Living In My Own Mind: A Pagan With Asperger’s

This is a post that I swore I would never write. I thought it would hurt my ability to earn a living. But then I realized that if you Google my name you find I’m a Witch who is pro-GLBTQI, supportive of polyamory, and a whole host of other views that limit your opportunities in the conservative South. So why not write this? I won’t garner any more negativity for this post than for any other difficult post I’ve written. And I did promise myself that my writing would be free and brave this year.

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I’m an adult woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. I have not yet received a professional diagnosis, but in my research and speaking with other people with Asperger’s I am very certain I have this condition. There are a surprising number of self-diagnosed adult women, as women present differently and tend to go undiagnosed as children. This is not a disease. It’s not something that can be cured. My mind is configured differently from birth, and I simply see and interact with the world in a different way.

There has been a rise of autistic characters on television, and I suppose this is both a boon and a bane. On one hand, they tend to reinforce stereotypes of austistic people that aren’t helpful, and on the other, they help undiagnosed autistic people see their challenges and behaviors reflected in someone else. This is what happened with me. It was actually the character Max on Parenthood that sparked recognition in me. There were times when I felt like I was watching my own childhood. Eventually, as I watched the show explore Max’s character and storyline, it began to dawn on me that maybe I should research Asperger’s.

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Just like when I initially began to research Paganism, I approached it single-mindedly. I’ve read countless articles and forum posts. I’ve watched dozens of videos. I’ve looked into the research and approaches of several experts within the field. I cried a lot. I watched Temple Grandin obsessively, as many as 5 times in one day. At the end of all of this, I discovered the originator of most of the stress, heartache and difficulty in my life: Asperger’s.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I was simply going to use the new information about myself and the coping strategies I discovered to improve my life. Up until last night I had only mentioned this to three people. Two of them told me I was dead wrong, because I don’t act like a non-verbal, touch-phobic, obsessive ten-year-old boy. I expected this, and I expect there will be comments to this post telling me I’m dead wrong and how normal I am. That will hurt, but that will be ok.

You see, women get a raw deal when it comes to autism. We present differently and often go undiagnosed. We are better able to mimic the behavior of other people, to fake our way through social interactions and our obsessive interests tend to be less odd. A boy who is obsessed with lawnmowers is going to stand out more than a young girl obsessed with literature or history. Plus, other women tend to cover for us, to try to help us seem normal. A quirky little boy is acceptable, but a quirky little girl is not.

Often women are told that if they can perform adequately in social settings 90% of the time, that they aren’t autistic, or that they are claiming autism in an effort to be special. Like many autistic women, I work hard at being social. It has been the monumental struggle of my life to learn to hug others, to chit-chat, and to ask others how they are feeling. Observing social behavior in order to effectively mimic it led to learning to be a good listener. It is ironic that the more successful you are at developing coping skills, the less likely you will receive the help you need. Those who don’t see me as autistic simply pay tribute to my coping abilities, because it’s very rare for anyone to see me with those guards down.

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Despite my ability to develop compensating strategies, there will always be struggles and limitations for me. Asperger’s is a syndrome, not a disease. There is no cure. There is no treatment. You see, nothing is wrong with my brain. It’s simply “wired” differently. So like many autistics, although I can feel empathy, I cannot express it properly. Expressing any emotion properly and authentically is difficult. Conveying empathy is particularly difficult. Strong emotion can leave me non-verbal. Emotional arguments and debates are particularly frustrating, because I cannot interact in that way.

I will always have mental tunnel-vision, best capable of a single focus. Switching focus is difficult for me. I can sit and discuss a single topic for hours, but social conversations that leap from subject to subject are difficult for me. Jobs where I’m required to shift focus between very different tasks are very stressful for me. If I’m hip-deep into a subject, it’s hard to drag me out of it.

I will always have physical quirks and issues. Looking people in the eye is somewhat uncomfortable if I’m having a good social day, and almost impossible on a bad day. When I’m alone I will “stim,” or engage in some soothing, repetitive movement, to feel better, or to help focus as I think things through. Most days I’m ok with hugging people, but on days when I’m struggling socially then it can really freak me out to be touched. I had to smile at Temple Grandin’s hugging machine, because as a child I would pull my mattress out from the wall slightly and sleep “hugged” between my mattress and wall, sleeping on the box spring. Today I use really heavy blankets to get the same feeling of being embraced that feels far safer than touching other people.

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I will always be more logical than emotional in my thinking. While this means I have little in common with some of the forms of dialogue that take place in the Pagan community, it also means I have the gift of seeing things from a different perspective. From responses to my writing on this blog, I can only assume that this perspective is considered useful by many of my readers. However, being geared to be at ease with logic more readily than emotion, some forms of humor escape me. I have a hard time understanding subtle emotional cues, particularly in face and body movement. Flirting and subtle sexual cues are confusing to me, and often invisible. Casual sex, alas, is an impossibility for me.

