A Ramble: On Feeling Autistic Disruption

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I spoke to a friend about what it’s like to be autistic yesterday. We were discussing what it’s like to have circumstances change and how that throws things off for us.

I think of being autistic as being like one of those sculptures that looks like a misshapen mess unless you look at it from a certain angle. An optical illusion. Our sense of self is perceived from all possible angles- we are whole and complete, but sometimes we see ourselves from the messy angles, where all the wires and bits that stick out don’t make a coherent form. When our world is at peace and undisturbed, we are looking at life from the angle where it makes sense, where the objects and lines pull together to make something whole. When we are disrupted, that perception shifts, and what was once clear form becomes mere noise.

People entering our space, touching us without our consent, making painful noises, having confusing facial expressions… This can shift our fragile sense of stability. While yes, we are the whole sculpture, messy angles and sensible angles, our world only makes sense when it’s pulled together. When we come at it from the wrong angle, it’s just… Wrong. Upsetting. Confusing.

If we spend a long enough time in this space, it becomes distressing. Someone entering our home for an extended stay, uncomfortable clothing, loud places… These things can turn our world and leave us feeling misshapen and full of holes. We aren’t, though. We’re a whole being… Sometimes we just aren’t standing in the right spot to feel it.

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