The Cure for Autism

It is amazing to me how much things can change in a year. With everything that has happened this year, I feel like much more time has passed. I look back at who I was 10 years ago and laugh at my selfishness and childish thoughts. I wonder how anyone put up with my whining and shortsighted views. I look back 5 years ago and am amazed at how much I have grown since then. I look back at two years ago and can hardly believe the healing and help and hope that has come into my life since then.

Two years ago, I posted about how I wanted to experience friendship like the love I had for others. I wanted to learn to love better and to love myself. I had grown to be strong and intelligent, resilient to the trials life would bring, but I was haunted by loneliness. Loneliness was a familiar friend, and many nights were spent in the deepest despair of want for human interaction.

I am not lonely anymore. That is the most beautiful statement in the world. I do not feel lonely anymore. I never thought this was possible for me. For so many years, I longed for a single person to see me and want to be more than a situational friend. It wasn’t until college that I felt like I had friends outside of church or school or activities. At that time, I was still getting used to the idea of having friends, and I messed up more times than I care to relate. But a little over two years ago, I started to really feel wanted. I started to have people I could call friends. I started to believe in hope.

I feel so blessed. I have felt love beyond my capacity to comprehend. I feel wanted, needed, important, and safe- most of all, safe. Two years ago, I was terrified of everything I was doing. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to people that I had no idea how to communicate with and doing things for others that scared me almost to death. Every day felt like walking around with my heart in my hands, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed along the way.

But those sleepless nights and silent tears and debilitating anxiety led to the most wonderful friends a person could imagine. All my loneliness, all my pain and suffering, seem like nothing now compared to the love and protection I feel. I feel overflowing gratitude for my friends and for all that I have learned. I feel healed, whole, loved.

I can text someone when I want to talk. I can say hello to someone I recognize when I see them in a store or on the street. I can ask for help. I can tell people how I feel without feeling awkward or out of place. I can hug people or let someone give me a massage. I can relax. I can be myself.

No one knows how far I have come, but it is impossible for anyone to miss the progress I have made. Everyone who knew me before can see how I have changed. We talk about milestones in autism- being able to talk, looking someone in the eye, communicating a need, but the most important milestones are the ones that make you want to be you.

I learned how to do everything I was supposed to do at an early age. I analyzed people to the point where I knew how to appear normal. No one would guess that I have autism, unless it was one of those rare moments when I made a mistake. But despite my capacity to fit in, I could never find the capability to belong.

My milestones are hope, love, and belonging. If there is a “cure” for autism, this is it- hope, love, and belonging. All I ever wanted was to feel like I have a place in this world. I wanted to feel like I belong, that I am wanted here. I wanted to feel like autism wasn’t a wall that kept out love. You want to find the cure for autism? This is it- love, accept, embrace, help. After that, everything else will just fall into place.

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From Your Friend with Autism

I’m scared that I won’t know how to talk to you because I don’t.

I’m scared that you’ll leave because I’ve never kept a friend very long.

I’m scared that I don’t know how to be a friend because I haven’t had many.

I’m scared that I’m too much or too little because I can’t tell the difference.

I’m scared about how I feel because loving so much can lead to more hurt later.

I’m scared because I’ve never done this before.

I’m scared because I’m not good at reading signals.

I’m scared because I’m getting better, which makes it harder to handle if I mess up.

I’m scared because I don’t think you know how scared I am or how much I try.

But most of all, I’m scared because friendship means so much to me and I don’t know if or when I’ll get another chance.

Too Much

I am kind of an intense person. I am passionate about pretty much everything that I do. I think that a lot of people feel that I am “over the top” in my reactions to life. I am overly grateful. I express my appreciation and love more emphatically than anyone I know. I give too much and love too deeply and feel too strongly about things. I probably come across as a “goody two shoes” in church or in certain situations. I’m too open, too honest, too long-winded in my explanations. I often feel like I am just too much for people.

I feel like I have lost friends because of this. I feel like I haven’t been able to become friends with some others because of this. But I don’t know how to be anything else. I try to tell myself to tone things down, to not be so expressive or assertive, but it gushes out of me. Words and actions flow from me like water bursting from a fountain. 

