Trading in my sanity

On the day I received my Aspergers diagnosis from the doctor, I was scheduled for appointments with a counselor and a psychiatrist. On the same day that my entire 35+ years finally started to make sense to me, I was put on the list to be fixed.

No one even asked me if I was broken.

The gate keepers for what is normal

It occurred to me that psychiatrists (and psychologists) have become the gate keepers of what society considers to be normal. They write up manuals with definitions of what is not normal and if you fit within those definitions… you’re diagnosed with something.

They’re also the people you talk to over and over again, sometimes for the rest of your life, in the epic quest to figure out how to make yourself normal. And you never will be normal until they tell you that you are.

Which brings me to my son Cameron. He’ll never be normal. He has PDD-NOS (which, next year, will no longer be called that and will simply be “Autism Spectrum Disorder”) and you have that for life. Because it’s one of the many definitions found in the psychiatrists manuals, he will always fit into that definition and thus be told that he’s not normal.

Growing up autistic

My son has a long life ahead of him with some of the most difficult years yet to come, high school.

The truly ironic part of high school is that when he gets bullied (I say when because the odds are, unfortunately, pretty good), he will be sent to a counsellor or a psychiatrist to help him cope with the anxiety, the depression and the feeling of being an outcast.

The bully? He’ll probably be punished in some form, like a detention or suspension but then will go right back to his bullying ways. Why?

Because bullying is normal.

Yeah, I said it. Bullies, while many are doing great work in trying to stop bullying, are still very much a fact of life. Especially in high school. When ours kids go off to high school, they know just as much as we do that there will be bullies there. Our kids just have to get through it.

“It’ll make them stronger.”
“It’ll toughen them up.”
“We did it. They can do it too.”
Right?

How has society gotten to the point where the bully is normal and the autistic kid that’s bullied is the one that needs fixing because he’s not normal?

It gets even worse as we get older. For example, here I am, getting my diagnosis and “fix me” appointments all the while other people I know have, what I consider to be, real issues. I won’t go into specifics but there are people I know that could use some help.

But they’re normal. They don’t have a diagnosis for anything. They just have issues. And everyone has issues, to some degree.

So they would never have someone booking appointments for them like I did.

insanityI’ll keep my insanity

Today’s world sees the word “insane” as meaning totally bonkers, crazy or all sorts of not making sense. The truth is, the definition actually is “In a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction.

Sound familiar?

Granted, autism is far more than just “a state of mind” but still, you get the same effect. One could argue that something that “prevents” me from being “normal” classifies me as insane.

My son too.

Which makes me think of an old movie I once watched. The movie itself isn’t very memorable to me but one line in it really stuck with me.

Sane and insane could easily switch places. If the insane were to become the majority, you would find ourself locked in a padded cell wondering what happened to the world.

It always intrigued me, even sort of made me smile. Because it’s quite the interesting notion to think that “normal” is really just what the majority of people are doing.

If most people do this, and you do that, you’re not normal. But tomorrow, if most people did that and you started doing this… you were still not normal.

There’ll likely never be more autistic people than non-autistic people in the world but at 1 in 88 being the most recent numbers out of the US, it still makes me think; if more people had autism, would being autistic be considered normal?

That makes me smile.

I’ll go see the counselor and the psychiatrist. My son will likely have to some day as well. And we’ll do our best to be the best that we can be.

But insanity is only a 51% majority away from being considered sanity.

Normal is just a number away.

You can keep it

I love my son how he is. I love my son for who he is.

And now that my life makes more sense, I love who I am too.

Since getting the diagnosis, I feel like I traded in my sanity. I was instantly put onto the “not normal” radar and had appointments made for me.

But I realize now that having autism doesn’t make you abnormal. It just makes you a different kind of normal. A kind of normal that could easily switch places, if the numbers were right.

If normal means changing my son into someone he’s not, you can keep it.

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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7 Responses to Trading in my sanity

  1. Excellent July 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    That is an excellent reply. Is there any way I can get in to contact with you?

  2. Dave July 13, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    The psychology of “identifying with arbitrary labels” is very interesting. I believe more understanding in this area could lead to significant improvements in “quality of life” simply by improving or managing individual “self-image”.

    I find it therapeutic to identify as “neurologically atypical”, I jokingly term “normals” – “standard model brains”, “factory models” or “production line people”. This represents an in-group bias and is, pretty much, what we don’t want them to do to us.

    I’m also very careful when describing autism or autistic symptoms as properties of atypical neurology, not disabilities or personal traits.

    I believe that many of the “cognitive peculiarities” of autism can contribute meaningfully and positively to an individuals life and that expression or suppression of these qualities should be carefully considered – Their “usefulness” is largely context-dependent and some differences will be positive in some situations but may be crippling in others.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. outoutout July 27, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Well well, welcome to the world of what it’s like to be a stigmatised Other.
    Still support eugenics? 😉

    • Stuart Duncan July 27, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      I never did. I asked a question.

      Do you still accuse others of ‘othering’ when they’re saying the same thing as you?

  4. Gus Quick October 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    Hello good sir, I am an 11 year old boy that has been diagnosed with the same autism spectrum as your son, and I may say it has changed my life. I now live with my father, who has had joint custody over me with my mother after they divorced, and I am at a school where my ability to type 160 words a minute is put to good use now that I can do all of my work on my computer. I am with you and even though I am abnormal in many regards, I am also above average intelligence, am easily socially compatible with other people who are eccentric, and I concur every bit to the fact that we should not be changed. Its as the old saying goes “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

  5. PK September 24, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Normal is overrated (LOL). I’m not autistic, but I’ve never been normal either. I read too much, liked science-fiction as a female (gasp!), was a geek, smarter than most of my peers, and didn’t fit in much even in my own family. I did ok, and was lucky in that I wasn’t really bullied – I just didn’t “fit”. My husband had the same experience. Since my son is autistic (PDD-NOS), I expect he will experience the same. As a mom, I am not going to put up with it, but I know we can only do so much.

    DS is in first grade, and we’re planning on talking to the kids about inclusion, differences, and autism – getting them on the same page so they “get” my son and understand that he’s not trying to be annoying, that he just thinks differently.

    I agree with you about bullying, that taking it for granted as “it happens, I survived, etc.,” as a reason not to do anything is complete BS. That just burns me up. And another thing that makes me crazy is inter-family bullying, which is a level beyond sibling rivalry that seems to get a pass because “that’s just the way they are with each other”. Parents need to stop being lazy and THINK. If you would get upset at a kid for treating your child the way their sibling does – MAKE THEM STOP. There’s a difference between kids getting on each other’s nerves and bullying.

    How do we, as parents, teach our kids to stand up against the jerks? How do we teach other adults to stop taking this crap for granted, as ok, as “normal”? My “mama bear” gets really riled up about how people treat each other. I want to be as constructive with that “grrrr” feeling as possible.

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