by j-a

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October 2005



life goes on

gray area

If I am not for myself, who shall be for me?
If I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?
Aboth 1:14, saying of Hillel
There is a way that I experience my house in dreams that is exactly the way it actually is, and yet my perception of it is different. When I awaken from one of these dreams, I sometimes sit up, turn on the light, and try to perceive the bedroom the way I did in the dream; and for a short while, I can. But the perception fades with the dream consciousness as I more fully awaken. I can, when I think back on it, catch short glimpses of this perception; but I cannot make them persist. It's useless to try to describe the difference because in fact there is none. The dream perception and the "real" one are exactly the same from a descriptive point of view. Everything is in exactly the same place; only the "color" or "tone" (for lack of better words) are changed. There is something magical about this altered perception. It's almost like being out alone in the woods at night; it's not the same woods as it is in the day, and yet in fact it is and it even looks the same, except that a lot of it cannot be seen. But here the comparison becomes a metaphor rather than a literal transposition of place: literal perception (sensation?) in a darkened woods is changed, whereas perception within my house is different but unchanged. (Words fail to capture the experience.)

I'm asleep in bed. I awaken (within the dream) and get up. [The altered perception described above predominates the "consciousness" within the dream.] As I leave the room, I look back to see an abnormally little girl, who is my own self [I understand within the dream], lying cuddled against the wall beside the bed as if she were a small puppy. I understand that I am to leave that aspect of myself there in the bedroom while I go out into the house. The upper area of the split-level is exactly the same as my house, but when I go down into the living room, it becomes my mother's old house. It's summer and the front door is open. I lie down on the couch, which is where it was when we first moved in, against the outside wall, as opposed to where it ended up only a few years later and remained for the rest of the years the family, and then my mother alone, lived there. Since it is against the outside wall, it feels kind of safe to lie down on the couch and fall asleep with the door open, the wall acting like a barrier between myself and the world outside the open door, although I can feel the "atmosphere" of the night as if it's a continuation of my consciousness as it spreads across the room and out the door into the dark neighborhood. Asleep on the couch, I talk to a part of myself as if it is another person, as if I dream without images. I'm in a sense instructing this person/myself as to how to go about doing some ephemeral (non-)activity. I awaken (within the dream) an hour and a quarter later [when I actually awaken, for "real," it is an hour and a quarter after I fell asleep], when it feel like it is even deeper into the night [it is], and I continue to instruct "myself." The scene morphs (perhaps as if I float out the front door and up the road and across the woods; but there is no symbolism for this and I only recognize the possibility in retrospect) to an area up off to the side of Poketa Road near Lloyd Alcorn's house. I tell my other self that it should be quiet and remain unseen. It wants to know why. I tell it that Lloyd is heading toward the top of Bolte Drive to check e-mail on a computer and he should not become aware that we are monitoring what he is doing. This, in fact, is what I was instructing my other self to do when I was in the living room--how to check e-mail by examining each piece for subtle cues (clues?) without disturbing it so that no one comes to understand what we (I) are (am) up to; but I was not aware of this (non-)activity within the dream, but only saw it after I awoke, as if my dream, an activity of the unconscious mind, had a subconscious of its own. It seems obvious to me now that the dream "instruction" has to do with how I "relate" to people, not socially, but extraordinarily--as if via some kind of "psychic" contact. The difficulty I have with understanding the method or "mechanism" that I'm teaching (myself) in the dream reflects my complete cluelessness in waking life as to how the psychic (not as in psychology, but as in psi) realm, if it even exists, works. I want to know it (everything) scientifically (which, of course, is inconceivable, since the whole point of that kind of psychic experience is non-scientific--or is it?) I hypothesize that the driving force, if not the actual fact of psychic experience itself, is intuition. And intuition is a brain function, a means whereby we can "jump" to conclusions, some of which may be valid and some of which may not, but merely possibilities that turn out not to be consistent with the facts, though we can't know that at the time when we intuit. It's a big gray area of my psyche/knowledge; yet I experience what I think are the results of it all the time. The smallest part of my intuitions, the ones that I verify as fact, suggest that I am not one person, but many, each of which has access to me primarily through my dreams, but also occasionally via certain waking extraordinary experiences. This makes no (scientific) sense, but I'm certain that it's true. But how? Inquiring minds want to know.

dysfunctional familiarity

A New Multiple Personality Mess

Credit reporting agencies make mistakes, and that could mean there's more than one of you out there. It's time to set your records straight.
In my case, there are quite a few of me out there. I intentionally lie as much as I can on forms I fill out on the internet (and elsewhere). I figure that the less people know about my true nature/identity, the better. Besides, it appeals to my basic schizoid essence. I sometimes experience insights into my behavior, that I am never the same consistent person, that I waver, not only in my motivation to get things done, to accomplish projects and goals, as an aspect both of the amount of sleep I'm able to get and the psychic state I find myself in, but also in the way I (want to) relate to people and events, when sometimes I am this person, sometimes that one, even going so far as to see and feel myself consciously identifying with someone I know or know of, as if I am more that other person than myself, whoever that is.

I believe that I am not so different from most people in this regard, but I don't think most people realize this about themselves, that they are not so much people with differing moods as they actually different people with separate sets of personality traits, sets adopted from others via hero-worship, identification, introjection, etc. Most people, myself included, allow the transition between these personalities to flow into one another so that for the most part they do not consciously recognize the discrepancies. [When they become rigidly fixed, split personality occurs.] I may be overly generalizing here, because I'm sure they are lots of people out there who are so stable as to present always a consistent set of traits to both others and themselves. But I can't ever remember having met any of these people, perhaps because I see more easily into their conflicted psyches than even they themselves do, or perhaps because I too easily project my own conflicted self onto them; or both.

That's all a round about way of explaining how I awaken one day in early fall to the realization that, this day, I am someone else. But I don't know who I am, this time. Someone I have not been before, I suspect. Usually, I recognize a familiar affect or other aspect of my wavering psyche and so can semi-consciously classify who I am and how I am supposed to act. But not this day. I feel a bit disoriented, and I resent all of the tasks that yesterday's person left me to accomplish. I want my own damn goals and sensibility. I don't want to be saddled with a vast collection of uncompleted tasks.

But this is nothing new. This happens frequently, but usually I don't attend to it and go about my days a bit disoriented, scattered, unproductive, and obtusely preoccupied, begrudging perhaps the list I have no intention of completing, though I pretend to myself that I do by creating a schedule I will not keep. But this day, for some reason, I've focused on the change of personality, and it's disturbing me. I begin to doubt what I'm doing with my life. This is nothing new either; but I resent the person who left me with this heritage. I mean, is this any way to live, even if it is someone else's life? I feel inklings of the fear that I may end up without any means of support, survival even, and I begin to recognize an older self from many months ago with his silly paranoia and, paradoxically, I feel more at ease. Familiarity can be cozy, even if it is dysfunctional.

conspiracy

And, speaking of dysfunction, George Bush sure is exhibiting some recently, isn't he? Bush, defending his choice of Harriet Miers for Supreme Court nominee, says that she will have the same beliefs twenty years from now as she has today. He may be right, but I can't keep myself from feeling that she will do a turn-around after she's confirmed and sitting on the bench making decisions. I can just imagine her brain running wild with all of the things she had to do throughout her life as a sycophant, all of the ass-kissing she had to tolerate in order to succeed. Look out Georgie. Loyalty can be paper-thin sometimes. On the other hand, she is a hard-core right-wing zealot. But, then again, she's also a woman. Or is she? [later edit: Well, it didn't take long for the Right Wing to put an end to that potential fiasco, did it? Don't be straying too far toward the center now, Georgie boy. The Nazis don't like it.]

Some commentators, even Jon Steward among them, criticize those who compare Bush to Hitler and the neo-cons to Nazis, claiming that the comparison is hyperbole. I disagree. I think it is quite apt and realistic. Hitler and his henchmen were not the crazy sociopaths that simpleton historians try to portray them as. [Cf., Bruno Ganz' portrayal of Hitler in Downfall] They were not monsters from the depths of hell. They were intelligent and dangerous people who were at the same time very human. They were manipulators and elitists who orchestrated events for the purpose of grabbing up and maintaining power in order to further their political and social agendas. This is the Bush regime all over again--a cabal that abandons democracy in favor of oligarchy, that doesn't care who it steps on in its march for power, that has not a care for innocent human life, that uses the army (which it increasingly populates with poor and marginal citizens as it lowers its standards to keep enlistments up) as cannon-fodder. It's true that Bush hasn't murdered six million Jews; but he's killed enough Arabs to start him down the mass murderer path. Hitler didn't think that he was or did evil; neither does Bush. The Third Reich defined itself as the superior race of people; this is exactly what Bush's "Skull and Bones," Freemasonry, etc. is all about. Bush is Hitler all over again, and the only reason he has not yet gotten as far as Hitler did is that he exists, not within a political vacuum as Hitler did, but within a society that still has a semblance of a democratic structure--which he struggles against, defiling its principles in his attempt to substitute the ubiquitous power of a politico-military machine for the elected representative government of the people. Every move he makes toward extending the use of the military into civilian affairs is evidence of this scheme: martial law in New Orleans, suggestions that the military be allowed to handle civilian crowd control, concentration camp construction, etc. It's only a matter of time before America wakes up one morning and finds itself under the control of its military with neo-con politicians in absolute power--unless it wakes up sooner to the danger it now faces and takes steps to reverse the country's direction.

