On the spectrum…

As someone who would almost certainly have been put ‘on the spectrum’ as a youth under today’s practices — I had profound OCD symptoms/compulsions/behavioral ‘tics’ that caused near complete social isolation from my peers for some years as an adolescent; when I first saw a diagnostic framework for Asperger Syndrome in the early 1990’s, it was one of those moments of snap recognition: the obsessive interests (model cars when I was young, audio as a young teen), odd patterns of communication (you couldn’t get me to shut up, particularly about audio), other monomaniacal behaviors.

I muddled my way through my middle and high school years on my own, managed to start reconnecting with other young people — but didn’t really feel good until I got into college, away from the repressive and muddle-headed school district I’d miserably spent my teen years in.

So, I was never formally diagnosed (or treated) but I’ve spent some up close personal time with a couple of the psychological diagnostic manuals through the years (and sometimes it seems like pretty much all my old friends who are not lawyers seem to be clinical psychologists and counsellors) and I feel confident that under current practices, I likely would have received a diagnosis placing me on what we today think of as the autism spectrum.

I just want to say that a psychological diagnosis is intended to be helpful, to possibly help explain previously misunderstood personal behaviors, and hopefully to lead to tools by which we can address our current psychological and emotional state and effect positive change.

But it’s NOT intended (by sensible folks, anyhow) to be some kind of trap or prison — OR an excuse not to ask more from yourself in your own, personal quest for what we used to sometimes call ‘personhood’ or self-actualization — bringing the qualities you want to see in yourself forward, engaging in the process of becoming the person you want and feel you should be. (And I emphasize process, because, as I near my 70s, I see that, as Bob Dylan said so long ago: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”)

I believe it’s well-observed that these ‘spectrum’ diagnoses can, in some senses, be almost all-inclusive.

I also have had mercurial mood shift issues at some points in my life… more extreme, perhaps, than the average person, but doesn’t just about everyone graced with emotions have fluxes and changes? Sometimes those shifts are related to identifiable real world events… but there are times when ‘normal’ folks find themselves beset by mood issues whose provenance escapes them, too.

As a number of folks have pointed out, we are, indeed, all human. And there’s a certain amount of baggage that tends to come along with that…