Sunday, January 27, 2013

Living as a Christian with Asperger's

Most people who read this blog discovered me through searching for some variation of "Chiristian" or "church" and "Asperger's".  That also seems to be what most of my repeat readers are more interested in hearing my perspectives on.  But, it seems to me, I haven't written much on living as a Christian with Asperger's.  I've written a couple blog posts on living with Asperger's, and a few posts on being Aspie in the Church,  I hadn't directly addressed what it means to live as a Christian who has Asperger's.

There are obviously two aspects of this: living with Asperger's and living the Christian life.  Today I'm going to try to examine how they intersect and some additional complications that arise when combining the two.

What seems to be the most difficult thing for most Christian aspies is living in Christian community.  Churches, unfortunately, do not do a good job of integrating people with Aspie tendencies.  I'm even "church boy" (as my wife calls me) and I have had lots of trouble with this.  I think one key is choosing your church very carefully.  The pastor at my old church had a phrase to describe the congregation: "Characters Welcome" (which I think he stole from a cable television network).  I was in a congregation of a lot of other odd people, so my own eccentricities didn't really matter.  Now I am at my wife's church.  My eccentricities do matter and I find it to be a constant struggle to not stick out as much.  Even after teaching the adult education class for three months and being in a small group with the pastor, I still don't feel like I've been accepted into the congregation.  My Christian fellowship has turned primarily into an online thing (and I don't do as much of that as I should).  It's not ideal, but at least I can interact with other Christians in cyberspace who accept me in all my oddities.  I have a lot more to say about this, but it probably needs to be reserved for a future post.

Having Asperger's seems to make my devotional life easier.  Having such a strong need for routine makes the spiritual disciplines very natural.  This is something my wife struggles with tremendously because she is by nature very chaotic.  To keep up the spiritual discipline, I just wake up before her (which isn't hard at all).  But having the discipline isn't the same as having meaningful time with God.  I find an inverse relationship between the amount of time I have to spend with other people and the quality of the time I spend with God.  When I am exhausted from having to navigate the social norms of human interaction, I'm sometimes too tired to focus on my time with God.  I haven't gotten to the point yet where God is a continual refuge.  While I certainly feel it when I get a few days to myself and can dwell in His presence, normal life doesn't work out that way for me very often.  Marriage has certainly put a damper in that.

This week my wife is out of town visiting her family, so I have had greater opportunity to spend time with God, but there is a barrier.  I live in my wife's apartment.  Yes, we've been married for seven months, but I still think of it as her apartment because I would never set up an apartment like this.  I have my room, but I still live in her place.  As odd as this might seem to most people, this does hamper my devotional life.  I don't feel like I can fully relax because I am never in my own space.  When I lived in my own place, this was never a problem (unless I could hear my neighbors).  But now, my time with God always feels like it has been invaded by outsiders who are trying to interfere with it.

Unlike many, I haven't found serving God with Asperger's to be all that difficult.  The biggest barrier is having other people block your ability to serve.  I traditionally get around this by using my "special interests" to serve.  By being much more qualified than other available people, people running ministries look past my oddness and let me do the things I do better than anyone else.  I have written more in depth on that topic here so I won't expand any further.

I guess to sum everything up, living as a Christian with Asperger's isn't easy, but I don't know that it's any harder than for anyone else.  Living the Christian life is hard.  We let too many things get in the way and distract us from our relationship with God.  All of us, Aspie or not, need to re-order our lives so that God is first and do what we need to do to have that happen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A video representation of sensory overload

I thought I had shared this previously on this blog, but apparently I hadn't.  I discovered it over at Rod Dreher's blog.  He's primarily a political blogger, but he will occasionally write from the perspective of the parent of a son with Asperger's.

At any rate, this video is designed to give those not on the autism spectrum an idea of what sensory overload is like.  A word of warning for readers in the spectrum with sensory sensitivity, the video is jarring.  I made the mistake of watching it a half hour before I was supposed to go to bed and ended up having to put myself is "sensory deprivation mode" for a couple hours so that I could fall asleep.  But, if you would like friends or loved ones to understand somewhat what we go through, this is as good of a tool as I have ever encountered.

Sensory Overload (Interacting with Autism Project) from Miguel Jiron on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Why I haven't been writing much lately

Yes, it has been over a month and a half since I posted here.  Actually, it's been a month and a half since I've posted at any of my blogs or have written much of anything.  I mistakenly thought the only advantage of being unemployed and moving across the country is that I would have lots of time to write.  While the time is there (sort of), the ability to write is not.

I've discovered something important about my ability to write.  I can only write when I am alone.  Unfortunately, my wife is a graduate student who is done taking classes, and therefore does 90% of her work from home.  This means that even though I have tons of spare time due to not working, I don't have the ability to write because I am never adequately alone.  (The only reason I'm able to write today because my wife is out of town.)

What is further frustrating is that my wife actually works better when she is out of the apartment.  She does better when she's away.  I do better when she's away.  Yet, for some reason I haven't figured out yet, she always stays at the apartment.

