About Dr. Marshack’s Blog

Dr. Marshack’s blog postings are short and timely. She shares tips that make your complex relationships work better. She also posts questions because she wants to hear from you and share ideas. Bringing people together to help each other is one of her missions.


Note: Some of the older blogs posts have been imported from a previous website and may have broken links. Try the “search” function in the sidebar to find linked pages that appear to be missing.

TELECONFERENCE: Why Do I Feel So Disoriented?

A free International Support Group facilitated by Dr. Marshack. This teleconference is only for Members of the Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.
Click here for membership details and to register for this call.
Topic: Why do I feel so disoriented?
Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 2:30 PM PT

TELECONFERENCE: Why do I feel so disoriented?
There’s a lot packed into this question. Dealing day in and day out with the stresses of living with an Aspie, and/or raising children on the Spectrum (and other variations on this theme) can leave us not just emotionally drained, but can also affect our mental health.

Do you feel confused? Do you forget things more easily than you used to? Do others think you are always rattled? Are you irritable or prone to cry easily? Are you gaining weight or losing it when you really shouldn’t? Can’t sleep? Prone to accidents? Unexplained aches and pains?

Think about it. Your brain is affected physiologically by chronic stress, no differently than your digestive system, or your heart, or other important body systems. This chronic stress leads to chemical imbalances in the brain, among others disorders. In turn this leads to that feeling of disorientation.

Let’s crack open this tough subject and learn ways to take back your life and get your brain back on line.

TELECONFERENCE: Why We Don’t Invite Our Aspies to These Calls

A Free International Support Group Facilitated by Dr. Marshack. This teleconference is only for Members of the Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.

Click here for membership details and to register for this call.

Topic: Why we don’t invite our Aspies to these calls
Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 2:30 PM PDT

TELECONFERENCE: Why we don’t invite our Aspies to these calls. Most importantly, these calls are for us, not for them. The call is almost a sacred space, a place to be heard and respected and not alone. I recognize that you hope your Aspie will grow in awareness if they hear from others like yourself, but without empathy your Aspie may come away even more confused. They need a different approach to heal, and it certainly isn’t a heartfelt group discussion. I know this is complex, so I hope we can talk a bit more about how the healing process differs for NTs and Aspies. Our heartfelt teleconferences are remarkably healing for members because we can connect with every caller. That’s how empathy works. These calls are a chance to rekindle your spirit, even if your Aspie doesn’t understand you. Come prepared to make this call all about you because you are wonderful and deserve center stage for a change. Please come to the call with a private place to listen and chat. This call is only for members. Thank you.

ASPERGER SYNDROME:” What’s In A Name?

About Hans Asperger, M.D.

Juliet: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
Author: William Shakespeare

What’s In A Name?

Asperger Syndrome,” Autism Spectrum Disorder, High Functioning Autism? I have been conflicted for a long time about what to name our group. Unlike Shakespeare, “Asperger Syndrome” is not a rose. Nor does it smell as sweet by any other name. Not only is the disorder complex, but the name itself is rife with controversy (political and clinical).

Eventually I settled on the name for my membership website, ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life With an Adult on the Autism Spectrum, for reasons practical, professional and personal. The name matters because this website is a beacon to those who need the support. I wanted a name that could be easily recognized and that represents what our group stands for. To know that you are not alone, and that your voice matters—well, this is huge for the Neuro-Typicals (NTs) who seek us out, and join our community.

  • The Practical Reason? Hundreds of members have tracked down our group because they searched the Internet using the popular term “Asperger Syndrome.” Accessibility is vital to a group of NTs who feel lost and adrift. They may not know there is any other term for “Asperger’s.” They certainly don’t know the history of the term.
  • The Professional Reason? I have published three books using the term “Asperger Syndrome.” My work as an author and psychologist is associated with this term. Plus, many mental health professionals still use the term for similar reasons.
  • The Personal Reason? For over 25 years using the term “Asperger Syndrome” has helped many of us NTs be more supportive of our ASD oved ones, because we could see them differently than “garden variety” autism. The term helped distinguish those with High Functioning Autism as unique and capable in many ways. Even those on the Autism Spectrum embraced the difference and coined the term “Aspie” to set themselves apart.

