The beginning of the end, the toil of being autistic

It’s been a while since I updated this blog, so please be patient if I start to ramble. The intervening period has been a difficult one. Depression, suicide attempts, loss and emptiness were my only companions at that time. So, does my writing today mean that a page has turned for the better?

Sadly, no.

I am tired. Scratch that…I am exhausted. And I don’t mean the “been up all night and haven’t slept” tired, nor the “been carrying rocks uphill all day” tired, nor even the “just had twins and they won’t stop crying” tired. No, my fatigue is because I have been struggling for over 50 years to adapt and survive in a world that neither accepts nor wants me. Despite adapting and persevering, it has been overwhelming – so there would come a time when it would be beyond my strength to continue. This is how tired I feel today.

I expect that should anyone be reading this, they will have already clicked to another, more interesting, blog. For anyone masochistic enough to keep reading, I will do my best to bore you.

For those who do not know (don’t worry, as I didn’t know for the first 50 years of my life) I am autistic. Now I am not saying that this is the cause of all my agony, far from it. Autism is who I am, it is not something I have. But it is in trying to survive in an anti-autistic world, that I have found myself dying a little bit each day.

I am not trying to suggest that there is an agenda to wipe us out, and much of the abuse comes from a good but misinformed place. But it is a reality that I and others of my ilk suffer daily, even though we choose to hide it. And most of us are unaware why we suffer, and are isolated trying to understand. I will speak for myself, but I have come to realise that I am not alone, and my experiences are not unique. This is deeply saddening. If it were just I, then I could perhaps shoulder the blame for my predicament myself. But what has become clearer is that I am but one of many (1 for every 88 non-autistic persons), and our suffering shows no signs of lessening, but in fact to me appears to be on a downward trajectory.

I am not whining, nor am I seeking to blame others. I am not attention-seeking, nor do I think of myself as special or better than anyone else. I am just a lone voice in the wilderness, one amongst a billion similarly lost and alone voices, trying to make myself heard, and to stop the pain.

Contrary to ‘belief’, autism is not something that can be caught via vaccinations. Nor can it be ‘cured’. It is not a set of behaviours, nor is it mental illness nor psychopathy. And no, it doesn’t make someone a serial killer. It is a lifelong description of who I am. As integral as my being right-handed (actually I’m ambidextrous but that isn’t important), or being a man, having brown eyes, or being gay (as it happens I am not…maybe a tad bicurious – but that’s another story). It is just another aspect of what makes me me. However, it should not be victimised, demonised, or ‘cured’, any more than left-handers were ‘cured’ by tying hands down and punishments (beatings) given. “Oh this can never happen again” most will say, yet one only needs to listen to the vile ‘Autism Speaks’ based in the US, or look into ABA to ‘cure’ aspies (those like myself on the spectrum).

There are some who say that Autism, or Aspergers, is a “childhood disease”. It is neither a disease, nor does anyone ‘grow out’ of it. No. What you find in society are friends, co-workers, parents and teachers, or even the person sitting across from you right now (or even you yourself) who are on the spectrum and ‘passing’ as neuro-typical (non-autistic). This is a tiring but learned behaviour so as to ‘fit in’. As controversial as what I am about to say may sound, it is akin to a black person ‘whitening’ up so as not to stand out; or a gay man marrying and having a family. These are obviously ridiculous, yet for us we have to contain who we are. These aspies are not ‘cured’, we are forced to go against what is natural to us and it is difficult, tiring and painful, and all we ask is for a little understanding and acceptance, and not bullying nor hatred. We live in a neuro-diverse world, and there should be no prejudice based on neuro-typicality.

But what of my own experiences, and why am I here now writing this (that is if anyone is still reading with an open and non-judgemental mind)?

I suspect much of what I have experienced will echo experiences of others. And by writing that a misunderstanding, or sometimes hatred, of autism is at the heart of these problems, I am not detracting from similar experiences for different people in the neuro-diverse community. These experiences are not being ‘kidnapped’ by an aspie, but for me they are a result of my being born who I am.

Some people believe that aspies have some special ‘gift’ as shown in ‘Rain man’. These people are Savants. I am not going to explain Aspergers, or Autism, etc. You can go to the hidden aspie website to learn more, or check out the rather excellent Ask an Autistic youtube channel. Suffice to say that I am “one of the lucky” ones in that I am high-functioning (though I dislike the label as regardless of functioning levels, we all still struggle in the same way, just that the ‘higher’ functioning appear to be coping better) as well as being a polymath with an eidetic memory (though if you are followers of this blog you will know that this is now compromised). It is these latter two which have helped me survive most in the world. The memory in particular is why I am able to talk to you now of my childhood.

You can choose not to believe what I will say, or to re-interpret it as you want, I don’t mind, as I have no agenda other than explain myself

My memory begins prenatally. It is hard to describe these first memories as they are more abstract, and emotional. I remember vividly being born, and every moment thereafter. I say this as this is the world I knew and assumed shared with others.

If I were to be born today, I would have been recognised as having autistic traits, Amongst other traits, I did not speak, but when I did it was not ‘dada’ nor ‘mama’ but in sentences. So what happened? My parents could tell there was something different about me, but then, as now, it was seen as being wrong. So my parents, “for my own good” beat me repeatedly until they had ‘cured’ me. To her deathbed, this was one of the things she was most proud of doing for me. I could not tell her that they had broken me, and caused irreparable damage.

I was asked recently when was the first time I had actively tried to kill myself. The answer came as a surprise, as my answer was that I was 3 years old, and that I had attempted it 3 times in succession.

I had locked the bathroom (an engineering feat at that age) and drank bleach. I was taken to hospital to have my stomach pumped and to be treated. All assumed it was a mistake (that I didn’t know it was dangerous) but I did not correct them. This happened twice. On the third attempt, my parents became more wary and got someone to scale the house and break the window to stop me. Yet still, no-one could accept the truth, that I was trying to kill myself. And the reason? A means of escape from a hostile world that I couldn’t understand, and which I received only beatings for being myself.

Now I am not saying that my parents were bad, it was a different time in the 1960s and this was the way of the world: what one perceives as deviant behaviour, one would beat the person so as they would choose not to behave aberrantly in future…as if choice had anything to do with autism, homosexuality, introversion etc. But it molded me into the person I became, and who sits here now with verbal diarrhea.

I began this thread intending to explain my current (lack of) expectations, and disclose my recent history leading me to this place of darkness and destitution, but I have taken too much time already just establishing the foundation. If I am still here later, I might try to finish this post in a ‘part 2’

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