Bush says, early in the month, that, if necessary, we can mobilize the army to quarantine segments of the country to prevent the spread of the bird flu. It's the same strategy he proposed the previous week re natural disasters. This guy doesn't miss a beat when it comes to using the military to control the populace. But the real problem is that all the media is doing is debating whether or not troops should be used; no one is talking about how democracy would be subverted and the rights of citizens violated. The citizenry is becoming immune to suggestions of suspensions of civil rights, and the mainstream media is leading the way. It's a marked conspiracy against democracy. Oh, yeah. I know, I know. You know, the problem with a conspiracy theory is that you never know when it's true. The few friends I try to share this stuff with think I'm crazy. Or else, if they believe me, they think it's not worth losing any sleep over.

no-win situation

I don't suffer from insomnia. I enjoy every minute of it. But then I don't have to get up and go to work every single day. When I used to do that, insomnia endangered my health. But over the years I've learned how to protect myself:

When I'm in internal mode, any externally oriented behavior is a drag, a "duty," at best. I just don't want to do it, and the more I feel like I have to, the worse I feel about it. Never mind the fact that, if I should happen to act, especially successfully, on a required task, I feel better (temporarily) from the short burst of increased self-worth/esteem it affords me. The mode is seldom broken by successful productive behavior; and continued successful behavior only increases my stress levels by encouraging me to push too far beyond my physical limits and sinking me further into the syndrome. On the other hand, when I don't act to relieve the burden of "must-dos" in my life, they dwell on me in the opposite way that over-activity does, so that it's almost a no-win situation. Balance, both behavioral and physiological, is probably the answer here; but it takes a lot of work to establish it. It's far easier just to leave everything alone and recognize that, in order to take proper care of myself, sometimes it's necessary to avoid ordinary life altogether and hide out until the affect-laden present that lurks "out there" beyond the confines of my skin (displacement) passes on by like the threatening storm that it is. I take care of myself by knowing when to avoid overt activity, by hunkering down, getting as much sleep as I can (which means, primarily, taking afternoon naps), and writing a lot--which is a means of avoidance I have cultivated into a form of art.

The DWAFP is a progression of increasing levels of awareness into the reality beneath the illusion of phenomena. Depression occurs when the sense of reality becomes sustained and profound and the true purposelessness and hopelessness of life becomes obvious and its awareness irreversible. Depression is not a forgone conclusion in this case; but it's a difficult affect to avoid. You have to adopt a detached and philosophical state of mind while, at the same time, treasuring your personal existence apart from the illusion. And if your depression happens to be (also) physiologically based, then your therapy is twice as difficult (yet, at least re the physical part, susceptible to drug, substance, and/or light therapy, which will not touch the philosophical/existential depression, except in the most superficial and short-term way.) It's another one of those no-win situations, which is entirely appropriate, because that's what life is all about: no one wins, ever, in the end. [And, shut up, all you Jesus and heaven freaks. I'm tried of hearing about the afterlife superstitions. (Sorry. I'm running low on caffeine-generated tolerance.)]

the good old days

I've learned from experience that, if I want to have any semblance of a productive life, I have to take advantage of the peaks and troughs of my biorhythms; and, since I must keep my caffeine intake to a minimum, I must coordinate my coffee-drinking schedule with my biorhythm peaks in order to prevent the caffeine from making me feel energetic and optimistic during troughs when I'm not going to get anything substantial done anyway, and I must keep any lack of caffeine from conflicting with potentially productive periods--because in recent years I have not been all that productive even during these short daily "up" periods and need all the help I can get to push me along.

It does me no good at all to try to get a few more hours sleep when I awaken at five a.m. after only four hours of sleep and find myself on the upswing of a peak. If I happen to manage to fall back into sleep, as likely as not it will be fitful and less than satisfactory and, when I finally do fully awaken, my biorhythm peak will have passed, because that's what awoke me in the first place. (I am too sated, sleep-wise, and respond readily to the peaks and valleys. When I used to be sleep deprived, I could sleep for eight hours at a time; but then I was never at my best because chronic stress had been taking its toll, for years.) It's better to get up, have a cup of coffee, and put in a few hours of work before my body tells me that it's time to sleep again.

And trying to work when I'm tired is out of the question. I'm talking about mental work here. I can do physical work at any time; but if I force myself to do it when I'm tired, especially if I use coffee to keep myself going, I push my physical and/or physiological limits and run the risk of upsetting my heart rhythms. (It's all about the rhythms, isn't it?) And lack of sleep affects my interpretations of perceptions and even the perceptions themselves [Is there really any difference?], which increase as sleep deprivation increases and lead eventually to altered states of consciousness and a reduction in core sanity (which used to be a welcome side-effect--sometimes, when they didn't involve extreme paranoia--and they still might be, except that I no longer am able to physiologically withstand the ordeal). So, it's better to sleep when I can (it's hard enough to get enough hours anyway; no sense in cutting it even shorter by working when I'm tired) and work when I'm sharpest. And as for getting things done that just have to be done, well, that's been the bane of my existence for as long as I can remember, even when I used to be able to get ten hours of non-stop sleep a night. Ah, the good old days. Sleep never used to be something I ever had to even think about, let alone plan.

interpretation

Why I Am Opposed to Antidepressants

Because I think depression has something to tell me.
Because often depression is an appropriate reaction.
Because I am terrified of changing the functioning of my brain in any way.
Because I believe that depression is "me," and that without it I would not be "me."
Because I can't imagine my life without the time off I get from periodic depression.
These are the typical idiotic reasons people give for not wanting to feel better. So in this respect, I am quite normal.

***

See, this is what I hate about Prozac, I said. My life is terrible, so I should take Prozac and feel better about it even though it's still terrible?
Susanna Kaysen,
The Camera My Mother Gave Me
I get these little mental hints that suggest a bright period of time out ahead, as if I'm driving down a long, straight stretch of highway on a mostly cloudy day and see a break in the clouds far ahead that projects a sunny spot onto the landscape. But most often the clouds close up before I get there. Like tv meteorologists, they're not accurate predictors of the approaching weather; but they keep me hopeful and future oriented.

This is the key to life: no matter how bad you think your life is (I don't think that my life is bad at all; in fact, like Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson, I treasure my misery, so much so that I don't think of even the pain and sorrow as misery at all, but rather an intelligent adaptation to an insane world in which most people are quite fucked-up), if you have the slightest glimmer of hope that things will improve, it's okay.

Otherwise, I repeat myself, in writing (i.e., mentally) and in the details of my physical existence, over and over, year after year, because that's the way I learn; eventually, the lessons take hold. My art is therapy (I've written of this many times before), catharsis as much as it is mimesis, insightful as much as it is spiteful (re George Bush, for example; I can't get over his apocalyptic agenda).

Bush has become for me a symbol for the depression of the end-of-days tribulation: it may not be his fault that the world is in the state it is today, but he plays right into that scenario, sometimes, I think, intentionally. But maybe not. Maybe he's just blindly playing out his end-times hand and hoping for the best via his "Christian" scripts" and "values." (But every time I postulate that, I want to think the opposite.)

The whole matter, depression and George Bush (with everything else thrown in), is a battle between positive and negative thinking. The Bush administration spins the Iraq War (and every other issue) in a positive direction, and I do the same with my depression (if that's what it is). [See?] All despite the facts, which tell the true story, if it can ever be correctly interpreted, which maybe it can't. Maybe it's all interpretation, and nothing more.

It makes me dizzy sometimes, the spin. I engage in frequent fantasy, to escape it, and to gain perspective, by transposing modern sensibility (that may be exactly the wrong word, but whatever) onto previous times. My favorite fantasy time over the past few years has been around the beginning of the last century.

helpless people

Old photos of the city, circa 1900, indicate that life, though not so affluent, nor clean, was pretty much the same as it is today. (You tend not to see computer evidence in current photos of outdoor city scenes, so there is no evidence for comparison on that advanced technological level.) People back then, despite their proletariat appearance (which we disguise quite well today via our more "sophisticated" clothing), look the same as people of today. Electric wires, which are far more obvious (a lot of the wiring is underground today), impart a kind of crude modernity to the old city streets. Our semi-conscious sensibilities attribute most of the ambiance of today's scenes to the difference between sharp color processing and fuzzy black and white. We are the same as we have always been, only cleaner (many of us), more colorful, and more sharply focused.

We common Americans think very well of ourselves, don't we? We dress well, most of us, despite our social status. We act as if we are equal to the power and money elite. And we hold ourselves up far above the rest of the world. No wonder much of the world hates us. Far less than a thousand people die as the result of a hurricane, and we think it's a catastrophe and wonder how such a thing could happen in this country, where we are so civilized and sophisticated. And then, a month later, 3,000 die in mudslides in Guatemala and over 20,000 die in an earthquake in Kashmir, and our attitude is, "Oh, well, these things happen." Bush and Blair promise to send a few helicopters and $100,000 each and the criticisms immediately begin. Why so little? The BBC broadcasts interviews from among the rubble. People wail and moan--understandably; but they complain that their government isn't doing anything for them and one guy, upset that no help has yet arrived, says that if government help arrives this late, he'll shoot at their trucks.

And it's only the beginning of day two. All of the roadway access to the region is closed off, buried with the houses in the rubble. The only way in is via helicopter and the government has too few of those. So, as it turns out (and who didn't already know this), people are the same all over the world (and hatred of Americans is projection): a natural catastrophe occurs and helpless people look to their governments to bail them out: "Give me food and shelter," "Give me money," "I want reparations," "All of this is all your fault." A hundred years ago, people in such a disaster, even in America, wouldn't even think to look to the government for help. They'd look to God, asking It why It did this terrible thing. Actually, I guess it's somewhat of an improvement that most people have substituted the government, a real, if bourgeois, entity, for a pie-in-the-sky, fictive God that can't do anything at all, but that's another matter altogether.

