Tuesday Thoughts: Growing With Conditions

This was originally a post that I meant to send privately for a writing assignment, but when I found that it was public, I deleted it immediately and decided to switch the assignment format to a Word document rather than an online link. But when I saw that someone reblogged it from my Tumblr, I realized that if anything I write touches somebody’s heart, even if it is only one person, then I have to keep it public. Note that this is a very personal and significant part of me that I’ve never ever iterated on the blog until now, so I will only accept respectful comments in order to maintain a positive blogging environment.

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***Growing up, I have always been a kind-hearted wallflower who never knew what to say in the moment. Even though I meant one thing in every situation, what I executed would say otherwise. As I grew older and my struggles became more apparent, my parents chastised me for my failure to speak the indirect but universal language as everyone else. But even with my shyness and introversion, I could not understand how I fell so short of communication, both spoken and written—I’d think: what was this greater force hindering me from my success? I learned about this obstacle the hard way in which I found a book that would haunt me for the rest of my life on the top shelf of our house library: Parenting a Child with Asperger Syndrome.

At first, I never heard of such a thing–was it possible to be cursed even before you were born? Unfortunately, the answer was yes. Nature took an unbreakable toll on my cognition and perception, both of which are the ultimate essences of communication. Communication connects other people, and if you fail to communicate, you fail to connect. By the time I turned twelve years-old, my parents formally addressed my personal story with Asperger syndrome. I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist when I was fairly young, and this all stemmed from family history, but also in my behaviors. It was the ultimate reason why it took me such a long time to utter my first word as an infant, why I was sent to so many group speech therapy classes, why I had to take certain unknown medications, why I struggled to properly communicate with my classmates, why everything I said sounded sloppy, but most importantly, why I had no friends. After hearing everything come from my parents regarding Asperger syndrome, I manifested such a distaste for myself that would only fester the longer I tried to ignore it. As a result, I trapped myself in the barriers that labelled the “kids who were behind”.

My age and the severity of my Asperger syndrome only seemed to grow together: all throughout my entire development, everything that would come out of my mouth was either A) the wrong words, B) the wrong tone, C) the wrong order, or D) all of the above. Everything I heard was somehow rewired in my brain so that I would perceive something completely different from the truth. It was as if my own mind was playing games and distorting reality. In elementary school, I failed to laugh at my classmates’ jokes because I didn’t understand their humor, and vice-versa. Lunch period after lunch period, I sat with a group of girls but remained invisible in their conversations. Paper after paper, my sixth-grade teachers would shake their heads and say, “I don’t understand you. You sound so clumsy.” I might as well have built a rocket ship in hopes that the aliens inhabiting planet Mars would understand me. Even then, aliens probably would have thought I was crazy.

My natural talent in sketching and music made leeway for my personal form of expression. I began to create an intrapersonal comfort zone where I could enjoy my interests freely, so as long as I did not interact with the outside world. Anytime the vision of Asperger syndrome would kick in, I denied its existence and simply told myself, “I’m not disabled. I’m just uninterested in everybody else’s affairs. I’m different.” As content as I was in my circle of interests, I was downright miserable when I had to step out of my comfort zone and force myself to communicate with other people when necessary. The fear of judgment and scorn haunted me every minute and every second I walked into a room with other people—God forbid they be strangers. The sound of someone saying “no”, the image of my peers laughing at me with spite and teasing me for any possible reasons I could think of would send chills down my spine. In these situations, I would turn to the easiest defense mechanism in which I simply closed myself off unless I was called on. I preferred no response over a rejection.

Eventually, I accustomed myself to loneliness, accepting it as a natural state of being. My peers and teachers came to define me as “the shy girl” or “the loner” that nobody desired to approach because they knew what I would respond with would sound as foreign as Chinese—a form of language that revolved around such a limited culture that could not possibly adapt to any other norms. And in my head, I’d tell myself everything was okay. So as long as I could immerse myself in what I loved and settle as the shy girl who was a born artist, then everything was peachy. The deeper part of my heart that told me that I was capable of so much more was always repressed.

