This is probably going to be my most revealing post to date. This topic is one I rarely share with other people, even in my writings. It was one I wasn’t even consciously aware of but it’s been here for a long time lingering between sub conscious and conscious thought, momentarily reaching the surface in times of great stress then returning to the deepest recesses of my mind, blocked once again behind the many streams of thought each fighting to be the first one out of the great abyss that is my conscious mind.
The subject of this post is not to be taken as literally running away although that did happen, as short as it was – but about the feeling of running away and the personality of the runaway; the expert avoider that I was from childhood who opened up just enough for people to take control of my destiny. But not anymore. And not only am I the expert avoider but also have a growing defiance toward anything and everything at random times of the day, constantly being against no matter what my true opinion may be. It’s a manic high, an addiction, a sickness.
Before I begin I want to reveal also that I’ve been dealing with a lot of unrelated distressing thoughts; about the autistic community and if I want to continue to be a part of it, if I want to be known as autistic or not, if I want to work on social skills or not. I’ve come to the solemn realisation that I may never be the astronomer I want to be, I may never be the photographer everyone wants me to be or the prodigious artist. Do I want to tell people I’m autistic or just let it be? I may never work or progress from my current living situation. I continue to learn new things but it’s not enough. I have so many dreams that will never come true. But at least I can still work on becoming an author. I’m holding onto a dream in an attempt to stay sane and to not fall into the deepest darkest depression with the notion that I’m a failed human being who will never be good enough for even a basic job or have a casual conversation. And being without my living quarters made me feel a step above homelessness, not living but merely existing. Without my creative pursuits I am just that: an empty shell medicated to be socially decent and have enough adequate executive functions to not be called lazy or stupid or to think that I am. I’m just arrogant enough to scoff at such a notion.
But let’s not dwell on the negative; it’s such a depressing place.
This post is also a follow-up to ‘A Lesson in Waiting’ which concluded after four days exodus from my bedroom. Eight days had elapsed since I could move back in but it took two more for it to actually feel like a room again; my own personal sanctuary where I could feel safe in the knowledge that it was my own private space, an extension of my own personality. Still, my mind is not at rest. It will stay that way until I least get my Doctor Who bag and sports jacket back (that took me nine years to find – attention to detail can turn one into a fussy dresser) that I’m attached to.
Without my bedroom and only a limited number of items I still pressed on with life, with eating and shopping and dog walking and feeding, with washing and planning future blogs in my mind. I even brainstormed some ‘Working Memory’ ideas.
I would have been fine to tidy up my room and continue to hold it together if my own decision about where to place what in my room hadn’t been taken away from me. Worse was that I was told to put my collections in storage. My heart shattered and the usual reactions to such stress followed: anger followed by losing emotions and becoming robotic and submissive. In the end I did keep all my collections in my room and on display, but a part of me thinks that the meltdown I had from the build-up of stress, the physical exhaustion and the continuing loss of control about what my bedroom should look like made the person responsible relinquish some control.
After all the shaming, forcing to clean when I wasn’t physically or mentally able to, the yelling about not doing it right, it was finding my Fokker bi-plane with a tear in its wing that set me off. Prior to that I had to throw out my rocket ship which had fallen on the ground and broken and I didn’t want to depart with it. My bedroom needed a rocket ship. Then I found my favourite plane with its landing gear snapped off at first but it could be salvageable – but the torn wing was too much to bear. I held it tightly in my hands unable to think or move and then something even worse happened. Earlier in the afternoon I had gone out to buy plastic tubs to save a $150 chest of drawers (now nothing but an exoskeleton because the wicker boxes were given away) but was told these tubs were all wrong. As my mind does when it is experiencing a building rage the verbal abuse I heard was muffled, my ears a buzz and in that moment I performed an action that would finally reveal how I felt: I snapped the Fokker in half. It fell apart in my hands so easily as if it was made of bread sticks. Then I stormed out of my bedroom, threw the pieces of the Fokker against a wall, shattering it beyond repair, swearing and letting loose a succession of pent up anger, anger that had been building far longer than just the eight days I was without a bedroom. The words were nonsensical but truthful and somehow articulate for that level of anger I was experiencing. Usually I can’t string one sentence together or say what I’m really feeling. Anger does have a way of making my words come out much clearly than usual though.
The meltdown was over after I had slammed the front door. I cleaned up bits of Fokker in the garden and threw them out. Then I just decided to run for it. I could have run as far as my tired legs in their skinny jeans prison could take me. If it wasn’t for my fear of the city, my sensory issues and the fact I left my medication behind I could have gone very far. But a thought also crossed my mind and it never would have occurred to me if my sister wouldn’t have put the option in my head in the first place. I had my mobile phone at least and called her.
