Finding out at 58 that I was on the autism spectrum was like finding out the name of the street I had been living on for 58 years. Although I only recently learned I was on the spectrum, I have been living on it my whole life.
What’s it like? I can only speak for myself, and this is what I know.
It can be stormy at times. It may be a little mist, or a rain shower, or a thunderstorm, or it may feel like I’ve been hit with a tsunami. I wish relief was as simple as clicking on a “back to normal” button on a computer, but it doesn’t work that way.
Anxiety and fear don’t ring the doorbell; they let themselves in. Meltdowns arrive with little or no warning. It may have the look of a tantrum, but it is a different breed. Now there isn’t a one-size-meltdown-that-fits-us-all for those who on the autism spectrum. Mine typically have been in private, usually in the middle of the night, where I felt like a raging storm had come from out of nowhere. The turbulent water and heavy winds are raging in my innermost being. I have no more control of it than I would a storm outside. The only thing I know to do is sit, rock and pray as I wait for it to pass. It may take five minutes or so, but it passes.
Crowded places can be a source of stormy weather. I avoid them when I can. If I walk into a store and its aisles are crowded beyond my comfort level, then whatever I came for has to be urgent before I weather the storm. I can’t always avoid crowds anymore than I can avoid a storm of nature. My substitute school assignments sometimes put me in a gym where I have contact with every single student in the school at some point during the day. The day is broken into 45-minute segments of approximately 100 students, and if classes are held inside the gym, I am going through sensory overload to the maximum. My reaction to the noise of children trying to yell over each other can be described as that of a cat whose tail has gotten stuck at the bottom of a rocking chair.
Some days are filled with stormy weather, but it passes just like nature’s storms. There are days or moments, though, filled with bright, radiant sunshine. Such as when I’m pursuing my passion for writing by composing a story or just a note to a friend. All in all, my constant companion of autism is more of a blessing.
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