The Lesson of the Self-Portrait—Relationships

While the term “Asperger Syndrome” is an important part of our membership name, so is the word Relationships.

Bianca’s Self-Portrait

Recently one of my NT readers asked if he could have a digital copy of a drawing I published in my book, “GOING OVER THE EDGE?” It is a drawing by my daughter Bianca when she was a young teenager; an assignment for school to draw her self-portrait. Bianca has “Asperger Syndrome.”

I remember watching that day as Bianca drew with a No. 2 pencil. She started at the far right top of the page, drawing the bird’s wing. Then she filled in the rest of the bird, and quickly the other details. I was amazed at her talent. But it was the stunning message behind her drawing that broke my heart.

“How do you like the bats flying out of my nose?” Bianca asked. It was only then that I recognized the disturbing message in her self-portrait. Not just a noisy creative brain, but a frightening cacophony of wild, angry, primitive animals. What I thought was a beautiful bird with outstretched wings was screeching in her ear. Snakes writhed around her mouth. Prehistoric raptors clashed. Wolves howled. There are some peaceful aspects to the drawing, such as an Orca breeching, a flower and a butterfly; apparently a little calm in the jungle of her mind.

The incredible depth of Bianca’s self-awareness is revealed in how she etched her hand. The fingers are intelligent animals (dolphin, horse, wolf, and hawk)—but her thumb is a woman, wearing a long cloak from head to toe. The opposable thumb distinguishes her as human, but her humanness is still shrouded.

As if my mother’s heart needed even more to ache over, I noticed a small figure of a girl, hidden among the wilderness of her mind/drawing. The girl looks frightened and alone, as she hugs her knees to her chest, and huddles beneath the tail of an iguanodon, with a ferocious plesiosaur swimming by. How did I not know that my beautiful child felt this alone and in danger?

Given the personal nature of Bianca’s drawing, I asked my NT reader why the picture was so important to him. He said he wanted to use it as a screensaver, as an ongoing reminder of what he and his “Aspie” wife live with every day. He said:

“. . . I’ve been struggling with finding and defending my self-worth and establishing a sense of value. Seeing the drawing opened up an epiphany in me: For all these years I’ve been providing that little girl curled up in a ball in the middle of all that screaming chaos with a normal fulfilling life that I don’t think many other people would have been able to do. That’s real value right there and an effort worth a life. I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with needing recognition and appreciation, but at least I might now start to have and eventually internalize a context to appreciate myself.”

The lesson of Bianca’s self-portrait is that our group name has to include this important concept—Relationships. It is through the Complex Relationship between the NT and our “Asperger” loved ones, that we come to know ourselves at a deeper level. As my reader recognized, his efforts are of value. He does make a difference. With his request for a copy of Bianca’s drawing, he has started to take back his life from the chaos so that he can appreciate the radiant Soul within.

Painful Inconsistency

On April 19, 2018 the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/world/europe/hans-asperger-nazis.html) published findings showing that Dr. Hans Asperger was a Nazi sympathizer during WWII. As an Austrian pediatrician he made an important discovery in the field of autism, that there are children with high functioning autism. Later this diagnostic category was given his name, “Asperger Syndrome.” As important as this discovery was, Dr. Asperger also helped identify children that the Nazi’s deemed defective, referring these children to the Third Reich’s child-euthanasia program.

The term “Asperger Syndrome” has become widely accepted in common parlance, so it is not easy to replace. My books were written prior to this discovery about Dr. Asperger. For revised editions, my publisher AAPC (Autism, Asperger Publishing Company) has asked that I remove the term in my books where it is convenient to do so. In order to maintain continuity for readers, I continue to use the term, interspersed with ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and High Functioning Autism. Therefore, the terms “Asperger Syndrome,” “Asperger’s,” and “Aspie” remain on some pages, where to change them would cause too much confusion.

