Recently, my longtime friends, Bob and Lee Dixon, shared the work of their 19-year old daughter with me. Margaret has Asperger’s Syndrome and her short story is called “My Little Monster.” She may have written about her high-functioning form of autism, but, to me, her words made me think of my own imperfections and the things in my life that I’ve learned to live with and now embrace as part of who I’ve become.

And this story resonated with me for another reason. It reminded me of the heroine in my upcoming release--EVIL WITHOUT A FACE. My bounty hunter Jessica Beckett is scarred both physically and mentally from a horrific crime when she was a child. Jessie made difficult decisions to accept who she’d become after surviving an ordeal no child should have to face. Her gutsy way of dealing with that tragedy as an adult inspired me to make her one of my heroines in my new “Sweet Justice” thriller series.

Elements of Margaret’s story ("My Little Monster") reminded me of Jessie, too. And, it made me realize that no matter how different we think we are from others, the common things we share as human beings brings us all together. I hope you read between the lines of this poignant piece and see something in yourself. Margaret Dixon is a gifted writer who I hope we’ll hear more from.

Jordan Dane

“My Little Monster” - By Margaret Dixon

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a form of high-functioning autism.

When I am interacting with people I barely know, I often feel that this little fact is magnified about a hundred times.

In a way, it’s a little like an aggressive puppy nipping at my heels, while I try in vain to shoo it away so that I can act like a “normal” person for once. It can also be like a huge sign around my neck saying “Hey everybody, I’m a socially awkward freak!”

I guess that is why I enjoy my alone time a little more that most people. When I’m alone with my computer, iPod, DVDs, graphic novels and art supplies, I don’t have to worry about appearing awkward or clueless. Nobody is around to judge me.

Contrary to public belief, though, even autistic people get lonely. It’s when I begin to crave the company of other people that “the little asperger’s puppy” becomes a problem. My struggle to maintain eye contact, bizarre rambling and fidgeting often seems to make an awkward impression.

I admit that I have become resentful to other people who are quick to deem me as “odd” and, after just one conversation with me, decide that I am not worth knowing. I know that people who are judgmental are not really worth my time anyway, but it still stings when it happens.

Sometimes, my life seems to be a cycle of isolating myself, becoming lonely, seeking out other people, humiliating myself, and the self-imposed isolation again.

Still, it’s not that bad. I have made some friends who are willing to ignore the “Rain man” stereotype of autism and accept me despite my (sometimes irritating) quirks. I am very grateful for them.

I guess I don’t really want my asperger’s syndrome to just disappear, even if the only reason is that I don’t know any other way of thinking, or existing. If I was suddenly “cured”, I’m not so sure my sanity would remain. Autistic people often don’t take too kindly to change and I can’t really think of a more extreme change than rewiring my brain. I wouldn’t even be the same person. Would I still have the same appreciation for bizarre humor? Would I still doodle weird creatures on my notes? Would I still have an obsession with comic books, Eddie Izzard quotes, musicals and all my other hobbies? Or would I change completely, a stranger to my family and friends, but most of all myself. This is one case where I am perfectly happy to remain “flawed” rather than have somebody “fix” my brain.

When I think, I almost always think in pictures. I have a seemingly random image to accompany every thought, even when I don’t realize it. It’s nearly impossible for me to think any other way.

In a way, the monster that is Asperger’s Syndrome is my worst enemy but also my best friend. It gives a unique and, I admit it, often strange way of looking at the world. It lets me see who my true friends in life are (most people find it is harder to be nice to the eccentric ones than it is to be nice to “normal” people). On the other hand, it is also one of the main reasons for my loneliness sometimes. But I’ll just have to learn to live with that.

I’ll have to learn to live with everything that comes with the whole “autism package”, because it’s not the kind of package that comes with instructions. I can only image what they would say: “Step one: Get diagnosed. Step two: Sorry, you’re on your own now.”

In the end, I can’t entirely love or hate my little monster. I can only accept and live with the person it has turned me into over the years, because like it or not, I have no choice.

And yet, I’m surprisingly okay with that.

14 Comments:

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Hey Margs--Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful story on your little monster. You are a gifted writer and I hope you continue writing. Your mom told me you have another piece coming out in your local paper. Congratulations! Keep up the good work. And thanks for sharing your life with us.

Jordan

10:52 AM  

Blogger Margay said:

Margaret, as the mother of a daughter with Asperger's Syndrome, I am truly touched by your words - your ups, your downs, your struggles to come to terms with who you are and liking that about yourself. I think you are a truly amazing person and I would be honored to count you among my friends. Thank you for sharing your story and giving me a little bit of insight into my daughter's world. I hope you write some more, too. You are an amazing writer and even more amazing person. Whenever you start to feel lonely, just remember the people you touched with this story and know that you are not alone. You have a lot of company in this. I am honored to be a small part of it and hope that I can remember your words the next time I get frustrated with my daughter.

