Let’s Talk About… Autism


This is a love letter, in a way.

I haven’t gone to the doctors about this. I cannot go to the doctors about this. With everything that’s going on in my life, with my gender and sexuality and fears of this not being real, this not being true, of me just looking into it too far, I am terrified that they will either do nothing or something. They could tell me that I’m wrong, that I’m faking, that I’m overthinking and I just need to try harder to fit in, to understand people, to learn social cues and social context and implied meaning and other’s emotions as if I can forget the way that any touch from friend or foe alike that I have not initiated feels like it’s sunk into my skin and bone and is setting up home in my marrow.

As if I can forget the sheer feeling of needing to flee, needing to separate myself from other people because they are crowding me in from the other side of the Qudos balcony and their clothes hurt like thorns when they brushed by me and the faintest sound makes me want to pull my own eardrums out. Needing silence and space and the bliss of knowing that no one is expecting me to emote properly or respond properly or act properly like a physical ache.

Almost worse than that is the fear of doctors telling me it’s real, and having that attached to me for certain to the rest of my life.

The closest I’ve ever come to a diagnoses was psychology experiment I took part in once. They were looking for people like me to take part in a study – I found out via email, but before I could fully take part I had to take a quiz to see if I was suitable.

I recognised it within three questions. It’s one of the first results you get when you search “am I autistic?” into Google, and as far as the researchers carrying out the study were concerned, I was.

The worst thing is that, in a way, I love it.

One time a friend of mine mentioned how they wished they could see the world the way I did, and the first thing I felt, stronger than anything, was protectiveness. They wanted my brain, I felt. They wanted what made me ‘me’. They wanted it, my precious, beautiful, split and shattered mind, and they couldn’t have it.

They could never have it.

I wanted to hold my mind to my chest with claws, curl in on it and keep it close and guard it with everything I had because it was mine and it was perfect and I had never hated or loved anything more.

I feel I never will.

There’s an abhorrent level of narcissism that lingers beneath my skin because of my autism, because I love my brain with all my heart and hate it with all my mind. When people say they wish they could experience my brain, they could experience the way I see the world, I mostly just feel smug, because they can’t. They can’t now, and they never will, because my brain is mine and mine only and it is the best thing I know.

God, I hate it so much.

I tweeted once that I would sell my brain to Antiques Roadshow for 25p and a chip butty, and that still holds true. They can have it, as far as I’m concerned. It’s awful and broken and wrong enough to be frustrating, wrong enough to let me down, while still functioning well enough for me get by. It makes me think that I understand people, that I can follow social cues and recognise emotion in others and even, sometimes, gift of gifts, understand eye contact, and then seconds later it brings it all crashing back down. I don’t understand any of those things, even now. I cannot interpret the flow of a conversation, cannot identify when to speak and when to say silent, cannot intuitively know what to say to comfort a friend and most of the time don’t even know they need comfort until they tell me, because emotions don’t make sense.

But it doesn’t bother me, not really. I’ve never known anything but my own mind, and really would never like to. I am too protective of it, too fond of how things sound within my head, and never want it to change. It’s part of why I’m terrified of letting anything into my mind. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs – I don’t do anything that could possibly change how I perceive the world, because I feel that if I did, I wouldn’t be me. I don’t know what I’d be, or who I’d be, and to me the idea of losing my already carefully maintained sense of self is more horrifying and terrifying than anything.

My mind has too much adoration for itself, and I am always playing with the line of wanting to keep it and wanting to get rid of it forever.

But only in part. I know what my final choice will always be.

This is a love letter to my autism, in a way, so I feel I should finish as such.

To my autism: I love you. I love you more than anything I have ever known, and at the same time I despise you. You have given me my wonderful Vulcan brain and you have stopped me from knowing what others know so well and so easily. You have let me become content within myself and see the world in a way no one else can, and you have made it so that some sounds stop me from speaking and that music will never be something I will be able to enjoy fully. You are with me every day, every waking moment, and I know you will never leave me and never want you to, even if at times I wish with all my heart that you were gone. I love you and hate you in equal parts, always.

To my autism: I’m so glad you are here.

[Beck]

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