Autistic Publication Pain

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Sometimes it's cool to be different. And sometimes it just makes me sad and tired.

 

So I wrote this little book.

And it turned out better than I thought it would.

And a lot of people I like and respect have said really nice things about it.

And Ariane Zurcher interviewed me about it for The Huffington Post.

And people are actually buying it.

They are even buying copies to donate to schools and libraries.

And that's all really good, and I am very grateful.

 

But...

Time to let you in on one of the dirty little secrets of my autism. And this is one of those things that I know is true of some other autistic people but not true of all autistic people.

Communication isn't just hard-- it hurts me. I do not often connect with other people in a meaningful way, and, when I do, it doesn't always turn out well. Any significant effort to share my ideas with others, even if it goes exactly as I hope, is going to be painful. It's going to be overwhelmingly intense and depressingly draining. It's going to make me feel guilty and raw and disabled. It will activate worry that I have left myself exposed in ways that I do not understand but that others will use against me.

The best comparison I can think of: it's a very minor league version of what I imagine it might be like to give birth. My ideas, like a fetus, take a long time to develop.  While they are growing, I have to both live my life and give them a lot of my energy. Then, when they are ready, there is an incredibly painful process where they seem much too large and have to be ripped out of me. And then, when they are out in the world, they still need to be nurtured and cared for, but I am really tired and just want to nap.

 

One of the hard things about autism for people like me is that we have a hard time feeling our successes. Accomplishments can seem meaningless. Or, they can direct so much attention our way that we feel a need to hide.

 

And I'm doing fine.

Which brings me to the reason I think it is important to share this with you.

I'm doing fine because I know to expect this.

I know, because I'm 47 years old, that this is part of how I work.

I can beat myself up about it, but it doesn't help.

This is how I feel.  This is who I am.

I can try to force myself to keep writing when every word feels false and strained, or I can step away and let some scar tissue cover those raw patches.

Reality requires me both to be more communicative than I want to be and accepting of my need to be quiet.

 

And I have to work not to let my ambivalence about how it makes me feel take away from my accomplishment. I used my limited artistic ability to try to bring important ideas to life. I wrote a little book that sums up a lot of what I feel and know about autism.

 

And you can read it, if you want to, while I recover from publishing it.