Not the empathy thing again?

I'm neurodiverse. All that really means is that whilst most of the world's population (of humans - all cats have Asperger's) is wired one standard way,  there are a precious few people who are wired differently. Not bad different - just different different. You'll have heard all the theories about Einstein having autism, Churchill was bipolar, most of the great genii of history were able to get to these glimpses of inspiration because they weren't limited to the standard settings. You can open the back of a PC and upgrade it to make it more powerful, or less likely to overheat; the brain is really no different. There is one major difference with our fleshy processor though - the brain can spontaneously change its own wiring according to your life experiences, how well you look after it, the fuel it runs on, how much blood is pumping through it and how clean or toxic that blood is amongst other things. Those hours spent practising the violin during childhood meant that a physical part of my brain is now slightly large in area than it would be for someone who didn't. It's a responsive system - but you can't just decide to upgrade.  

The savant stories are the classic stereotype of neurodiversity; we suddenly get to see what the brain can really do if it's not tempered by the usual structure of things - and it's both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. But there's another, more sinister side to all this. There are people out there who want so desperately to understand their own pain, that they look to ascribe blame, and since suffering makes so little sense to any of us, people will cling to anything to help them figure it out.This is where we run into some difficulties; there are entire sets of politics built around the idea that people with personality disorders or autism or bipolar or {insert name of other developmental difference here} are inherently evil and incapable of maintaining relationships without leaving a trail of destruction behind them. There are entire sites dedicated to 'speaking the truth' about neurodiverse conditions, presenting the author's personal vendetta as scientific fact and seeking to not just strengthen the stigma, but actually promote it.

Nobody wants to believe that they chose a dud. It's natural to look for some explanation as to why the object of your love and attention fooled you so utterly into thinking they were a diamond in the rough, when they were really going to abuse you and destroy your life. Natural as it may be though, it doesn't mean whatever foible you want to blame is the real reason you got hurt. I'm sure that sentence sounds terribly unempathetic, but we should be honest with ourselves here.

Calling something 'abuse' implies it's done with malice, so I don't believe that having a neurodiverse condition in itself causes abuse to others. Yes, of course many of us learnt throughout our lives that sometimes our behaviours hurt others, but most of us stop doing those things immediately if it's possible. The problem is that sometimes it just isn't possible - and you could use the same logic with any illness. A cancer patient knows their cancer will indirectly hurt others who have to deal with what they go through, but they're not in control of that to change it. We don't go around warning people not to get close to someone who might have cancer, because that would be ridiculous! If something is not a choice, then you cannot assign fault to it, unless you're one of those twerps who still thinks that women should dress demurely if they don't want to get raped, 'cos men.

This asinine argument removes the part where usually the mitigating circumstances (i.e. autism/cancer/etc.) would cancel out blame, and tries to say that instead of the autism causing problems in both the life of the person with autism and those around them, it's the person themselves going out of their way to cause upset. 'Heartless Asperger's' (god knows why I've linked to this even once, let alone twice), whilst a very moving account of one woman's bad experiences in relationships with nefarious partners - some of which happened to be with people who had autism - is not a means by which we can make sweeping generalisations willy nilly. She may as well have put it all down to 'God's work' - perhaps that would've made as much sense. I've had some godawful relationships with downright abusive dickheads who were totally neurotypical but driven by hormones or stress or pheromones or one of a thousand other things that can influence our behaviours. Some people are just pricks, and even they deserve love. Unfortunately, although I admire the author's passion in wanting to prevent others from being hurt, she's extrapolating anecdote into data. As an entire species we can only say what empathy even is based on our own experiences. We generally find it hard to feel as deeply about something we see happening to someone else unless that thing has also happened to us. And even then there's research showing that once we've got through a negative experience ourselves, we actually have less empathy for others going through it - because 'well I got through it, so why can't you?'.

Heartless Asperger's goes on to say: "When the truth comes out, an enraged and militant mob is mobilized. Their goal is to pummel the truth-tellers into silence". Ok hold up for a second there - truth eh? Things can be true to some and not to others. It's not a universal state, see. My truth and yours? Eons apart. And I hate to kill the mood here but it's mostly us on the receiving end of the bullying throughout childhood and beyond. Isn't it natural that it might feel like a normality to us? 'Enraged and militant' is a nice bit of dramatic language, but it doesn't really represent what's really going on here. You've overlooked the issue of there being virtually no support for those who actually have these conditions, so funnily enough the people around them are lower priority (I refer you back to the cancer analogy). I've never heard of a therapist turning someone away because they were in a relationship with someone neurodiverse. Take responsibility for yourself and if you need help, ask for it. You can't expect it to drop out of the sky. You've had a couple of bad relationships that it seems like maybe you should talk about, but we're lucky to ever get that precisely because of the mountain of judgement heaped upon us, and the amount of shit we go through just to operate. You don't have to pity us, but please don't try and make us scapegoats for your stuff.
She says: “Millions of spouses worldwide are living in marriages which don’t make sense; marriages which are chaotic, confusing, abusive and often violent. They are ashamed,not daring to tell anyone, because no-one outside the marriage believes them. They are told by experts it is their fault they can’t make the marriage work. They lose their self-esteem and suffer greatly from the inappropriate responses and neglect of the relationship by their partner with High functioning autism."
This is just about abuse, which most of the time has nothing to do with autism. It's to do with abusive partners, that's it. Is there proof that people with autism are more likely to be violent? I can answer that for you - no there isn't. There is no association between those with ASD and violence. People with autism are more likely to be abused than be abusive.
"The difficulties of adults with High functioning autism, previously known as Asperger’s syndrome, are widely misrepresented by those with the condition, due to their disorder and by medical experts who wish to understate the impact of those deficits on spouses and partners. Many of these adults with Hfa are undiagnosed and only recognised after years of chaos and confusion in their intimate relationships…"
You need to actually say how you think people are misrepresenting it. Chaos and confusion in intimate relationships is awful, but keep in mind that the person with the difference is the one carrying this throughout every relationship. It's all they know. You can leave whenever you like - and you should if you feel someone is causing you harm. We're stuck with us forever.
"The last neglected area in this lifelong disorder is the spouses of these adults who live isolated, lonely lives because their partner’s circumstances are not truthfully acknowledged by experts…
It is the spouses of those with Hfa who need support acknowledgement and validation of their real and extreme difficulties caring for their loved one who is hard wired and unable, by the definition of Hfa, to fully participate in an adult intimate relationship.”
So if it's the 'experts' who won't acknowledge the circumstances, how is it the person's fault?

It's not necessary to demonise the neurodiverse to ensure that those around them are supported. We get that we're hard to live with - many of us try for years to get the help we need to make sense of a world built for you neurotypical bunch. Can you imagine what it feels like to be wholly aware that the way you are (not the way you choose to be) is hurting someone you love? It's pretty fucking traumatic actually. And the more you hate yourself, the worse it gets.

Why are we always the last bloody taboo?


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