My wife has a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning.  I honestly haven't ever seen anything like it before, even with college students.  I literally bring breakfast and coffee to her in bed every morning in the hope that she'll actually wake up.  (And this is around 9:30 in the morning--otherwise she'll stay there until at least 11.)  Then she never has the energy to actually leave the apartment, even though I've told her numerous times that I need her to leave so I can do my work.

What further amazes me is that she gets upset with me that I haven't been doing much writing (and especially not the writing she wants me to do).  The reality is that I have to take the few times she is away to recover from her being there and do paid freelance and tutoring prep work so we can pay bills.  So, in reality, I was getting more writing done when I was working 65 hours per week with an abusive boss, being very active in my church, and had friends I spent some time with than now that I am married and working maybe 20 hours per week.

As you might be able to tell, I'm frustrated.  I love my wife, but pretty much every agreement we had made as far as time and space issues she has broken.  The aspie in me hates it when people violate agreements with me.

I could vent a lot more, but I have to go.  One of my wife's friends was supposed to pick something up from here an hour ago, but didn't show up.  I now have to take care of some errands that are clearly my wife's responsibility (dealing with her ridiculously expensive hobby) that she didn't get to before she left town because she had trouble getting up in the morning.  Maybe I can post to some of my other blogs this evening...

Friday, September 14, 2012

I should not be a nurse

If there was ever any doubt in my mind (and there wasn't), married life for the past three months has led me to the conclusion that I should not be a nurse.  I am really bad at it.

As background, let me explain why you haven't seen me on any of my blogs for the past month+.  Basically, I have been taking care of my wife.  In early August she had the biggest exam of her life, so I was trying to take care of all the little stuff so she could focus on studying.  It turns out she didn't focus enough and ended up failing the exam.  (By the way, I quit my job and moved to where she lives so I could support her in her studies.  I was quite upset that she did not keep up her end of the bargain and pass the exam).

A week before the exam, she woke up with tremendous pain in her knee.  It took us a while to maneuver through the medical bureaucracy, but we eventually figured out what was wrong and that she will be on crutches for at least the next two months.

All this means that I am responsible for taking care of my wife in ways I had not anticipated before we got married.  My wife is very aware and understanding of my Asperger's, so the deal before we got married was that she could have full access to me from 7pm to bedtime, but that I needed the other hours to work and have my own time.  Well, with her essentially being dependent on me for most things, I have not been able to spend my days doing my own things.  Since I don't technically have a job and am trying to pay bills doing freelance work, I am technically available to attend to my wife's every need.

This is good for her but very bad for me.  I'm barely hanging on and clinging to every spare hour I get when she is out of the apartment so that I can recover from all the time I am "on call".  But, even to get her out of the apartment, I have to drive her and pick her up.  And, inevitably, she calls me to pick her up earlier than we had arranged.  This is further compounded by the fact that she is late leaving for everything.  So, to give an example that happens at least a couple times a week, let's say the plan is for her to be gone for four hours because she has a meeting and then will do work at her actual office.  If she wants me to drop her off at 10am and pick her up at 2pm, what will actually happen is that we won't leave until 10:20 because she is running late (and I am stuck waiting for her from 9:40 to 10:20 because I am ready to go).  I end up getting back shortly before 11.  I then get a phone call at around 1 because she is emotionally exhausted and she forgot to take a lunch. (That's right--late and she forgets to take a lunch.  I've finally figured out to make her a PB&J while waiting for her to get ready so that at least can't be an excuse anymore.)  I then get a phone call shortly before 1 to come pick her up.  Then I have to spend at least 45 minutes listening to her complain about how bad the day was.  So, the four hours I was supposed to get is actually two, and I lose at least two hours from my day serving as her taxi driver and counselor.  But, those two hour chunks for two days per week is all I get where I can just be myself, and those are ruined because I'm never exactly sure when I'm getting a phone call to ask to be brought home.

This lack of personal time has also made it very difficult for me to write.  I have trouble writing if I know there is a possibility of being interrupted.  Since the knee injury, I have lived a life of being interrupted.  I've barely been able to keep up with my freelance work so that we can pay bills.  I haven't been able to do any of my own writing until today.

So, what's different about today?  My wife has noticed that I have been smiling less and less.  She asked me Wednesday how much writing I had been getting done.  My response was, "You're kidding me, right?"  I then laid out my difficulty getting enough "safe time" so I can engage in writing.  She and I have had lots of conversations about these types of topics in the past, so she was fortunately not shocked by what I was saying.  So today was supposed to be one of those days where I acted as her taxi driver.  It turns out that our upstairs neighbor attends about half the same meetings as my wife (now she tells me)  and would be happy to drive her to them.  So, today we made a deal.  Since I didn't have anything I actually had to do until meeting a client at 4pm, today I was to dedicate to writing.  She was not to interrupt me for any non-emergency before then and I was to get all my miscellaneous freelance work done the day before so I could concentrate today on my own writing.  Therefore, today you have the mispleasure of reading this extended blog post.  I can also work on one of the books I am supposed to be writing.

