At about this time 10 years ago a lot of questions in my life, regarding why I was different, were answered when I got my diagnosis of having Asperger's. While some questions were answered many more were brought up such as, "What does this mean?" and, "What in the world is Asperger's?" It's true! when I got my diagnosis I never once had heard of it and neither do I think my doctor had because his response was, "good luck" which this relegated me to seeking answers on the internet and the answers I found were not good.
As I've written many times the answers I found on the internet painted a picture of a hopeless void in that it said, "people with Asperger's will never have friends, will never have a job, and will never be happy." For me, in that moment, I forgot who I was. It didn't matter who I was as those three points that website stated became my image and that image, in my mind, was unbreakable.
It was a long road to repair the damage that website did in my life, a very long road, but here I am and a lot has changed in 10 years. For one, the overall society awareness of all things autism has increased greatly. Why is this important? For one, had I had some frame of reference about it then maybe I wouldn't have been drawn to the wild of the internet to seek answers. Secondly is acceptance. I've never broken it down as to why the, "no job, friends, or happiness" was so bleak, okay so it is pretty much self-explanatory, but from those three things it can be concluded that a life of solitude is going to happen because intolerance is the norm. That's how I felt, but from acceptance, from having people know the little things about autism, well, then I'm not going to have the level of self-hatred that I had had.
Self-hatred; that was one of the side effects from my diagnosis 10 years ago. From not understanding myself, to others not understanding me, there was little room for anything adjective that partially resembled anything positive. 10 years ago my mind was constantly asking, "Why am I not normal? Why can't I just 'get over it'"? For the most part I had been able to jump any hurdle in my life I had wanted to but now I knew life was all but over.
As I said, it was a long road and 10 years later my thoughts have changed drastically. I no longer yearn for normal as I believe normal is one of two things; it either doesn't exist or if it does, and we find that one normal person out there, congratulations we have found the most boring individual on the face of this Earth. Another thing I no longer do is to tell myself to just, "get over it." Sure, when someone tells me to do something I can't do, or tells me, "it's not that difficult" I will have a reaction, but it's only temporary unlike the drawn out affair that happened on that day of diagnosis.
Most of all I've learned to be me. Early on in my blogging career I had a entry entitled, "defining it" which talked about the fact that my goal isn't to have Asperger's define me but rather for me to define it. From when I wrote that to now that philosophy is even greater. If in life, and this goes for anyone who reads this whether or not you are on the autism spectrum, you let a sentence define you; if you let words someone else says become you, then you will, probably and sadly, become whatever that definition was. Here's the thing; we're all different and my difference just happens to have a name tied to it and while I wouldn't have said this 10 years ago I am now fine with the name, no, not just fine but proud. Had I never got my diagnosis I still would be making the same mistakes as I would not be aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Had I not been diagnosed I probably would have kept the mentality that I was alone and that there was no one else out there that was like me or had the thoughts like I had. Yes, had I never been diagnosed I never would have realized that we are all more than a random line of the internet. If a person allows themself to become a definition then that's what they are, but I believe everyone is more than that. It may have taken a long time, and I endured several years of extreme hardship, but on this anniversary I have never been more proud to say, "I'm Aaron Likens, I have this thing called Asperger's and as ever my goal is to help define it instead of it defining me."