I hope you appreciate the sensitive nature of this discovery about Hans Asperger. As with my books, I made the tough choice on our website to keep using the term. However, I have made every effort to substitute other terms where they fit (i.e. ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, High Functioning Autism).

I hope you will also accept my humble attempt to resolve this inconvenient truth, at least on paper. I have chosen to distinguish between the man, Hans Asperger, and the diagnosis he discovered. I have italicized and put in quotes all references to “Asperger Syndrome,” and its variants.

I have often written of ASD/NT couples and families, that these are very challenging relationships. It appears that even in a name, the challenge persists. I hope that you find in our community a way to reconcile the painful inconsistency inherent in our name, but also the painful inconsistencies in your Life With an Adult on the Autism Spectrum.

TELECONFERENCE: Bring A Friend Day

A free International Support Group facilitated by Dr. Marshack. This teleconference is only for Members of the Meetup group, Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD.
Click here for membership details and to register for this call.
Topic: Bring a Friend
Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 2:30 PM PT

TELECONFERENCE: Bring a friend day
This is your chance to invite an NT friend or family member to learn more about what you live with. Please make sure this is a trusted friend who is ready to engage.

They can ask questions during the Q & A, but do not give them your passcode. Invite them to listen with you on your speakerphone. Perhaps you can take time after the call to share what you learned.

The purpose of the call is to help your friends relate to you and your family life. While they can never really know what it is to live in your shoes, they can come to believe you. That is huge, isn’t it?

This not a call for your Aspie loved ones. Our group needs to be a safe and secure place to learn and connect and to know that we are not alone.

Please come to the call with a private place to listen and chat. This call is only for members. Thank you.

When Love is a Noun

When Love is a NounFor most people, love means loving or engaging in acts of love that are reciprocated. Because we have empathy, love becomes a dynamic process that deepens over time. The love relationship is more complex than most people realize. We receive little useful education about how to make love work or how to make love last, or just how to make love. Most of our learning comes from television and movies or pornography – sources that are two-dimensional at best. In time, we stop learning and settle into a routine of love, sex and intimacy that can grow dull and tedious, or stressful, or even non-existent.

Sex is not the most important part of a loving partnership. There are many other qualities that need to be developed and nurtured over time to make a relationship special and intimate. However, sex is a critical element. Healthy, loving sex makes special the relationship with your soul mate. Sexual intimacy makes this friendship different than any other. It’s a bond of love like no other.

To keep love alive in your relationship, ask yourself the following questions about your sexual connection with your partner…

  • Is there joy and excitement in your relationship?
  • Are you more in love today than when you first met?
  • Do you view sex as a time to bond and to learn more about your partner?
  • During intimate moments do you feel as though you are sharing your true inner self?

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, then it’s time to take action and restore your love life. I can help you make a successful plan of action. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

However, I must add a postscript for those of you who have a partner with Aspergers. What you know about love and what you expect from love will be severely challenged, because, for your Aspie, love is a noun, not a process. Love is a thing they keep hidden in their hearts, and you’re just supposed to know it. They have difficulty knowing how and when to express love.

People with Aspergers can have successful relationships, when they learn the Rules of Engagement – meaning they learn how to say things in a way their NT partners can understand as loving.

However, we NTs sense that this type of love is a thing they feel, not a love they share. The reason this is important to us NTs, is that we sorely miss the loving process. We feel alone, disconnected and unloved, even when our Aspies do feel love inside, but don’t share it. If you’re a member of my Asperger Syndrome: Partners and Family of Adults with ASD Meetup, please sign up for the low-cost video conference, “When Love is a Noun.” We will be meeting at the following times for your convenience…

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 7:30 PM PT
Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 3:00 PM PT
Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 10:00 AM PT

This Video Conference is an opportunity to better understand how lack of empathy affects love and what to do about this major loss. I hope you can join us.