I look down at my hands and they look like fragile crepe paper. There are lines all around my eyes and silver streaks of hair on my head that contrast to the dark brown that once was dominant. I am tired much of the time. I am weaker than I was before. I feel my limited time for life and I am okay with it. Why?
You did a good job. You didn’t know you were different. You didn’t speak much and you got severely punished for not responding to the remarks and questions of people. You got bounced around the foster care system like a big ball. You got punished in most of those homes because you couldn’t figure out how to fit in with all those strange people. Yet you kept going. You tried to think of everything you could to keep your life peaceful.
Someone once said you were generous. You didn’t know what that meant so you asked for the definition. The response was that you were unafraid to give something to other people. Somehow despite all the abuses, lack of opportunities, stress from switching schools every year and never being able to make friends, you still chose to give. I know now it was because you hoped to get something back. Special attention. You wanted someone to get inside your head, find out what made you happy and then share that with you. Unfortunately, that never happened. So you went through life almost always silent. Waiting . . .
There was a strength in you that other people didn’t have. They couldn’t see it in you because they had no way of recognizing it. They were astonished and angry when it surfaced with a vengeance. Even though you didn’t understand their concept of right and wrong you had your very own. As you went through life you realized that you could latch onto what was right for you and you stood your ground even when everyone else bullied you for being “wrong”.
You have lived an extraordinarily lonely life of pain and solitude. You couldn’t get anyone to hear you but you never gave up. You still hurt today from a lifetime of being abandoned by your family so many years ago. You were lucky though. You found a husband to share your life with. You knew he was the right one because he needed as much love as you did. And you gave it to him. That’s what you were made to do.
Now, in the present, you have learned that you are one of the special ones. You are autistic. That is why you are silent. That is why no one from your past understands you. In this modern age you have found others like yourself on a screen on your desk. There are people who know. People who understand. People who share your hurt, your loneliness, your need to be recognized as a feeling, thinking, functioning human being.
And you are still giving. To them.
Debbie Denenburg is an autistic and artistic adult who resides in Arizona with her husband, two cats and a dog. Debbie Denenburg’s words and art are part of The Art of Autism 2016 Calendar (available for sale on this site).
The Art of Autism is curating letters and videos to our younger selves from autistic people and their parents for The Art of Autism Dear Me Project. Email theartofautism @ gmail.com. This is an ongoing project.