I was reading a piece on ‘The Mighty’ the other day about meltdowns (link here).
At the end of this piece, they posted this message:
“The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to email@example.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.”
This is a response, of sorts. A letter to autism. I can feel a change in the earth’s meteorology at the collected intake of excited breath as all of the Western world’s Autism Moms* crack their knuckles and begin to type out a heart-wrenching soliloquy that Autism Speaks would be proud of.
“Autism STOLE my child from me!!!”
“I can never lead a normal life! I have to- God forbid any parent should ever be forced into this horrific position- put my child’s needs BEFORE MY OWN. THE HORROR. THE HORROR!!!”
For anyone who’s wanting/expecting that from me, sorry to disappoint. You’re in the wrong place. This piece should be commonplace to anyone who has been following me for a while- rambling, politics, and sentimental mush. Enjoy.
You, my friend, can be a massive pain in the ass. I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you, autism, I’m not about that. My boyfriend has autism**, and he’d really rather you widen his taste palate a little. I’m also begging you. Please. All he can eat is macdonalds. Give him a break, autism, I just want him to eat some lettuce. He’s going to have a heart attack one of these days.
Autism, it would also be great if you stopped with the overstimulation thing? He’s stressed out enough as it is already. Oh, and meltdowns. Meltdowns are definitely Not Fun, or so I’ve been told. Oh, and sleep! He could do with getting eight hours a night. Or six. Four? Cmon, work with me here!
But, credit where credit’s due, autism, you’re not as bad as everyone makes you out to be. Sure, you’ve got some negative side effects, but a lot of people keep trying to suggest that we get rid of you. Which doesn’t make sense to me. At all.
You see, autism, I love my boyfriend (obviously). I really, really adore the man. And as much as Autism Speaks would want to find a cure for him, I don’t see that there’s anything that needs to be cured. As much as they would like to separate the man from the disorder, you can’t.
The simple fact of the matter is, I don’t know who my boyfriend would be if he wasn’t autistic.
He’d probably still be interested in Nirvana, and music. But would he be so intensely passionate about it? Probably not. If he was able to better connect to his peers in school, maybe he wouldn’t have been on the fringes of things, socially, the same way I was. Maybe we wouldn’t quite be kindred spirits in that respect, anymore.
Thanks to you, he can’t quite look me in the eyes. But that doesn’t really bother me. He looks at one at a time, and that’s more than enough for me. Besides which, there’s nothing quite as flattering as a man accidentally looking you in the eyes and nearly crashing into the car in front because he got so overwhelmed. It’s enough to make a girl feel pretty damn spectacular, in fact. Once you’ve got over the whiplash.
Dear autism, I love it when he stims. We are both frenetic little balls of energy, and when he’s in an environment where he’s comfortable enough to not try and stop what comes naturally to him, he bounces and flaps his hands. I think I just like watching him be comfortable with who he is, and happy in himself. Watching him strum his hands on the steering wheel in time to the music calms me down, not just him.
And autism, I’m never sure on where I stand with routine, but God is it good to have someone so reliable around- even if I can only rely on him to be as late as I usually am! I know that he’ll keep me safe. I can rely on him for adventure, yet know I’ll always get home in one piece. As a girl, and as a daughter, that’s just about the best thing to have.
Autism, I’ve always been stuck in a fantasy world of the my own creation. I was always the girl with my head in the clouds. Now I finally have a fellow cloud-walker. A dreamer. I won’t pretend we’re travelling to the same places- I may be on another planet, but when it comes to the rest of society, my sweetheart is in another galaxy. But I like that. We can tell each other of our intergalactic travels, and should we ever stray too far, we’ll always have the other to bring us back to earth.
A lot of people talk about the taking things literally in a negative way. Or they find it amusing. My boyfriend’s pretty good at sarcasm, but his quiet acceptance of the joke that he wasn’t worth £50 was enough to break my heart, and his unreserved excitement at my friend jokingly saying she was part of a satanist cult essentially epitomised why I love him. Autism, I am an over-excitable puppy of a person. I am far too intense for most people’s tastes. I am wildly, unabashedly enthusiastic and passionate about the things I do, my interests, and the people I love. I need someone who can match that intensity, and have the inner strength to not care what others think of that. I have met many people who do, who aren’t on the spectrum. But watching the way his eyes light up when he talks about Kurt Cobain’s home demos or any other special interest… He has a passion and a drive even I can’t match, and it’s beautiful to watch.
Autism, you help him see things differently, in a way that challenges me to think differently about my own perceptions of the world. There’s nothing more fascinating to me than to have my worldview turned on it’s head- questioning the way I see things excites me, it helps me analyse my own thought process and maybe even refine it. In a relationship, you have two minds coming from two different places, and communication is important. Because we are coming from very different mental pathways, and we are more aware of it, we tend put more thought into it then most couples would. We have the best communication of anyone I know.
There are a million other things I could talk about, but if I go on, I’m at risk of turning this from a sappy yet political piece about how you cannot separate a person from autism because it’s intrinsically linked to personality, and this will devolve completely into a gushing piece on young love and it’s finest (and grossest. I know. I’m sorry, I’m terrible and a massive sap.) So, before I bore you all to tears/make you throw up onto whatever you’re reading this on, I’ll bring this to a close.
Autism, thank you. You were a fluke of genetics or environment, something we don’t really understand in this day and age. Maybe this is irrelevant and my boyfriend would be the same person, or thereabouts, without you. but there’s also a chance, that without you, he’d be unrecognisable. So I owe you one.
Autism, here’s to you.
PS: Dear Depression,
Go fuck yourself.
*Yes, that is capitalised for a reason, so before anyone takes offence, let me clarify- being the parent of an autistic child does not mean you are a dreaded Autism Mom. Fathers of autistic children can be Autism Moms. It’s not the role, it’s the way you view your child and their disability/developmental difference.
** For anyone who knows me personally and so knows the identity of my boyfriend, his autism isn’t widely discussed on Facebook. Whilst his identity is not a secret, there are still members of his family who do not know he is autistic, and that is his information to share with them as and when he sees fit. I have asked his permission to write about him on here, but discretion is advised if you wish to discuss this with me or him- please do so on here, or message me privately. Thank you for your consideration.
Feature image courtesy of neurowonderful.tumblr.com