change my setting. This faulty theory of mind, encapsulated my twenties.

In my twenties I rented over twenty-five different places, sometimes I had a roommate, sometimes I lived alone. I rented apartments, rooms in homes, and even a trailer once. That’s approximately two moves a year for ten years, but some years were more sporadic than others. Some of these moves consisted of large black trash bags thrown into the back of my little Toyota hatchback.

My little red Toyota Tercel took me and my belongings up and down the coast of California, searching for what I couldn’t find internally. At this time most of my friends were working towards their futures; attending college, getting married, starting a family, growing professionally, but I was still running.

I attended five different community colleges in five different cities. And for all this effort I have about 45 units to my name and a trail of “W’s” when I made the effort to drop, and “F’s” when I didn’t.

My work record was slightly better, some jobs I stayed at for years, but some I dropped so quickly I didn’t even have enough courtesy to let them know, I was a no show. A disappearing act when there was too much pressure because I had convinced myself that it was this job, this school, this relationship, it was never me.

I’ve carried the lie. I liked the idea of new beginnings, a new apartment, new school, and new job, all new with possibility. The problem of course being the one constant, me. Me, not wanting to deal with the increasing responsibilities I committed to, me not wanting to deal with me. Wanting to think that in a different setting there wouldn’t be such struggles, and sometimes this is true …. But they are just replaced with new struggles.

So often when I am unhappy with my setting, with my circumstances … it is really me I’m unhappy with. It’s me that’s struggling internally and after all of these years I have to admit it to myself.

This is true of everything in life. Every relationship, job, school setting, living situation. None of it is easy, none of it is perfect and if I want it to work, I have to invest in it, I have to invest in myself, despite the heartache and challenges that come with it.

Being married and having children forced me to stop this unhealthy pattern of fleeing. I’ve had to learn to be still, to not run. I’d like to say it was an easy transition, but it wasn’t it. It was painful as hell and down-right ugly at times. I spent some of these years drinking to escape mentally what I couldn’t physically. I needed time away from the overwhelming feelings of it all being too much and not feeling like I was enough.

I’ve done some growing up, some investing in myself, through therapy, through medication, through learning new strategies, through failure, through Christ’s grace. I know now, If I want anything meaningful, purposeful with depth in my life, I have to stay and fight and give it my best effort, even when I want to flee, even when I want to start over.

It means looking at myself and being honest with my own brokenness and being willing to work on it in small chunks, it means having the courage to change, and to apologize when need be. It means spending less time avoiding and more time mentally present in my own life, in present day life and not the mirage of some other location, some other person, some other time, etc.

It means doing the best I can in the present. With the husband I have, the children God has given me, in the home I currently live, in the church I attend filled with other sinners like myself. It means facing Asperger’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, AA, and other labels and challenges that I’ve been presented with. It means not acting on my feelings but instead admitting they exist. It means trying my best to love what I’ve been given. Embracing what’s mine and drawing close to imperfection.

I’ve taken the old stitchery and its gold frame out of a box in the back of my closet and hung it in my daughter’s room. I’m praying that it doesn’t take her forty years to understand its meaning. I’m praying that her seeing her mother stay and struggle will give her the courage to face life and all of its uncertainties and to not run but to stay firm and planted in what’s beautifully and innately her own.

Perceving Ourselves & Others

Perception defined

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

Having suffered from mental illness since adolescence I question my perception often, both my self-perception and my ability to perceive others. It’s an all-out fight to be comfortable within my own mind. And as my beautiful son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, navigates the world of adolescence I see some of this struggle within him.

I know my self-perception is based on where I’m at in my Bipolar mind. If I’m in my hypomania mind, I think I’m attractive, a diva in-her-own-right. I completely forget that I have National Geographic breasts, Lane Bryant jeans, a husband and enough baggage to keep the Brady Bunch at bay. I make eye contact, I smile, laugh, flirt. I’m a temporary unstoppable extrovert.

And then there’s the self-perception of the cursed, depressive mind that makes me see myself as the last hominid to walk the earth. I dodge mirrors and grocery store aisles, I just want to hide out in my home and not be seen.

The truth being, I’m sure something in between those two vastly different self-perceptions. Sadly though, these perceptions totally influence the way I carry myself from day to day and interact with others, my longings, goals, and motivations.  At times they can be bold lies that hold me back from success and personal happiness.

Here’s how the processing goes in my mind. What did she mean by her words? Why did she say that? Why did she act like that? And then I switch to questioning myself …. Was my response appropriate? Did I over react? Did I not understand correctly? To have to play these reruns over and over in my mind can be a taxing process.

This perception struggle has caused me to draw near to some when I shouldn’t have and push others away when I didn’t need to. I’m overly sensitive and perhaps a little paranoid at times. I take things personal, I act defensively, I internalize things I shouldn’t, and then I have to justify my irrational behavior.

My flawed perceptions have caused me to question the actions of people who genuinely love me. To give unsolicited advice, though well -meaning not at all desired. I’ve complicated business transactions and lost friendships and made a complete ass of myself publicly because of them. It’s downright embarrassing at times. It can leave me feeling like an outsider in the world and in my own mind.

I confess this not to self-indulge or have a pity party, but because I believe that even if we can’t change our brain chemistry we can teach ourselves to be better perceivers of others and ourselves. I’ve had to work on improving in this area for my own well-being and so I can help teach my Aspie son.

Some things that have helped me improve in this area;

  • I try to give myself time, and not be rushed into making a snap judgment. I ask more questions, and jump to less conclusions. I try to listen more and talk less. Sometimes this makes me look like a dumb ass, but I don’t care, I would rather allow myself the time to come to a conclusion that I’m comfortable with than have to apologize later.
  • I choose my friends more carefully. I take more time to get to know people and put less of myself out there right away. I’m a little more cautious especially when making friends with women, their behavior and words are much more difficult to interpret and easier to misinterpret and they’re pack animals. Men are a little easier to interpret, and if you misinterpret their words or actions they’re more forth coming with it, which I appreciate. At least, this has been my experience.
  • I get a trusted outsider’s view. I’m fortunate enough to have a devoted husband and best friend who let me process with them. I’m able to get second or third opinion’s on conversations or events when I’m just not sure if I got it right. I’m not suggesting all processing should be external or involve others, but at times and in important situations it can be helpful.
  • I read a lot. In the area of perception, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz has been extremely helpful to me. I don’t agree with all of his philosophies but was able to see myself in a lot of his self-limiting beliefs and thus make mental changes in my thinking.
  • Lastly, and the hardest for me. I try to take myself less seriously. I try to laugh at my mistakes more and sometimes share them others. I’m hoping in doing this that I will have more joy in my life and that my children will learn to navigate perception, humility and develop a sense of humor.

 Happy Perceiving my Friends