Poetry

Splinters

The splinters of the branch slid into my fingers

as it snapped at the force of my hand as I tumbled into the tree.

Blood beaded down the bark and caught on the tip of a serrated leaf.

The red mirror showed

how little I’d changed

despite being shoved out of line, convinced my place was over here, not there.

My hair was ruffled, but still mine.

My clothes were covered in cobwebs and lichen, but still mine.

My eyes were wet and open, but still mine.

The blood dripped from the leaf and was instantly swallowed by the soil.

I stood up.

Uncategorized

Processing my autism diagnosis – watching home videos

So, as I mentioned in previous posts, I was diagnosed as autistic in January this year. So far I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of processing it and letting myself recover from all the strains of masking throughout my teenage years and well into adulthood. (For those who don’t know, masking is a way for neurodiverse people to act so as to fit in with society, but it’s intensely draining and goes against all our natural instincts, causing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Think pretending to be a movie character for your whole life without ever getting chance to be yourself for fear that you won’t be accepted/judged/bullied etc – I’ve pretty much made a vow that I’ll only mask if it’s absolutely necessary to preserve my future mental health.)

However, one of the things I wanted to do was to watch old videos my family took of me as I was growing up to see if I could see any autistic traits, mainly because I’ve seen lots of vlogs by families with autistic kids and wondered if I acted the same as they did. I knew my nan said I flapped my hands and made other stimming/self soothing gestures when I was less than a year old and that she suspected I was autistic (sadly, not much was known about girls on the spectrum in the 90s, so I was dismissed by the doctor, a story I know is only too familiar for women my age who are only now being diagnosed), and I remember feeling on the outside of a lot of social stuff like birthday parties and playgroups.

After speaking with my awesome mother, she dug around and found some tapes of past Christmases, birthdays and holidays for me to watch. When I put the first one on, within minutes of watching myself and noting my body language, where my focus was, how I spoke and interacted with people around me, I knew that the signs I’m autistic have always been painfully obvious, the only problem back then was that no-one knew what they were looking for.

And it hurts that something so obvious was missed. But seeing myself so natural was also liberating, because I’ve spent all these months post-diagnosis trying to relax myself and not worry about being judged enough to drop my mask, especially regarding stimming – knowing that how I stim now is the same as back then makes me feel that I’ve found myself again. I didn’t lose myself in the masks I’ve had to wear.

I cried because of this, and rocked and flapped and did all the things that help me express my emotions.

Of course there will still be times when I don’t feel my difficulties are valid, because there’s always going to be people who don’t understand, don’t have patience and some who just don’t care, not to mention my own thoughts of feeling completely fine until I have to be social, but this has definitely helped me to realise that though I might have hidden things well as a teen and adult, I have always had these difficulties.

And if I need more time to think when I’m asked a ‘simple’ question, need help doing everyday tasks, or if I need my ear defenders just to walk down the street because the world is so loud, it’s perfectly okay.

(Side note: along with my difficulties, there are many cool things about being autistic, and I’d never want to change how my brain comes up with all the crazy ideas I have.)

Anyway, that’s my ramble for today. Time for dinner.

Poetry, Short Stories, Uncategorized

A letter about autism to my childhood self

Hey. Try not to panic. It’s you from the future, and

I’m writing to say don’t worry. Everything

that’s getting to you at the moment will make sense in the end.

 

Like the times you wait by the fence watching the other kids play

wondering when they’ll ask you to join in, and what you’ll do if it happens.

How you’re confused at the ease they interact, talking freely,

while you stand their silently, their shouts and screams of joy

overloading your ears – until the whistle blows and hits you like ice up your spine,

locking you into rigid limbs and wriggling insides. The hold authority has.

And those times you’re unsure what Miss is asking of you, fretting about if you’re doing your work right

because she didn’t go through it fully first. So you wait

and watch the other kids, trying to guess their thinking as they set straight to it

and hoping you can catch a glimpse of their work so you can copy.

Then there’s the time you have to go to the dentist during rehearsals for the school play. Should you put your hand up? Should you just stand?