Sensory overload is a very real problem for me. Too much information, too much noise, too many people, too many colors, and too many variables can make me shut down, or worse, melt-down. Airports and shopping malls are a special hell for me.

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There are so many gifts to having Asperger’s Syndrome that I don’t consider it a disability. I have a unique perspective. I can see solutions to problems others can’t. I can cut to the heart of a problem quickly. I can take your jacked-up balance sheet and gleefully analyze it until I have it fully balanced. I will spend hours single-mindedly researching the answer to a problem that others might consider dull or boring. There is a reason Spock is well-beloved by the autistic community, because so many of us see ourselves in him.

I’m also a loyal lover and friend. Trusting someone enough to let them into my life makes me fiercely protective of them, even if I can’t always appropriately express empathy for them. Maintaining relationships is not an easy skill for me, so those relationships I nurture mean a great deal to me.

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Most people I interact with through life will never realize I’m on the autistic spectrum. Most of my friends will never see me on days when I’m non-verbal and unable to interact appropriately. If I’m lucky, very few people will ever see me melt-down.

I decided to write this post because there may be other adult, austistic females who, like me, find it helpful to hear the stories of women like them, instead of the same stories of non-verbal, difficult ten-year-old boys who have become the public image of autism. I decided to write this post because as I’m processing my initiation it’s very important to understand myself and live authentically. I decided to write this post because saying that I’m autistic publicly forces me to deal with asking for the understanding I need at times.

I decided to write this post because people who care about me decided to have some sort of intervention last night, which included expecting me to express my feelings, express empathy, touching me (in a kind way) and insisting I look them in the eye. So I lost my shit in the middle of a busy Applebee’s, and left driving home crying and full of shame because I will never be the person who can hold your hand, look you in the eye and pour out her heart.

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I’m lucky though that I’m on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. I am able to “pass” for normal, or neurotypical, most of the time. I enjoy humor and metaphor, and love colloquial sayings. I live at a time when research on autism in women is taking off and there are a lot of resources out there for me. I’m lucky because there are women like Temple Grandin I can look to and know that there is hope, and a way for me to make a difference in this world.

One thing I’ve noticed is that there seem to be a surprising number of atheists among autistic adults. It’s made me consider why this is, and why I find that Paganism suits my neurological makeup so well. I think it’s because the idea of One makes no sense if you are not like other people. The concept of neurodiversity fits very well within a polytheistic viewpoint. In fact, over the past few months as I’ve comes to terms with what it means to be a person with Asperger’s, I’ve begun to wonder if there are Gods who reflect neurodiversity, who are not neurotypical. Surely the wondrous diversity of the earth, and the pluralism of humanity, is reflected in the Divine realms?

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I almost didn’t post this. The tarot cards I pulled regarding the decision to publish this were downright scary. I’m in the middle of some scary changes to my life in hopes that I can thrive rather than merely survive. Friends have cautioned me about publicly identifying as autistic. Some social media feedback regarding taking risks was mixed. In the end, I decided being open about this would help me sleep better at night. I fully believe there need to be more adult female voices for autism. So here I am crossing the Rubicon. The die is cast.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    This is a brave post.  Thank you for writing it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Thanks. It took some really deep breaths to click publish.

      • Hecate_Demetersdatter

        All really worthwhile stuff takes some deep breaths, either at the beginning or at the trigger point.  Thanks for your bravery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

    Thanks for sharing this my friend. I see a powerful book in your future.  <3

    Practice hugging now cuz I want many at PSG 

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      I understand that you mean well by your comment, but it comes across as dismissive of what Star just shared.  She’s made it clear that being hugged is only sometimes appropriate for her.  A sensitive response would be to commit to *asking* her each and every time whether she feels like being hugged, and asking if there are other ways that you can show your affection for her.

      • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

        I appreciate your concern. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

        I realize that now but I’ve chatted enough with Star to assume that she probably gets what I mean. I always ask before engaging in direct contact with someone (its just polite in general). I’m not a mass-hugging creepster, I can assure you. My favorite way to show affection is to just ecstatically praise someone for the work that they do, which people sometimes think is insincere, but I always mean it every time. 

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          Thanks.  I’m less concerned with how Star perceived it than how it comes across to others.   Because this is a public forum, phrasing that would be perfectly appropriate in a private setting can give different messages to those of us who don’t know you personally.  I never got the sense that you are a creepster, just that–in the context of this post–your phrasing could be perceived of dismissive of the different needs of others.  That is an ongoing struggle for anyone with “invisible disabilities”, “invisible minorities”, and other differences. 

          To give a pagan example, many times in “interfaith” settings,  people say:  “If we use the words “God” or “Creator” and avoid “Jesus”, that includes all faiths.”  And they often don’t get it when we say that “God” and “Creator” and even “faiths” do not speak of modern pagan religious experience.  (And, yes, I’ve aware that some modern pagans do find that language meaningful, but it’s not the language of modern paganism, thus it’s not truly inclusive.)

