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I have been struggling with the task of adequately describing the sea change that has occurred in my life - to verbalise the subtle, yet profoundly positive shift that has occurred in the relationship I have cultivated with my husband for 30 years. I have considered and rejected numerous passionate adjectives to illustrate how deeply I feel this change and how shaken I am by its implications. However, none seems appropriate. Instead, I find myself drawn to focus on what is now absent. What has been alleviated. What is no longer important... There is a word I keep returning to in my deliberations: Invalid.

Invalid: Logically inconsequent.
Invalid: Being without foundation or force in fact, truth, or law.
Invalid: One who is sickly or disabled.

Whether spoken as an adjective or a noun; what an awful word this is:
I see now that this change is more to do with what has been lost, not what has been gained. I have been an invalid and invalid, all my life.

Every soul seeks validation, whether it is from family, friends, colleagues, strangers or the wider public... Most will receive it in some form, at some time or other - although the quality, quantity and frequency may vary.

One of the most sad and debilitating aspects of life with Asperger's is that the neurological differences present make the social mechanisms one would usually apply in acquiring this validation seem to be absent or so underdeveloped as to appear absent. We do feel however, (and in exquisite detail) the pain of our failures and the void that exists in its place.

We attempt to compensate for its loss by using systematising strengths to develop valuable technical skills, in-depth or encyclopedic subject knowledge, or to collect catalogues of 'appropriate responses' and body language that can be mimicked. The cruel truth is that these mechanisms all so often exacerbate the lack of validation instead of helping. (People are intimidated by my skills, confused by my subject knowledge, and suspicious of my programmed responses. My acting is never quite good enough to fool everyone all of the time, and to be caught out is disastrous.) Even on those rare occasions when validation is offered unconditionally, we may fail to recognise it, or even learn to avoid it, as being without it is more familiar.

I am astonished, therefore, that a simple knowledge set, gifted to my husband and myself, could have overturned such engrained mechanisms and processes so quickly and so completely. The odd reality is that I have not changed. All that has happened is that my husband has shifted slightly in his perceptions from 'sympathise, but will never really fully understand' to 'I get it'. I feel that my response can be eloquently characterised as 'Oh. What?'

Every attempt I have ever made to explain my experience, the way I think, my difficulties etc. in my entire life have all led to the same disappointment. Cumulatively, the effect is better known as despair. This is the crux of why I am struggling to process the effect of this knowledge - my despair is missing.

Just knowing, really knowing, with utter surety that someone absolutely 'get's it' has been enough to make that despair evaporate. All the incidents that usually highlight my vulnerability and failures are passing without their usual effect. The crushing aftermath of misunderstandings has neglected to materialise. The validation I am used to clawing from all the wrong places is no longer important. I now have validation from the one place that matters. It is enough.

Anything is beautiful if you look at it right... (Left behind - Kyle Wilson photograph)


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Chris Russell
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