I have stopped trying to suppress my natural inclinations to say something to another person or to do something for someone else. I have stopped trying to force myself to stay in a box I never fit into. And so, I am left with the alternative of simply being too much.

Be a Weed

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I had a thought today as I was looking at the weeds in our grass. Our sprinklers broke a few weeks ago and the grass has mostly died, but the weeds are still coming up green. As I looked at those weeds (and the other weeds growing between the cracks in the sidewalk), I had the thought, “I want to be like that.”

It is interesting to me that weeds are the plants that are the most stable, grow the best, and stay the greenest longest. Weeds have deeper roots than grass and as such, are very hard to kill. Everything about weeds is great, except that they are weeds. If grass came up without much work and stayed green without much watering and would keep coming back no matter how many times it was stepped on, most people would be delighted.

So what makes weeds so bad?

The short answer is that they don’t fit in. The longer answer is that they look out of place with the rest of the lawn, and they are hard to get rid of, even with weed killing spray and digging deep to try to take up the roots.

Anyway, to get to the point…

Being a weed is not always a good thing, but it can be very good to have the qualities of a weed in a lot of life’s situations. I want to be like a weed because of their resilience. I want to be like a weed because of their boldness in standing out from a crowd. I want to be like a weed because of the deep roots that ground them when life gets tough.

Don’t be afraid to be a weed in difficult circumstances. Be a weed in standing up against injustice. Be a weed in standing your ground when others are asking you to compromise your morals or values. Be a weed in fighting depression or anxiety or health issues or other trials. Be a weed in coming back up when life knocks you down. Be a weed in having roots so strong in what you believe in that no matter how far someone digs, they cannot kill that part of you. Be a weed when your circumstances are not ideal, but you are determined to grow up strong anyway.

And perhaps most of all, be a weed in being okay with being a weed. Be okay with being different. Be okay with not going with the crowd. Be okay with standing up for yourself. Not everyone will love you for it, but sometimes being a weed is the best thing you can be.

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“Watchman, what of the night?”

I cannot sleep tonight. It’s the first night since I’ve been better that I haven’t just drifted off in peaceful bliss. One rough night doesn’t mean that you have slipped back into depression, but when depression has been such a constant in your life, one night can bring back so many reminders.

My mind is like a floodgate. Once the gates of self doubt or anxiety or depression or feelings of worthlessness open, the thoughts come bursting forth like giant waterfalls flowing along the well-worn paths they have carved in the landscape of my mind.

Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m thinking because I’m thinking so much that I can’t even process it. My thoughts choke me. They suffocate me. I gasp for the peace and reassurance I felt just a few hours ago. Where did it go so quickly?

There’s this scripture I love in Isaiah that says, “Watchman, what of the night?” It basically means, “how long will the night last? When will the morning come?” Sometimes the night seems to last so long, but morning always comes. Tonight, I am asking, “when will morning come?” But I know that it’s there, just on the other side of the darkness.

Struggling

“I’ve been struggling.”

This is not a common phrase you hear in most conversations. In general, people keep the fact that they’ve been struggling to themselves or maybe one or two close friends or family members. We just don’t like to admit that we’re having a hard time because we’re supposed to have it all together.

However, this phrase has become more common to hear in my conversations. I have reached a point in my life where I need to admit that I’ve been struggling. I need to tell someone because I realize that I can’t do this alone.

At work I have needed to admit I’ve been struggling quite a few times over the last year or so. In my previous job, I discussed with my boss how I had been struggling. I explained to him how I felt so that he could understand when I didn’t do everything 100% like I used to do and so that if a situation arose at work, he would know how to handle it. In my new job, I have needed to admit that I’m struggling to keep up because I don’t know how to do everything quite yet and I’m not as fast as someone else might be.

With my friends, I talk about my struggles fairly openly because I need them to know when I’m not okay. I need someone to be there when the struggling becomes too much to bear. I have been pleasantly surprised that some of my friends have also been open with me when they are struggling.

