This evening the spirit moved me to sit down and blog about what it means to be on the high functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Included in this spirit is Ms. Tangie, the educator at the partial hospitalization program in which I am attending. Ms. Tangie dedicated today to the concept of mindfulness, which in essence, is being aware and conscious of how the world impacts an individual and how an individual impacts the world. One of the subtopics, which is Understanding Nonverbal Cues, I found particularly triggering. Being on the Autism Spectrum means that I struggle mightily with nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication plays a large part in relationships and the daily lives of human beings.
Ms. Tangie challenged me to see this as not so much a hinderance but as a strength. Since nonverbal communication would not nominally be considered my strength, it means that verbal communication has become my show of unequivocal integrity, compassion, and kindness. In this teaching moment, she told me that Autism on the high functioning end is a trait, rather than a disability per se. She simply stated that my disabilities are actually Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. All this time I was really beating up on myself for being defective and unlovable, which as she points out, is simply untrue.
I had some erroneous thinking in that I refused to consider dating somebody on the spectrum because I had some negative preconceptions. Once Ms. Tangie helped me to sufficiently correct the negative thinking, I realized that I have been going about dating all the wrong way. Furthermore, I realize that I have a Twitter follower that is on the spectrum and she is perfect relationship material. Our traits tend to be with sensory processing difficulties, not intelligence, lack of empathy, or compassion. What I learned today is worth more than can really be put into words.
I allow being on the spectrum and having mental illness to define me, and rather than doing so, I am slowly learning to simply “take it with me.” This is simply Ms. Tangie’s way of saying to simply be aware of it, recognize it, and accept it but nothing more than that. Rather than wear my autism traits on my sleeve, I would rather use them as a call to arms for being a kind, compassionate, and caring person; to use the trait to positively effect other people.