Thoughts and illustrations on living on the autism spectrum.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I’m An Aspie. Period.

My blog takes its title from my very first, and most popular, post. But you may notice one difference. The blog title is punctuated with a period; the cartoon that started it all, with an exclamation point.

Oversight? Contradiction? Let me settle the question: it is intentional.

When I first accepted that I have Asperger’s, I was all like, “Dude!” The light bulb flashed on. Things that had never made sense suddenly did. I’d done my first round of reading, and begun connecting with others like me, on and offline. I relished the newly found “permission” to be just the way I am - to be different, without being at fault.

Soon, I encountered people who took this sentiment a step further. Autism was a gift, they said. A joy! A wonderful world! I could not help but want to jump on board with this mindset of pride. My first cartoon was concocted in this spirit - a message of celebratory disclosure.

But in the months that followed, I continued to learn. Questions were answered, but new ones arose. My disclosure was well-received, but not life-changing. I found there were limits to what online and offline resources could offer. And though I remained certain of my self-assessment, I felt the pressure to defend it to doubters. I had to back away from the “joy of autism” attitude. And for awhile, I backed away from writing and drawing.

Now, of course, I am back to blogging again. I like how it’s going, and I attribute that to the new rules I’ve made for myself. First, I decided I would not sugar-coat my experience. I would permit myself to be honest, to show the highs and the lows of Asperger’s. It may not always be what the readers want to hear, but it’s the truth.

Second, I decided not to write about Asperger’s all the time, since it’s not my life, only one part of it. When I feel like doodling about melon, or cinnamon bears, or whatever else, by golly, that’s what you’re gonna get! This is the direction I plan to continue in.

I am still searching for answers. I certainly am not done learning. Yet I have experience I feel is worth sharing. I am not jumping up and down to be an Aspie, but I am not ashamed of it either. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes bad, sometimes it just is. I stand by my original cartoon and its exclamation point. I would not change anything about it. But if you ask me today, I’m an Aspie, period.

Where are you at in your journey with Asperger’s? What punctuation would you use?


  1. Seriously, dude, however you punctuate it, your message is great. My guess is that it would rotate through all those marks. And maybe the occasional semi-colon.

    I love your blog and your cartoons. Good stuff.

  2. Thanks, Stimey. Semi-colon? Hmm, how would I draw an expression for that... oh yeah, of course! ;)

  3. I'm an exclamation point about 99% of the time.

  4. Hmmm...I'm not sure what punctuation to use. It was a major relief two years ago to figure out that I have Asperger's (!), then I went through the grief of letting go of decades of dreams (is there a punctuation mark for that?), then I started discovering gifts I'd never known I'd had (!), then I became painfully aware of being part of a stigmatized minority that most people view through a lens of distortion.

    If I'm just with myself and centered in my own experience, I feel very happy and peaceful. When I think about the nonsense that passes for critical thought about autism, I feel very alienated. So, maybe I ought to use an ellipsis, just to show that it's all a work in progress: Dude, I'm autistic...

  5. Rachel, I like your explanation and I think it's very common, being a work in progress. More punctuation I had not thought of!

    *Wonders if I need to turn in my writer badge since I did not know it was called an ellipsis...*

  6. Matt, no need to turn in your writer badge. I'm an editor as well as a writer (and about 20 years your senior), so if I say you get to keep the badge, then you get to keep the badge, ya hear? And if anyone gives you a problem, you just send them to me... :-)

  7. LOL - I'm just glad I learned something new today!

  8. Before I read the comments, I was thinking semi-colon. It's not a wink for me, it's a holding pattern. It's a sign that the sentence isn't finished yet; there's more to come.

    I was diagnosed nine years ago, at the age of 34. Before that, I have a long string of jobs I couldn't keep longer than two weeks (with no idea why I kept getting fired) punctuated by devastating homeless spells. (And for someone with few or no friends, homelessness does not mean crashing around on people's couches.)

    Now that I'm diagnosed, I've been able to re-frame a lot of my life. I've been able to go to university. I have a lot of hope that my life will be very different after (if) I complete my doctorate.

    But maybe whatever-it-is that kept getting me fired is still there and maybe it won't matter that I'll have four degrees and maybe I'm just screwed? Or maybe not?

    I just won't know what the lay of the land is until I finish this doctorate (got a few more years to go) and get out there and try to find and keep a job and see what happens.

    So. A holding pattern. A semi-colon. I just don't realistically know where I am with my asperger's right now and whether or not I will be able to work with/around it or not.

    I would draw the person to look like your period dude but with eyebrows that slant a little bit up to the center - a concerned face. (But not a huge slant because that would be a worried face and the semi-colon is not worried, it's just concerned.)

  9. Thanks for sharing, unstrangemind. I congratulate you on picking yourself up and re-framing after so much hardship. From homelessness to higher education is huge progress. However, I also understand your uncertainty, and a semi-colon could definitely depict that.

  10. For me, it would be three dots. The journey is ongoing.

  11. i'm somewhere between exclamation and interrogation point. i started like you, all: DUDE!! ( see i even put 2 of them) , then i started recieving weird signals from the world. messages saying " discovering you're autistic will not make the world make more of an effort or be interrested in getting to know you. It will only give them a free pass at patronising you and treating you as if you are retarded"
    it can even get scary.
    i live in france and i'm starting to get paranoid about social services knocking on my door and saying: we came to take your kids away , now be a good girl and don't make a fuss about it"
    i think my punctuation will soon look like this :
    :P ... it was a joke.