People, helpless people, want to be led. They want to be told what to do. They want to remain the sheep they've always been. They want to be appeased by meager government handouts that can only be inadequate at best. When you're in trouble, if you can't solve it via your own local resources and wherewithal, then bend over and kiss... But, never mind. It's not worth saying, is it? It's not worth getting worked up over. Just give us the pittance and go away and leave us to our misery. It must grate on Georgie terribly to be compelled by the public outcry of his "constituency" (they're not really his constituency; his are quite capable of taking of themselves through any catastrophe) to redirect the valuable resources that he has reserved in his mind for his elitist friends to the helpless proletariat who are foundering in despair.

In any case, it grates on me too. (I'm probably just projecting.) I don't want the elitists, the sharks at the top of the food chain, to get the morsels that rise up through the waters of the government bureaucracy; and I don't want the mindless masses to get them either, although better the latter than the former. Unless it's I who am getting large chunks of it, I don't want anybody to get anything at all. When did we decide that it's okay for our "democratic" government to give out all this money? Fuck welfare, including the corporate kind. Fuck foreign aid. Fuck FEMA. Cut all taxes drastically, allow a surplus to build in the government troughs, and when it reaches a certain level where we can be assured that we're covered for several years to come, return the money to the people according to the rates that they paid it in at. This is my solution to all social problems: cut, cut, cut. But...retain government surveillance of business practices, or else they'll screw us all. I guess this makes me a left libertarian or something. God helps those who help themselves, so let's keep a close eye on that governmental god who keeps an eye on us. But, then, I guess I'm as prejudiced in my beliefs as the traditionalists who want to be totally free of governmental intervention, so that they can, I suppose, rely on human nature to maintain the balance and keep us all in our rightful places. It's basic human nature, prejudice. Why do we strive so hard in vain to be without it? For example:

prejudice

Blacks who accuse whites of being prejudiced against them are projecting their own prejudices onto whites. It's not that I think whites are not prejudiced toward blacks; a lot of them certainly are. And, in any case, a hook is essential for a projection to hang on. And it's not that I don't understand why blacks are prejudiced. I do. I'd be prejudiced too if I were black. Shit. I'd be a goddam gun-totin' revolutionary. I'm just pointing out that blacks are just as racist as whites are. [Those people who maintain that blacks can't be racists against whites, because racism is a power trip and the whites hold all the power, don't know a thing about the science of psychology and are simply talking out their asses. (Yeah, that includes you, Cornel West; and you should know better, brother.) Prejudice is a universal phenomenon that doesn't respect race, class, creed, power, or even species; and there are always opportunities for even the least powerful person to grab a little bit of power now and again. Everyone and everything is prejudiced, in one way or another; and anyone who persists can find the power to transform prejudice into racism.] And, hey! I know you're getting riled up now, some of you, reading these ideas. But don't blame me because I happen to be the one delivering the truth. I'm just the messenger. Go kill someone else. Or better yet, open your goddam eyes and minds and study a little bit instead of simply accepting the prejudices you automatically assume are the gospel. And take your pc behavior, if that's what's motivating your prejudices, and shove it in your own back yard. (I have a strong prejudice against ignorant people. And the most potent prejudice (ignorance) of all seems to me to be elitist attitudes.)

I can accept the principle that there is a fundamental difference between the the "upper" class and the masses re survival of the fittest. What I can't accept is that often members of the upper class don't attain their positions by rising up through the masses (survival of the fittest), but via the privilege of inheritance. (Although people who inherit great wealth do have to learn how to hang onto the money, or else they become the nouveau poor.) There is often little difference except privilege between many members of the upper class and some members of the masses. A lot of the time, intelligent, able people are prevented from rising up in society by the policies that the landed gentry convince the bureaucrats to establish. This is George Bush's role in our society: to enable the rich to maintain their stranglehold on the policies that keep people in their places. And for that they pay him well. You didn't really think he earned his position in society by working for it, did you? I mean, until he latched onto his current game plan, he was a total failure, at business and at life. The only thing he had going for him then was his father's money and influence. Now, he has the Fundamentalist agenda of the Right Wing; but this support is fading fast and he's in danger of losing control again. He better start thinking again about making his rounds of southern churches to shore up his support.

the myths of the ages

Many churches' basic message is: "Don't worry about anything. Don't even worry about dying. Just do what we say and everything will be all right and we'll continue to take care of you--and even after you're dead, you'll still be around and safe in the church. Never mind that religions' rationale is all based on myth and superstition. Forget about what science and cold, hard logic tells you," the churches say. "We've developed our own rationale over the ages, based upon the dreams and visions of wise men and prophets who, inspired by God, have written out the truth, God's word, so that you will know. Never mind that the prophets were really just crazy men who lived in the desert and suffered from various degrees of heatstroke, malnutrition, and disturbed body chemistry that convinced them to base their prophecies on the misinterpretation of their intuitive mystical visions. [Intuitions, which is fundamentally what all psi phenomena boil down to, are possibilities, conclusions jumped to alogically that can be either right or wrong, mostly through accidence or coincidence. Religious belief has evolved from the animism of our ancient ancestors who projected their unconscious psychic contents onto their environments and thus developed beliefs that there were things 'out there' bumping in the night, which later became 'up there' in the heavens--originally a word that meant, merely, skies. Superstitious blood sacrifices to 'insure' that bountiful animal harvests would continue became translated into human sacrifices and finally the Lamb of God. When we participate in the sharing of the flesh of the lamb, our communion, we are assured that our community will take care of us from cradle to grave and beyond, no matter what.] Never mind that it is all based on the misinterpretations of myth and superstition. All you have to do is believe that your "spirituality" (your mentality, your psychology, the one your parents or guardians convinced you to project away when you were a child, because that is what they did when they were children, all the way back to the time when our ancestors projected it on to their environment and animated it) will survive you. Have faith that what we have told you for millennia is true. Never mind that we made it all up out of our ignorance of the long and fearful nights. [People have to believe that their ideas or those of their ancestors are inspired by God because they fear themselves, that they might step over the line, if they say too much in their own names. But, if God says it, well, it must be true.] If you have faith in what we say, you will believe and develop the confidence that you need in order to keep your horrible internal fears at bay until the day you die, when then you will never know that it's all a big, orchestrated lie because you'll be past the point of the awareness that you are no longer alive and sensate. And, in one final burst of misperceived illusion, in case you might doubt it up until then, at your death, you'll see the light and believe that it is the great afterlife you've been waiting for, because that is what people see when they die, or when they are deprived of oxygen for extended periods of time [ask the astronauts who have blacked out in their centrifuges; they know], which is what death does to you because you can no longer breathe; and it is how we came to 'understand' that there is this great afterlife in the first place, because a few of us 'died' over the ages, experienced an 'eternity' of apparently non-flesh-bound being and then returned to tell about it. Never mind that the very real experience of eternity lasts only a few moments as we die. Eternity is eternity, no matter how we experience it. If we experience it, that is enough. If we experience it, that's the whole point, isn't it? The fact that, in terms of our earth-bound lives, it lasts only long enough for our last few remaining brain cells to die off is irrelevant. Once in the eternal moment... And then, when they finally do die off, you'll never know, that it's all been one big system to control you, so that you don't go off thinking for yourselves and discovering the one Big Truth we want to keep from you, and from ourselves even: when you die, you're dead, and the visions of sugar plums no longer dance in your head. Amen."

{Later edit (reservation): I'm now questioning my use of the word "heaven" [OE haefen], whose origin might be lexically related to "haven" [OE heofon] and thus could have originally meant "haven" and not simply "skies." Which came first, the skies or the gods? My answer, of course, is the skies. God did not create us, we created It. [Maybe. I'm still not absolutely confident about this hypothesis. There could be an absolute principle beyond, behind, beneath, and/or subsumed within the cosmos; although, if there is, I don't believe It to be perceptive, except via the beings that have evolved from/into It.]}

withdrawal symptoms

Jim called last night around eight. He asked me if I saw the wood he'd dropped off in my driveway last week. (He does this from time to time, but doesn't stop in to tell me. I wonder why. He used to stop in all the time.) Then he told me, as if in passing ["Oh, by the way...," he said--but it was probably his real reason for calling] that he was "laid off" from Green Oaks Country Club.

We talked about a few minor things, and then he said he wanted to talk to me sometime about Jimmie. I said "What about Jimmie?" He started to say something, but Joyce walked in right then. He said aloud to her, "There's my honey, now," which, I guess, was supposed to let me know that he couldn't talk about it right then. (Joyce was probably just coming home from work.) He didn't sound drunk at all, but he did sound like he does when he's had a few drinks. I wonder if he just lost his job before he called and Joyce didn't know about it yet.

A month or so ago [no one is supposed to know this; that is, I'm not supposed to let on to Jimmie that I know, because he's very sensitive about it] Jim said that Jimmie had quit his job because he felt anxious. He had been earlier promoted to a supervisory position at Long Vue; but after a short while, he told his boss that he didn't want the job because it caused him "anxiety." He was having problems dealing with his friends he worked with who had begun to treat him differently, apparently, after he got his promotion. Shortly after that, he quit, because he was still getting grief from people. But I think (based on what Jim had told me; I can't remember all he said now, but this is the idea I got) that it was a lot more than that, more than just the work stuff. A while later, though, his brother Jay, who works at the same place, interceded, talked Jimmie into returning, and convinced his boss to give Jimmie his job back.

