Anne Watts told me in our one on one work that she thought I had Aspergers Syndrome. I looked it up and saw some definite correlation. It's not that I felt less then. I felt different and needed a context in which to communicate those differences - and in our culture we use the language of pathology, so a pathological label was a doorway to an important conversation.
Note: I recently read a psychological analysis by one of the few competent psychologists I've worked with at nine years old. She was diagnosing a learning disability and she went about it very thoroughly, relative to any other mental/emotional professional I've worked with it. After three months of working with me using multiple psychological tests, she proceeded to say that while at first glance I was average, this was only because many normal tests did not make the distinctions that segmented me into extreme highs and lows. Much like the "average income of two people walking into a bar was 3.5 billion dollars when one had seven billion and the other had thirty dollars," she explained that I was simultaneously in the top 1% and bottom 1% of the population and that the differences were determined by, for example, a question was spoken or written. She also observed the split between the parts of me that are infantile emotionally and the parts of me that are much older than my age, a trait I observe to this day. She did not go so far as to diagnose my abuse by my symptoms, which the best doctors do, understanding that 99% of children are born healthy and that their symptoms reflect the disease around them, rather than any innate flaw in the child. It's still political suicide for highly paid professionals to ask parents to pay to diagnose their incompetency as parents, and even less acceptable to diagnose the gross imbalances and blind spots of an unhealthy culture, but she did get the presenting symptoms more accurately than anyone since (I paid for $150k in therapy with 30 practitioners before I got my childhood report which my father only gave me at his recent death).
What had been frustrating me was this very segmentation of strengths, differences and vulnerabilities. On the one hand I built my first house a month early with no stress and within $300. of budget and it all went exactly as I wanted and was very easy at age twenty three. On the other hand I often felt two years old, or five emotionally and was desperately needy in a way American women have largely been trained to hate and abuse, rather than be kind. I can be completely calm and rational when a house is burning down and keep everyone safe, but I have to close my eyes to stop from being overwhelmed by all the hand-on-heart eyes at a HAI workshop. Noise can infuriate me and I can feel terror if I don't understand why my stapler is moved six inches from where I put it, but I have no issue prioritizing holding and listening to a woman's pain - even a stranger - for six solid hours. I have extraordinary strength and extraordinary vulnerability and limitation. And I'm in a culture that does not want to and thus does not take the time to see me. Thus I get peppered with extreme and seemingly contradictory feedback:
One Silicon Valley executive at a HAI workshop, for whom I facilitated a deep role play doing inner child healing with a dissociative sensitive told me: "I've been to all kinds of workshops in business and personal growth and what you just did is the most skillful piece of facilitation in my life." What he does not see is how fragile the conditions are in which I can do that level of work. The variables have to be aligned in a very narrow way I have almost no control over for me to do genius level facilitation of that nature. And those variables, which include ebbs and flows in my body, can collapse around me at any moment, and include the mental/emotional presence of the people involved.
Plenty of people have told me I'm arrogant, self-centered, controlling, too serious, too weird and needy. People are scared of or deeply nourished by the intensity of my focus. It's never "ordinary." Either someone is hating me and so busy projecting other men on to me that they never even give me the time to correct three levels of assumption, one false perception based on another false perception based on another, or the people who are seeing my gifts are not seeing what it takes out of me physically to feel their pain enough to diagnose what's going on. The common-denominator in 95% of my human interactions is deep invisibility in a culture that does not want to see - that asks me impatiently or sometimes imploringly "Please don't make me think, feel or grasp deeply enough to see you. Just pretend you are a guy, or at least let me pretend that and don't argue with me and I won't attack you."
What this label allowed me to do at HAI was use the tool of "Burning shares" to start a narrative and invite humility.
"I am highly sensitive. I have Asperger's Syndrome. I do a lot of what I do to manage stimulation. I cant digest group energy well, but have space for deep one-on-one. Talk to me about it. Approach me if you want uncommon depth."
This is something that I started doing about 10 workshops into my 30 workshops and it made a huge difference. It's another reason I want HAI to teach sensitivity as a trait that is scientifically proven: It's real. Let's deal with it. 20% of the people at HAI are sensitives, and they are dealing with many of my challenges without having the tools. They come up to me after my burning share and say: "Me too. I wish I said that." Most of them don't want to take up space. A burning share requires someone who has articulating talent and is willing to get up in front of the room at the very moment they feel overwhelmed and draw attention to themselves. Most sensitives can't do that. Why don't we have a chapter in the introductory book to HAI that addresses the sensitive trait and lets sensitives learn how to cope with workshop intensity and also put an "S" on their name-tags so that people can be more sensitive to them without requiring everyone to do a burning share? I say "Asperger's syndrome" because this trait in it's high-functioning version carries both limitations and strengths. I have both, but many people like to box me into being either above them or beneath them - not complex.