Disorder or description?

How much of Asperger’s is a disease and how much is a description of behavior? How about we turn it around, and say that all people who are rigid about rules and have a hard time changing have Asperger’s, rather than all people who have Asperger’s are rigid about rules and have a hard time changing.

It is like a personality disorder. All people who act in this certain way have X disorder, but really it isn’t a disorder. It isn’t a disease that has a medical cause. It is a maladaption or a lack of training.

What if we said all people who spend their free time watching game shows have a disorder? Or all people who have to buy the latest fashions even though they can’t afford them have a disorder? Or those who cheat on their wives or taxes have a disorder, or those who steal office supplies or drive 20 miles over the speed limit have a disorder?

Saying it is a disorder takes people off the hook. It means they are not responsible. It is something that happened to them. They are passive agents. Like the flu or chickenpox, it is a disease that they suffer with rather than a personality trait they can (and should) change. It might require a lot of therapy and several years, but it can be done.

What if the cause of Asperger’s is the cure? They had too little changes in their lives. They were allowed to insist on a rigid and predictable life. All sandwiches were peanut butter and strawberry jelly with no crust, cut diagonally. All toys had to be blue. All clothes had to be cotton. These things had to be done or else the child would have a tantrum to end all tantrums. And rather than insist the child grow and adapt, the parent gave in and the child grew up stunted like a bad bonsai tree. Then he entered the real world where nobody else was willing to accommodate him.

Tomato cage

Driving rules keep us from crashing into each other. When we are at a four way stop, driving rules let us know who gets to go first. If we didn’t have that we would all enter the intersection and crash into each other. Social rules let us know the same thing. When we crash into each other we all get into a big mess.

I know a lady who didn’t like the Reno Healthrhythms protocol. She felt it wasn’t organic. She wanted people to just flow around and enjoy making noise together.

Consider a map. If you are going to go to a new city you need a map to tell you how to get there. You don’t just get in your car and drive around following your feelings until you happen to end up where you need to be. You are very likely to get very lost doing it that way.

With this protocol we have a specific place we are trying to get to. We are trying to get to disclosure and honesty. We are trying to get real. It isn’t about drumming at all. It is about getting people to use drums as a way to communicate and connect. Not only do they learn how connect with each other, but they also learn how to connect with themselves.

It is like a tomato cage. The tomato cage doesn’t force the tomatoes to grow into an unnatural shape. It actually gives them a structure upon which to grow and get strong. Tomatoes that don’t have a tomato cage end up sprawling all over the ground and getting eaten by bugs. Slugs will grow fat feeding on them. The tomatoes will get mushy and gross from being on the ground. So you have to have a tomato cage to keep the tomatoes standing upright. The protocol does the same thing. It provides a skeleton or a form to shape the desired result.

It doesn’t constrict. It actually strengthens. It is the map. It is the driving instructions. It is the thing that gets us from here to there. Otherwise we are likely to end up nowhere.

Sometimes nowhere is a good place. Sometimes we think too much and we have too much structure. Sometimes it is important to do things that don’t involve thinking. Mindlessness is sometimes useful. But sometimes it just becomes an absence of anything and we end up nowhere.

Spiritual director – probation officer

Sometimes I feel like my spiritual director is my probation officer. I have to check on with her every month to see how I’m doing. That makes it sound like I don’t know how I’m doing, or like I’m going to the doctor for a checkup. It is kind of both.

A spiritual director is kind of like a guru. Their goal is “intimacy with God”, and while that is pretty nebulous, it is a good goal. If any minister I’d ever had over me talked like she did, I’d still be in church. But sometimes it is really hard work. It is one on one, for an hour. It is really intense.

I feel awkward going. She cuts right through the muck, like a laser. She sees through my veils and obstacles that I put up, voluntarily and involuntarily.

Sometimes I hide. There are some things that I know we disagree on, like salvation. I don’t feel that Jesus came to save us. I feel that Jesus came to tell us that we aren’t broken and don’t need to be saved. There is a huge difference here. I know that I differ from mainline Christianity in this. I also know that I’m in alignment with the words of Jesus in my belief. So I keep on saying it in my blog. She and I, however, we butt heads over it. She says we are broken. I say that Jesus says we are as good as we are going to be and that is good enough.