I didn’t go to her house as we planned but returned home to do the walk of shame. I was more or less praised for my outburst and got told it was completely normal, over and over again. Normal? Is it normal to get so angry you hurt yourself or destroy your possessions? Is it normal to shake all over and feel a rushing in your ears? Is it normal to put the blame solely on the person that triggered it? Is it normal to not be in control of your words or actions as it happens? That’s not normal, that’s autism. And it’s no way to communicate your frustrations.
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I don’t say ‘it’s because I’m autistic’ because I’m using it as an excuse but because I want to avoid having such volatile meltdowns, such meltdowns that cause self-harm and self-deprecation. I want people to realise that certain things can build them up and set them off and they should be equally aware as I am about how to avoid them. I suck them in, I escape into fantasy, I focus on interests, I listen to music while shutting down or I write, just so I can calm myself down enough to not feel the need to have an outburst. Though I do feel better after having one, after the shakiness and shame passes, but I shouldn’t have to have one just to get people to finally see how they’re affecting me.
I admit one great flaw of mine is blaming other people when I have a meltdown or sensory overload. It’s behaviour more suited to the under-five’s but I’ve been unable to find a compromise.
Even though my runaway was brief there’s no saying it won’t happen again. Emotionally I have run away, it is so easy to. It is so easy for me to just detach from people emotionally almost automatically. It’s a response from stress called depersonalisation which I’ve either had for about eight months or had all throughout my life, or it’s simply the way my autistic brain processes the world and relates or doesn’t relate to other people.
I will always be a runaway in so many different contexts. As a child I ran away from my education by refusing to learn and listen to people. I ran away when I thought something was too difficult to even attempt. I ran away from swimming lessons and driving lessons and learning how to play a game of football. I still run away from trying new things. I run away from stressful environments, such as a concert hall and bright flashing lights. I run away from the possibility of work after having so many anxieties both sensory and emotional about one possible nightmare scenario dreamed up in my mind. I run away from social encounters and potentially stressful environments. I run away from family dramas and the realities of society. I run away from arguments I’ve started or taken part in. I run away from doing chores, listening to lectures, listening to arguments, to prospects of travelling, the encouragement to draw or photograph, to opportunities to meet new people. I’ve run away from learning social skills by saying the way I live is better. I’ve run away from the call of God, or at least delayed it.
For a person as organised as me I’d like nothing more than to fall into chaos. I don’t mean being lazy and messy or even spontaneous. I mean being taken away from the luxuries of Western society, to be thrown into war and famine. Anxiety and depression exist because there is time for them to exist. Now maybe they will exist in a war setting but surely social anxiety won’t matter anymore, or having to always be clean and tidy or to have social skills; to be kept busy and on my feet and doing true team work as a matter of survival without any time for squabbling would be my desired world.
It’s why I write sci-fi stories to begin with; to be thrown into that adventure, so I don’t have to care about social awkwardness or anxiety or petty arguments. So I don’t have someone always trying to make me be clean and perfect. If sci-fi has taught me anything it’s that your greatest enemy, an enemy only due to personality-clashes, can become your greatest ally when it comes to survival of the human race. This is a test to true teamwork. That’s why I read it, watch it, write it – to live temporarily in such a world and not be bothered with social niceties or dependence on technology or the routine grocery run or three meals a day or cleanliness or even having to try and keep my behaviour in check around people; to lose everything but not each other, to understand really what it takes to survive.
You can see why around others I look so bored.
Things are picking up though. I’m writing again, still thinking about when to work on ‘Working Memory’ while trying to shut out thoughts of never being able to finish it. Next week will have me at least going out into the city and having some social contact by the weekend. I plan to get out more, walking at least.
This experience has taught me more than how to spot bed bugs or enlightened me on their breeding cycle, it’s revealed to me a dark side to neurological disorders and how when people deny themselves support it breaks down communication among others. I’ve learned that I may possibly be the only one who wants to be honest and truthful even if it shakes the foundations of sturdy relationships, maybe even demolishes a few walls in the process while more layers are added to the brick wall between me and the line connecting me emotionally to the human race. The more people try to control me or deny the truth the thicker the wall becomes.
My next post will share some of my thoughts on the whole ‘cure pill’ debate. I will try to offer a good argument that focuses mainly on the most troubling symptoms and if possible the areas of the brain it could target. I may even go into the whole ‘changing who I am’ thing and you might be surprised by what I have to say on it, or even angered. But I am not a for-or-against type of person; I’m all about people being able to experience all this life has to offer. I’m all about intelligent discussion and not instant rejection or instant embrace without first going over the pros and cons. And side effects. Just imagine the side effects of such a pill!