You ask around in whispers, and everyone says put your hand up. You do, but the teachers don’t see, so then you do stand.

And get told off for not telling them to put you on the end of the row, even though your form tutor read the note at registration.

How about all those times the kids take advantage of your attempts to join in? Sharing

your cat’s cradle only for them to run off with it and claim to the others that it’s theirs,

or when a girl steals your toy and tells the dinner lady you stole it from her

and you can’t speak up properly so give in and let them keep it?

When they’re supposed to share textbooks

and drag them away so you can’t see?

Let’s not forget how you can’t co-ordinate your body in P.E,

or have so much trouble learning in class that you take your work home.

When you have your nose in a book at the doctor’s because you can’t deal with what is going on, and get called rude for not paying attention.

Then there’s your many attempts to get the timing right on Mario’s jump and fail at every try.

When you tell a stranger about how bad mum’s morning breath is

and don’t understand why she’s embarrassed. It’s fact, isn’t it?

Why you can’t understand why people play with dolls when you can just make up characters in your head.

 

Like I said. It’s all fine. There’s a reason for it, a simple explanation:

Autism.

A condition meaning

your brain is wired slightly differently to most people. You notice

things they never will while missing the unspoken signs

they give each other all the time.

It doesn’t mean you’re strange, weird, stupid or a freak.

It means you’re you,

and though you haven’t met them yet, there are others out there

who are wired in the same way

and know just how this feels.

 

So remember, you’re not alone. If you explain

your difficulties (and your strengths)

then eventually the world will start to understand.

 

P.S. In the meantime, try sunglasses and earmuffs — all year round.

Poetry

Latched

I walked away. I did.

I failed to see the strings still attached,

the cable wired to my head

to replay

the days during the days during the days.

The smell, the ichor from inside

clinging to me, polluting my thought process

so I cannot build the pathways forward.

I have to sever this connection,

wash away the dirt

so when I look in the mirror,

I see myself and not the paint.

Poetry

Sycamore

I remember those seeds that used to spin as they fell

catching them in my open palm

and throwing them up again, enchanted by kinetics.

I would liken myself to those seeds, hold out my arms

and spin until the world came to match

the rush of input driving through my synapses.

Because rarely did those sounds, those scents

those constantly moving bodies jostling, jeering,

crashing against me

make sense until my speed matched them.

And if I fell, it didn’t matter.

The ground was always there to catch me,

soft grass cupping my cheek.

Poetry

Wires

So we’ve got the rib spreaders out to force the cavity as far open as we can, grasping down deep and convincing those pushed aside and half-forgotten truths to face the air. How very similar; have we borrowed memories or swapped minds? We might be one organism split into two, and if those silken threads The Fates toy with had been different, we could have been denied the chance to become whole again. Or, if they’d seen fit to knot our tale, perhaps the opportunity would have arisen sooner. What does it matter now? Our wires are matched.

Poetry

Skeleton

‘Hold out your hands,’ she says

and places the silver key on my palms,

it fits across both perfectly. ‘It can

open any door you choose, anywhere.

Keep it close, always.’

 

So I swallow the key. Safe in my belly

it stays, and safe from my memory

until every door I face

declares it’s locked.

 

It can’t be. It can’t be.

 

The memory stirs and I try to regurgitate.

It doesn’t work, and the doors laugh.

 

From inside me, the key calls out.

Unlock.

 

The doors are silenced by my voice.

I swallowed the key

and became it.

 

Poetry

Tales by the hearth

The fire crackles in the grate,

shadows dancing with smoke tendrils as she reads

aloud, cloaked figures sneaking through her voice

to my wondering ears

as I cling to the embroidered arm of her chair.

 

The ritual nightly, yet never dull.

I play with the bobble on her slippers as she pauses to sip

Lady Grey from her fine china cup

then places it back on the saucer.

 

Resuming her place as though no pause had been taken

she leads me into the night

to meet the King of Dreams.

 

When I wake, the fire is dead

and her chair is cold,

its colours faded.