We're thinking about instituting this plan every Friday and maybe also on Mondays.  It has been so frustrating that I couldn't do extra writing since I technically have more free time in my current unemployed state.  Being a de facto nurse to my wife has made my free time essentially useless.  But I'm beginning to understand that in order to better take care of her, I need to better take care of myself.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Trying to find a new church with my new wife

The following is something I wrote three weeks ago but never posted.  I'm posting it now.  At the end I'm posting a link to my latest thoughts on this issue over at my Aspierations on the Bible blog.

My wife and I have different tastes in a lot of areas.  We like different music, different art, different social theorists (yes we're nerds), etc.  Those are all relatively easy to navigate.  But the different tastes in churches--that's a problem.

The problem is compounded by the fact that I moved to her city.  She is already established here, has a network of friends, and most of her Christian friends go to her church.  The problem is that I really don't feel comfortable at her church.  It isn't a matter of the liturgy or the preaching at the church (although I am less than enthusiastic about either), I just don't like the people there. 

We live in a university town.  She is pursuing her Ph.D. here.  If you've never lived in a university town, you may not fully understand.  Except for the undergrads, most of the people in university towns go out of their way to try to sound intelligent.  Some are more successful than others, and a few are authentically intelligent.  But, there is this strong pretentiousness that really bothers me. 

What bothers me even more, though, is the group-think.  It is assumed that all intelligent people must think exactly the same way and have the same views on everything.  The conversations lack real communication because there is almost an artform to not really saying anything substantive while trying to sound like you are.  Then, if you say something that dares go against the group-think, (unless you are a member of a racial minority) you will be either ostracized or it is assumed that you are just not intelligent enough to understand the obvious realities.

I have to admit that there is some pride that gets in the way of my developing relationships with these people.  In at least certain respects, I am arguably more intelligent than 90% of these people (at least according to those iq tests I don't take that seriously).  But, if I actually tell people what I believe about things, then I am deemed as being dumb by people who are actually less intelligent than I am.  So, I either have to stay quiet or venture into discussion topics that no one could possibly have an opinion about.  In other words, I am basically unable to have a meaningful conversation with this group of people.

My wife's church is full of members of this group.  After-church conversations drive me nuts and I just shut down (which, of course, leads to my wife chewing me out for not talking when we get to the car...).  I can't see myself going to a church where I don't feel welcomed to be myself.

When it was decided that we would move to my wife's university town, she agreed that I would get to pick the church.  It seemed only fair that if I had to give up everything in my old life, I should get to find something of my own.  So, I did some dilligent searching for churches in the area where the people probably wouldn't fall into the stereotypes I just described.

After the service at the first church I found, my wife essentially treated the pastor like the people I described above.  She was basically a snob because she didn't think the pastor was very intelligent.  (By the way, I was taken aback...she isn't normally like that.)

The next week I decided to try a church she suggested.  No one spoke to us at all.  Before the service--after the service--nothing.  We just stood there like idiots for several minutes waiting for someone to talk to us.  So, that one got eliminated.

The following week we went to a church that was a lot like the one I came from where I used to live.  I thoroughly enjoyed the service and felt very welcomed by the congregation.  When we got out to the car, my wife started crying uncontrollably.  She talked about how it was the worst church experience she had ever had and how she felt so guilty because she knew this is where I would choose to go.

So, yeah, I have no idea what we are going to try now.  She is insisting that this church search is going too long and we just need to make a decision.  (She apparently has never really done this before.)  She also keeps asking why I can't give her church a "fair chance".  Never mind that I've been there at least a dozen times while visiting her and even her friends who go to that church confirm my view of the place.

So, in essense, I feel very stuck.  I don't see us finding a place where we are both happy--at least not in this city.  I find myself trying to make a decision about whether to insist on attending a church where I will at least feel comfortable or to make the sacrifice and go to her church where she has an established Christian community.  I'm leaning toward the latter and sucking it up for the three more years until she finishes her Ph.D. and we will move again anyway.  I'm just not sure how I'm going to last that long since the vast majority of my friends wherever I live are generally church friends.

So, that is what I wrote a few weeks ago.  Here's the link to my conclusion on the conundrum, sacrificing for my wife's well-being.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My new Bible study (?) blog

In my continuing effort to clean up the topics of my Intellectual Christian Geek blog so it is primarily about living as a Christian with Asperger's Syndrome, I have launched yet another new blog to move over some of my content.  This one will be focused on my thought about the Bible and such.  It's entitled Aspierations on the Bible.  (Yes, this is my really pathetic attempt to get cute with a title.  If it bothers me too much, I'll change it.)

I've already copied one of my old posts from this blog there and created one new post entitled "God is God and I am Not". Please check it out and give me your thoughts and what you'd like to see there.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Yet another friend has a new blog

Hi all.  Another friend of mine has a new blog that I want to support.  Sorry, but it's a diet blog and doesn't really have anything to do with the things I normally put on here.  But, if you are interested in reading how a good friend of mine works through her goal of losing 60 pounds, you can follow Sheila's diet blog.
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