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I will hug at PSG. I always hug at PSG. And if I do not want a hug I will go to Psyche’s Grotto and chillax with some rose quartz.

  • A. Luloff

    You are incredibly brave to post such personal things about yourself. I hope people take this knowledge and use it to widen their viewpoint on what “normal” is to them. We are all more alike than different. We should accept the differences as a wonderful opportunity to see our world as a diverse, interesting place, not a planet of clones. I know there will be people who won’t accept you for this, but remember that it is not your job to make them see anything. You can only turn on the light and hope they choose to open their eyes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Thanks!

  • SageWoman

    Dear Star,

    Thanks for your courage, forthrightness, and self-reflection. My eldest son is a young man living with AS and he’s had a lot of challenges that we are all still struggling with. (Write me at editor.com if you’d like to know more as I don’t feel comfortable sharing his story that deeply in a public forum.) I’d also be interested in seeing if you and I can work on getting your work published in W&P or SageWoman this year.

    Sincerely yours,

    Anne Newkirk Niven
    Editor
    SageWoman, Witches&Pagans, Crone

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Thanks Anne! I just sent you an e-mail!

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/nervy_girl ProfessorZed

    Star, thank you so much for sharing.  I recognize in myself a lot of what you’ve identified (while experiencing quite the opposite in other ways), and I hope you receive the understanding and space you want or need in order to be authentically yourself.  Though I’m more feely than thinky myself, I’m horrified that anyone would feel entitled to pull you so far out of your comfort range, and in a public place — your differences should be respected, and you deserved better treatment.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      How could they know? If I don’t wear a sign that says “Autistic Person” how would anyone know what is or isn’t in my comfort zone? How do we know that about anyone if they don’t tell us?

      • Cassandra Ciardi

        you can get a certain read off of people.  and i’ve seen a majority of people that will hug someone and simultaneously joke that the person they are hugging isn’t a hugger.  or tell bawdy jokes in front of someone they know won’t appreciate that humor.

        you’re right in what you say but our societal norm should be about having an awareness of one another and trying to respond to other people as people.  but that takes work and living aware – it’s easier for us to all decided “this is acceptable and this isn’t”  - so you’re either in or you’re out.  

  • Silvergryphon66

    Thank you for sharing Star! As the mother of an adult male Aspie, who was diagnosed too late for early intervention therapies, I have a good understanding of the daily struggle.It really gets tiresome having to explain that my son can not process too much info at once even though he looks as normal as everyone else. My main beef with the medical community is the fact that they have placed so much emphasis on the children and seem to have left the adults out in the cold. It’s hard to find help unless you get lucky and know the right people and even then resources for adults are virtually non existant.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      The best resource for adults I have found is Wrong Planet: http://www.wrongplanet.net/

      I’ve had problems finding local resources for adults. I think there is an overemphasis on children which is unhelpful. Adult activists like Temple Grandin are a huge inspiration for me.

      • Silvergryphon66

        Thanks sooo much Star! Since we live in the same general area….. with a few miles between us, I hope one day to be able to meet you and give you a hug if you are feeling up to it on that day! Bright Blessings!

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        Thanks.  I’ve been looking for adult AS info since my nephew was identified as AS last year and the family all went…”Wait, that’s Ian too!”

      • Kerry W

        Hi Star,

        Just wanted to draw your attention to the Marcus Center (http://www.marcus.org/) and the Emory Autism Center (http://www.psychiatry.emory.edu/PROGRAMS/autism/).  I know that EAC has some programs for adults, but don’t know if either place has anything of interest to you. 

        Good on you for coming out!

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          Thanks! I’ll check those places out!

  • sunfell

    I could have written this- with minor differences. I am very empathic- and such things overwhelm me to the extent that I must have extended amounts of solitude to recharge myself. I am also quite single-minded, but have channeled that into a career where such single-mindedness and attention to systemic function, pattern and result is encouraged and well compensated for.

    I am really encouraged that the various essays about autism- Aspergers in particular- are breaking out of the parents of/’10-year old boy box, and including adult women- especially older women like both the author and myself. Adding the diversity of religious experience to it makes it even more eclectic, which it truly is.

    I’ve been told that I cannot be autistic, because I’m too ‘normal’- and that getting a formal diagnosis is not only nearly impossible, but counter-productive- even potentially dangerous for my future career. Getting such a label is a two-edged sword, it seems. For me, understanding the operation of my mind is more important than any sort of Nypical stigma it might create. This is my world, not theirs.

