Saturday, 7 April 2018

Autism Is

I am autistic. I was diagnosed late in life, but it made the past more comprehensible, how I was and am and how the world was and is with me.

What is autism?
Weird question, really.

Autism is a diagnosis. A disorder. A condition. An explanation. A description.

Experiencing autism is like experiencing depression or genius or dyslexia: different for everyone, but inseparable from the person.

It isn't something you can tease out from everything else about a person. Is isn't like diabetes or arthritis or autoimmune disorders, where there is a fairly clear line between the person and the problems. It isn't something that can be sorted into negative effects versus underlying health. It can't be treated like a disease, because the symptoms can be gifts, or burdens.
Things about autism that make problems for the people in my life are often the things I treasure about how I am. The things I do to cope, to fit in, to make it easier to be a part of the world, those are the things that make me feel artificial and alien. 

For me, autism is extremes. Contrasts.
It is not noticing or reacting to a fractured bone in any visible way, but being driven to hysterical screams by the loose seam threads rubbing my skin where the tag has been removed from my clothes.
It is being able to tune out everything around me, but a tiny buzz at the wrong frequency is impossible to ignore or to bear.
It is noticing tiny details of the patterns in shadows, but walking into a tree because I didn't notice it was there.
It is remembering verbatim songs and locker combinations and conversations from my teen years, but unable to process the words of someone speaking to me in time to react appropriately.
It is being able to repeat back long strings of numbers, but unable to remember if I took my meds or brushed my teeth this morning.
It is breaking down with sorrow for strangers because I can imagine their pain so vividly, but unable to read the tone or expression in their voices or their faces.
It is feeling emotions so profound I can't hold still, sensations so intense that I can't contain myself, but must keep myself calm through self stimulation rituals and movements.
It is being unable to talk to people, then unable to stop talking.

It is so different for each person who is autistic, yet with a thread of understanding and shared experience that runs through us when we discuss how it is together. 

It is understanding why sometimes, but being unable to express it to someone who doesn't experience the world and our bodies the way we do.
It is my heart breaking for my children, because I know how it is. It is frustration and dismay that I can't always do anything to help.

It is wishing I could just be boring and typical and normal for a change.
It is wishing everyone could feel things the way I do.

It is being who I am, without letting it limit my ability to live in the world.
It just IS.

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