Dear Me: An Autistic Woman's Note to Her Child Self
A short clip about the way simple things found in everyday life have inspired me to do things like collage. Collage is full immersion sensory fun for me, it ser
Dear Child Self
As an adult with sensory sensitivities, Aspergers and selective mutism, I remember quite well being a kid with those challenges. Adults would shake their heads: "But she talked before, why can't she talk today?" Peers thought I stared into space. I did! They didn't understand I was trying to stay grounded. It is a feeling of vulnerability to be mute. Muteness is situational, environmental.
Dear Child Self,
It is easy to connect to nature, and to animals, to a person one on one. You are loved by your parents and you don't realize that not all parents are so loving. You are not understood by your parents; deep inside you know this; but you are loved. There are so many animal friends for you to be with. Sometimes you wonder what it is like to be like others, to want to be with people as much as you want to be with animals and nature. But some emotions that people express, leave you puzzled.
Child Self, you will experience being frightened many times in your life. Some people do not have anxiety to the degree that you have it and one day you will understand that it's okay to be this way. You will know sudden, unexpected loss, and even people who misuse you and your body, and all that seems overwhelming. It is overwhelming for any child to endure, but know this: These terrible things are survivable.
You watch peers bond. You study them like an anthropologist. They don't seem to dislike you but it seems that they don't approach you anymore either because you do not speak or look at them. You don't know how to be any other way.
Child Self: The words catch in your throat, and you cannot help that. You don't yet have a name for that. You just know it seems unfair to have so much to say and no way to say it. “She’s so shy” is a dirty phrase in your mind because you know you are not. 'Shy’ minimizes something much deeper.
Child Self, your senses are cranked high. The way your unique self receives info and makes sense of the info, may be a bit different than neurologically typical brains. I know, Child Self, that BLENDING seems like the most important thing to do. (One day you'll embrace your inability to be a chameleon, I promise. You will even master blending in certain situations, and this will steal energies reserved for other tasks but inside you will rejoice: "I fit in today!")
Your meltdowns leave you tired, even humiliated, angry and confused in a way, but you feel better afterwards. Don't feel guilty! Don't be hard on yourself, you try harder than so many do! The breakdowns make your mother exasperated, scared for you. It's difficult to see her like that. Know she cares. Sometimes Mothers are blamed for children with ‘differentness.’ She too has enormous emotions about that. Don’t blame yourself for being you, Child Me.
Often you can’t express things to your family. You affix tiny scraps of paper with writing on them, to clothespins. You toss them into the room for your mother and father to pick up and to read. It is smart to find a way to communicate like this, Child Self. It shows resilience, perseverence, determination. They pay the notes no notice. They call to you: “Stop throwing stuff!” Child Self, you tried. Your communication, especially verbally, will indeed go unexpressed most of the time. But what you have to say is important! Get this:
You have no way of knowing this, but: you are not the only one.
All this time that you hide your true self, have these misunderstandings and difficulties, and are confused by actions and words of others, know that– there are others so similar to you! When you are an adult, real authentic comrades will 'get you.' A belonging with these fellow anthropologists will form and grow. On your terms.
Keep learning! Keep writing! One day people will want to read your written works. That which is in you, will get out. Your writing will seem like enormous clothespins thrown into the universe. Folks will unfasten the words, will hear you!
Keep painting! Child Self, how therapeutic art has always been for you and you didn't even know that, did you? Galleries will one day sell your artwork! Your paintings and collages and digital art will be on the covers of books! All people have ways to re-energize. Art is that salve for you. Write what you cannot speak, keep the diaries. Art what goes unsaid. Your young self deserves a pat on the back, congratulate yourself for your resilience instead of being self-damning. When you are overstimulated, it's okay to find ways to recoup. Art is a big part of that. Learning- lessons can be difficult. But Child Self: ‘Your Future Self’ says this:
Your Art works and your books and contributions to the world will nourish you. It will be your boat on rough seas.
Your voice will continue to elude you, so continue to speak it in art and in words on the page. You are important. You will grow up and learn this phrase, first devised by an autistic comrade: "Quietness is not the same as having nothing to say."
You may think I jest, but you are made up of strong composition. You try with all your being to do what others do naturally. This is fortitude. This is courage.
Take delight with the companionship of your self -one day others will too. I promise. So make Collage from that hoard of papers, Write! These types of outlets will carry you all your life. You have strong talents in writing and arts. One day you will share your skills.
Being you, "just" you, is all you’ve ever had to be. It’s enough. You matter.