Friday, June 19, 2020
(Review) Keep Clear: My Adventures with Asperger’s by Tom Cutler
Book content warnings:
Abuse (mentions/brief descriptions)
Racism in others (brief)
Part manual on autism/Asperger's and part memoir, Tom Cutler takes us through his Asperger's diagnosis at age fifty-five and his life events with a newly-acquired lens. This book has British humor, heartache, and a whole lot of knowledge. There are few chapters to guide us through, but there are numerous section breaks to make things more manageable.
The descriptions and details are vivid and plentiful. The author tells you what it feels like to have a panic attack, be near meltdown, have an aversion to touch, and other things some people may never feel. He goes through the history of autism/Asperger's being recognized as a neurodiversity, some of the famous people throughout history who've had (or were suspected to have) Asperger's Syndrome, and what a diagnosis can mean for people... what it meant for him.
There is discussion on the possible evolutionary advantages of people with Asperger's in the general population, and the author makes the distinction between autistic people (low functioning) and those with Asperger's (high functioning). I believe people can take whatever label applies to them that feels right, but I have complicated feelings on differentiating any disability or neurodivergence in what seems like an "us versus them" view.
The book discusses the suicide rate for people with Asperger's (nine times higher than neurotypical people). At one point, while struggling through his early college days and a breakup, Tom (who has type one diabetes) stopped taking his insulin. His depression was so immense that it cost him two touch-and-go weeks in the hospital. No one knew how lonely he was.
There are spots of sunshine. Tom Cutler is a successful humorist with a family. His depression, a constant visitor throughout his life, loosened its grip once Tom could view his actions (and those of others towards him) through the lens of his diagnosis. His interest in spinning things, sound effects, and British road signs had an extra dimension once he found out he had Asperger's.
I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to understand autism/Asperger's better, and my lovelies on the spectrum looking for an excellent account of a fellow traveler.