    Being older means that I can hide it better, because I made all my errors in my callow youth- including the more harrowing ones involving men. They’ve sadly made trust a major issue- when you cannot properly ‘read’ the intent of a person, trust becomes difficult to establish or maintain. I’ve become adept at reading the edges of things, since the center- where all the NT focus is played- is a noisy blind-spot for me. Getting older means learning and using different patterns of interaction, and making them appear to be seamless and ‘normal’.

    And that’s the rub: I appear relatively normal, even as I duck away from touch and embraces, and struggle to look into the center of faces instead of the edges- where the real information is. I clap my hands over my ears at both sirens and kid-noise, occasionally drawing dirty looks from parents as I dart away from screaming babies. I am more keenly aware of the horrific noise of the extraverted, NT world today than I was as a younger woman. Have I grown more sensitive, or has it become that much noisier? Perhaps both. I do know that shopping is a difficult and harrowing experience that is endured rather than enjoyed, and that the 6 weeks between T’day and Xmass are what I call ‘hell season’- hell on my senses, need for space, and deep dislike of shoving crowds and  audio-visual noise.

    Like Star, Mr. Spock has long been a both a hero and role-model of mine. His elegant, tasteful way of being, along with his wonderful blend of science and mysticism led me to both my vocation as a Magus and my profession as a computer and electronics tech. He is his own person, and is very much self-actualized even in spite of his being a ‘stranger’ to the culture he has chosen to live in. He dwells relatively comfortably in two worlds, but still has to fight off the stigma of being ‘other’.  He is a Magus himself- without being overtly obnoxious about it. He balances his differences in ways that I deeply admire and emulate.

    In the body of her essay, Star mentions the surprising number of Atheists amongst the autistic. I went through a period of overt- even militant Atheism, after having to leave Wicca because of some of its less rational practitioners. I’ve swung back to the center- after realizing that there cannot be no ‘gods’, nor just one. There are myriad, addressable ‘god-particles’, what I call “Small Gods” that follow an explicit set of multiversal rules, and do not require belief, scripture, worship, priests, or lip-service. This greatly intrigues and comforts me, and permits me to maintain my mystical/metaphysical mind, and cultivate both it and my logical mind.

    I will look forward to reading and visiting this subject further- as you can tell, it is quite close to my own heart. Thank you for writing about it, Star.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I was hoping you would comment on this! After researching autism I found myself remembering essays I’d read on your website years ago and connecting the dots!

      • sunfell

        Funny how things like this happen- I see recursives starting to pop up all over the place. Fits the pattern, that’s for sure. Odd to be a catalyst, but hey, that’s life. I really need to upgrade that poor little website. And I need to comb my LiveJournal for material, as well.

  • Peter Dybing

    Add another reason to the list of reasons I Love Star Foster!

  • kenneth

        I never would have guessed! I’ve never met you in person of course, but having worked alongside or for many Asperger’s spectrum folks in journalism and of course the sciences, I usually pick up on that.

    Of course, all of them were/are male, and most of them don’t put a whole lot of effort into “passing.” In fact, Temple Grandin is the only woman I have ever heard about. It’s a demographic that definitely needs some more voices and perspectives.  There’s also a larger discussion worth having as to whether it’s even helpful to think of this in terms of pathology. Any time we can quantify a physical difference these days and find some instance of dysfunction associated with it, it becomes a disease or a “syndrome.”  

          Some folks have more problems than others with Asperger’s but is it a true disability or our insistence on trying to force them into roles for which they are not suited?  Many of the most accomplished names in many fields were autism spectrum folks, including essentially all physicists and high-level mathematicians. Having found their niche, we call them geniuses. Had they been forced into the 9-5 office cubicle, dish-about your girlfriend at the water cooler culture, they’d have been living on the street or an institution, with a file folder full of diagnoses. 

        People need to learn what its about and how to engage you as you are, not try to “fix” you. Your intervention story is a classic example of that. Putting someone like that in a corner and “love-bombing” them and pushing them to just “let it all out” – not helpful!  Plenty of people don’t do ladders or heights of any kind.  Would they care to be forced to walk the high cable on the Golden Gate with a fall harness and assurances that “we’re here for you”? Despite its cache in Victorian-era madhouses and on Dr. Phil, trauma really doesn’t help people all that much! 

        We could use a bit more of what Asperger’s folks have to offer. Our society would do well with a bit more Mr. Spock and a lot less of the weepy tell-all soul enemas we see play out on reality shows every day! The one country in Europe which resisted the Nazi onslaught in WW II was one whose cultural values were more autism spectrum than 24/7 emotive therapy. The Brits knew that emotions have their place, but sometimes you just have to shut up, pour a stiff one, work the problem and get on with it! If well-meaning therapists had somehow “fixed” the people working in Bletchley Park, the RAF or Los Alamos, we’d all be celebrating Aryan Victory Day by now! 