Along with my Asperger syndrome, I was diagnosed with epilepsy in seventh grade after being rushed to the emergency room while under the spell of an intense seizure (lucky me, right?). Numerous seizures had yet to follow, weakening my cognition which would endanger my ability to properly function physically and through language and speech. My neurologist and doctor then recommended I stop playing sports with demanding physical exertion, thereby barring me from many opportunities for me to bond with my classmates through team sports, practices and games. Standard physical education painted me as a laughing stock in comparison to my athletic sisters who prided their reputations as star swimmers. I became the elephant in the room that everybody wanted nothing to do with, and if anyone were to bother to address me, dismissed me as the weirdo in her own little world.

Once I had been discharged from the hospital after my third seizure took place the night before, my father sat me down one night and laid out the painful truth: I was the cause of my self-destruction. My isolation from society along with my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle hindered me from being able to reach my fullest potential and experience the pleasures of life through communicating with others. By accepting the existence of my Asperger syndrome, I was allowing it to overpower my ability to communicate and ultimately allowing it to win. Upon facing the reality of my state of being, what I overlooked for my entire life, the call for change burned in my soul, flushing it with a type of pain that one could feel by dipping an entire arm into erupting lava, only stronger. During that moment, the subconscious part of my heart that I once neglected then reassured me that I already held the capacity to climb towards light at the end of the black hole I ended up digging to trap myself and repair my self-esteem that I shattered over time. It was solely a matter of being brave enough to acknowledge the existence of my vulnerability. If I caused the damage, I could also fix it.

With constant drive to change my isolationist ways, incorporation of more whole foods into my sugar-laden diet and exhaustion of my negativity through physical fitness, I never ended up finding a story to tell. Rather that, I created my own. Through inspiration I found on the Internet, I learned that the only way to fully experience the power of personal growth was to share my journey along with the others who posted before-and-after transformations on their social media outlets. Taking advantage of such a powerful vehicle of communication would exude my success at an extraordinary level.

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The memory of pressing the “publish” button for the first time still flashes in my head as if I’m reliving it through time travel, but writing the actual post introducing myself and my health transformation on my personal blog remains a blur. It is a natural tendency of mine to lose part of my awareness while writing a draft because my real self slightly dissociates from my consciousness, taking on a confidence that I could not easily exude in public. This goes to say that I have still not fully adapted to the mainstream form of social interaction. I’ve never cured my Asperger syndrome. But I can learn to accept it without letting it overpower or hate myself for having it. I just had to muster the courage to be vulnerable and choose change.

Establishing my own blog opens my ability to communicate in my own authentic language however I want to and however I truly speak. By writing in my own language, I attract an audience without having to contact them to read my blog. I can type five exclamation points or capitalize ten words in a row without worrying about my audience reading my work in distaste because they think and process their language in the exact same informal layout that could not be found in a novel. The true beauty of blogging is that there is no limit to language—no editors or sales teams to dilute the author’s authenticity. I no longer have to worry about rejection because my readers approach me first. I embrace my Asperger syndrome and epilepsy since they help embody my uniqueness from other bloggers. Nowadays, my classmates and my family members praise my bravery for sharing my story. My ability to open my past of vulnerability is in itself a language that my social circle cannot fathom, but can admire from afar and wonder how I can do it so easily.***


3 thoughts on “Tuesday Thoughts: Growing With Conditions

  1. I had no idea you had Asperger’s, no idea at all! But honestly girl, you can never let such things define who you are. I have met you and you’re adorable, sweet, kind and do not show any symptoms of Asperger’s at all (well I mean, we have only met twice but still)…. My fiance has Asperger’s too, and for the longest time (when we first started dating) I was constantly wondering WTF was going on and why he was acting so weird…. It took an ENTIRE YEAR of us dating for him to reveal he has it, and it just was like OMG THAT’S WHY!!!! HA! It answered so many questions. I honestly just think his Asperger’s makes him even greater than he already is – and I think it does the same for you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Cassie, I would have never, NEVER known! Thank you so much for sharing – what an honest, courageous post. I admire you so much for that! You are such a great person and a brilliant writer 🙂

    Like

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