“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
The events in Connecticut are ringing all kinds of bells for me. I recognize in my life journey that there was a time when I touched the edges of what might have been a similar circumstance.
I can relate to that single mother, dealing with a child who had issues she was probably not personally equipped to handle, a child who eventually became physically larger than she was, yet whom she probably felt she could still control. I can relate to her starting to keep secrets, putting on a brave front, making it seem that everything was okay and that she was handling it. I can relate to her possible exhaustion and her perpetual hope that things would turn out okay. And I can relate to her possible misreading of the signs that in retrospect any of the rest of us, less stressed and exhausted, less isolated and on edge, might have known were red flags.
We are many of us so close to the edge, juggling family or career or money situations that threaten to overwhelm us. Yet we assume we should go it alone. Our society values self-sufficiency to the point of self-destruction. There are times when we should ask for help, yet we don’t, thinking it’s better to muscle it through ourselves and that we’ll appear weak if we can’t.
I’ve been there. I had to be at the point of total despair and facing a life-threatening circumstance before I took what I can look back on and clearly see was the common sense answer—to get the person to the emergency room. Until that point, I thought it was my job, even my responsibility, to find the answers myself. And until that point, I was failing miserably but didn’t know it. Once I was connected with those who had the training and the experience to guide me, we found a solution. It wasn’t that those who helped me knew everything or had instant answers. It was that I was no longer alone. I had people to bounce ideas off of, I had resources that could explain to me what was going on. And that made all the difference.
It is my hope that our society will become increasingly alive to when we should reach out to each other. That we can begin to care for each other even at the risk of offending someone’s pride or disturbing our own comfort zone. When we see someone struggling, let’s ask if we can help. This could make all the difference.
This fabulous series on “Lessons from an Asperger’s-NT Marriage” hit home with me. In it, the author explores how she, with Asperger’s, relates to her “NT” (neuro-typical) husband of twenty-five years. She writes:
[I]f you’re in an Aspergers-neurotypical marriage, you didn’t get there by accident. You’ve made a deliberate choice to share your life in what is essentially a cross-cultural partnership. Like any cross-cultural exchange, an aspie-NT marriage can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare.
…It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it’s been damn near impossible. More than once we’ve considered whether we might be better off apart than together. But we’ve also found some surprising benefits to our aspie-NT partnership. Hopefully some of what we’ve learned will be helpful to other couples that have taken on the challenge of making an Aspergers-NT marriage work.
I’m so proud of them in reading their story. I have known couples who ran out their married lives never knowing what it was that always kept them at loggerheads. The disagreements the author describes are very like the ones I was often witness to, although what I witnessed never had any resolution because there was never any diagnosis and both parties assumed they were right and the other was wrong. I find myself wondering, what if they’d known what the underlying issues were? What if they’d been able to gain the psychological tools and communication skills that would have allowed them to cope better with the situation? What if there had been more understanding and less judgment? More patience and less taking things personally? How would everyone’s lives have been better?
What if, what if. These things are no longer possible with the people I knew, at least not in their marriage. The author of the series above didn’t find out she had Asperger’s until she was 42. Rather than tear her to bits, this information helped her to understand herself better.
In my book Daddy Issues, I offer a ray of hope that with new understanding, the NT half of a relationship can at least find some closure and peace. I’m beginning to feel that early discovery is a blessing to all concerned, because everyone deserves to know what’s going on. Knowledge is power; understanding is empowerment. On all points of the neuro-spectrum.
I got a new insight into this Bible passage this morning. I’d never understood the last part before:
The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Matt. 11:5,6)
Suddenly this morning, the last part meant to me, “Blessed is he who is not offended when I help people most others don’t like.”
Which is kind of why I wrote Daddy Issues. To shed light on things some folks find offensive or disturbing. And yes, some people are offended by some of what I wrote. So I’m doubly, triply thankful this morning for those of you who are not. You are changing the world.