        I sometimes wonder if I’m somewhere on this spectrum as well. I have a social side to be sure, but I love losing myself in technical problems too. Though I’m more of a biologist than chemist, I’m taking on the challenge of synthesizing new porphyrin-like molecules this semester, and I love the puzzle aspect of it, amassing every scrap I can find on the matter, organizing it just so. I’ll be very happy when I’m alone, watching that pot boil, collecting my data and taking on the inevitable problem of why it didnt’ work the way I’d hoped! The emotional aspect is harder to sort out. I can be very perceptive, but male hormones, Gemini birth and middle age all predispose me toward not caring a whole lot about other’s feelings unless they’re people I respect and treasure. 

    The bottom line Star, is that you’re not a flawed neurotypical person. You’re a perfect you! The fact that you didnt’ become a physics professor shows you’re functioning just fine! :) And an autistic woman still has a higher emotional IQ than a “normal” man!

  • Sunweaver

    This could just as easily be me. I know my brain is not structured like other people’s brains. I see detail that most people don’t see (which is really frustrating at times, let me tell ya!), I am touch-sensitive, obsessive-compulsive, and easily overstimulated. There’s a lot of suffering that goes along with our kind of brain trying to fit into society’s square peg. It doesn’t work very well, if at all, and knowing we’re not “normal” doesn’t help. Conventional therapy didn’t work for me because I was too good at faking it and it wasn’t until I began studying Buddhism, the kissing cousin of the Vulcan way, that I learned how to work with the structure of my neural pathways instead of around or against them.

    Like you, I’ve not been officially diagnosed, but this is something that’s been tumbling around in my head for a while. I want to know how my mind works so that I can work with it to cease suffering that happens when we fight our true nature. I’m not Rainman and I don’t want to be a spayshul snowflake, but do want a map of how this fatty grey thing in my skull functions.

    I’m not the “pour out the heart” kind, either and, frankly, find it irritating when I’m having excessive emotions. But I have learned how to be present for what’s going on around me and inside my head. I have fewer instances where I lose my shit, I’m better at listening and being present for others, and I can navigate social situations easier, but it still takes a great deal of practice.

    I apologize for the wall of text here, but suffice it to say, I understand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luvlymish Mish Liddle

    Thankyou.

    Me too.

    Not everything you’ve written here of course, for one thing, casual sex is too easy for me, it’s friendship and actual empathy I find difficult. But it’s nice to know I’m not the only high functioning aspergic pagan woman out here.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for coming forward with this–as someone who is “neurotypical”, but has a lot of ASD in my family and friends, i think things can only improve as more people come forward and share this openly–especially those like you who don’t use their condition as an excuse to casually dismiss the feelings of those around you.

    So, to be a little less verbose, thank you for sharing this, Star!

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    Like a few other people here have commented, I see a lot of myself in some of the things you describe, although I’ve never really given any thought to the possibility that I might also be somewhat autistic. I’m extremely solitary and find it very difficult to function outside the house. Socially, I can deal with a very small number of friends, but if I find myself somewhere crowded and noisy I tend to shut down. Last spring, I was with some friends in Atlanta and they all wanted to go out to a bar and meet up with other friends of theirs. The experience was so awful for me that I literally shut down completely and spent the hours there not saying anything and just staring at a wall. Most of the group of people I was with didn’t understand and were concerned for me. I have trouble communicating with people, especially expressing myself and opening up. On the one hand I feel a lot of empathy, but I find it very difficult to express that empathy and ask other people how they are. I don’t know, I don’t want to just jump up and say, ‘Oh, I must be autistic’, but what you’ve written does make me wonder.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      What finally convinced me was not the “Are you autistic?” tests, including those developed by experts in the field, but a cognitive test that involves shifting focus. While it’s easy to skew results on a multiple choice quiz, receiving a very low score for something that seemed so very simple was a bit shattering for me. It was definitive proof for me personally that my brain works differently.

      • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

        It’s funny, because just last year, I think, I was at a family gathering and one of my brothers mentioned wondering if I had some form of autism. I don’t remember the context of the conversation, but I dismissed the notion outright at the time. So, there are other people in my life who have thought the possibility as well.

      • sunfell

        I am curious- what test was this?

      • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

        So, last night, I found an online questionnaire to test your ‘Autism Spectrum Quotient’ (maybe you’re taken that one too). The scoring was from 1-50, with anything from 32-50 being considered autistic. I scored about a 40.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          Would you please link it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

    Thank you for your bravery, Star. It is important to expand our understanding of neurodiversity, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so this morning. Namaste – I salute the Divine in you – and Blessed Be!

  • esc

    thanks, star, for sharing…i’m always intrigued by how what you share nearly mirrors my own experience.  kudos to you.

  • Varoom13

    Wow! eye opening. I see  myself in a lot of what you wrote also. Thank you for posting this.  

