“I’ve always had pretty intense special interests, often kept secret, but Flyleaf was one of the very few that seemed socially acceptable.”
By Miya Sae
A little over ten years ago, I returned to my freshman dorm after morning classes and was welcomed by the most heartbreaking Facebook post that my 18-year-old self could’ve imagined.
Flyleaf’s third album would be their last with Lacey Sturm. She was leaving the band.
Cue the internal shatter.
Mix it in with a cup of anxiety and a lot of tears.
The world may as well have been ending.
I know. First world problems. It probably sounded completely ridiculous to all of my social media followers, as I proceeded to constantly post about my devastation over a rock band for several months.
I’ve been painfully reminded of this behavior lately on Facebook memories. In the past I would’ve cringed really hard and probably deleted all those posts. But now I understand myself better, I can see that it was my autistic self reacting to having her biggest special interest taken away.
Flyleaf had been my favorite band for years (and still is), and Lacey was my ultimate role model. Second to Jesus, of course.
Lacey’s jaw-dropping testimony of faith shook my world as a teenager, and the ways that God tangibly intervened in her life, transformed her, and worked through her gifts to make His love known—all were sources of immense hope and comfort for me. Her way of communicating God’s glory and love in a way that resonates is like no other. In all of my life struggles, doubts, and even direct opposition to my faith, listening to Lacey’s story and Flyleaf’s music often got me through it. God used these things to draw me closer to Him in countless ways.
Their work lived in my brain rent-free for the majority of my days, as my special interests typically do. I spent a good chunk of my free time researching them and learning all that I could, watching every single interview and live performance that the internet had to offer. Multiple times. I wrote my first major college essay on their album Memento Mori, going well beyond the required length and irritating my professor because of it.
(Looking back, it’s laughable how I didn’t think I was autistic at the time.)
To what I imagine was an extremely annoying extent, I was constantly telling people to listen to all of Flyleaf’s music. Not just the big singles. All of it.
I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious. In my limited theory of mind, I just wanted everyone to be able to experience the same joy that I did when I got lost in their songs.
That’s what special interests do for us. Our brains latch on, passion ignites, and we feel on top of the world. I’ve always had pretty intense special interests, often kept secret, but Flyleaf was one of the very few that seemed socially acceptable. The one I felt allowed to talk about and express enthusiasm for. I mean, who doesn’t love a good rock band?
So when the news dropped, I felt like I was losing a major piece of me.
It’s not that I didn’t understand that Lacey is a human being with her own life who doesn’t owe us anything.
It’s not that it wasn’t cool and respectable that the remaining members of Flyleaf pushed through the challenge and went a different direction with their music with a new singer.
It’s not that I viewed the lead singer as the sole member of a band, or didn’t appreciate the others. Pat, Sameer, Jared, and James are also incredible musicians.
I acknowledged all of this. I was just not okay.
However, as painful as losing a special interest can be for autistic people, I did, in fact, survive.
The world kept turning. God is still good. He is infinitely better than any cool thing I could ever get into. Despite the departure, I still had three and a half lovely Flyleaf records to listen to, and videos of Lacey’s story were still on Youtube, for free. Having gratitude in that was crucial. It wasn’t my special interest being taken from me, but rather, I wouldn’t be getting any new material. It was an interruption to what my hyperfixated brain had going on. The end of a beautiful era.
But even if all the old stuff did disappear from existence, I still had Jesus. He is the best special interest—one that will never change or be taken away.
As an autistic Christian, I stan special interests. Though it’s important to find a balance (as with anything), I believe God wants us to enjoy the good things He creates and generously gifts to us. With that in mind, it’s still important for those of us who follow Christ to remember that these things, even if they’re faith-based, are not God Himself. They are echoes of Him and His glory. The end of that Flyleaf era a decade ago served as a strong reminder of that.
Of course, Lacey is KILLING IT with her solo career. I didn’t know that was even going to be a thing at first, and she still doesn’t owe us anything, but she keeps bringing the fire.
My hyperfixation in this area has simmered down significantly the last few years, but even so, I continue to be inspired. This autie is grateful.
Miya Sae is an autistic Christian and an aspiring author. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2016. Diagnosed at age 26, she has become an autism advocate and strives to bring hope and encouragement to other misunderstood, neurodivergent Christians like herself.
Miya became a willing Christian at age 14 after a dramatic and unforgettable encounter with God. Since then she has been passionate about sharing the love of Christ with anyone who desires to listen. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and their two feline children, Nebby and Mochi.
Your post is my exact counterpart on ‘autistic fixation’ as you put it.
I m 43 and was diagnosed with ASD/ADHD at 23.
I wept like for a family member when David Bowie passed away in 2016 and can’t listen to other bands eversince. I identify with him who was only second to Jesus to me.
However, medically speaking, I don’t believe in ‘high-functioning autism’ as an illness but a Personality Disorder since intellectual abilities are uncompromised.
‘High functioning and low functioning Autism’ doesn’t even exist in the Medical Dictionary. Lay people and professionals wannabes coined these definitions on the grounds of common traits although Severe Autism is a very debilitating Illness. My brother has it and is institutionalized requiring 24/7 assistance.
The reality is that the Cause of real autism is still unknown to date and pharmaceuticals are pushing for a general diagnosis in the pursuit of commercial purposes.
Based on my experience, Genetics is the most entertained hypothesis.
I would like to hearing from you.
Thanks and God bless
John Testore, Tokyo, Japan
Once again, Miya, I really enjoyed your post! I even had to look up the word “stan”! It’s a good one! Keep on keeping on! Love you!
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