When my first article was picked up by Mic in February 2012, I thought that my dream of becoming a political columnist had finally started to come true. I wasn’t wrong, but I never anticipated one turn that my career was destined to take. Although I still love writing editorials on political and social issues, I also find that more and more often I discuss Asperger’s Syndrome – a condition that I have had for as long as I can remember.
I write about being a high-functioning autistic (HFA) for three reasons:
- The only way our situation can improve is if we insist that it become part of the larger conversation about human rights.
Based on my own experiences and what I’ve heard from other HFAs, it’s pretty clear that the biggest challenge facing people with Asperger’s Syndrome is that so few people are aware of our struggles. When you are born with an inability to effectively read social situations, when your mind is wired to process information and emotions and to execute tasks in a fundamentally different way from most other people, you are bound to face misunderstanding, intolerance, and discrimination your entire life. If we want this to stop, our only option is to make sure that the rest of the world knows what we’re experiencing and what they are doing to us.
- The brain is the final frontier of human knowledge.
When I was a child, my neurologist once told my parents that “what we know about the human brain can fit on the head of a pin.” Although cognitive sciences have made enormous strides since the late 1980s, there is still much progress to be made, and one of the best ways to advance our body of knowledge is for everyone with an atypical neurology to shed light on their experiences. Even if the people doing this are only contributing to lay literature instead of formal medical or scientific journals, their words can still be picked up by scholars and used to yield insights about the human condition.
- It has been cathartic for me.
Most writers are familiar with the axiom that we often write best when we turn inward instead of looking outward. If the popular reaction to my articles on Asperger’s are any indication, this is still very much the case, but what I never anticipated was how much I grew as a person in the process. By analyzing my struggles in such a public forum, I made peace with aspects of my life that had tormented me for years. Similarly, by receiving such positive feedback from other autistic individuals throughout the world, I realized that I wasn’t alone, and was able to let their words help me as much as mine (hopefully) assisted them.
There isn’t much more for me to add right now. I never expected to find myself performing self-vivisections for the world on a regular basis, but I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could… or should. Now is as good a time as any to explain why.