  • Craftymamawitch

    My three young sons are on the autistic spectrum. Bless you for writing this. You are a woman of courage and great character!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Allow me to further add to this chorus of support and encouragement, Star:  you’re a fantastic woman generally speaking (of course!), and this took an immense amount of courage to do, for which you deserve a great deal of praise–and, I’m happy to see you’re getting it!

    The matter you bring up regarding being well-adjusted/well-compensated, and therefore somehow “less” in need of consideration or assistance:  I know what you mean on that.  As a very well-adjusted dyslexic, most people don’t believe I am dyslexic at all, and in fact it has often been an advantage to me, because I’ve become so accustomed to recognizing patterns (e.g. in spelling!) that it makes me a generally good proofreader, for example.  But, reading is a slow and arduous process for me a lot of the time, and takes a great deal of mental energy and focus to do, and I still occasionally don’t get it quite right.  And foreign languages?  Forget about it…Some are not as difficult because of the similarities they share with English and their regularity (e.g. Latin), but ones that are completely different…well, all bets are off initially (e.g. Irish!), though I’ve made considerably progress in them due to sheer effort and near-OCD-level attention and devotion to the task.  But, there it is…I soldier on as well as I’m able, and that’s as much as any of us can do.

  • Lady GreenFlame

    Blessed Be, Star – it was brave of you to write this, and may all good things come from it, to you and to other Asperger’s women out there. You know, Isaac Bonewits wrote about his belief that he (and many others in the NeoPagan community) had Asperger’s,  and John Michael Greer has been diagnosed with it and spoken/written openly about it. 

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I did not know that! Thanks for the info!

  • Consectari

    Wonderful and brave post.

  • GimliGirl

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve always wondered if maybe I had AS, now I’m more sure.  I think you’ve helped more people than you can know! Your bravery doesn’t go unnoticed.

  • http://inkshaman.dreamwidth.org/ InkShaman

    Like many of the voyages of the self– the ones of slow and wondering discovery, as some poet or another put it– you’ve had to make a lot of tough choices (like whether or not to post this) but your ultimate truth to yourself, your inner honesty and your fearlessness have helped not only you, but the others who have spoken here.  You are among those who know and understand; speaking to truth to power includes knowing outselves.  Your articles and essays have helped so many, and while you’ve struggled with whether or not to post this, your courage has helped so many others find theirs to start their own journeys.

  • http://www.themonthebard.org/ Themon the Bard

    Anais Nin made a comment in one of her diaries that stuck with me. She spoke of the tyranny of psychological normalcy, something that was just coming into vogue with the advent of the new “science” of psycho-analysis. At the time, she was the lover and secretary of a prominent psychoanalyst living in New York City. She herself lived rent-free while squatting in an abandoned barge in New York, and her diaries describe the tics and twitches of her neighbors in colorful detail. Today, we’d consider all these people “crazies.” Back then, they were merely “eccentric.” They weren’t even “neurotic” — that term was reserved for people whose neuroses rendered them incapable of coping with life at all, a very far cry from bored housewives with low self-esteem. Anais could see the day coming when what was considered “normal” would be a very narrow, pale grey line through the spectrum of human behaviors and modes of perception.

    Thank you for posting this and asserting so clearly that you are not normal, but you are also not broken.

    Thank you for drawing up the courage to press post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

    My son is on the milder end of the autism spectrum.  I can’t imagine coming to this conclusion as an adult, as opposed to living your whole life knowing.  It must be both a relief and completely scary, wondering how people will accept it.

    Huge kudos to you for being brave enough to come share this with the world and being a role model for not only *girls* but also the boys out there who have too few “everyday” heros to look up to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=559294687 Rhonda Renee Olson

    Excellent post, my daughter was diagnosed with Septo Optic Dysplasia as an infant and much later we found that she was blind and gifted.  She too has 
    Asperger’s traits.  It can be a huge challenge, I’m glad to see someone discussing this in a blog and adding a personal note to the topic.  Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/OldKitchenWitch Old Kitchen Witch

    Star – you’re not alone.  My son is currently under the Educational Psychologist at school and we suspect Aspergers.  Of course, I have obsessively been researching for the past three months anything and everything to do with Aspergers.  And I’ve realised that I, too, am an adult, undiagnosed, female Aspergers person.  I read your post and spent the whole time going “Me too!”  So accept these virtual hugs, these non-eye-contact but very lovingly meant virtual hugs.  I’m sharing this post, and writing on it in BIG LETTERS that THIS IS HOW I AM TOO!

    Thank you.  Thank you so much. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=653461298 Amanda Jo Marie

    Star, thank you so much… so very much… as another woman with un-diagnosed Aspergers it helps knowing I’m not the only one.  My mom talks about how as an infant I hated being touched so much I learned to hold my own bottle as soon as my muscles allowed.  I would cry and cry until being put down.  Now, very few people are allowed to hug me, but they all know why.  The first time I allowed a friend of mine to hug me, she started crying because she knew what it meant for me to be able to do it.  I fixate on weird things and the list goes on and on.  In short, hun, thank you for posting this… Blessed be!