This life can be hard. It can be so difficult that I wonder what I’m doing here or if it’s even worth it. But I think these conversations are necessary. I think they are good steps towards an environment of open communication and trust. So I hope that we can all say we’ve been struggling to someone when we have a hard day or just don’t know what to do, because we all struggle at some point. We just have to decide if we want to do it alone or if we’re willing to let someone help us in the journey.

I’m Still Hurt

As a child, I was hurt a lot. Mostly emotionally, but sometimes physically. I remember being teased at school and church because I couldn’t say the letter R. I was also bullied by kids who would ask if I was a boy or a girl and then ignore what I said and label me whatever they wanted.

Home was better, but still not exactly a safe haven. I knew my parents and siblings loved me, but there was a lot of fighting growing up. There was a lot of conflict between my siblings, and my parents, and my siblings with my parents. I generally stayed out of a lot of the conflict, but that didn’t mean I was spared from it. I still witnessed it and participated in the aftermath of it.

Experiences with a certain person in my extended family probably was what affected me the most. The other things in my life just didn’t do much to combat the abuse I suffered.

It is still hard for me to use the word abuse. It feels like such a strong word- that you have to have suffered for so long and been treated so badly that you were hurt beyond repair. Unfortunately, that does describe my situation, but abuse can also be a one time event. It can be something small. It can be something seemingly insignificant to everyone else. Abuse is simply when you are not treated in a way that is consistent with respect for your wellbeing. In this sense of the word, I was abused by many people in a variety of ways over the years.

For a long time, I could not handle what I had been through. Now I am at a point in my life where I can process what I went through and the effects of it all. What I have learned is that I hate myself.

I have hated myself for a very long time because I didn’t feel like I could do anything right. I felt like a bad person. At this point in my life, I can honestly say and believe that these thoughts are incorrect. I can tell that they are lies my mind feeds me because of what I’ve been through. The problem is that I don’t yet know how to change these thoughts and their effects.

I’m still hurt. As much as I would like to say that I am fully healed because I realize the truth, it’s just not the case. You don’t just overcome years of hating yourself by realizing that the reasons you hate yourself are not true.

I am a good person. I realize this. But I have gotten angry at myself for doing good things over the years. I was upset that I could not stop the desires I had to help others. I was taught by my experiences that if you didn’t help the way someone wanted, you shouldn’t help at all. I was also taught that even if you helped perfectly and did everything asked of you, a mistake later erased every good thing you did previously. So I am constantly afraid of being hurt.

I am constantly afraid that when I do something good, I did it in the wrong way or I did too much or not enough. So it would be so much easier if I didn’t try to do good things. The problem is that it is in my nature to want to help others. I see needs or wants and I want to help, to do something to make things better. This dichotomy has caused such discord in my mind. I hate myself for wanting to do good things because I am a bad person that doesn’t do things right so wanting to do those things makes me even worse.

I realize that it doesn’t make sense. I realize that it is twisted logic. I realize that wanting to do good things is not a sin or a fault, and I should not hate myself for it. But I’m still hurt. I still have years of yelling at myself for trying. I still have deep, well worn pathways in my mind that tell me I’ll never be good enough and I am not worthy of love.

Last night, I had a mental breakdown. I wanted to erase everything that I ever did for anyone else because I was tired of living so long trying to make other people happy. The thing is… I love making people happy. It’s my favorite thing to do. I just have hated myself for it and I wanted to erase that hate. I wanted to erase reminders of that hate. I wanted to erase all the times I tried but didn’t feel like it was good enough.

I don’t really want to stop helping others. I don’t really want to forget the good things I did or try to do. I just want to forget the pain of hating myself for doing those things. I want to love myself. I want to live for myself. I want my reasons for living to be more than just not wanting to hurt people by dying. But most of all, I just want to be healed.

I want to be whole. I want to think, “hey, maybe that person could use some flowers” and not hate myself for the thought. I want to be able to say hi to someone or give someone a gift or do any of the other things I want to do and not be terrified of the consequences. And most of all, when I am healed, I don’t want to hurt myself again. I don’t want to hate myself again. I just want to be free.