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Journeys, taken alone, in a crowded life.

I want to talk about learning, self-knowledge and inner-journeys, taken by aspies who carry on with life and do what most normal people do. Readers, how is the world meant to notice when an aspie does this, if even the aspie themselves hasn't realised? Let me explain.

Around the time I left my full-time work and started to change my lifestyle, I knew I was spending a large amount of time thinking, considering, working things out, debating with myself. All this focussed on what had gone before; I wanted to know what it meant. I also wanted to know who I really was, what I meant, to me and my loved ones. I needed to work it out, properly, for my own peace of mind.

I considered going to a therapist and then imagined how the session might go, with an outwardly sympathetic face waiting for me to open up about things I could barely even vocalise inside my own head, let alone out loud, to a stranger. I realised, then, that if I was to explain everything I had going on to my doctor, I might be sent to a psychiatrist.

I mulled it over. Put aside the stigma of the men in white suits and wonder what might happen if they could really help me figure out what was going on. How many of you aspies out there have thought, 'I'm crazy! But you won't get me anywhere near those doctors, because I'm fine like this, thank you very much!'

Well, it's not so cut and dried for any of us. We all have reasons why we struggle on and fight our battles silently, separately from people who might want to help. In my case, I was a single mother with children who I feared might be taken away from me if I admitted to any kind of weakness.

Don't get me wrong, I functioned at a level where we all ate, and had clothes to wear, and we laughed every day. We were a happy little family unit. Yet, at the edges of it, was the spectre of what I didn't know about myself and what I needed to find out.

Don't forget, at this stage I just thought I was nutty, I didn't know I had a label for it. I had no idea that, if I found out I had aspergers, so many other things would slot neatly into place. So, I struggled on.

I wanted to work things out for myself, but wasn't sure if it was possible. Then something happened which set me on the right path.

I used to get outbursts of anger, over silly things. It was like a flare went off and POW! I was shouting. Again. It didn't make the situation better and, once I'd calmed down, the guilt wasn't worth the temporary relief of letting out my feelings.

I lay in bed, thinking about my outbursts and hating myself for it. What could I do? I thought, there's only me, but then, it's me who is at fault. Surely I can stop myself a little? So, I determined to scale it down, to try to get through the next angry situation without losing control. I also realised how much I was chastising myself for it and decided to forgive myself the occasional lapse in temper.

So, I had in place a very small plan, alongside a decision to forgive myself if I couldn't follow it perfectly.

It worked. Not every time, but the first time I held back and left the room instead of shouting, I could have cried instead. I had the control necessary to stop myself.

This was a massive boost to feeling empowered to change things for myself, but it was also a blow, as I realised I had been self-indulgent in the first place. If I could control the anger now, I could have controlled it before.

Although I had made a great step forward in learning this control, I was also still trapped in the cycle of negative thinking and the FAILURE word, which dogged me for years.

Looking back now, I am still sorry I lost my temper so much, but I'm also forgiving of myself for doing it. How could I stop if I thought it was out of my control? I couldn't work it all out at once, it was a process I needed to go through, to understand myself.

I understand now that my recovery from this time of intense introspection has been gradual, marked by a lot of deep thought and occasional revelations. The revelations cannot be forced, they have to grow, in the background, until there is the right time and space for them to burst through.

These revelations, about ourselves and our lives, are an essential part of the healing process. Without them, you are still just a mass of conflicting emotions and thought. You need this sudden burst of light to show you the perspective from which everything else must be viewed.

I reached a stage where I realised I couldn't work in a normal environment, with lots of other people, pressure, noise, routine. I had known I couldn't cope with this for a long time, but not that I would probably never overcome it. After each failed job, I would think, next time I'll try harder, next time it'll be better, next time I'll be stronger.

You are still yourself, you still have aspergers, no matter how strong you are. The realisation that I would always be with this way, with jobs and with everything else, felt like a mortal blow. Guess what, it was permanent! I couldn't outgrow it, or out-think it. I couldn't magically transform myself into someone else. I couldn't get a few nights of good sleep and wake up nomal. This was it, in some shape or form, for the rest of my life.

That was one revelation I may not have been able to cope with at the start of my journey. If someone had told me nine years ago, this is the real you, now deal with it, I don't know that I would ever have come out of the doldrums. Okay, maybe I would, but in the same way? I'm not sure.

Nine years ago, I started this journey of self-discovery by spending a great deal of time thinking hard about everything. Oh, everything! All the things that had never made sense, large or small, made it into my brains. All the times when I was very young and growing up, those times that you think you know inside out, I took them out and looked at them again, like it was new.

I looked at other people differently, too. At first, I judged them as I judged myself; harshly, as individuals prone to a failure they could avoid. Then, over time, as I understood myself more, I judged them less, seeing them as flawed, like myself.

Given enough time, you do work your way round to forgiveness, the real and proper kind where you do feel a softening towards them. But, you must forgive yourself first, for not being who you thought you were and for not being able to do what you expected.

In the end, everyone must make their own way. Each journey is completely different. Some will need professional help, some will fight on by themselves, trying to find their own explanations as to why it all happens this way.

Whichever way you choose, understand it won't happen overnight. We are all strange and wonderful creatures, each twist and turn of our dna a crazy riddle bound in secrets. Others can only help us along the path, they can't walk it for us or tell us what or who we are. Many think they can and we'll listen to them, too, like we always have.

Eventually, if you keep your mind open, your revelations will come. Bear them, inspect them, make them part of you as much as you can. Forgive, readers, wherever it is needed and hard as it can be -and please, don't think I expect it to be easy! I simplify these ideas, sometimes, for the sake of explanation.

Let each day be a new one, this is a major lesson I've learnt. Let regret have its place, because without it we wouldn't want to learn. Let failure lay in the compost heap with the cabbage and don't forget to keep throwing more on top of it. That rich mixture, made of you and life when you smash together, it'll be useful one day.

I'm still learning now. I know I'll look back in a few years and see this time as another stage of my journey, even though right now I feel like I'm a long way down the road. I hope I never stop learning, because as aspies, it's one of our bright stars, even though we often think the opposite.

Don't forget, like all journeys, you don't get anywhere without taking those little, individual steps. And, however it seems as you take those steps, it isn't an empty road, readers, and it never was.


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