  • Elayne

    You are not alone. I, too, self-help diagnosed as an adult. In my case, it was when a friend’s son received an Asperger’s diagnosis after I had spent months telling her there couldn’t be anything wrong with him because he was just like me! That was my first hint. Research into Asperger’s showed me that I had already received every misdiagnosis or differential diagnosis listed in the DSM for Asperger’s…hmmm! My own daughter’s diagnosis just confirmed it for me. What was funny with her was when we took her to be evaluated, the neuropsych initially said there was no way she was spectrum, but we asked him to test anyway. Sure enough, she tested spectrum on every test he did. So we girls can “pass” good enough to fool even the professionals sometimes.

  • http://www.120squarefeet.blogspot.com/ Laura M. LaVoie

    I am glad you felt the courage to post this. 

    I don’t really have anything else to day, except that I support you. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Helmsman-Of-Inepu/100002281476991 Helmsman Of-Inepu

    Ugh! I can only imagine how horrid an ‘intervention’ would be! 
    These days, multitasking has become a business religion, and it’s really difficult once you pass the ‘sell-by’ date of a technical career. Screwing things up by multitasking, then keeping busy trying to fix the problems it creates, looks much better than having someone meticulously get it right the first time.
    Kemeticism seems to be Aspie brain candy, and I’ve met many fellow diagnosed, undiagnosed, and suspected Aspies in that. 50,000 gods and goddesses, most with multiple aspects and epithets- better start digging in!
    On TV, I tend to like Brick and Sue on The Middle.

  • Alan Sheridan

    Dear Star, your bravery in posting about such a deeply personal topic is inspiring.  I can’t imagine anyone who would think any sort of “intervention” is appropriate in a public setting like Applebee’s, but it wasn’t and I’m sorry you went through that.

    Just in case, if you don’t mind, I’m going to send some waves of protective energy your way.

    Warmly yours,
    Alan

  • Magickalmom2

    Thank you, I am so glad I am not alone.

  • LezlieKinyon

    OK – time to say this: my younger brother has autism and one of my goddaughters has Aspergers. 
    There is an organization for families and to advocate for the rights of people who are “differently wired” (they are more and less helpful):
    ARC  http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2661 If you truly believe that you have this syndrome, please give this URL to your family.

    I cannot tell you how important it is to get an assessment of your (potential) diagnosis.  There is a spectrum of conditions of the brain itself that may or may not be in play.  It IS NOT a psychiatric condition.  Having lived with an autistic sibling, I know that if you meet one autistic person, you’ve met *one* autistic person. My brother is not capable of functioning in the world like other people. He is not “obsessed” by any one thing, but takes up some “thing” and worries at it until he’s created his own (often unique) understanding of it. He is verbal, but he cannot be social. He developed “brain seizures” that look a little bit like hallucinating to someone outside of his head when he was 14. He can be violent and abusive and never remember any of it. It is, under the current diagnostic, a developmental disability. In fact, a part of his brain is not functioning. You can see it on a MRI scan.

    My goddaughter is obsessive, but never settles on one thing for any length of time and often irritable and has problems with social norms (and, not the usual ones).

    It is the only things they have in common.

    It is true, I have learned to my own detriment, that “coping” and loving one’s autistic brother or sister is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. It’s not an experience that one “goes through” and there is an ending to: it’s every day, every minute. There is no divorce, no reprieve. One advocates, fights misconceptions, redirects well-meaning (and the opposite) people from neighbors to teachers to social workers to landlords to your own friends and relatives. One helps one’s parents as much as possible. Including putting aside dreams and goals, and, finally – deep in side- one knows that the full responsibility for care will be yours to to own one day and there is nothing you can do but accept it. It should be a labor of love. It really should. I don’t know… and, neither does anyone I’ve spoken to who has a sibling with the same general affect within the spectrum as my brother.

    I have the brother that I have. This simple statement took 35 years to make.

    I am an artist and a scholar, when I am working I have that tight focus that shuts out everything and everyone else. This is actually well within normal behavior and something to be valued if you are in a profession that requires focus and concentration. It took *years* for me to accept this and own it, for fear that it meant that meant that I, too, had some part of what my brother has/is. That would mean – given my experience – a future that is mostly bleak. So – I went out and confronted it all head on: I went to professionals and asked.

    The truth isn’t easy to face. So -As a sibling of an autistic person, here is what I have learned:

    * Don’t let any of it stop you.
    * Don’t label yourself.
    * Be certain.
    * Be aware.
    * Understand.

  • Aidan Kelly

    Star, thank you. My middle daughter probably has Asperger’s, she is very dyslexic, and is very focused on women’s fashions. She also seems to be getting depressed; so it’s time for the Clinic. My oldest daughter also had extremely unusual perceptual amd memory differences.

