Earlier I was really upset and a friend came over. I stared at her and then went in the house then felt bad. She hadn’t done anything wrong but I have no idea how to explain that, so I sat down to write her a note. It started to morph into a note to everyone who had ever misunderstood my silence though. Or maybe a plea. Since that’s generally everyone i’ve ever met I decided to be brave, and throw it out there. Just nod and smile if I make no sense, i’m used to it.
I’m sorry I didn’t say hi earlier. I’m autistic – my son’s trouble talking was probably inherited from me. I know I can talk, sometimes even well, but my brain understands pictures better than words. If I get upset I stutter and mix up the words and it’s embarrassing. People are cruel, so I hesitate to talk at all when upset, and sometimes I simply can’t. Sometimes I can’t no matter how hard I try. When that happens I call a crisis hotline and they help me calm down. I can use TDD (it’s the system for deaf people) so I don’t have to talk. I didn’t always know that though and have gone weeks before without speaking. At first when John didn’t learn to talk I didn’t think he was autistic, though I was told he was. I had also been told autism was a disease that needed to be cured. No one told me that people had brains that were actually wired differently. I knew I was weird, I was told I was to the point of being pathologically shy. I thought it was my fault because I barely talked to him as a baby. I liked how we didn’t have to speak, we could just live on baby belly laughs. I knew there were a lot of social things I didn’t get that others did. I didn’t realize though that they could keep up with conversations at a party because they heard all of them and got overwhelmed trying to pick out individual words. I didn’t know I was autistic. When I filled out paper after paper with questions about John’s behaviors, adding up the scores to see how “autistic” he was I answered them for myself too. I tested as more severely autistic. I learned to hate the word severe. Speech is actually the only thing John tests higher at than I do. He’s a lot happier than I am though, so who is to say which is the better score really. He is a lot of work. He’s also magic. He makes a dirt mask around his eyes every day. It took us awhile to figure out it was on purpose, his heroes mask. Yes it’s gross but he doesn’t need you to get his joy. If dirt and spit is all he’s got he’ll be happy and be a hero however he can. He saved my life. He is my hero. He holds me here still on days like this. He makes me willing to do anything to be his hero, and they gave me a name for why i’m different, autism, but they didn’t give me a world I can really belong in. A world I now need to exist, for him. I have a voice though even when I can’t remember how to voice my words. I can’t force them past my lips but a little of his magic rubbed off on me. I can love unconditionally. You don’t know that I remember everything in pictures, just maybe that I paint some of them. I see every little thing you have ever confided in me like a giant map in my head that is you. I am so passive in conflict usually because I understand you never mean to hurt anyone. You are hurt and life is impossibly hard sometimes. It’s not because i’m a doormat. Or an idiot. In fact I know how hard it is to say what you actually feel, so I simply listen until so I can see what you’re really saying, and I accept however you can voice it.
And I never thought it was important, chatter, but now that my hero has no voice I must find mine. I can’t find a world we belong in if the world doesn’t even know who we are. He can’t talk but my 8 year old hero is teaching me how to communicate. I told you, he’s magic. And you don’t need words for that, just faith. So I am going to have faith that we belong, right here, together. We may not talk a lot but I want you to know I just can’t. It’s too big sometimes, the picture in my head, to put into words. Scenes of pain crowd together and overlap and when you ask me what’s wrong how do I explain that the world hurts and all I can see is that, when all you see is me staring off into space? So I just listen, and hope you hear me anyways. I paint a picture that is you, and I think you’re beautiful. I’m sorry I can’t just tell you that but the picture is too big to put into words. It’s magic. But if we can’t tell you that just listen with your heart and you’ll see our thoughts. We aren’t being difficult, or stuck up, or cold. We aren’t heartless. We just got overwhelmed by the sounds and sights creating a picture and we forget we need words for you to see it too. Listen, and you can tell us how to explain the color and taste of love, or pain. Talk to us and we’ll see the map to belonging. Love and understanding are beyond words too so if you got this far with mine know that no matter how much dirt life throws in your face I see it’s the mask of a hero. I hope you can look at me and see past the dirt to the magic too. I hope we can take off the mask, and dirt, and just see the love . John can’t talk but he told me that’s where we all belong. I hope i’m a big enough hero to him that I can keep asking where to find it. It took a lot of words though I don’t have much to say. I think you feel me though and understand the worlds of things i’m trying to explain. If we both try I think we can make sure everyone can find their way. Just talk so you can listen. I know that sounds confusing but you’re magic. You already showed me the way.