Jim, Joyce, and Danny went to a hockey tournament around this time, and Jay and Jimmie stayed at home. It was after they got back that Jim told me all this, and he told me that he almost called me to go and talk to Jimmie while they were away. He said they'd been worried about Jimmie being home alone. They wanted him to go with them, but he wouldn't go. So, anyway, Jim still has this idea that Jimmie might benefit from talking to me, maybe because our mother probably told him that I had "anxiety problems" around the time I lost my job and, in fact, had had the same problem off and on all my life.

But, I suspect, Joyce thinks that me talking to Jimmie might be a bad idea because several times when Jim suggested to her that I might help Jim himself in some way (with his alcohol and related problems) because I'm a psychologist, Joyce told him that I'm not really a psychologist. And she even told me that once to my face when we were talking in their kitchen. Apparently, she can't accept the legitimacy of psychology apart from the medical profession. (She's a nurse, one of those, I suspect, who thinks she knows more than the doctors do.) But I just let it go, because I didn't want to get into an argument about it.

Once, when I was visiting them on a holiday, Jay was doing some homework related to psychology in the dining room while Jim, Jimmie, Danny, and I were in the living room watching TV. Joyce and Jay began arguing, actually shouting at each other, and Jim was shouting at both of them to keep their voices down. (One of those typical moments in that household.) So Joyce called me out into the dining room to settle their argument. Jay was insisting that a psychiatrist wasn't a doctor, but Joyce knew that wasn't true. So I was called in to take sides. Jay readily accepted it from me when I told him it was true, and Joyce must have felt threatened by Jay's obvious deferral to me because she started to tell me again, a bit off-topic, that I was not really a psychologist; but Jay interrupted her, asking about the difference between psychology and psychiatry. I told him that psychiatrists get degrees in both psychology and medicine and work as doctors, but psychology is a broad-based discipline and what psychologists do depends on the particular job they happen to be working in. But I was really talking to Joyce, trying to explain that there is a great big world of professional psychology beyond her more limited medical field. [Psychologists work in industrial applications, for example. They function as human resource directors, and in a number of various other capacities, including management and supervisory positions. And, in fact, it was as a result of my degree in psychology that I was able to get management jobs and promotions, even though I had no business degree or experience.]

When I was talking with my sister on the phone several weeks ago about Jim and his problems, we wondered if he might eventually lose his job because of his drinking. But we dismissed the idea to head off any negative thinking we might be engaging in. I know I had wondered about it earlier, mostly re the things he'd said about working there. It sounded to me, when he told me about the problems he'd been having with his back and leg and his problem with his coworkers, like his boss might interpret his behavior as an excuse not to work and/or him being a difficult employee. But I always put it out of my mind because I didn't want to let myself think badly about him. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt re employment. And, it could still be true that he did nothing wrong, that they never knew about his drinking, that his injuries were legitimate (I believe they were), and that his boss was just one of those managers who insists that employees have no problems of any kind and perform like robots without human idiosyncrasies. I just don't know.

It used to be that companies worked with their employees to help them through their difficult times, because they valued employees and wanted to keep them--because they recognized the fact that experienced employees are a valuable asset and retraining is costly and disruptive, but also because many supervisors and managers actually cared for the people who worked for them; there was far more of a family-like atmosphere in the workplace in the "old days." Or, if some of the more callous supervisors didn't work with their employees on their personal problems, at least they tolerated them. Now, that's all in the past. Employers would rather just get rid of employees, especially when they see they might replace them with less costly ones (re wages, benefits, and personal problems).

[I'm trying here to weave together two threads, anxiety and work-related problems, because this is the way the material has been presented to me, piecemeal, over the past few weeks to a month, and I'm working from disjointed notes I'd made; so if I seem to be jumping around (more than usual), this is the reason. These two topics are a big area of "therapy"-related content that I've incorporated into a lot of what I've written in the past. I have books and books, half-completed, of this kind of stuff, so I'm not going to expand on that aspect of it further here. I pretty much wrote it all out of myself and have moved on. But I've been encountering material similar to my own in my conversations with people, so I wonder if I am meant (by some intelligence "beyond" me) to take heed. Maybe there's a further lesson here; or maybe I'm supposed to help others in some way, though I'm never sure quite how, except to explain to them what I've been through and hope they understand. It's not like they're my patients or anything.]

My sister, in an e-mail, says that Jimmie appears to be somewhat shy and young for his age. I thought I recognized Jimmie's problem when he was a little kid, about five or six--on a vacation to Pymatuning, and elsewhere, when he seemed to exhibit an extreme shyness when encountering strangers. At Pymatuning, he wouldn't go up to a woman at a ticket counter to get tickets for a zoo we went to. Joyce didn't seem to think anything of it and attributed it to his natural "shyness," but I saw it as something more, because I pretty much felt that way myself when I was a kid, so his behavior was easily interpretable to me. Actually, in a way, I still feel that way; but I've adapted myself well--well, maybe not well, but "sociably," via social skills training and by learning to ignore the symptoms (that is, repress them, I guess) and feeling comfortable, if distant, in social situations.

So I understand what Jimmie feels, although he may feel it more consciously than I ever did because he doesn't seem to have the withdrawal defense mechanisms that I had growing up and feels that he must remain out in the world and open to social interaction--although that may be changing as he ages and begins to butt heads with society. Whereas I transitioned from an unconscious acceptance of my isolating behavior toward later awareness that I needed to change, Jimmie seems to be transitioning from a more conscious awareness of his anxiety toward isolating behavior. (For example, I never would have given up a job/position because of anxiety; I simply ignored/repressed the symptoms and hid myself further away, which affected my job performance. If who and/or what I was conflicted with job performance, I chose who I was and allowed the job to suffer.)

And Jimmie seems to have been well protected by his mother and could always go running to her when he felt threatened; I don't remember having that resource when I was a kid. I'm sure my mother would have willingly played that role, but I don't remember ever having sought out that in her. In a similar sense, Jimmie may not seek it out either, at least not like his brother Jay does; but he avails himself of it and retreats into her presence and exists benign and "protected" by it when he feels like he needs to. I, rather, retreated, either physically, or into myself.

And I've noticed other incidents over the years. Once, when I was over there on a holiday, Jimmy begged, pleaded, whined, and did everything he could to convince, first Jim, then Joyce, to go and sleep over at a friend's house down the street. Finally, after about half an hour of this, when, I guess, they decided that he was never going to shut up until they gave in to him, they let him go. About half an hour later--this was fairly late, around eleven-thirty--he called and asked if he could come home, that he was sick. Joyce told him, of course he could. It seemed kind of strange that he would call instead of just coming home when he was only half a block away. It perhaps indicated that he felt so insecure that he doubted his own decisions and needed parental affirmation.

More recently, I knew that Jimmie had been going to counseling for problems he's having. Jim mentioned it in passing once or twice, but he never expanded on it. That's the way it is with conversations between Jim and me: he never says much directly outright and I never realize until later that he's trying to tell me something; and I don't know whether or not I should bring it up again later because I'm never sure if he revealed something intentionally, or if what he said, or implied, was not really so conscious to himself; and a lot of the time when he says these things, he's been drinking. Sometimes, I'll bring something up that he said on a previous occasion, and he doesn't remember having talked about it. Last year, I bought him a screw starter awl for Christmas because when he was over at my house fixing an electric outlet, he used an old one I had. He'd said he'd never seen anything like it and commented on how handy it was. Since mine was wearing out, I went out to buy a new one; but no local store had one. So I bought two over the internet, one for me and one for him. When I gave it to him, he had no memory of the conversation we had about it or even that he'd used mine that day. So I wonder how much of what he says to me he actually remembers, or even if he would have said it if he had been sober.

Another aspect of this syndrome I seem to be defining is the non-awareness of the "shyness" I never felt as a child. I never considered myself shy because I consciously focused on the incidents and personal behaviors of friendship and intimacy and ignored and repressed the anxious ones. I always felt completely sociable among a close circle of friends, and ignored the symptoms that occurred when having to function among strangers or people whom I didn't know so well. I never realized as a child and teenager that I was shy.

This is another item to add to my long list of insights that I should have been aware of, but wasn't: shyness = anxiety. This is so obvious; but society must hide this truth that shyness is not so much a simple personality trait as it is a pathological disorder. We seem to want to downplay this "simple" manifestation of anxiety, perhaps because it hits way too close to home.

We're all fundamentally anxious, after all--as a result of our infancy separation; and the main thing that differentiates us is the way we go about expressing that separation anxiety, some of us adopting overly gregarious personalities to compensate, gossiping and tittering "nervously," while others of us engage in various degrees of clever avoidance to disguise our tenuous attachments.

When the more "sociable" people see anxious ones who wear their anxiety close to the surface, they become worried, probably unconsciously empathetically, that it might "rub off," that it might evoke a similar overt response in them, thus revealing their deeply held secret. So, instead, they label the anxiety as "shyness," which is a cutesy redefinition: shy people, especially shy women, are thought to be virginal and innocent. They're childlike and need to be protected. Anxiety becomes acceptable in these terms, and socialites needn't worry about becoming infected, because they just know that they themselves are not so innocent and so must be quite different--when they are just the same, but far more repressed and in denial.

Shy people are believed by "sociable" people to be repressed, based on the "evidence" that they withdraw from social contact; but the truth is much the opposite. They're not repressors, but sensitizers; but the socialites must believe this is not true in order to repress their own sense that they themselves are the repressors, because they can't admit to feeling like the sensitizers who allow their true, anxious, ill-adapted emotions to be seen.

