Monday, June 23, 2014

Measuring Progress

On my most recent post before this I used a picture I took in Utah to illustrate the path when I shared the post on my Facebook author page. As the long weekend at the race track went by I thought about that picture and how fitting it actually is in a metaphor to describe the potential frustration with having Asperger's.

If you've driven in Utah, or any place with mountains in the far distance, it can be highly frustration because the feeling of progress can be, well, lackluster. You drive, you drive, you drive some more, and still those mountains are off on the horizon. The sense of progress can't be felt. You are, actually, making progress but it can be hard to measure. So too can this feeling be felt when having Asperger's.

In my life I've always had goals that were way out in the distance which were so lofty (and I still have goals like this to this day) that realizing whether or not the destination is nearing is hard to judge. What come of this? Anger, frustration, and a sense of hopelessness are some to name just three.

Think of it this way; you're driving, no, let's make it walking down that road in the picture and the only thing you want is to go to that mesa that's far off left hand side of the photo. Along the way you're talking to people and a person you come across shares the same interest you do. You have an amazing conversation that lasts for hours which you haven't had in quite some time but when it is over you look up and that mesa is still so far away you feel like giving up. Instantly at this point you have sort of lost everything you gained from the day's travels and the conversations you've had.

I can't speak for everyone with Asperger's, nor would I want to, but in my life this metaphor has played out more times than I care to think about. We live in a society where everything is, "now, now, now" and "cures" and the like mean that everything becomes better, perfect, and heavenly instantly. This, well, this just isn't the case in life (autism spectrum or not!) and growth is a progress that takes place over time. If a person just looks out to the horizon and sees where they aren't they aren't going to realize the journey that they are on. Can this be hard to grasp? If you're on the spectrum then yes, most certainly it will be because we may have black or white, all or nothing thinking. You either have it or you don't. You're either there, or you are not. With this mindset the progress of growth can be greatly hampered by the frustration of not being at the destination now.

The destination in this metaphor could be anything; it could be a job, friends, to be "normal" or, well, anything. Again, as I've said in many blog posts, when you see what you are not you forget who you are and in this metaphor it would be fitting to say that when you see where you are not you forget where you are and where you are heading. When this happens growth can be lost and a day's proverbial travels will have to be traveled again. There were many times during my depression years after diagnosis that I wanted to not take part in the travel to the destination that was out there, on the horizon, seemingly mocking me with its presence. But somehow, and with the help of those around me, I didn't give up. Was the process, or "The Path" as I called it in a blog last week, difficult? Yes, yes it was. But those around me wouldn't let me give in to that voice of doubt in my head that said, "you're not good enough and you'll never be good enough." Do I still have these thoughts today? Yes, and I think most people do as we strive for growth, strive to be more, to become more, and to fulfill whatever dreams we have. For us on the autism spectrum we can just focus on the negatives of the day and this can washout the growth of the day. This isn't so much a post to say, "stay positive" because that phrase would make me so angry when I was depressed, but rather a post to explain why growth, for us, could take longer and I know with myself, when I did finally make it to that mesa, I arrived without knowing that I actually had made it because growth can be like that and measuring growth isn't the easiest of things to do.

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