Margay Leah Justice

11:14 AM  

Anonymous Carla said:

Thank you so much for sharing that! My son has autism (I never know if he "has autism" or "is autistic") and I often wonder how his brain functions and how his mind processes things. How does he really see the world? Margaret's essay has given me some valuable insight. He's a sweet, "quirky" kid, and his differences only make him shine!

11:18 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Hi Margaret,
My son and most of his friends have Asperger's, and so do some of my adult acquaintances, so I'm acquainted with your story. For that matter, I have a couple of the traits, too, and I understand your loneliness. I tend to like to talk about issues and hobbies that interest men, rather than women, but married women aren't supposed to be too friendly with other men, so I have to find other ways to socialize. I have found that a good way is to volunteer for some activity where I have an actual task, such as preparing or serving food for a church dinner or the local soup kitchen, or working in the local food bank. When you have an active task, you can join in as much of the conversation with other volunteers as you please and drop out when you please. If you volunteer regularly, people think of you as part of the group.

Aspies tend to have some very useful abilities related to the way they see life. Many are very gifted verbally or visually or logically. You are an excellent writer, a better writer than many students I see at elite colleges. Good luck with whatever occupation you choose.
Mimi

12:33 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Thank you for sharing your story! You're a wonderful writer with a very mature outlook.

Have you heard of the book, Look Me In The Eye? It's written by John Elder Robison, who has Asperger's.

All the best to you!

12:45 PM  

Anonymous Barbara Cool Lee said:

I enjoyed your story very much, Margaret. Thank you for sharing it (and thanks, Jordan, for introducing us to this remarkable young writer). I have to say, Margaret, you show great insight and perspective in your writing. Please do continue to write. I think you will find writers groups can be a welcoming place for people who have unique views of the world--and someone with your gifts should definitely keep sharing her insights with the world. All the best to you.

12:49 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Loved your story! And so admire your ability to recognize your problems, and devise workable solutions. Even most 'normal' people, including me, can't do that all the time! Your writing is so clear. Please continue developing your marvelous skill. I'd loved to read more! Blessings always. Madelaine Culp, Romance Writer.

1:25 PM  

Blogger Jordan Dane said:

Writing is like a balancing act. Too much of one thing and not enough of another can change a story dramatically.

What I found most remarkable about Margaret's piece is the balance. Her work is subtle and she says so much in only a few words that provoke thought. I love the raw honesty of it too.

As many of you have noticed, her writing is polished with majurity beyond her years and experience. And I believe that's the voice of a natural storyteller.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with Margaret--and encouraging a young writer with a gift.

3:57 PM  

Anonymous Heidi V said:

Jordan was right - you have a beautiful gift. Not only did you open up your world to us in a descriptive and poignant manner, but you also gave those of us - parents - hope for our own children who deal with that same small monster. I hope and pray my son achieves the maturity and self-acceptance you seem to have.

5:06 PM  

Anonymous Sharon Ervin said:

Like snowflakes, people are all different, have our own little idiosyncrasies. Should we be labeled? "Mathematician," "Slob," "Vegetarian," "Flat-footed," "Money motivated," "Self-absorbed," "Compassionate."

I like unique people. I seldom meet any other kind. Margaret has her own depth and strengths and limitations, like everybody else.

None of my four children are alike. They are a smorgasbord, amazing since they have the same parents and grew up in the same household. They are amazing and challenging and add dimension to everyone they meet--especially their mom.

Congratulations on allowing yourself to be exactly who you are, Margaret. You make my world bigger and more wonderful.

Sharon Ervin

5:56 PM  

Blogger The Stiletto Gang said:

Hi Margaret,

I read your story having no idea what Asperger's Syndrome was. Thank you for giving me some insight into what your life is like. Most writers, myself included, strive to reveal our inner selves to others without taking any risks. I admire you for having the courage to really let us into your world.

Rhonda, aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David
http://www.evelyndavid.com

2:22 PM  

Blogger Carrie said:

What a great writer you are! This really touched me. I'd be honored to meet you if you ever come to New York -- perhaps one day your "monster" will always be a sweet dog.

4:47 PM  

Anonymous Lida DaiDaiHua said:

thank you

6:45 PM  

Anonymous Flora M. said:

I think the way Margaret describes Asperger's is very enlightening to those who don't know much about the syndrome as well as being very encouraging to those whose lives are touched by the syndrome. It is nice to hear such a well-articulated explanation of how the person with Asperger's feels about themselves and their "condition". A wonderfully gifted young author to be sure !

5:02 PM  

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