[This "reverse psychology" (which I often seem to uncover in my search for the truth, when people frequently try to turn the truth around in order to disguise, mostly from themselves, the nature of reality) can be seen in the nature of separation anxiety itself: we are traumatized by birth, being literally cut away from our source of sustenance and comfort; we are forced, without choice, to deal with a world of others, who can be quite frightening, sticking their huge, powerful faces into our own little, delicate ones, thinking they are being so attentive and caring when they are literally scaring the shit out of us; yet we have no choice but to seek out our new sources of sustenance and comfort from among them. So, we long to return to the womb and we experience anxiety because we cannot; yet we experience anxiety in the opposite direction also, learning to fear the outer world even as we search through it to fulfill our needs. We're caught in a trap that we're forced to live in for the rest of our lives, unless we happen upon a successful therapy--which I doubt exists.]

The two extremes of over-gregariousness and withdrawal are defense postures that function relatively well to cover up and/or mitigate anxiety. But the middle ground is perhaps the hardest to deal with, when a person is sociable or feels s/he must remain interactive within a social situation and yet experiences anxiety within those situations. I've flirted with this condition from time to time, always re job-related issues; and it has caused me a lot of stress. But I opted in my personal life to isolate myself to compensate, as R & R from my work environment, a behavior that might be interpretable as schizoid, except that the "sociable" part of myself is a lie: I trained myself in that regard when I recognized that I had a problem I needed to overcome in order to be "successful" and advance in jobs. My nephew seems to be having similar problems, and as I observe his behavior from a distance, I recognize in him how I used to be genuinely sociable as a kid and teenager, isolating myself when I felt the necessity, but otherwise opening up to people when I felt that it was safe. I continued this same behavior throughout my life. But I never recognized it as a problem, like my nephew now does, until far later. During my early jobs, I either felt intimately involved with people or I stayed as far away from them as possible. No problem. Love and accept me or leave me alone. It was only when I later decided that I needed to be successful that I began to experience problems re my withdrawal behavior.

a moment of synchronicity

What do I have to do today? What do I have to worry about?
Harvey Pekar,
An "American Splendor" Comic
Systematically, amid an escalating sense of stress and feelings that cause me to believe that I'm so "put upon" by life in general and various trials in particular, I have chipped away at a list I made about a week ago of all of the uncompleted tasks that were causing me "anxiety" until, today, I have exhausted it and feel quite good about myself.

Last night I read the quote above by Harvey and realized how appropriate it would be to start each day quoting it because, not only does it initiate a schedule-making (or at least a list-making) motive, but it points out the absurdity of worry. This morning, I can't think of anything to worry about. It's a nice feeling for a change.

A few weeks ago, while I was looking through several old book catalogs, I saw a book I knew my brother would appreciate. So I decided to buy it for him for Christmas--and give it to him at Thanksgiving, because I don't buy Christmas presents. And since he knows this, as I'm lying in bed reading this book, Pittsburgh Then And Now, a compilation of 10" x 12" photographs, circa 1900, each on the right hand page with a corresponding modern photo on the left, I orchestrate a scenario that I will make happen when I give him the book:

I walk into his house. He's sitting in his chair in front of the tv. (That's where he usually is, watching football when I arrive on holidays; but if he's not, I'll just go into the kitchen, where his wife usually is, and talk to her until he shows up.) I give him the book.

"Here. I got you a Christmas present," I'll say.
"It's not Christmas," he'll reply.
"That's okay. I don't buy Christmas presents."

Or else it'll go this way:

"Here. I got you a Christmas present."
"I thought you didn't buy Christmas presents."
"I don't. That's why you're getting it now."

I think that it's inevitable that he will say one of these two things. But maybe he'll surprise me. We'll see. If he says, "Then it's a Thanksgiving present," I'll agree. And if the conversation happens toward something about what I'm thankful for (which I very much doubt), I'll say, with enough of our usual Three Stooges style sarcasm to defuse any awkward moments, "I'm thankful that I have such a wonderful brother." [Nyuk, nyuk.]

Anyway, since I was going to order a book and the bookseller has a flat shipping charge, no matter how many books you order, I went through all of the back catalogs and listed out every cheap book (less than $3) that I might have an interest in, and then I went and looked them up on the company's website to see if they were still available. About half of them were; so I ordered them. And, as a treat, since I figured I owed it to myself to find out what the big deal was all about, I splurged on the more expensive Best of American Splendor by Harvey Pekar.

So, I'm switching between these two big books, lying in bed watching tv and reading during the commercial breaks while waiting for sleep to arrive, and I come across one of Harvey's comics that depicts him reading a letter from a guy in England who has Asperger's Syndrome. As soon as I start reading the guy's letter to Harvey, I realize I've happened upon something significant. It was one of those rare moments in life where everything seems to come together: buying the book, even though it cost more than I usually pay; having wanted to read some of Harvey's work since I used to watch him on Letterman; my long-term pursuit of a personal therapy; etc. I think that maybe what's wrong with this guy in Harvey's comic is what's wrong with me! On the mini-clipboard that I always keep with me when I read, I make a note to research the syndrome on the net. And I spend the entire following afternoon reading technical psychological abstracts:

abstracted from:
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/aswhatisit.html
  • a neurobiological disorder
  • normal intelligence and language development
  • autistic-like behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills
  • it wasn't until 1994 that Asperger Syndrome was added to the DSM IV and only in the past few years has AS been recognized by professionals and parents
  • Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe
  • Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness.
  • They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest.
  • They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space.
  • Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see.
  • ...the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of "improper parenting".
  • By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all), exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area.
  • Because of their high degree of functionality and their naivet, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying.
  • While language development seems, on the surface, normal, individuals with AS often have deficits in pragmatics and prosody.
  • Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children sound like "little professors."
  • However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.
  • ...because it was virtually unknown until a few years ago, many individuals either received an incorrect diagnosis or remained undiagnosed.
Each of these symptoms applies to me to some degree. And that last item really pisses me off. I know that it shouldn't, that it's analogous to the probablity that scientists and doctors will make discoveries and develop procedures that will enable people to live to be at least several hundred years old shortly after my death; but I can't help it. Someone, I feel, should have discovered these symptoms in me and acted to alleviate them and turned me into a more productive citizen. And since that someone, or "the system" did not, I can logically conclude that the mechanics of the socio-cultural world disconsider me entirely and I am justified in the negative stance I take against it.

abstracted from:
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/aswhatisit.html#DSM
(with comments re how items apply to me in red)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM IV) Description (p77)

  1. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

    1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction [borderline]
    2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level [borderline]
    3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people) [no]
    4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity [yes]

  2. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
    1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus [yes]
    2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals [borderline]
    3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements) [no]
    4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects [no]

  3. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning [yes]
  4. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years) [yes, but what proof is a negative?]
  5. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood [yes, but ditto]
  6. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia [see below]


A More Down-to-Earth Description
by Lois Freisleben-Cook

I saw that someone posted the DSM IV criteria for Asperger's but I thought it might be good to provide a more down to earth description. Asperger's Syndrome is a term used when a child or adult has some features of autism but may not have the full blown clinical picture. There is some disagreement about where it fits in the PDD spectrum. A few people with Asperger's syndrome are very successful and until recently were not diagnosed with anything but were seen as brilliant, eccentric, absent minded, socially inept, and a little awkward physically. [yes, except for physical awkwardness]

Although the criteria state no significant delay in the development of language milestones, what you might see is a "different" way of using language. A child may have a wonderful vocabulary and even demonstrate hyperlexia but not truly understand the nuances of language and have difficulty with language pragmatics. [perhaps borderline] Social pragmatics also tend be weak, leading the person to appear to be walking to the beat of a "different drum". [yes] Motor dyspraxia can be reflected in a tendency to be clumsy. [no]

In social interaction, many people with Asperger's syndrome demonstrate gaze avoidance and may actually turn away at the same moment as greeting another. [yes, but since corrected by dedicated social skills self-therapy ] The children I have known do desire interaction with others but have trouble knowing how to make it work. They are, however, able to learn social skills much like you or I would learn to play the piano. [That was me exactly.]

There is a general impression that Asperger's syndrome carries with it superior intelligence and a tendency to become very interested in and preoccupied with a particular subject. [yes] Often this preoccupation leads to a specific career at which the adult is very successful. [Yes, for a while, until stress resulting from having to continually act against type overwhelmed me. I can see now how Asperger's caused me difficulties during my work career, how my propensity toward non-networking, even my actual distaste for it, severely limited my career choices and caused work-related problems that had me running around "putting out fires" that with a modicum of networking I could have prevented from starting in the first place.] At younger ages, one might see the child being a bit more rigid and apprehensive about changes or about adhering to routines. [yes] This can lead to a consideration of OCD but it is not the same phenomenon. [I have often suspected that I might be borderline OCD, but this explanation fits so much better.]

Many of the weaknesses can be remediated with specific types of therapy aimed at teaching social and pragmatic skills. [yes] Anxiety leading to significant rigidity can be also treated medically. [Drugs (and alcohol) work with me for anxiety; but I don't like the idea of taking them.] Although it is harder, adults with Asperger's can have relationships, families, happy and productive lives. [way too much harder, for me. I'm happy, but I define that happiness within the context of my relative isolation.]

It's interesting to note that the social deficits caused by the illness actually inhibit individuals from seeking medical and psychological intervention. It's a self-sustaining syndrome.

abstracted from:
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/putnampaper.html

Surprisingly, the label "nerd" carries fairly precise connotations. "Nerd" appears in several dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary (Morris 1985) defines "nerd" as "a socially inept, foolish, or ineffectual person." Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (Mish 1987) expresses a view of nerds that alludes to the contempt often felt toward these youngsters: "Nerd...slang (1965): "an unpleasant, unattractive, or insignificant person." The most obvious quality that nerdy children share is a lack of social and emotional intelligence.