    I often say to my composition classes that we do not have one-size-fits-all brains, that we can vary all over the map in many different ways. That often felps some feel less ashamed of their writing problems.

    It also strikes me that, although this may not be an exact parallel, alcoholics also have very “different wiring.” I know this because I have over 35 years’ sobriety. One key to getting and staying sober is to admit that you have the problem and ask for help. Trying to keep it secret only prolongs the agony.

    One AA slogan is “We are only as sick as out secrets: so, No More Secrets! Whenever I say that, I almost always get an argument from someone about things that should be secret–because they just aren’t getting it. Maybe some things must be, but only as a last resort. The point is that being secretive about anything is almost always a symptom of a deeper problem that is not being faced, that is, it’s a form of denial. I can sometimes ask a person, “Why are you livimg a lifestyle that forces you to keep that secret?” And the response is usually (if they are not just irrationally pissed off) a lot like someone trying to explain why their drinking is not a problem.

    So now that you have come out, you can say to people who think you should be more like them, “The Gods made me this way on purpose, and your not accepting that is really a type of bigotry.” And then you’ll get their denial about being bigoted, of course.

    S, thank you again, and may you reap the rewards for your corage.

  • http://profiles.google.com/emkatcreations Kat Emralde

    Very brave post.  Thank you.

  • Shawn Cameron

    I’m going to add myself to the list of thank you’s star this was very brave. But as someone above said I wander how much of this is a “syndrom” and how much is peoples squewed def of “normal”. Its very personal but I would love to know what your Myers-Briggs personality type is. I have done a lot of resurch into there 16 types and I feel most people are just rare typs or high introverts and as most of society is extrovert the “I” people are labled as other when their brain wireing is just different.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      INTJ

  • Amber

    I’ve read this blog umpteen times so far, but am watching the videos for the first time. I’m not even five minutes into the first video and have tears running down my face … sent you an email.

    Thanks for posting, Star.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Glad this post is making a difference. A bit overwhelmed by the number of women who responded positively to this post. Just responded to your e-mail.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

    I’m glad that your decision to write about autism on your blog was well
    received. Please consider submitting for the Pagans with disabilities
    anthology I’m editing. I understand you don’t consider aspergers to be a disability since you also see the benefits. That is something you can include when you write. The date for the first draft isn’t until June
    1st. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/2011/11/immanion-pressmegalithica-books-call-for-submissions/

    I love Temple Grandin and the HBO movie about her! I didn’t know she did a TedTalk. Loved the clip you included in the blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1426215526 Robert Schmid

    I was very interested to read this having been pointed here by the leader of my grove.  I have gone through a very similar process which began when I first read Grandin’s “Animals in Translation” and found myself reacting to her description of how she thinks with “Wait, doesn’t everybody think that way?”

    But recently, I’ve read the book “The Introvert Advantage” and I found a lot of crossover between these two phenomena.  What’s more, the description of how the introvert brain is wired and the chemical/neurological differences explained a lot.  So now, I’m left with two questions – Are autism and introversion related?  and Am I really on the autism spectrum or is it introversion presenting as autism.  I would be fascinated if you could read that book and tell me how you react to it.  I need to hear another similarly situated person’s reaction to measure my own against.  

  • Vivianna

    Star, As usual, I am late to the party (late to respond).  I decided to see what you’ve been up to since the start of 2012 and I have been slammed with one surprise after the next by you.  I am so grateful and happy that you have shared this! 

    You know the Tradition that I am a part of.  And you know that there are some well intentioned individuals in that trad. who see their hugging of perfect strangers as a way to express openness or that that person is family or welcomed.  Again, these are strangers.  I call these folks with a need to hug, “Enthusiastic Huggers.”

    I am staunchly in the handshake or the “I’ll hug you if you reach to hug me first!” camp.  The ‘enthusiastic huggers’ chalk it up to me being from New York… because everyone from NY is hostile.  OK, this can be true some times.  But on this issue, it’s simply irrelevant! 

    People have the right to determine who does and who does not get to have access to their bodies- even with something as “simple” to a hug.  It starts at childhood (remember your parents *making* you go hug “Aunt Margaret” or grandpa Joe?) where we are geared to be polite, even when our own intuition or preference is to do something different.  

    I acknowledge that everyone may have different baggage, different reasons for not being a hugger, or not wanting to be touched at one time or another.  Your story has made me even more committed to staying in the “Slightly Standoffish but Really Wanna Get to Know You… From Over Here” camp.  Hugs come after!

    I cannot say that I have ever known more than one or two people with some form of autism but I am aware of the kind of… stigma (right word?) associated with publicly taking on a label such as that.  You even have me wondering if I may be on this spectrum- especially as you describe some of the way that symptoms can present in childhood.

    You continue to surprise, amuse and impress me young lady!


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