Category Archives: Black People with Autism

Fear Of Finishing

Painted in WaterlogueBlogging is still not comfortable for me, but I learned to type on an ancient device known as the typewriter. When you were done, what you’d written wasn’t immediately available on Google for everyone to see. Writing a post feels like running around buck naked, but I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. I notice a lot of Aspie blogs have a few posts, then get abandoned, or the Aspie has moved on to another interest. No post on a blog for awhile looks the same on the surface to an NT, but if you’re on the spectrum it’s a different animal.

In my case I’ve started and stopped blogging several times, ever since I heard that writers needed to have blogs, and tweet and and and…but now I’m committed. I just don’t know how many posts I will produce, since I have a tendency to think none of them are good enough and, I discard about ten for every one I end up posting.

The perfectionism piece of Autism is inconvenient and amusing. It took me the better part of a year to edit book one in my Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance (I have to use both designations, because my series sits right in the middle of the two genres). To further prolong matters, I re-wrote the book again while making the suggested changes. One day my editor said, “You’ve done really well, now you can send it out to agents.” I freaked out, froze, and didn’t touch the book for weeks. I discovered I was terrified. Afraid of rejection, afraid of the success I crave, and since there are steamy love scenes, afraid of what my parents and friends might think.

That project is now complete and the struggle seems far away, but I wanted to mention it, just incase someone else who reads this has the same struggle or knows someone who does. I edit with ease now and make the changes suggested by editors or writing partners, but I didn’t get there overnight. Human nature is a funny thing. In the deepest darkest regions of our psyche there are embarrassments we never share and experiences we do not discuss with anyone. Talking about those hidden corners and ragged edges is the key to acceptance, for who among us hasn’t known fear?

By sharing our frailties, we become the very embodiment of the human spirit. People want to support and help. To lift up the one person who bares their soul is to acknowledge the many who are still struggling to tell their truth.

Since I’m now writing a memoir and the fiction books are resting, this all seems silly and ridiculous. But at one time not so long ago, editing was a challenge, so I’m sharing it.  My number one piece of advice after three and a half months of knowing I have Autism is; if you haven’t figured everything out no matter how old you are, it’s ok.  The earth will not stop spinning, take a deep breath and follow your dreams.  Ask for help when you need it.  There is no shame in not knowing how to do everything, and no one expects you to.

I sometimes feel what I refer to as the ‘rushies’.  I want to do something quickly, publish, write, shop, edit. I feel that whatever task I’m working on should have already been completed years ago, and I get impatient, or discouraged. In the past this might have led to having a bout of disenchantment with myself and wondering what’s wrong with me.  Now – I laugh, cause I get it.  I think of my brain like a computer, occasionally it has glitches.  When watching TV, the cable may glitch. The picture gets stuck or the volume goes out. I don’t toss the TV out the window or smash the cable box. I never call the cable company, to complain because I know in a few minutes everything will go back to normal. So I asked myself, how can I have more patience with cable than I do with myself? This is the sixth try at writing a new post, and I like this one. See, I’m getting better. My next post will be on zombies. Bet you didn’t expect that from an African American woman over 50.

The Aspiness Of It ALL

Asperger’s Syndrome is often considered a mental health issue.  It is usually diagnosed by a well trained psychatrist, or therapist, and in the United States, is viewed as a brain deficiency.  In actuality, Aspergers is a variation in the way a person processes and reacts to information and environment.

Asperger’s is described as a high functioning version of autism.  People with Asperger’s rarely display the same intellectual disabilities as those associated with more severe forms of Autism, and are able to digest large amounts of ‘facts’ about any subject they are interested in.

There is often little or no delay in speaking. Most problems for high functioning autistics crop up with social interaction, and become visible in social situations.  The symptomatic presentation of Asperger’s is so markedly different between girls and boys, men and women, that countless women on the spectrum are missed entirely.

By it’s very nature, Autism alienates and separates those who have it from the rest of the world.  The tendrils of the way my brain works makes it twice as difficult for me to post something on Facebook as a NT/neurotypical person.  My brain tells me that everything written for anyone else to read needs to be perfect.  So, where most people write and post something off the cuff, I will ruminate, edit and re-write often for days before showing the world my thoughts.

Normally, by the time I get around to posting anything, I have lived with the words long enough to let them go out into the world with minimal amounts of fear about what will come back.  I think if most people had as much fear about a simple FB post as I do, the world would be a quieter place.

Everyone is fighting, to be noticed, ‘see me’, ‘like my page.’  I struggle with the very exposure others crave.  I do not want to be in the spotlight, I’m afraid of what the brilliance might reveal.  I have been hiding in plain sight for years and ‘just being myself’ is a more complicated task than the average person can fathom.  I rehearse before every meeting, dinner or important conversation. (See the ly adverb at the beginning of the last paragraph? I want to cut it, because ‘good’ writers are taught to delete the ly adverbs – but I’m fighting my nature, because I think that one, right there, is authentic, so I leave it).

Even though any post is only the rearranging the same 26 letters over and over, I have learned the necessity of having an editor. Everything I think doesn’t need to be in this one post.  I never understood my fear of posting, until my counselor pointed out that people with Aspergers regard the written word as much more important than something spoken. However, knowing why you do a thing, doesn’t make it any easier to not do it.

I am an African American woman living on the Autistic Spectrum.  I am high functioning enough that most people missed it, but not so high functioning that I didn’t wonder every day of my life why I felt like an alien in my own body.

Because I believe there are others out there like me, who are older and just finding out, I am writing down my thoughts.  I am learning how to focus on one thing instead of many.  To those who will read this and desire to comment, but who will not be able to do more than hit the ‘like’ button, because they are overcome with emotion – I feel you.

I will continue to write for those who need that one person who ‘gets them’, and for those who may never understand.  I am a reluctant but passionate activist.  It is impossible not to speak about my life in an effort to educate others.

The African American community is often hesitant to discuss autism.  The thought process goes something like this, we already carry one label, why would we want to admit to another.  This is especially true of those for whom the label is almost invisible.  We are taught from the cradle to ‘blend in.’  To admit to autism is to stand out.  Trust me, there is nothing worse than growing up with an almost invisible brain difference where you have more in common with the aliens on TV than the people around you.  I am an African American woman with Autism who represents another piece of the spectrum puzzle.

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Nothing but the Truth from an African American Woman with Asperger's