For years doctors have had a hard time finding a diagnostic category for these children that could be helpful in organizing research, evaluating the results of treatment, and mobilizing funds for special services. Clearly, these youngsters are not autistic, yet on closer inspection they seem to have many of the traits of high functioning autistic children, but to a much lesser degree. They seem to be suffering a form of what child psychiatrists call a pervasive developmental disorder or PDD.

PDDs are defined by the American Psychiatric Association as characterized by qualitative impairment in the development of reciprocal social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and imaginative activity. These PDDs actually lie along a continuum. Some forms are quite severe. These youngsters are often diagnosed as suffering from autism. Many autistic individuals have special skills, for example, in reading or mathematics, as illustrated by Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Rainman. Some of the PDDs are less severe or are mitigated in some way by a particular child's cognitive and temperamental strengths, as illustrated by Tom Hank's lead character in Forrest Gump. Cantwell and Baker (1988) note that recent research supports a number of subtypes of autistic-like syndromes, ranging from severely retarded autistic children to high-functioning children with so-called atypical personality development.

The fact is that PDDs occur in attenuated [my emphasis; I am so very borderline and so have been able, most of the time, to pretend to normalcy] forms that are not uncommon. I believe that the youngsters who are labeled as "nerds" by their peers actually suffer from a mild PDD (MPDD). Their handicap may go unrecognized by treating clinicians who fail to address the primary source of the considerable pain these youngsters experience. [yes] The results of failing to attend to these youngster's special needs can be tragic for them and for society as a whole and they often grow into isolated, depressed, and even dangerously angry young adults who may be at risk to harm themselves or others. [Yes. Although marijuana got me through the anger of my earlier adulthood, it's discontinued use due to heart rhythm problems resulted in episodes of anger that as a child I was too inhibited to exhibit socially.] The depression and anger is not a part of the original problem that these children are born with. It develops over time in response to the way these children, mostly but not always boys, are treated by other human beings. [Very definitely.]

***
Asperger's syndrome, an autistic-like disorder, lies within the spectrum of the PDDs. Because this disorder is "less pervasive" than autism, it is easy to misdiagnose in an adolescent with a personality disorder, such as schizoid or schizotypal (Munro 1987). [Schizoid personality was another disorder I suspected myself of having, but this fits so much better.] Individuals with Asperger's syndrome characteristically are socially isolated and display abnormal social interaction (Szatmari 1986). [yes] They may be not just shy but also abnormally garrulous or intrusive; their behavior is often not appropriately modified to suit the social situation. [yes] There are impairments in nonverbal communication and oddities in the speech of persons with Asperger's syndrome. [yes] There is frequently a history of problems beginning in the preschool years, such as an unwillingness or inability to engage in cooperative or imaginative play. [Probably. I don't seem to remember.]

Perhaps many of the youngsters with MPDD fit the criteria of Asperger's syndrome. ... The term "MPDD" may have some advantages as a clinical designation of nerdiness because it implies that there is a continuum of children with dysfunction in language and social development. Use of the term "MPDD" avoids splitting this group of individuals into specific diagnostic categories, at least until there is more of a basis in clinical research to do so.

***
Nerds and Adolescence
Adolescence, because of its demands in the areas of social and language functioning, is a period of great risk for individuals with MPDD. When an individual suffers from a severe pervasive developmental disorder such as autism, it is common knowledge that, during adolescence, "there is often an exacerbation of aggressive, oppositional, or other troublesome behavior, which may last for many years" (p. 36). Contrary to the stereotype of the bookish nerd who stays out of trouble, these boys have a very difficult time with their adolescence.

Youngsters with mild pervasive developmental disorders will experience a crisis in adolescence because the skills that are necessary to accomplish adolescent developmental tasks are dependent on rather high-level functioning in the very areas in which these youngsters have deficits. Junior high school students have perceptual motor skills that far exceed those of the average adult. (Just try to compete with them at the video arcade!) Likewise, they exhibit sensitivities to social nuances and variations in language patterns that go well beyond their parents' abilities. Here is where the problem lies, as we shall see, because, nerds lack the ability to respond to subtle social cues appropriately and the ability to use language to establish identity and, later, intimacy. [yes]

During early adolescence, children display a wide range of social abilities. At one end of the spectrum are the popular, socially facile children, including both delinquent and non-delinquent youngsters proficient in manipulating their social environment. Next in line are the vast majority of children, who are skilled enough to avoid much of the teasing and social pain so common in junior high school. Then, along come the nerds, who occupy a place in the spectrum well short of the autistic extreme. Whereas autistic individuals, even the high functioning ones, have trouble from infancy or soon thereafter, the major problems for nerds begin in the older primary grades and intensify in junior high school. Nerds suffer enough limitations in their social awareness and social effectiveness to become the object of rather severe scapegoating, even among adults. They themselves are painfully aware that there is something wrong, yet they and their parents often cannot define the problem.

I disguised my "nerdiness" fairly well early on by participating in sports and by developing a cool and tough persona. Looking back, I can see how I might have been victimized in this way had I not been so "tough" and "hard-shelled." I remember many incidents where I felt embarrassed in social situations and, had I reacted like a typically harassed kid, I could have been victimized; but instead, I toughed it out, never per se turning or running away from situations, but in effect hiding away inside myself, while remaining a part of the group. I still employ this tactic. It causes people erroneously to believe that their initial probing jibes and teases have no effect and so they do not pursue that course. However, behind my back, I know (and have actually verified, on many occasions--so that I could assure myself that what I was "intuiting" was not simple paranoia), they carry out their typical scapegoating crap.

Secondary symptoms such as depression or conduct disturbance may begin to emerge, often obscuring the MPDD (or Asperger's), [yes] increasing difficulty with clinical recognition. When the coping mechanisms that these children employ fail, as they frequently do during adolescence, they may develop secondary psychiatric problems ranging from aggressive behavior to depression to psychoses. [Problems occurred much later in my case. I was very repressive when I was younger.] Clinicians tend to focus on these secondary symptoms, ignoring the primary syndrome.

***

Differential Diagnosis
Psychiatrists frequently mistake MPDD youngsters for schizoid or schizotypal teenagers. Both nerds and schizoid youngsters often have no close friends of a similar age other than a relative or a similarly socially isolated child (the first criterion for diagnosis of schizoid disorder). [Most of my adolescent friends were several years younger than I was, and they seemed to outgrow me.] Schizoid children, however, have no apparent interest in making friends and do not derive pleasure from the usual peer interaction. They generally avoid nonfamiliar social contacts, especially with peers. Nerds, on the other hand, are painfully aware of their difficulties in establishing normal peer relationships. [yes] They may have a great deal of interest in making friends and, until their failures become too unbearable, will seek out social contacts. [yes] For a nerd, it is better to be at the party, operating the stereo or helping start someone's car, than not to be there at all. [Definitely not. I never liked being among large groups of people, although I often found individual friends and developed a few close relationships.]

The Revenge of the Nerds movies are full of examples of nerds' deep desire for normal social contact. In the first movie, for example, the older adolescent nerds eagerly anticipate an enjoyable college social life, including heterosexual experiences. Both movies demonstrate repeatedly how difficult it is for somebody to escape the social stigma of being a nerd, how easy it is for people to recognize nerds, and how little nerds seem to be able to do about changing their image. Nevertheless, the movies emphasize that, in spite of these obstacles, the nerds have a strong interest in social relationships. [an interest, yes; but as a practical matter, no]

Another part of the differential diagnosis is avoidant disorder. Avoidant teenagers may appear awkward socially as a result of extreme anxiety. This anxiety may make them feel like nerds and even act like nerds. If they can overcome their anxiety, it becomes clear that they have more than adequate social intelligence and normal speech and language development. [yes] Nerds do not avoid social situations. They often seek them out, particularly in adolescence, but they misread the social situation miserably. [yes] After repeated, painful rejection they may withdraw. [yes] It is during these times that they may begin to think about harming themselves or others. [no]

Thus, the schizoid youngster does not particularly want to go to the prom and asks nobody to go to the prom; the avoidant youngster may want to go to the prom but is too shy to ask. If a date is arranged with whom he is comfortable, then he may well go to the prom and enjoy himself. The nerd may ask one of the cheerleaders to go to the prom and is unable to understand why she laughs at him. The avoidant adolescent must learn to overcome the anxiety that surrounds social interactions; the nerd requires specific training in how to understand and negotiate the social maze of adolescence. [more schizoid than nerdy (Asperger's) by these criteria]

Some might argue that nerds are simply extremely intelligent, somewhat eccentric youngsters. For some time now, it has been known (Terman 1925) that bright youngsters are typically healthy and well adjusted. They use both sides of the brain well. While many nerds are blessed with superior analytic skills, particularly those skills important in science and mathematics, they lack social intelligence. [yes] The writers of Head of the Class, a television situation comedy about a classroom filled with extremely bright youngsters, have recognized the distinction between the nerd and the intelligent young person. They have included one or two boys whose social ineptness provides a great deal of the humor in the series; however, other equally bright adolescents in the class are socially quite adept. Woody Allen is able to identify with the bright but socially inept nerd and can humorously portray a nerd, yet he obviously is an extremely skilled observer of relationships and subtle social cues and could not himself be called a nerd.

By virtue of my lifelong pursuit of psychological knowledge, I may have graduated out of my earlier non-awareness of the function and practical necessity of social relations into a sophisticated understand akin to Woody's; yet, although I know how it all works, how to go about networking, schmoozing, etc. (I even practiced it extensively during my business years; but it never felt natural), I hate the idea of it all, and consequently I hate the idea of business in general because it must employ these tactics to succeed. And I have a resulting antipathy toward society in general.

