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At Peace with Myself

November 11, 2008

Personally speaking, I would like to see Bahá’ís broaden the conversation on diversity to include neurodiversity. It is a subject I discuss at some length in my autobiography as an autistic man.

For years, I thought I was somehow damaged. I went through a childhood of tremendous suffering, which included horrendous bullying, electroconvulsive treatments (at 11 years old), strong doses of neuroleptic drugs, etc. Becoming a Bahá’í at 14, I began to develop spiritually, but somehow my ability to relate to other people was deficient, and I had very little compassion for others.

Back in the early 1960s, when I was first brought into the psychiatric establishment, most autistics like me were diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. That was true in my case, as well. There was no such diagnosis as Asperger’s autism until the American Psychiatric Association published the fourth edition of their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM-IV) in 1994. For Asperger’s autistics of my generation, we were, despite lacking the normative symptoms of schizophrenia (like hallucinations), classified as schizophrenics.

It was only last year that I was diagnosed as an Asperger’s autistic, and my life has been thoroughly changed. In my autobiography, I speak of three transformative events in my life: becoming a Baha’i in 1970, rejecting ontological realism and idealism for nominalism and poststructuralism (philosophical categories) in the late 1990s, and, finally, my diagnosis as an Asperger’s autistic in 2007.

I am now at peace with myself. I accept myself in my neurodiversity and feel no need to be neurotypical.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. TIMOTHY SMITH permalink
    April 4, 2009 5:38 pm

    I am a Bahai since about ’70 and have found out this year at age 57 that i’ve been living with aspbergers all my life. After 30 years in my community and 7 on the LSA i stopped attending community activities because of an unability to make sense of the behaviors of respected members and don’t know how to process my feelings. Bahai’s are some of my favorite folks though because i do have a different normal i am now most comfortable alone.
    I contacted National centr and the person with whom i spoke gave me your link and so here i am. I’d be interested how other aspies might process community so that i might find survival skills necessary to rejoin the group.
    Thank You,
    Tim

    • April 4, 2009 7:00 pm

      Hi, Tim:

      Thanks for your message. (It is also nice to know that the National Center is sending people here.) I have had my own share of issues connected with Baha’i community life. For instance, I have gone for long periods without attending a single meeting. At the time, I did not understand the reason. However, since my diagnosis two years ago as an aspie autistic, it has all made sense to me.

      At this point in my life, and I am only four years younger than yourself (also entered the Baha’i Faith in 1970 – at 14 years old), I maintain Baha’i activity entirely on my own terms (entirely). To do otherwise could mean quick sensory burnout or meltdown – a repeated event I never understood before my diagnosis. I need to be careful.

      On the one hand, I feel better now than I have ever felt in my life. I think that is largely due to the diagnosis. On the other hand, I need privacy and solitude more than I did for most of my life.

      I know that my tendency is to jump into everything. I have, in the past, served on two of the (now dissolved) District Teaching Committees. I have also been on numerous assemblies. These days, I look before I leap. Therefore, if I could offer any suggestions, and I would suspect I am not adding anything to what you have already considered, it would be to engage with other Baha’is – but only as much as you feel able to do so.

      Mark

  2. May 21, 2009 3:19 pm

    Actually, there were a couple of other erroneous labels for us: schizoid and borderline personality disorder.

    I am a few years older than you, and was finally properly diagnosed about 2 years ago. We are hoping to relocate to 49 acres in far northern Arkansas, about 2 hours from Springfield,MO, within the next year.

    You appear to have some Fannish connections – I am truly wondering how many of those in fandom actually inhabit the spectrum….hence our interst in alien cultures.

    • May 28, 2009 1:29 am

      Hi, Jane. I was also diagnosed two years ago. By the way, sorry for taking so long to approve your messages. I have fallen behind a bit, and I never saw them until now.

      My suspicion, and of course it is only that, is that persons diagnosed schizoid and borderline were diagnosed as adults. To my knowledge, neither of those diagnoses have ever been applied to children (though schizoid disorder of childhood and adolescence was the precursor to Asperger’s in the DSM-III).

      I don’t know the precise year, but I must have been diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia somewhere around 1962 or 1963. Since the DSM-II did not, I believe, come out until 1968, I was diagnosed under the DSM-I.

      Also, persons given schizoid and borderline personality disorder labels were probably not considered to be quite as off balance as the psychotic schizophrenics. 😉

      Oh, you also wrote:

      >>I am a few years older than you ….<<

      If your website is up to date, we are exactly the same age (53).

      • April 25, 2011 6:48 pm

        Thanks alot – your answer solved all my poblrems after several days struggling

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