Monday, October 27, 2014

Obsessions and Special Interests...Lions and Tigers and Bears OH MY!

I hate compartmentalizing my disability(ies) but technically speaking I am ACC/ASD/ADHD with Co-morbid depression and anxiety.  I wanted to write this post about my ASD traits, and it just feels strange to do that...these labels aren't like different pieces of me, rather they describe my life in the world. 

Anyhow...

Children and adults on the autism spectrum have what are called obsessions and special interests.  Often someone can obsess on a special interest and then POOF! change overnight, or instantly to a new special interest.  While this describes me, mine have almost always been variations on a theme.

My parents, they were never "religious," they had me baptized into the Episcopal Church and by the time I was 4 years old they stopped attending or taking us to church.  When I was about 13 years old, I had a strong urge to investigate God.  This did not please my parents at all, if anything they were put off by it.  The local (Episcopal) church was 3 miles away in Westwood NJ.  Sometimes dad would drop me off there, but for the most part I walked those three miles on Sunday mornings to attend.

My obsession with religion and spirituality has continued my entire life.  In those young years morphing into various versions and denominations of Christianity.  Later in life these obsessions took the form of various Eastern religions.  Yet nothing ever touched my heart like Orthodox (the Eastern Orthodox Church.)  Within Orthodoxy it is believe the body is holy and the temple of God, and Orthodox worship seeks to stimulate all five senses with that which is holy.  Senses of touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing are brought together in the Divine Liturgy of the Church.

My obsessions have also taken me in other directions, specifically philosophy and later psychology.  I became well read in all the eastern and western philosophers, but most of all psychology spoke to me.  Before I was diagnose with ACC and later ASD I spent my entire life's energy trying to understand why I was "the way" I was.  I always knew I thought different, behaved different...before diagnoses I called it my "dirty little secret," my parents taught me both by word and example that my difference was a source of shame, that I was stupid and broken, and evil.

I could never accept this.  God creates all in His image and likeness, and I was no different.  I knew this deeply, but struggled with the programming of my parents and society to believe otherwise.  Long before I knew of my ACC, strangely enough I had studied it. I picked up a book on Neuropsychology years before.  However, I viewed psychology in those days as more of a whip and a goad to change my "stupidity and brokenness" into shape (like everybody else.)  Sadly, this is not (supposed to be) the purpose for psychology.  

The study of psychology before my diagnoses only deepened my depression, I was more than able to conceptualize and understand what it taught, but could not apply it to myself.  Little did I know that cognitive therapy has mixed or little success with those that have ACC or ASD...so I tortured myself mentally on almost a daily basis.  I believed my parent's lies that I was morally bankrupt, that my character was flawed.


I go back often, to think about the moment I discovered / was diagnosed with ACC.  It was like a light bulb turned on over my head.  It was a major AHAA moment.  I could finally begin to shed the skins of self imposed shame and guilt that I had worn almost my entire life.  Those lions, tigers, and bears no longer threatened me.  I had always had great difficulty with Theory of Mind and applying all the knowledge I had accumulated towards my own internal state and self...but all of the sudden those many years of obsession and study on the self, on psychology and the soul "clicked."  While I still have difficulty identifying my internal states often, it is no longer a given.  I am able to objectively work with my own thoughts and emotions and those of others.

On a side note, I have always had visual obsessions...I arrange things by size and/or by colour. I have always been obsessed about "doing things an equal number of times" I would twitch to the left six times, then I would have to twitch to the right the same number, I have always been obsessed with the number "6" and would do things six times.  Although I've been told this is also an OCD trait I've not been diagnosed OCD, but such things are common for those on the spectrum.

I'm just grateful that my obsessions and special interests, in the long term served me and my growth.  God knows I could have picked far worse things to be interested in!

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