In theatrical presentations, there is often the implication that beneath the exterior of a nerd is a warm, empathic individual. The male nerd need only remove his eyeglasses; the female nerd need only let down her hair (as Marian the librarian does in The Music Man). Social skills training with real adolescents is rarely as easy as it appears in the movies. However, social skills training can help a great deal. Rather than remaining discouraged and hopeless, parents need to know there is much they can do to improve their MPDD youngster's social skills. One can tell people that this kind of a problem is not so much an illness as it is a handicap, and, as with other handicapping conditions, one can work to minimize its effect and hope for improved functioning over time.

Yeah, it can be done, but it's a whole lot easier just to be yourself, which also may be better for the soul.

The treatment of this disorder begins with treatment of any secondary psychiatric disorder that is present. This could include psychiatric hospitalization and medication when severe psychiatric complications are present. Next, it is important to provide therapy in pragmatic speech skills. Social skills effectiveness training includes a number of topics: how to begin a conversation, how to maintain good eye contact, how to request something from a peer, how to listen carefully to others, and many more skills that can be analyzed and taught.

I taught myself to do these things, but I find myself avoiding them when they are not absolutely necessary.

Do nerds ever get revenge, as in the movies? Perhaps when we read about computer viruses or mail bombers, we are seeing the product of bright MPDD youngsters who harbor enormous anger at society. In fact, the cost to society of not providing help and sympathetic understanding to these youngsters may be bigger than we realize. Most nerds never do get revenge, nor do they seek it. Our goal as clinicians should be to avert the tragedy of emotional pain, loneliness, and secondary psychiatric disorders that have gone unnoticed in the past.

I've gotten my revenge, several times over. And I'm still not beyond getting it again if an occasion should arise where I'm certain I can get away with it.

http://www.nichcy.org/pubs/factshe/fs20txt.htm

The term Pervasive Developmental Disorders was first used in the 1980s to describe a class of disorders. This class of disorders has in common the following characteristics: impairments in social interaction, imaginative activity, verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and a limited number of interests and activities that tend to be repetitive.

***

Definition of the PDD Category and its Five Specific Disorders All types of PDD are neurological disorders that are usually evident by age 3. In general, children who have a type of PDD have difficulty in talking, playing with other children, and relating to others, including their family.

According to the definition set forth in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), Pervasive Developmental Disorders are characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development:

* social interaction skills;
* communication skills; or
* presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities.

    The Five Types of PDD
  1. Autistic Disorder [no]
  2. Rett's Disorder. [no]
  3. Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. [no]
  4. Asperger's Disorder. Asperger's Disorder, also referred to as Asperger's or Asperger's Syndrome, is a developmental disorder characterized by a lack of social skills; difficulty with social relationships; poor coordination and poor concentration; and a restricted range of interests, but normal intelligence and adequate language skills in the areas of vocabulary and grammar. Asperger's Disorder appears to have a somewhat later onset than Autistic Disorder, or at least is recognized later. An individual with Asperger's Disorder does not possess a significant delay in language development; however, he or she may have difficulty understanding the subtleties used in conversation, such as irony and humor. Also, while many individuals with autism have mental retardation, a person with Asperger's possesses an average to above average intelligence (Autism Society of America, 1995). Asperger's is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "high-functioning autism." The diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Disorder as set forth in the DSM-IV are presented below.
  5. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Children with PDDNOS either (a) do not fully meet the criteria of symptoms clinicians use to diagnose any of the four specific types of PDD above, and/or (b) do not have the degree of impairment described in any of the above four PDD specific types.

    ***

    The Confusion of Diagnostic Labels

    The intent behind the DSM-IV is that the diagnostic criteria not be used as a checklist but, rather, as guidelines for diagnosing pervasive developmental disorders. There are no clearly established guidelines for measuring the severity of a person's symptoms. Therefore, the line between autism and PDDNOS is blurry (Boyle, 1995).

    ...there is still some disagreement among professionals concerning the PDDNOS label. Some professionals consider "Autistic Disorder" appropriate only for those who show extreme symptoms in every one of several developmental areas related to autism. Other professionals are more comfortable with the term Autistic Disorder and use it to cover a broad range of symptoms connected with language and social dysfunction. Therefore, an individual may be diagnosed by one practitioner as having Autistic Disorder and by another practitioner as having PDDNOS (or PDD, if the practitioner is abbreviating for PDDNOS).

    Generally, an individual is diagnosed as having PDDNOS if he or she has some behaviors that are seen in autism but does not meet the full DSM-IV criteria for having Autistic Disorder. Despite the DSM-IV concept of Autistic Disorder and PDDNOS being two distinct types of PDD, there is clinical evidence suggesting that Autistic Disorder and PDDNOS are on a continuum (i.e., an individual with Autistic Disorder can improve and be rediagnosed as having PDDNOS, or a young child can begin with PDDNOS, develop more autistic features, and be rediagnosed as having Autistic Disorder).

So, in conclusion, it would seem that I may be some combination of MPPD and Asperger's with hints of avoidant disorder added in. This explains a lot. It modifies my understanding of my "depression": whereas earlier I've understood the affect to be some combination of SAD and the escalating repression of rejection (separation anxiety) through hurt, anger, and guilt, now I understand how the rejection, still object-related, functions in the present as hurt at not fitting in with the social setting, how the anger (repressed hurt) is a typical consequence of the syndrome, and how the guilt (repressed anger) is a function of my inability to relate well to a social world.

And it makes understandable the kinds of scapegoating and blame-shifting that I've suffered from at the hands and petty minds of ignorant people. I have a "handicap" and have been discriminated against because of it all my life. But I'm not asking for reparations, or even retribution. (I'll get my own, if it comes to that.) But if you want to act in my favor, I'm not going to stop you; that kind of thing fits right in with my philosophy of waiting.

later analysis, posted retrospectively

I've been struggling, sometimes consciously, but apparently unconsciously full time since I discovered the Asperger's material. It's slowed me down to a crawl, interrupting my normal routine, distracting me away into related or cathartic fantasies and activities. It's one of the main reasons why I've fallen so far behind again in these posts, stuck back at this point of departure. The hard drive of my brain has been spinning continually for months, operating in the background, and outputting fragments of its work to the forescreen immediately behind my eyes. Like an automatically scheduled maintenance task, it's defragmenting itself, rewriting the history of my life, informing me as to how it is that I have come to be the way I am, forcing me to reify what I have long hypothesized, but never fully understood and never quite worked out the logistics for, despite my many continual attempts: I am not normal. All of the content of my life is being re-interpreted, re-cast in the new light of a different kind of theory. Before, when I examined my history from obvious facts, I sort of circled around the territory, applying standard psychosocial theories to the content, trying to morph it into a more and more accurate fit; but it never seemed exactly correct. I understood that I am not normal in the same way that everyone is not normal; we are each a different person, distorted from the "ideal" human "normal" form by our individual upbringings into what we finally become, a conditioned personality laid atop a basic genetic, trait-specific disposition.

But my more vague understanding of that gray area of my childhood has all changed. This one diagnosis hits the mark so perfectly that my past all falls right into place. And it pisses me off to think that I never knew this before, that no one ever told me, or even knew of the nature of the handicap. But I'm not going to go there just now. I have a lot more work to do just understanding it. I don't need to go looking for any more opportunities to blame "society" in general or particular "professional" representatives of various specific academic disciplines who pretend to know so much when they have barely scratched the surface and leave vast areas of knowledge untapped while they pervert, no matter how well-meaningly, the lives of trusting patients as they ignore the millions of non-patients who never receive the "benefit" of their supposed knowledge because they don't belong to that elite part of society that can afford the masters of psychological disasters. (Hmm. Maybe that's a good thing.) No. I'm not going to go there just yet...

Oh, wtf. Why not? Fuck them all. Fuck all you ignorant assholes who think you are so smart. If you're so goddamned caring about people, why do you let them suffer, why aren't you out in the streets helping them? And why didn't you come up with this classification fifty years ago and broadcast it into the mainstream society so that the people who conditioned me when I was a kid would have been well aware of it by the time I came around? Oh, I know. There's never enough time and resources to help everyone. So, why then didn't you just help me? Or what about You, God? Where the fuck were You when I was growing up? I know that God doesn't exist because if It did, It'd have to be an asshole, and I can't even imagine that It would be. I know that this is all projection and that I should just be grateful that I've discovered all of this at this late date. Okay. Now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's redirect my energy to the task of re-understanding who I am in light of this new and drastic information.

It occurs to me now that I have two separate syndromes (that I know of): Asperger's Syndrome and the Ankylosing Spondylitis problem that affects my back, neck, skin, and most dangerously, my heart. So, I have two AS's. I guess that makes me an ASS.

and life goes on

One day soon, I'm going to have to get organized and abandon this laissez-faire summer attitude that I've slipped too deeply into and am finding so hard to slip back out of.

When I fall behind in my "work" (perhaps not so much in the writing work or in the art, though maybe a little bit there too; but definitely in all of the secondary and/or peripheral stuff that I do in order to feed and maintain that system of methods and procedures), it's probably not so much the slacking-off behavior that I want to characterize it as as it is a temporary relief from the Asperger's symptoms: I don't, for whatever reason, feel like I need to pursue in such a dedicated manner the various rituals and exhaustive work methods that I've previously decided are the way to achieve whatever goal (writing-related or not) I'm striving to achieve. Those goals are usually worthy ones; but sometimes they can get sidetracked and become exercises done merely for their own sake, with the vaguest outcomes out so far in the future that for all practical purposes, they will never be realized; yet I pursue them anyway, because that's what I do, mostly, I think, because of the Asperger's. Not that this makes them any less desirable as goals; but there's a practicality to be considered. How much can I do, how many different ongoing "projects" can I maintain and not become bogged down in their multitude of details without losing sight of main purpose(s)?

