How do I ache? Let me count the ways . . . endlessly. Wrapped up in a boundless love and entwined and encased in the deepest agony imaginable. I am convinced that being autistic is being human on the highest intensity—a ‘human’ control mechanism turned to the utmost degree, almost to the point of lever breakage—almost to the point of lever explosion!
Being autistic is being. Yes, it’s being! It’s being in a heightened state of awareness, reckoning, and problem solving—it’s being caught up in the motion of intense focus, weaving in and out of endless possibilities and potential. It’s being sprung free from the fist of empowerment and being muzzled into shameful silence. It’s being accountable. It’s being the closest neighbor to the mind’s very own reasoning.
It’s being helpful, despondent, hurtful, and hurt. It’s bouncing up and down in delight, circling in pure joy, dancing in expectation, collapsing in relief! Oh, the blessed relief.
It’s experiencing the same thing again and again, as new and exciting or dreadfully painful. It’s recognizing self in others and recognizing the loneliness of not being recognized.
It’s intensity mixed with passion, mixed with calmness, mixed with the sensation of YES. It’s intensity mixed with grave disappointment, mutilated expectations, expired hopes, and unanticipated letdowns. It’s waking up to the same face and not recognizing who is in the mirror and waking up to the same ideas: one thousand times reborn.
Being autistic is existing in a dream world, with multiple doors opening and reopening. It’s fingers crossed that someone is still there or will arrive in some future day. It’s rising from bed deflated, and managing to find the strength and reserves to carry on, to maneuver through the plundering thoughts and figure out how to follow the string upon string upon string of routes sprouting as filaments of avenues.
It’s remember the rule book, forgetting the rule book, disregarding the rule book, inventing my own damn rule book! It’s apologizing profusely, and wondering if the person I apologized to believes. It’s questioning intention after intention, mine and yours—especially mine. It’s being confused by manipulation, and weeping over being misunderstood, misdiagnosed, misled, mistreated, mis . . . miserable.
It’s wanting to tear open my cloak as wide as possible, to rip the seams, to expose my chest, reach in and grab my thumping heart. To bellow, “This is me—can’t you see?” It’s sitting there, a meaningless lump, punishing self for something that should have been done, said, finished, or started. It’s wanting to erase the day, or at least the hour, or maybe that last sentence or two.
It’s hearing the voice inside the mind shouting, “Stop,” and giving ample reason, and me adamantly not listening; only to curl up in regret later and self-inflict a reasoning that goes something like this: I hurt? But why do I hurt? And why should I hurt? And is it okay to hurt? And should I be mad? And what should I do? And it’s that crushing angst, daunting and suffocating, a longing for escape. Is that wrong of me? Am I worthy of my own suffering, or rather selfish in my ways? It’s coming out of this shell, boots shaking, standing tall, only to be knocked smack on my butt again. And then returning upright, despite the oozing wounds.
It’s countering myself in debate, and seeing all the sides at once. All of them! This and that, and this and that. It’s conclusion reworked, explanation reexamined. It’s trying to explain something that is unexplainable to someone who stopped listening five minutes ago—or who just stares there blankly doing that thing called pretending. It’s watching everyone pretend, and catching myself pretending, and feeling the shame of not being entirely real. It’s reckoning my truth will lead to further isolation.
It’s wanting to gain something, even as I am not quite sure what there is to gain—perhaps to satisfy this hungry longing. It’s punishing self for things that weren’t necessarily my fault, for something I might have not done wrong, per chance, even as I’m never quite sure of wrong itself, beyond moral ground.
It’s some trillion pages of literature simmering on my brain’s back burner, shadowed hints of what is, what isn’t, and what rests somewhere in the in between land. It’s questioning the in between land, balancing in the middle, before swaying out into the zone of naught. It’s questioning should I? could I? would I ? . . . and then freezing, stuck in inertia—overload—no reboot button . . . stuck, stuck, stuck.
It’s leaping from this to that. And back to this and that. And detouring, taking a sharp left, detouring again, and ending up back where I started, with a neighbor bloke dumbfounded and staring at me like I’ve lost something—be it my mind, my train of thought, or friendship.
It’s accepting loss over loss, over loss: too many for a dictionary to hold. And being BRAVE—exceptionally brave! It’s nature, animals, music, foods, kindness, justice, fairness, beauty, extraordinary order. It’s being a part of the innerworking of thoughts’ design: the innards. It’s wanting to expose those innards, without repercussion or consequence, to just speak without having to protect someone’s ego or fragile self-worth. To understand we have egos and fragile self-worth. To feel hypocritical to the tenth degree, and ponder once more why we are the way we are.
It’s recognizing that life is essentially suffering interwoven with glimpses of joy. It’s knowing life is what I choose, within limits. It’s realizing parents don’t have the answers, peers don’t typically get it. And children, though they laugh and cry with ease, and float transparently, weaving through the day, they aren’t like me. I don’t weave. I bump and bruise and end up shattered. And I don’t float. I rise and sink. It’s wanting to float, truly wanting to float.
Being autistic is being logical and knowing feelings aren’t logical and feeling feelings that don’t make any sense, but still pound through like a tsunami, pulling me down and up and away, and into unfamiliar ground, a place where it’s hard to breathe and hard to be found.
It’s being tuned into this body and not tuned into this body. It’s forgetting my own needs and that I even have needs. It’s forgetting all the steps I invented of self-care and being to tired to care. It’s the yin and yang all bundled into one. This one. It’s experiencing life at all angles, in all forms. It’s mind-boggling and mind-numbing, and then it’s this mixture of ah-ha! and oh! It’s flashback and flashback, and thinking now I get it!
It’s laughing at a joke, long after the punchline. It’s revisiting events as if they just took place—exhilarating—disheartening—scary—familiar. A repeat button set to repeat. It’s cyclic living and linear discovery. It’s never casual. It’s never simple. It’s a gift and a curse, a burden and a delight, a joke in and of itself. It’s humility reborn.
Being autistic is facing a world as a foreign substance, even to self. It’s beating at this non-collapsible, invisible, exterior casing of something, and wanting it to break to reveal this ‘me.’ It’s living in a circular divide that masks who I am and shows these ‘everyone else’ a collection of something that doesn’t add up to me. It’s words that almost paint a picture, and art that almost makes a door. It’s dreams that almost come to life, and nightmares that almost go away.
It’s wanting to scream. And it’s finding someone who can see, who can love, who can say, it’s okay, I’m one too.