Susan Boyle On Having Aspergers: “Don’t Pity Me, Understand Me”

Susan-boyle

She shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 by blowing away a panel of British judges including Simon Cowell by singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ from the musical ‘Les Miserables’. The reason it caused such a stir was because when she came out on stage, she was dressed in ordinary clothes, looked quite unassuming and most of all Simon Cowell never thought she would have the voice she did.

Since that day life had become a whirlwind for the single 53 year old who previously lived a quiet life in the small town of Blackburn in Scotland. Performances, world tours, endless press, book deals, TV appearances and people prying into her private life became the norm and eventually it got to her. Some secret struggles came out in the open and there was no going back.

In 2012 she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome which she spoke about publicly on the BBC in December 2013. Today she is part of a docu-series on Ovation TV which follows her around as she performs in her home country. We see behind the scenes of Susan’s life in a way that is more personal than ever before. But the most startling thing about her journey is how she is handling the Asperger’s diagnosis. She isn’t afraid to talk about it, and has become somewhat of an unofficial spokeswoman who is breaking down society’s stigma and perception of those who have it.

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“Born in a small Scottish village at a time where medicine and diagnosis was in its infancy and hadn’t made the great advancements that we see today, my parents were told not to expect much from me as they were led to believe I had been brain damaged at birth.” she says in an article for The Daily Beast.

“But you see I’m not mad or simple or any of the other names that I have been called over the years. I have Asperger’s and it doesn’t define me, it gives a greater understanding of who I am.”

“Asperger’s is a developmental disorder that falls within the autistic spectrum. It’s lifelong and experts believe that about 1 in 200 people have a form of Asperger’s in varying levels. People with Asperger’s normally have an above average intelligence. The difficulties that people with Asperger’s have lies within social interaction and communication as well as having sensory, motor and organizational difficulties. Many people with Asperger’s experience isolation and a lack of understanding which affects their everyday lives, which often results in frustration, anger, depression and a low self-esteem.”

She talks about the struggle of being unfairly labeled by the media and by society which hurt her the most. Finding out she had Asperger’s was a huge relief. After learning more about the condition she realized she had a duty to speak publicly about it because now she didn’t just possess an incredible singing voice, but a spokesperson’s voice who could speak on behalf of all the other people with Asperger’s.

The best way to do this was to be part of a series and that is how ‘Susan Boyle: My Secret Struggle’ came about.

“It shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Quite the opposite. We need to become more perceptive and embrace the difference and gain a greater knowledge of what Autism and Asperger’s are and why it occurs. I have not written this with a view to evoke pity. Quite the opposite. Don’t pity me. Understand me,” she says.

“It’s so incredibly important that the label of Asperger’s doesn’t define me—it gives a greater understanding of who I am. In fact it gives society a greater understanding of all of us diagnosed and living life with Asperger’s.”

In 2013 she toured both England and Scotland, which can be seen on the documentary, and is showing society that a seemingly negative label is no reason not to live a full life. Perhaps her story can give hope to others with Aspergers as well as their families, that there is no stigma that has the power to feel less than.

Thank you Susan for speaking up about a topic that isn’t widely acknowledged in the media. You are a true hero in so many ways and we applaud you for being the woman who in her 50s is still willing to take risks and be an advocate for those around you.

May you continue to prove people wrong just like you did when you first stepped on that stage in 2009.

Here’s that famous first audition on Britain’s Got Talent which has received over 16 million views on Youtube!

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