Back on my birthday, at the height of the season, I realized that celebrating birthdays is probably more important than celebrating the New Year, because the actual New Year (Dec 21st) is the physical cyclical beginning of all things on the planet generally, but a person's birthday is the beginning of a personal cycle, a point at which each individual is most open to influence and change (or most closed off to it in over-compensation), the point in the life cycle before the big bad world began to assail the personality full time, without the benefit of the mother's buffer zone, thus beginning the process of selectively trying to shut the world out. The middle of the winter, then, is the antipodes of my starting point, and I am rapidly approaching that alternate point. Previously, I believed that the winter solstice was the "natural" starting point of the life cycle. And in a sense it is. But it's an impersonal one. And besides, Paganism is becoming so PC these days.

This is an attempt at an alternative explanation for my loss of focus; but it's a failed one: if summer is my height of ease and organizational distraction, then winter must be the time when I finally bring it all back together; and usually it is; and maybe that's what I'm doing now; but it sure doesn't feel like it--because the Asperger's information has turned my world upside down; but it's early yet, the antipodes doesn't arrive until early February.

When I start a new batch of beer, there's this period of time of up to twenty-four hours when I will worry whether or not fermentation will begin. Then it finally, inevitably, starts, and I feel caught up in this wave of jubilation. There's something about brewing that is primal, a means of preserving the fruits of the earth, and more; because the fruit of the fruits anticipate an alcoholic high.

The same is true for my birthday, when shortly thereafter I will feel that something should be brewing, but seems not to be. More slowly than beer fermentation, (because beer is on a cycle of at most, considering aging, a month), my life ferments throughout the year until February and ages until it reaches its best flavor the following summer.

I can not drink beer for days and days on end without any adverse effects at all (I only drink, at most, during the hottest summer months, two beers a day); but I cannot not drink coffee. (I wanted to create a beer and coffee metaphor, but I can't seem to come up with a way to relate caffeine to my yearly life cycle. I need coffee pretty much consistently all year round. Maybe alcohol is the essence of my life and caffeine is the Asperger's). This is my life now (and has been for a very long time), substance control, measured quantities to control my affective states without upsetting my increasingly delicate physiology.

I've long been aware that I need to establish some kind of a conformity, if not to society, then to some other set of standards. But every time I think I've found some system, even one that I create myself, it turns out in the end to be just another set of arbitrary strictures. My life has never conformed to any kind of system, and certainly not to traditional rituals and procedures that circumscribe the lives of "ordinary" people. Consequently, I've always rebelled against the standard holidays, in every way I can. Nowhere is this more obvious than in my views about New Year's Day.

Thus, I say to myself what I choose not say aloud in person to all of the people in my life: please, shut tf up about your New Year's resolutions already.

This is the time of year when everyone is talking about their New Year's resolutions. I hate New Year's resolutions. If I feel that I need to resolve to change something about my environment, my life, or myself, I begin the change right at the moment of conception. January 1st is an arbitrary convention; it has nothing to do with "reality." There is nothing magical about the new year that makes resolutions any more powerful and/or more likely to succeed. Or if there is, it would be at the real new year, the winter solstice, when the "magic" shifts the planet in the opposite direction and renewal begins; or, secondarily, at the moment of each new moon; or on your birthday--that's your own personalized New Year's Day. I don't want to be bereft, but you're not very likely to succeed if you're waiting for a new year of any kind to decide to change. Everyone's new year starts every single day, every moment even. Resolve continually and you'll multiply your chances for change by an astronomical factor. Or, better yet, be satisfied with what you are. You're the way you are for a very good reason. The more you stop fighting it, the more likely you are to see easier, saner, less intense ways of advancing and progressing.

I'm desperately trying to stop fighting, not only the conventions that have become the antipathy of my lifestyle, but the inner processes that try to control me as well. I'm sure that this is something I can never really fully succeed at; nevertheless I'm trying. I use whatever means is at my disposal: caffeine, beer, intelligence, writing, etc. But they seem to have trapped me too. Everything is a trap; every image is an illusion, every method an assemblage of bars or mechanism of torture. No wonder I abandon them from time to time and retreat into a fog of non-communication. It's all too much to be so human.

later notes

On 1-17-06, "Boston Legal" ran an episode with Asperger's Syndrome as a sub-plot, suggesting that Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, and Bill Gates may have been afflicted. (Gates, maybe; but I can't see Einstein or Jefferson. But that's what history does for you: it levels out the past and removes the warts and pimples.) The character in the episode, when he's told he has Asperger's, feels relieved and says that it explains why he's always been considered odd--because he is. I felt that same kind of relief when I first discovered the syndrome.

About a month earlier I discovered a Meet-Up group in Wheeling--too far for me to travel, which is a convenient excuse, because I doubt that I'd go anyway. It's in the nature of the handicap that its victims eschew social contact generally. Then, investigating the group in more detail, I discovered that it had only one member, a lone voice crying out for companionship, no doubt.

This is what Asperger's does to you: it isolates you (and all this time I thought it was just me), thereby provoking reaction against you, because people, when they don't understand you, and even sometimes when they do, tend to act toward you the way that you act toward them. (If they only knew that hidden away deep inside me I acted toward them so differently.) My Asperger's has definitely over the years resulted in many cases of defamation of my character. What people don't understand, they often choose to belittle or defame. And people who cannot, or for whatever reason do not choose to, so well defend themselves are the easiest targets for narrow-minded, callous, and/or cruel people to project their deficiencies and pathologies onto.

To some degree, I semi-consciously and/or intuitively recognized this early on and defended myself against it, learning how to handle social situations minimally in a way so as to protect myself; but when I tried to tackle the problem more directly later, for business/networking purposes, it took a heavy toll in terms of mental and physical stress and I ended up succumbing to the necessity to ease up, that is, to drop my guard (in a conscious and permanent fashion; that is, I decided that whatever they were going to do to me, let them do it, because I just can't keep up the intensity with which I fought the people who would see me fail), and that was the beginning of the end.

It took about six months for the unchecked negativity to take effect, and I found myself right back where I started when I was a teenager, socially isolated, (self-)defined as a outlaw, aware of how to go about re-establishing myself, but too drained to want to bother. It took me nearly three years to recover from my life of stress. Now, I can see how my inability (disability) to properly network in a "natural" and easy way (as opposed to the constrained and artificial one I, of Asperger's necessity, employed) resulted my situation.

I don't blame those people who used me as an example to compare themselves against, to make themselves look "superior" at my expense, in whatever respect they each chose to do it. They were just being typically human; that is, ignorant, intolerant, and self-aggrandizing at the expense of others. But, more importantly, I don't blame myself, an attitude if not a belief toward which I tended before I became aware of Asperger's syndrome. It's not my fault, it's not their fault, it's God's fault; or nature's, if you prefer. This is the way I am, the way many people are (I see borderline cases everywhere now; but a lot of that could be projection; but where there's a hook to hang it on...), especially artistic types; I see it especially among writers. Creative people, I hypothesize, become creative as a reaction against or in compensation for their inability to properly socialize. They use their art to bridge the gap between themselves and others; if they could, they would socialize instead.

Obviously, this is not an absolute condition: we (artists) all suffer to varying degrees ranging from deeply psychotic, even psychopathological, to marginally socially functional; and we tend to improve our sociability with age, learning how to navigate the social conditions we find initially so difficult, which was the impetus that provoked us to become artists. So, when you see artists (writers painters, musicians, etc.) selling their work in the street or otherwise struggling to get by, help them out. They're not necessarily panhandlers or degenerates or poor lost souls (well, they may be one or more of those things too; but consider how they may have arrived there), they may be suffering from a borderline autistic disorder.

As a society, we want to be so p.c. when it comes to issues like handicapped parking, accessibility, etc.: the superficial kinds of stuff. (I'm not saying that people that those amenities cater to have superficial problems, but just that society chooses the easiest solutions to the problems that it can when the pc attitude dictates that it must do something.) But when it comes to the implementation of more complicated solutions, especially to problems that are, not only unrecognized by mainstream society, but fly in the face of a sociable propensity, we tend to shy away a bit. But if you want to be so damned concerned, why not stop merely pretending to be so caring and extend the beneficent attitude you claim to have toward the socially handicapped? A little bit of understanding might not only help us out, it might also help the "normal" people too. (Remember, no one is normal. You're pretending to it and projecting if you think you are. Come and see me if you don't believe it and within an hour or so of conversation, I'll prove to you how you are not.)

When people choose to forgo their critical attitudes and prejudicial and defamatory behaviors, they raise themselves up out of the muck of crassness that crude and ignorant people wallow in. Be nice, people; and, especially, be nice to me. I am not what you think I am, I am not the way you have tended to classify me, I am something quite different inside, with a pronounced inability to communicate it in person in a consistently effective way. When you see me one day acting distant and estranged, or inappropriately trying to be sociable, making odd remarks that don't seem relevant or even intelligible, that's not me inside, that's the disability interjecting itself between us. Have a pity. You don't have to approach me and shower me with love and praise. Most probably, I wouldn't react in so friendly a way to that behavior anyway. Just don't dump all of your insidious invective on me behind my back and skulk away like the cowards you are to leave my reputation undeservedly in ruins. At worst, disconsider me entirely. At least, that would allow me a level playing field, because that's how I consider you when you treat me like I'm a lower lifeform than dogshit. I'd like to thank you for your time and I hope we passed the audition.1





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1. This last sentence is a lame example of a contextually inappropriate applied remark in a social situation that is nevertheless subtextually right on point. (Sorry, but I couldn't think of any better example.)