Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm Gonna Get a Little Real...

This blog is a strange thing of mine. I've always been a quiet person, hesitant to share much of myself openly with others in fear of judgement. I don't have Twitter or Instagram. I don't feel comfortable sharing personal details on Facebook. In fact, my finger has been hovering closely over the 'deactivate account' button for a while now.

But then there's this blog...
I crack open bits of my mind here. This incredibly public forum feels strangely anonymous for me. Very few people read my writing here, and I take great comfort in that, so I don't fully understand why I share at all, it's catharsis mostly. That, and I tend to speak in metaphors only I can decipher. This time may be no exception, but I have something in me that's teetering on a very sharp edge, a need to share this one pinnacle thing I have shared with almost no one yet because I don't know how. It's gonna get real, but it'll likely be somewhat vague, I can't help that.

In June, following a very long conversation, I began to see a glimmer of a different side of myself. A side of my brain that perhaps wasn't quite typical but I was not yet ready to acknowledge it. I decided at that time to close the drapes on that glimmer, choosing to let it rest darkly for a while. My emotions were starting to sting a little, like a tiny bug in my head that wouldn't stop buzzing, but I drowned it out with music, drink, writing and travel. My trip to Costa Rica was pushed along a little by this discovery of what was likely going on. I closed the book and moved forward, as I always had, but the breeze kept billowing those drapes open and the glimmer began to glow brighter until I couldn't darken it anymore.

Through the cracks I began to see fragments of my life as a whole. A brief span of childhood punctuated with doctors offices and tests I still remember clearly. The nurse in the waiting room smiling at my little brother beside me driving his cars over the backs of the chairs as I waited patiently with my loving parents beside him. I remember sitting with my family at a round white table between bookshelves and a window. I think that doctor had a beard, and spoke kindly to me. I remember drawing pictures with colourful crayons as a psychologist looked over my shoulder in a small room, taking notes as I explained to her what I had drawn, and then she told me my burgundy corduroys 'sang' as they swooshed when I walked. And I remember the EEGs. But no diagnosis was ever made. My parents thankfully pulled me out of the unnecessary clinics and gave me a wonderful, normal childhood filled with only the love and dreams a childhood should be made of.

But I always knew I was different. I put it down to awkwardness, shyness, any label I could give myself. I had a hard time holding onto many friends, it was almost impossible to make connections so I lost myself in reading, writing and drama classes where I could be someone else for a while. On the surface, I matured into a normal, fun-loving young woman, but every day was a silent struggle. I learned how to wear many masks, I could melt into any being and act the way I knew I should, but every day left me exhausted, and the masks were never quite right. I wasn't meant to be an actress full time. It meant that I came across as inauthentic, insincere and without empathy. My lack of social aptitude unwittingly drove people away, wracked relationships with heartache and emotional strain. I made unwanted enemies of people I loved dearly, but I couldn't stop it because I didn't have the capacity to tap into what I really meant to say, what I meant to do. I was lost over and over in confusion, begging my brain to get back on my side and help me show that I was the good person I knew I truly was. I spent time in therapy, being told that there was 'nothing wrong' with me, and that I should 'get over it'. But get over what exactly? Words like depression, social anxiety and attachment disorder were thrown around, but no one could prove anything and I was grasping at straws, pretending to be normal.

To this day I am plagued by these shortcomings, but a few weeks ago the crack in the curtains was pulled wide open and the light flooded me. The window was a movie screen playing the story of my mind with large subtitles telling me exactly what was happening and I felt relief because for the first time, I could understand. Everything began to make sense, to snap into place like a giant puzzle made of magnets and my mind started to glue itself together in perfect patterns, the fog lifted and the buzzing bug hushed into a softly spoken voice of reason.

The last few weeks I admit I've been a bit withdrawn, floating up and down on the current of the uncomfortable, new knowledge I've been given, that I suffer from a neurobiological condition on the autism spectrum, and I always have. I felt relief at first because the rush of answers allowed me to see what my normal was, and my lifelong strange ways were made clear. But now, I'm in a second phase of understanding and it's a very difficult place for me to be in right now, I'm feeling a little lost. I know that I'm still the me I've always been, but I'm also not, I've become my own shadow. I'm in the process of piecing together these two parts of my whole and each day feels a little more murky then the last, the mud a little deeper, a little thicker to walk through, because it's all so new. I haven't yet found the courage to speak much about this because I don't know how. The words catch in my throat and blend in a fear of disbelief, that friends will see me differently now from the girl they thought they'd always known. It's too early to find the balance between who I was and who I am and to understand that I'm stronger now for knowing. I hope others will find that strength for me too.

I will be ok, that much I know. The only way out is through, I do believe that, and though I'm faltering right now, I can see the beautiful summit in the hazy sky. There is no cure, but it will not strike me down, and in fact, once I learn how to cope, I will be made resilient. When I close my eyes in the morning sun, I visualize the light dancing through the leaves of summer trees and my heart aches a little, but it feels more open too, to the new life I'm beginning, free from my own ignorance. It will take some time, but I can build my new self back up again on my old foundation.