It’s been a love story. You and I.
I and you.
Me and autism.
Autism and me.
We’ve been together for a long time now.
You are part of me – stitched into the fabric of my very being.
Not an iron-on patch, but woven into the very threads of my existence.
Before I even knew your name, you were there with me. From the moment I was born to this very second.
You are here with me as I type and you have been here with me all along – I wasn’t alone after all.
Autism, I want you to know that we’ve had our good times and we’ve had our bad – and I love you because of them all. Not in spite of them.
I don’t just like you or sort of think you’re okay, I love you.
You are the reason my speech sounds like a strange and melodic song.
You are the reason I get very upset when the situation seems only a little bit upsetting to other people.
You are the reason that the world seems like millions of puzzle pieces to me – that I can see them all around me, almost like a video game.
You are the reason I don’t like it when people touch me.
You are the reason I like to talk about the same topic over and over. That I like to drill into it until I know everything there is to know. Conversations are a little like deep sea fishing in that respect, for me at least.
You are the reason I eat hot sauce with every single meal. That if no one is there I even sneak it into dessert. I love hot sauce, and I love you.
You are the reason I like lying on the floor in the dark.
You are the reason I wear headphones like they’re my life support mechanism – the reason I feel like I need them like I need Oxygen.
Autism, I want you to know that I don’t see you the way some other people do.
I would not call you a disability. And don’t think for one second that you are – you are more than that. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but these words will never hurt you. You are above them.
Some people do call you that, but don’t listen to them. They aren’t worth giving the time of day. I think one day – one day soon I hope – that people will see things differently.
I see you as a strength.
I don’t see you as something I have to overcome, I see you as a gift.
I accept you as you are.
You’ve been there whenever I least expected it, sometimes making things pretty fucking tough if I’m honest.
But in retrospect, I don’t think this was your fault at all.
It’s not your fault that the world is made for a particular way of thinking and that you don’t fit in. I know how you feel there, Autism. We’re in this together you and I.
I imagine you find it pretty hard yourself, that I always try and hide you. That I keep you a secret sometimes. That I do my best to shove you into shapes and places where you don’t fit, like trying on a pair of jeans two sizes too small.
I’m sorry for that, Autism. I will try to stop doing this – it’s no good for either of us.
My dearest Autism, I’ve made up my mind and we’re going to be friends.
Not just ‘hi there, hope you have a good Christmas’ kinda friends, but ‘tell me about your day, let’s live in identical houses next door to each other’ kinda friends.
Soul mates, even.
You’ve always been there for me and for that I am grateful.
You were there when I started reading more than a book a day in the summer holidays.
You were there too when I got 1 out of 50 in a spelling test, I imagine.
When I couldn’t form my letters properly, and also when I got my degree too – you are there for the good and for the bad.
You are the highs and the lows. The dark and the light. All around me and yet not there at all – often imperceptible to the world. Invisible.
You were there when I wrote all my university essays in one night – I’m betting that you were the reason I didn’t get around to them until the last minute – but I’m betting that you were also the reason that I could write them in just a few hours too.
You were the reason I didn’t go to lectures. The reason I panic sometimes when I have to be inside an enclosed space.
You were there when I took my first job – you’ve been there for all the big moments in my life.
I imagine you sometimes in retrospect, hidden under the desk with me, nipping at my ankles, making things feel impossibly difficult. Well, Autism, that was pretty confusing for me. Kinda wish you hadn’t done that. But I see now that it isn’t your fault. I didn’t know what you liked and disliked, but I know you better now, Autism. And I think we can work together as a team. I am honoured to be tackling this adventure they call life with you at my side.
Dearest Autism, you were there when I got bullied in every single fucking office.
You were there when I cried myself to sleep for months on end. You were there as I waited for the world to end over and over – you were there when it didn’t end too.
You were then when I felt so confused and overwhelmed that I gave up on everything.
You were there when I fell so far into depression that I didn’t think I would make it out. You were also there to help pick me back up. To dust me off. To hold me in the dark times.
You are the reason I feel like I’m from a completely different planet. And we negotiate this world together – you and I. In it for the long haul we are. Two peas in a pod.
Or perhaps you are the pea and I the pod.
However you phrase it, we are in this together.
Some of these things were pretty damn hard, Autism. In fact, they kinda destroyed me.
But I see things more clearly now – none of this is your fault – or mine for that matter.
I am stronger now, wiser with each passing flick of the calendar.
In fact, Autism, on reflection, I see that you’ve done nothing wrong at all. Zero. Not one tiny thing.
It’s just a case of you being in the wrong environment.
I put you in a goldfish bowl when you needed a tropical fish tank.
It wasn’t my fault though – I didn’t know what you needed, or even that you were there with me. I thought I was alone.
I’m sorry I couldn’t take care of you the way you needed.
But I understand now and I’m going to do my best to give you everything you need.
I understand that you’ve always given everything 110% – you’ve tried your absolute best.
And I am grateful for the things you have helped me achieve.
The thing is autism, I get this feeling that you were also there every single time I achieved something. I think you were there with me through it all, cheering me on – I think you’re a huge part of ,my creative development – you let me concentrate like it’s a frigging superpower, You are the reason I can come up with hundreds of ideas in just 30 minutes (Or, ADHD, is that you?).
You’re the reason I can do things without knowing why. You are the be and the end all. You are me and I you.
Autism, you are so much my life experience that we are intertwined inextricably There’s no me without you and no you without me.
You are the reason that some of my friendships have cracked down the middle – that they are unfixable. But you’re also the reason that I met those people and had those wonderful experiences. And you are also the reason that all the amazing people who are in my life are here right now.
Dear Autism, I want to say ‘thank you’ – I am grateful for the rich tapestry of experiences you have given me.
Only, I haven’t been told yet that I have you for sure. Which is a little confusing if I’m honest.
I’m still on a waiting list so long I have a feeling it might actually be some kind of existential joke – in which I just keep waiting and waiting for all eternity with no end in sight.
But I’ve read the lists and I’ve identified you like an exotic bug hidden in the fauna of life.
I have faith in my own assessment and the words of the professionals that have said I’m on the spectrum so far – even if the i’s and t’s remain uncrossed – the words are there and I can read them plain as day. You are mine and I yours.
I’m proud to add you to my identity.
A lot of people say that I should be mad at you. That I should wish for a world without you.
But, Autism, I don’t want you to change a single thing about you. Not one dot.
In fact, my dear, dear friend, Autism, I love you.
And I am grateful for who you have made me. And that you are there for me when I need you.
Let’s start our journey again, and this time I promise, I’ll try my best to understand what you need from me. Take my hand and let’s tackle the world together.
But please do try and understand what I have to give. That I have limits.
And, dear kind, confusing, Autism, remember this: I love you.
No matter what. Always, forever and a day.