This post is in the Autoethnography category

Triple Headed Dragon from Unleashed Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre 2004 © S. Woods

"Triple Headed Dragon" - Unleashed - Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre 2004

Apparently I have always been “autistic” and always will be. I have muddled through with various successes and failures and sometimes a very strong sense of “otherness”, but given a diagnosis at the age of thirty-nine that explained so much of my life came as something of a shock and upheaval. I thought I had some hard earned self-knowledge, except that my understanding of myself often didn’t fit with my understanding of others; there have always seemed to be things that other people could do that I could not, especially in relation to social interactions, some insight or “intuition” that I had none of. But I never talked about it. I never openly questioned my own perceptions or asked for help when I had clearly misunderstood a situation.

Three years ago, at the time when the topic of my thesis was new and fresh and unavoidable, I was advised not to let my research become my therapy. It seemed like bad advice – surely self-knowledge is just what I need, “to know me is to love me” in a very literal (my favourite) way. The problem with autoethnography is that everyone ends up knowing your secrets. I guess that’s the point really – we write having asked the question “what can someone learn by reading about me?”. Anyone who writes their own story has to deal with this; how much to reveal – where to draw the line, lift the veil, don the mask.

So Pandora’s Box has been opened and a wraithlike Thing has emerged. Its new Name is Asperger’s Syndrome and it has become an omnipresent companion, a filter, a lens and a distance from which to observe. Asperger’s may have given me a new way to watch myself, but the very sight of some hitherto unknown or misunderstood part of one’s Self has its own sweet sharpness. The soul-sapping spectre of self-doubt and the blinding vulnerability of self-knowledge are inextricably bound together.

The business of self examination and public writing is scary and painful and frustrating and generally a pain in the butt, perhaps because the process itself is ongoing and doesn’t look like going away anytime soon.  The trials come and go, one recedes and another edges closer.  One thing I can say is that you have to work with them – working against them is too hard!  They can each have their own virtue as well as fearsome claws.

But now is the time to embrace the dragon, and harness it’s fearsome powers.  The burning forces that brings us fear or pain is also capable of lighting the way, warming the heart and tempering the steel. Obsession is your friend because without it there is nothing but apathy.  Obsession is the driving force of enquiry and the way to the truth.  Depression is your companion because it forces you to ask “why”.  It demands a deeper satisfaction with the answers and it cries for change.   Defending your family’s privacy is your own armour and protection.  It reminds you of the people you love and the reasons you love them.  It connects your Self to the Other.

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