My Way / Alex Wältermann

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My Way / Alex Wältermann

Alex Wältermann

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Whenever one references “Asperger Syndrome,” people unfamiliar with the disorder react with trepidation. Inquiries into its nature follow suit, for such a peculiar name must tether itself to an equally idiosyncratic disorder. It is dismissed as a manifestation of Autism to avoid extraneous explanation, allowing stigma and stereotype to override the experiences of the diagnosed, whilst we remain unaware of the subtle yet significant dismissal we create. Asperger Syndrome differs greatly from its brother Autism: bordering between normality and disability yet encompassing both simultaneously, it technically no longer exists according to the DSM-V, and its sufferers show intellectual proficiency despite socio-behavioral pitfalls.

Knowing this hindrance personally, I define it as an empathy deficiency that begets social ineptness and egocentric fixations, making life exponentially more difficult—although not impossible to bear. I discovered the latter through my love of writing, which bestowed upon me the ability to experience the elusive power of empathy through the written word.

Empathy drives humanity forward; it fuels the development of society and a deeper understanding of existence. In its absence, humanity ceases, producing an emptiness that affected individuals embody—resulting in the external world viewing those with Asperger Syndrome as inhuman. My lack of understanding causes peers to consider me a spectre rather than a person. Forcing my way into conversations, classmates often scramble to cease interactions. Despite contemplating whether I mattered to anybody due to this unwarranted ostracism, I harbored no animosity toward those who enacted it; instead, I deprecated myself for my inability to empathize. I experience empathy rarely though it resides within me—I merely lack the ability to translate. This insufficiency emanates from Asperger Syndrome, yet my mind reroutes—rerouted—the blame toward myself despite comprehending the truth. Despite this senseless blame, I was to discover that the flow of words from within was the solution to my deficit.

The death of my grandfather and what followed depict my struggle with empathy. I shed not a single tear, yet felt an internal hollowness; I loved my grandfather, though lacked a way to convey the sentiment. When relatives cried for his loss, I felt disgust at how uncontrollable circumstances alienated me from that moment with my family. For my lack of sorrow, I sought an outlet for what refused to manifest—an outlet I found in writing.

In sophomore English, instructed to write observational papers on life lessons, I discovered that the written word allowed me to express myself and to even discover empathy. My written works swirled with torrents of sentiments unknown even to myself. Writings reflected myself as an individual; hiccups in effectiveness demonstrated my inability to comprehend certain phenomena, whereas excessive eloquence revealed penetrating interest. It was on paper that I was able to see a concrete formation of my thoughts and feelings from empathy to obsession. The words on the paper became a map of my deficits—deficits that could be corrected in my life.

It was through my love of writing that I was finally able to identify and bridge the gap to the previously inaccessible outside world.  For the first time in my history, people approached me and entered my conversations—finally reciprocating my desire for companionship.

My attempts to understand Asperger Syndrome have alone made me human. Putting my thoughts to paper has shown me that in attempts to understand others, I can acquire such, ending my perpetual self-blaming for a disability I cannot control.  Every single writing narrates a journey into another undocumented cavern of my mind. My unspoken world cultivates beauty through paper, liberating me from the confines of my medical label. Yet, I express gratitude for my disability. Ascending from isolation by leveraging my deficits has made me accustomed to coping with difficulty. I could not journey this far under different circumstances, since one cannot truly appreciate something without laboring for such. A disability, from my perspective, ceases to act as such whenever one considers it an opportunity to expand.