I also feel that she’s holding back in telling me things. I’m the kind of person who needs explicit instructions, and I feel that she’s the kind of person who wants me to figure it out on my own. Perhaps she feels that if she tells me something that I should be experiencing, that I’ll fake it. Kind of like how if you read about a particular disease, you might feel like you have the symptoms and you don’t. Or like if you explain something a certain way, it will frame that experience for that person. I feel she wants me to have my own experiences.

I dread going almost every month, but this month is worse. After going, I immediately want to go again. Then a month later when it is time to go, I don’t want to at all. I think I don’t know what to talk about. I think that whatever I’ve experienced isn’t enough. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it all wrong.

Am I cheating, by wanting to skip? Am I falling to the wayside, or am I on the right path?

I’d like to work on the manuscript for my book. I’d like to catch up on sleep. I’d like to paint. Wednesday mornings are nice – I don’t have to go in to work until the afternoon. If I go visit her, I lose a lot of that time. It is only once a month, though.

Sometimes rules help, sometimes they hurt. What rule am I following here? Go once a month regardless? Do it automatically? Or feel it out? Discipline is the root of “disciple” after all.

Part of it is realizing that she works for me, not the other way around. I pay her for her services. It is like using a personal trainer, but for your soul. It is really weird and really awesome.

This month I decided to cancel. And I’m glad I did. I feel that if it is a choice, it is easier. God loves a cheerful giver, after all. If I go because I feel I have to go, then I’m missing the point. But then I also know that if I slack off too much I’ll get out of line/habit/practice. Order is important to me.

It is all a balancing act. Order / freedom. I chose order, of my free will. But too much order starts to feel stifling.

“Our cabin”

My husband and I have discovered the ideal home away from home. We’ve found out that nearby state parks have cabins that people can rent. This is genius. We get all the fun of a cabin, without the worry.

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cabin5

We don’t have to fool with a mortgage. Not like we could afford another mortgage anyway, unless we inherit a lot. We are both government employees. They pay us in benefits, not in actual salary.

We don’t have to worry about somebody breaking into it while we aren’t there. There are rangers around, and hey, if one is damaged for some reason (vandals, wild animals, or by bad weather) we can just pick another cabin.

We are starting to think of it as “our cabin”. We tried it out once and it was a nice retreat. It is just an hour away. We can get there not using the freeway. Just driving there is like going back in time. The drive alone is part of the fun.

The interesting thing for me is that the place we have chosen is a place I went many years ago when I was active in the SCA, a medieval reenactment group. In a way, it was a test to go there. The last time I was there I wasn’t quite well.

That was before I was diagnosed as bipolar, and more importantly, before I learned how to take care of myself. Just taking the pills that I’m prescribed isn’t the same thing. I didn’t know how important it was for me to get a good night’s sleep and enough water and food. I didn’t get enough of any of those things when I would go to events, and there was a lot of stimulation. There are a lot of people and a lot of things going on. This is a recipe for disaster when you are bipolar.

I was a little concerned the first time we went that I’d remember that bad experience and relive it a little.

Here’s the field where I started to notice that something was up. This time I was fine.

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The sunset was very pretty.

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I’m always mindful of going off the deep end. But I’m also mindful that I don’t want to live my life in fear of another episode. If I avoid anything that I think might trigger another period of strangeness, I might as well just hide away at home right now. It is important for me to push myself and stretch.

Otherwise, I’ve let this disease win.

I’m constantly pushing myself, in all areas.

It is why I took classes in pastoral care. They were every week for months, and I had to drive myself downtown to go to them. I knew it was important to take this class and I was grateful for the opportunity, but I was afraid. I was afraid that I’d get lost, or the car would break down, or the stress of being in downtown Nashville traffic would be too much. People aren’t very nice drivers here, and I try to avoid being behind the wheel in busy traffic as much as possible. But for this, I did it, and I’m glad. I proved to myself that I could.

And I’m using that as a stepping stone to more things.

So for the same reason, I’m going to this cabin. It isn’t just any cabin. I love going, of course. It is like a little retreat. But this particular one has this field in view. While we are eating breakfast, lunch, and supper I can see it. And every time I see it I remember, and I think how grateful I am that I’m OK. And I’m mindful of how fragile “normal” is, and how much work I have to put in to it to keep it going.

And then I look out the bedroom window and the trees look like they are making an archway, just like in a medieval church entrance.

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Maybe a some of my recovery is where I put my attention. Look at the past, at the old field where I realized I was losing my grip on reality – or look the other way, and see a doorway?

I’m glad I went, and I’ll go back. It is important to face my fears.