I’ve been meditating harder these days on this entire idea of ‘authenticity’ and ‘a full human being.’ – For some of you, you may have heard me say these things before. I believe that all of us are spiritual beings, sitting inside meatbags, on a spiritual journey of discovery.
For many, they never fully realize their full potential. They squander their limited time. They self-constrain due to excuses. They never become fully, them.
I’m on the spectrum, now officially labeled ASD (autism spectrum disorder (level 1)) and the medical bodies are slowly removing the classification ‘high functional autism.’ Not that any of you care, but it’s something that has been useful for me in explaining why I am who I am. This week, I’ve decided on two things:
- Finally write about autism (for my own sake).
- Stop self-constraining my desire to write stuff in short form (even though the thesis of this blog was long form).
Super Human? – No, Extreme Coping Mechanisms
High functioning autism doesn’t mean that you have less problems than anyone else. It just means that we’ve learned to create complex coping mechanisms to look like we’re ‘normal.’ For high functioning autists, imagine a duck, sailing smoothly across the water. What you don’t see is how frantic his little legs are paddling to just keep shit straight. This is me in a nutshell. I’m always on edge. I’m almost always running 12 cylinders at 110%.
My greatest struggles?
- Social anxiety – During in-person group settings, I often have to excuse myself at timely moments to rest my brain. As an agile coach and trainer, the breaks between meetings and between workshops are lifesavers. You have no idea.
- Patterns. Everywhere – I see them like Neo sees the matrix code. My brain is trained on patterns, it makes the brain active, all the time. This distinct trait keeps my brain in overdrive most of the day. I’ll always be mentally tired before physical exhaustion.
- Repetition. Repeating. Cyclically – My music playlist is around 30 songs. It’s simply a collection of music that ‘imprinted’ on me during an emotional moment in time in the past. There is no specific genre. The song chose me. So I saved it. And it just becomes part of the playlist. I have music dating back to the 90s. Yes, one (or two) of the songs is by Nickleback… .. .
- Telling the truth – Sometimes when I probably shouldn’t. This is part of my lizard brain that compels me to say the silent part out loud. In most cases, it’s better to keep it in your brain. I’ve learned to cope with this social dysfunction by adding intonation into my speech patterns to play it off as a joke. The problem is it’s usually said in a deadpan dry-humor monotone.
- Overthinking social settings – Solving social problems at a party isn’t something most do. For me, calculating when to engage is calculus. It just seems/feels like I’m always out of sync. I’ve learned well to just jump in, but it never makes it easy.
- Prefer to be alone – And I generally don’t like being touched. At all. I have learned in life that physical touch is important to people. I have trained myself to calculate the appropriate amount of touch to not seem awkward, especially if it’s a social setting with family. Hugs are part of that equation.
- Focus and care – I’m intensely focused on things that I’m interested in. I don’t mind not eating if I’m engrossed in a subject or learning something new. This limits my capacity for other things, but I prefer it this way. On the flip-side of that coin, if it’s not something I care about, I really don’t care about it. This also goes for relationships, creating a very small circle. It’s not that I don’t care. I do. I just don’t have the emotional nor mental capacity for it…
- Coping mechanisms galore – To act and look normal in society isn’t hard. You just be who you are. Or, at least, that’s what it looks like on the outside. One of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is the unbelief from others that I’m on the spectrum… or rather, I have these types of struggles. The honest truth is: You simply have no idea how labyrinthian and complex my 1000s of coping mechanisms are to look as put together as I am. It’s a good thing I never have tried hard drugs. I’d probably get addicted to leaving the world.
- Epic burnout – The worst of all these coping mechanisms and paddling like a madman are the epic burnout moments. As a child this can reveal itself like a tantrum out of nowhere. One moment, the child is playing peacefully and even maybe talking to themselves in a heightened sense of imaginary play. The next moment, their having an epic breakdown of massive proportions. What happened? For the high functioning autist, some outside variable interrupted their well crafted world that took such mental willpower to produce stability in. Since they’re paddling like crazy underneath it all, sometimes a simple input into their system can throw a wrench in the entire gearing mechanism. You don’t just have slow down. You have epic failure. For me, my experience with this has dipped me into depression in the past. Maybe I’ll write on those experiences some other time.
Things Are Moving Faster Now…
The world is moving faster now than it ever has before. In some ways, it seems like things could be spinning out of control. The social apparatus being marketed to us makes it feel like the world is going insane. Maybe it always has been. Regardless, being true to yourself is more and more important as social institutions are eroding away, social constructs are being flexed and fractured, and the ideas of identity are hitting the mainstream.
I’m also almost finished with my 365 Stoic Devotional series on YouTube. It’s about time to pick up another series, experiment, and backlog item. I’ve had a great time creating 366 videos for this. It was a great amount of focus. It required my greatest perseverance on a topic, and I’m thankful we’re at the end. While I was thinking about what next subject to do, I figured I should unshackle myself from my own self-constraint of only making this newsletter long-form. I considered that I may lose some of the 23k wonderful people who have subscribed so far. This is fine. I believe it may be more valuable for me to just write when I have the urge to write. Not forcing myself to make it a whole narrative story.
I’ll be ok, if you’ll be ok with it.
What is authenticity?
Be more of yourself this year. Embrace who you are. Love who you are.
I’m learning to do that better with you.
All the best,