A Likely Possibility

The curious case of the guy from church (let's call him Mike) has been high in my consciousness for several weeks now, and very recently I've been having an email conversation with another person from church, this one a friend, who shared some concerns, experiences, and insights.

Today I had two additional emails from people who'd read my post from Sunday. One was from an old (old? heck, she's ancient!) friend who'd been a groupmate from a help line training about 35 years ago. She wrote thoughtfully and caringly and presented some excellent strategies. I gave her words careful consideration. While they made sense, they just didn't seem to apply to this situation. My gut was telling me that traditional limit-setting just wasn't going to work with this dude,this Mike.

The second email was from a cyberfriend who jumped right in to stand beside me with the problem. "I am praying for you right now." It doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

The latest installment in the email conversation with the friend from church came later in the day, after I'd had time to absorb the first two. This church-lady mentioned the possibility that the offending man has Asperger syndrome. I had a very vague understanding of the disorder -- "It's on the autism spectrum" -- and as I googled and read (this, this, and this ), my understanding grew to the point where I'm ready to believe -- right or wrong -- that this is what Mike's problem is. That he is simply unable to be relational or sensitive as most people are. He honestly can't help it.

There's a young adult woman with some mental retardation who accompanies her mother to church sometimes. They always sit in the back. Joanne is given to strange vocal outbursts that some people, especially new people, find disruptive. But because I know what is causing them, I am able to almost completely tune them out.

I'm hoping this will extend to Mike.


Unknown said…
That's a great way to look this situation!

Laurie said…
I live in the Asperger's/autism capital of the world -- Redmond, WA. No coincidence that Microsoft is here. The word "Asperger's-like" is a regular part of conversation around these parts to describe this kind of behavior. (Or what I'm assuming is similar behavior to what you're seeing.) It helps that most of the people I know who are like this do have definite positive qualities. Not sure if this is the case for you. It sounds like perhaps not.

On a similar topic, my SIL (brother's wife) has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Main symptoms are overinflating any slights done to you while being unable to see anything you do to others. She has been absolutely horrible to my mother over the years, on a couple of occasions completely denying her the ability to see her grandkids for six months or so. And my brother enables and always takes her side because he hates conflict.

Some days/weeks/months I'm successful in seeing this as the disease. Some days I just think she's using the diagnosis as an excuse to be a horrible person.

(I'm not being much help here, am I?)

But after following your blog for over a year, I have great faith in your ability to learn what you can from the situation and apply it to make things better -- if not for your relationship with him, then for others around you, with what you've learned.

My darling grandson has Asperger's. He is amazingly brilliant - has been able to identify and understand numbers since he was two but at age 4 still does not make complete sentences very often. He speaks in short phrases enough to get his point across but does not carry on a conversation. Thankfully with early intervention, we have every reason to believe he will converse with us at some point. His progress to this point has been amazing. It is my fervent prayer that he will one day blend in with the rest of society. Being cognizant of this particular syndrome has made me much more aware that some "idiosyncrasies" of others may simply be mental or personality disorders.
Asberger's is the social pathology du jour. It's become very trendy. Yes, these folks have poor social skills. One of the New Yorker writers did an essay on his discovery that he has it. I guess the answer to your guy's annoyance factor has much to do with what kinds of interactions you have to have with him.
Yes, I am ancient.
Tanya said…
It is very difficult isn't it? And most probably even though he may have Asperger's he probably hasn't been diagnosed. We had a similar situation in our church and the A word went around. Members and elders and the pastor made exceptions for the man... until he took such offense at something that he left. I don't know if that was good or bad. Easier but no matter where he goes he is labeled a trouble maker. At least with us he was a trouble maker that was loved (sometimes it took a lot of will!)
Nancy said…
I have had the pleasure of working with children with Asperger's at school. For the un-educated, a kid with Aspergers just looks like a kid.... they don't understand there is something invisible at work in the child. Sort of like being diabetic. All it takes is education........and understanding and things will slowly get better between people.