I’ve asked myself if I would want a cure for my autism if it wasn’t mythical (the cure, not the autism). I’m a logical type, I’m not bound to any one part of me; if you told me I could replace my feet with wheels, I’d definitely weigh up the pros and cons (stairs would be a pain, but I’d really like whizzing along, a lot would come down to just how good the suspension would be), thinking things through is what I do.
To decide whether getting rid of my autism would be good or not, I’d first have to define which bits of me are the autism, and what would replace them. How could I begin to quantify that?
Some of my greatest joys, my purest moments of happiness, are found in the patterns I see all around me. In the way a butterfly flutters, or a wall crumbles; in the way the sunlight folds itself on water. I have seen how people without autism see those things, they can appreciate a prettiness, but I’ve never seen an expression of joy at them. I’ve never seen those things nourish them, the way they nourish me.
Is that the autism?
Or is it the exhaustion I get from small talk? Is it the headache that builds and pulses whilst I focus on responding correctly to something inane and hard? Is it the terrible combination of needing to concentrate the hardest on something that I find both boring and difficult?
Or is it the pleasure I find in communicating with someone who skips those bits. The connection made in bouncing ideas back and forth as they appear. The freedom of sharing my thoughts without fear of judgement.
It’s not interactions that my autism hates, it’s the wrong kinds of interactions.
What would I be replacing my processes with? It would be nice to enjoy small talk I suppose, but it would be equally as nice if I just didn’t have to do it.
Should I pull all the tendrils of me apart, just to be able to participate in something that has no value in itself. Small talk is a means to an end, it’s a conduit, it’s a way to build relationships on multiple small, inoffensive interactions. It’s the equivalent of a dog sniffing another dog. It’s just what people do.
Not all people. Not all non-autistics.
What would I cure if I could? I’d cure small talk. I’d inoculate against it. I’d start a campaign to wipe it out.
We would learn new ways to find out if we were compatible humans. Small doses of big talk. We could quickly work through to our fundamental views, and sense of humour, and no time would be wasted on vagaries.
Or I could be tolerant, and accept that some people really like small talk, and that’s ok. Some people don’t like passionate exchanges, they find them too much. Some people prefer to jabber, some people prefer to listen, some people prefer to speak, some people prefer to sign.
From my point of view, I am not the disordered one. There is structure to my needs. There is logic in the way I like to communicate. I am happy with fewer, but more meaningful, interactions. Many need constant, but smaller, contact, to keep them going. They graze on socialising in a herd, whilst I swallow mine whole, in one sitting, and then snake-like, sleep and digest until I feel hungry again.
Would I cure my autism? Would you cure your addiction to interaction? Should anyone change how they do things, just because they need to do things a little differently?
I have a secret, it’s not big or important or mind-blowing, but I’ll share it anyway. I like me.
It took me a long time to choose to do that; a lifetime of self-criticism and disappointment in my limits, but I got there in the end.
I like me, and the people who like who and how I am also like me. I fit into my world, once I realised that listening to my needs was not a terrible thing to do.
Curing me of how I interact would mean not just changing who I am, but changing how I interact with everything. I would have to rebuild from the ground up. I would have to unlearn all my skills, I would not be the person my husband fell in love with, or my friends like to laugh with. What would my humour be? Would I suddenly think cushions were important? Would I find that all my best bits could blossom, or would they wilt away?
Maybe for a day. I would like to try your way for a day. Just 24 little hours. That would do. I would enjoy the social-energy, and flit from person to person with the buzz of a bumble-bee.
Then when the sun set, I could wake up and marvel at the swirls in the sky, and the shadows on the ceiling, and the curls in my daughter’s hair. All my senses would flood back, my deep empathy, my ever-present textures, and I would be home again.
I would be me.