Wednesday, May 14, 2014

You Aren't Alone

In speaking at so many schools recently there's a theme I am seeing and is one I had to deal with for many years. After my diagnosis, as I've said many times, I went into the deepest pit of despair and depression possible. As one of the lines in my book states, "I write for the purpose that maybe, just maybe, the world won't hate me as much."

Please, read that quote again. Imagine living in a world where you are the only one who experience the world you do and normal is this far off impossible fantasy that is dreamt of nightly. Imagine being told, "I understand" from people that couldn't possibly understand. Imagine saying that you can't sleep because of a noise outside that is so quiet no one else can hear you and yet you can. Imagine being told making friends is "easy" when, for you, the seemingly simple act of a, "hello" induces a fear one would feel as if they were going head-to-head with a charging bull.

For those with Asperger's they may feel like the way I did in that I believed no one else experienced life the way I did because, when I would describe it to a doctor or the like, there was the usual empty, "I understand." When I'd tell others outside my family there would be times I'd be told to just, "get over it" or that, "it's not that difficult." When told this enough times I eventually believed it and didn't want to tell anyone else because, if it were so easy, it would show how weak I was.

From all this the feeling of isolation grew and grew, and why wouldn't it? To make matters worse I didn't help the situation because my dad tried to get me to read Temple Grandin's book, or material written by Dr. Tony Attwood but my eyes and ears were closed because, after all, I was the only person who thought the thoughts I had and had the issues I had. When one feels as alone and isolated as I did there is minimal room for growth or understanding because the amount of self-hate that is there puts a massive road block in the way.

In all honesty, I didn't really start to know that I wasn't alone until I started presenting. When I started hearing questions from people that were almost identical situations to events I had to deal with I began to learn that my struggles are shared by many. It's amazing what this did to me and how this allowed for much important growth to enter my life.

I wish you could see it, I really do, when at a presentation a person comes up to me afterwards and, in a voice that I would've done back when I thought I was the only one in the world to have this issue, tell me a problem they have with maybe a certain sound, or a social situation. My reaction to these is one that I'm sure the person who is telling me this isn't expecting because I break out in a gigantic grin and say, "oh my goodness, most certainly!" and then proceed to tell a personal story of mine which is comparable to theirs. Perhaps they've been used to hearing, "I understand..." but as I tell my story to them I can see that gleam in their eyes that they are not alone and someone else has gone through what they have.

Besides getting my diagnosis, and discovering a way to write as an outlet, the most important event in my life was that moment that I realized I wasn't alone. I go back to part of my motivation to write, so the world wouldn't hate me as much, because that's the way I thought the world was towards me. I saw the world has having it so good, so perfect, and my difficulties were nothing but a burden on everyone else. When I learned I wasn't alone that thought about the world hating me slowly began to subside and my confidence level began to rise; albeit slowly, but growth is growth and progress is progress no matter what gain it is.

It can be difficult to reach a person to get them to understand that they aren't alone. Back in the days of my deepest sadness I'd protest adamantly if my dad tried to get me to read or watch anything. It took nothing short of a miracle for my dad to get me to go see Temple Grandin present all those years ago when she came to Saint Louis. It was a miracle because I convinced myself it was all a waste of time and no one would say or share my experiences with the world. Now though, I know this to be false, but each time I see that gleam I talked about I get sad because, despite bringing this understanding of not being alone to one person, I think of the next person out there, somewhere, who is where I was; in a world where there is no hope and only a void filled with the understanding that what is now is forever. I've learned there's hope, there's always hope, and it's vitally important for a person to know that they aren't alone in their struggles, fears, and worry. I feel so blessed to be in a position to share this, but at the same time there's so many people that are where I was that my heart breaks. This is what fuels me, plain and simple.


  1. Wow, Aaron! Your words are so heartfelt and display not only your passion to raise awareness but your character so well. Thank you for attempting to break through the barrier so others can, hopefully, follow in your footsteps. I was honored to hear you speak this week for the first time and felt that connection. Your words gave me hope that my family member's concrete can be broken up and that he can begin to truly feel understood also. We are just beginning this journey with apprehension and trepidation, but your life is a light. Thank you.

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  3. Thank you so much for this post Aaron.