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Friday, February 4, 2011

28

Today is a day filled with deep emotions. Today is a day filled with a profound awe. This day, above all others, is a day that I don't fully understand. What is today? Today is my birthday and I am now 28 years old.

I said today is filled with emotions and it is. That hasn't always been the case as when I was a child there was nothing I looked forward to more than my birthday. I won't bore you with the memories I have of birthdays before 2004 as I believe there is a connection between that year and every one since then.

In December 2003 I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and my life slowly started to unravel. I started to question who I was and it seemed all that I wanted to be would never happen. The relationship I had with Emily vanished shortly thereafter and my birthday in 2004 was my first birthday realizing that I was on the autism spectrum. That day was bad enough, but I also ended up in the hospital. I managed to knock myself out by falling off the end of the bowling alley. It was my 21st birthday, but alcohol was not involved. While in the ER, the doctor's stethoscope fell out of his pocket and landed across my eye swelling it shut. It wasn't a good day.

Each year after 2004 my birthday became a more depressing day. With each passing year I didn't see who I was but rather I saw who I was not. It seemed to be that my birthday became the day of all days that I realized I was on the autism spectrum.

I began to see each year as a year wasted. I would ask myself, "Why can't I just go out and be normal? Why can't I go out and not shut down when more than one person is around? Why is today not like it was in the past? Why can't I just be happy?" These questions would just swirl around my mind on my birthday, and in fact the whole month leading up to my birthday. By the time my birthday rolled around I was a sobbing mess of a person just waiting for February 5th to come to give me relief from these crushing thoughts.

As bad as my birthday was I had a hard time putting it into words and I don't think I could put into words why my birthday hurt so badly.

Once again, today is my birthday but as I woke up something was missing that had been there the past seven February 4ths; I was not a sobbing mess. The memories of birthdays of old weren't a crushing weight on my mind and the relationships long gone aren't haunting me to the level that they used to.

Why is today so different? I fully believe the difference is that I know my calling now. I am able to see past the "who I am not" to see "who I am". Even last year I was a mess on my birthday and I gave my first small presentation with TouchPoint. I was just part time at this point of the year last year, and I had just been giving presentations to police officers, but I still was not happy with who I was. Even though I was working on my third book I still was just stating my observations of who I was and while I was somewhat hopeful there was not the sense of happiness I have now.

It had to be the 100 or so presentations I have done and all the readers I have world wide on this blog that helped turn the tide. Even as I started this blog I was not fully content with who I was, but now I feel confident in my shortcomings, and even more confident in my strengths. Year after year I just focused on what wasn't when I didn't realize what was. Spectrum or not, life would be a depressing event if one only focused on the what isn't. I know now it is things we struggle with that make us who we are. For years after my diagnosis I was not happy with who I was. My birthday was the ultimate reminder to me of who I wasn't and I was a mess on those days, but I now see that it was those days, as I reflect now, that challenged me. It has taken a long time, but I am now happy about all the tears I have shed on my birthday because it helped shape who I am now and has let me, perhaps, change the world and allowed people a new understanding of the autism spectrum. For once it is my birthday and I am not seeing the "who I am not" part of my life, instead I am looking at "who I will become".

7 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday! I found out I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when I was 21. Love your blog, I am going to follow it :) Found your blog threw an ad on Facebook.

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  2. Happy birthday! Your blog is incredibly inspiring. I, too found you through an ad on facebook. Keep focusing on all of your positive qualities and the immense amount of potential you have. You are wonderful, don't ever forget it.

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  3. I enjoy your blog Aaron. Mt son, also with aspergers and on the spectrum, is also 28. He has always looked forward to his birthday and I have never thought to wonder what it must be like for him, but he seemed happy. I am glad you have reached this new point in your life, and I wish you a very happy birthday and a year of celebrating yourself and all that you contribute to this world!

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  4. Happy Birthday to who you will become! My son was diagnosed a month ago and he feels the same way. I wish I could get him to understand he is an incredible person. You have a purpose Aaron....maybe just maybe you found it! Happy birthday and here is to many more. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I appreciate you and your honesty! You help me become a better mom!

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  5. Happy Birthday! Not on the spectrum personally but still I recognize what you are writing about. Thank you for sharing your world.

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  6. Happy Birthday Aaron! I'm sad I'm only reading this now, I would've loved saying this on the day itself, but better late than never!
    I always love your blog and point it out to others too.

    Just one thing... I've seen this happening around me with more people. Friends of mine finding out they are on the autism spectrum and suddenly collapsing, saying their life is over and they are disabled and they'll never have any friends again and all that kind of stuff.
    I just can't understand this. You didn't GET on the autism spectrum by hearing you're on it. You've had it all your life. Why would your life suddenly be terrible? It didn't get worse just because you heard you're on the spectrum. You've functioned before that, you'll function after that.
    The reason one asks for a diagnosis, is probably the same reason I asked for it. You can explain yourself better to others and you can get help with the things you struggle with.
    If anything, having heard that you're on the autism spectrum should be a good thing in my opinion! Of course being on the spectrum isn't nice, but don't collapse once you heard you're on it! Once you heard it, you can start working with it! In my opinion, having that knowledge is the day you should be glad. From that day on you finally have more insight in how to better your life for yourself (!).
    So please people, stop seeing a diagnosis as a bad thing, but start seeing it as a good thing. You didn't suddenly GET something bad, you already had it all your life, but you have gotten the opportunity to work with it, or even turn it into your strength!

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  7. I agree Issha; I have come across so many people (parents and those on the spectrum) that have said the same thing in terms of feeling lost and hopeless. Why is this? I am sure it is different for each person, but for me I simply heard what the challenges were and concentrated on that. What was before, in my eyes, was irrelevant. I knew what I was not and that became the only thing that mattered. The strengths of who I was became lost in the yearning to be who I could not be. It took many years to become happy with who I am.

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