Why I Write: About Autism

Another topic that comes up often in my poetry, whether or not it is specifically mentioned, is autism. I actually write about it a lot more than it may originally seem.  I have two named ‘Diagonsis: Autism Spectrum Disorder’ and ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’; which are pretty straight forward. But I also have poems about it called ‘Alien’, ‘The Nothingness’, ‘Anxiety Attack’, ‘Eyes’….. things that aren’t specifically labelled as being about autism but most definately are.

I write these poems because they are me. I am an individual with high-functioning autism, also known as Asperger’s Syndrome (at least until 2014 when they are planning to absorb the diagnosis of AS into high-functioning autism completely). Things like meltdowns, breakdowns in communication, misunderstanding of social norms, bewilderment at the way ‘normal’ people behave, and a lack of understanding why ‘eyes’ are supposedly always a symbol for something good in poetry are things that I struggle with in real life.

The reason I don’t always label these types of poems as being poems about autism straight out is two-fold. For one, I wasn’t informally diagnosed until last year. We’ve always known that there was something a more than a little off about me in relation to other people, but for the longest time my mother just fought through it with me and did her best to help me understand other people while not erasing the essential person that I was, problems and all. When I started becoming more of a danger to myself and other people (autisic people, when they have meltdowns, aren’t acting out because they want attention- therefore they don’t make sure not to hurt themselves) my mother took me to a general doctor who diagnosed me with a strange mixture of social anxiety and OCD which he thought could have contributed to the compulsive self-harming behaviors that would happen when I had a breakdown. This was quite a stretch, and it would be at least three more years before we would find the answer that fit me to a T- and I was diagnosed by a friend who is a psychologist but, since I do well enough with my own coping strategies, we have not taken the time or the money to get it written down on paper. I know what I am, it doesn’t bother me, and I enjoy having a community with which I finally can fully relate to.

For two, my autism is a deep part of me. There’s no way I can just seperate the way my autism tinges my world, so why should I make all of my poetry that is specifically about my challenges with it seperate? Every poem I write is going to have a bit of that literalism that makes sense to me. It’s going to relate things that people normally associate with certain things (like love to looking into someone’s eyes) to things that I myself understand (like love to be fascinated with their teeth). It’s going to be a bit more straightforward, and anything that is written that seems abstract is something that I most definately had rooted in something physical that I had encountered, or an image that I had actually seen. It’s hard for me to make up whole new images. I can really only combine what I know.

Now I’m not putting this out there so that I can garner pity or followers just because God saw fit to slot me into this specific neurotype. In fact, I discourage that kind of behavior because it is paternalistic and just downright insulting. I am simply stating, once now and never again, that this topic does come up quite a bit in my poetry and that I’m not just writing about it because I know someone with it or read about it and thought that it would be a nice little topic to write about. When I write about it, these are things that actually happen/happened/and are happening to me.

So now you know.

Why Do I Write: About Suicide

Especially in my earliest published poems, it might seem like the only thing I write about is other people’s suicide. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because I thought that writing about suicide was cool. Far from it. I very rarely write about the actual person’s motivation for killing themselves, or lament the loss of this or that brilliant person. For the most part, anything I write about suicide is directed towards the society that the suicide killed themselves in.

The county I come from has a high rate of suicide among young adults and teens (I read at one point that it is as high as 9% or something- which honestly doesn’t surprise me). There isn’t a single year that has gone by, since I got into high school and became aware of these kinds of things, that someone close to me or my friends hasn’t killed themselves. (When I was in elementary school, a peer’s parent killed himself but that was not something I was fully aware of until later). Even now in college- last month, a friend of my little brother killed himself, and last week a friend’s ex got plastered and jumped off of the roof of a house and died in the hospital. If it seems like I write about suicide alot, it is because I am literally surrounded by it. And I am disgusted by it.

By ‘disgusted by it’, I don’t necessarily mean that I am disgusted that a person has chosen to end their own life. Though I may not think that it was really the best choice, I’m aware that it was their choice and that what is done is done. But I have found myself increasingly disgusted by the response of the community to such tragedy. People who never knew the kid rush to claim to have been ‘secretly their best friend’ (seriously, not even kidding. Every. Single. Time.), people who I watched bully the living hell out of the kid snap at anyone who dares bring up what they did swearing that they themselves were really ‘misunderstood’, and people get out of class to mourn someone they never knew. The suicide threats afterwards are staggering as well. Every time a kid kills himself, twenty more have to tell their friends that they themselves wanted to kill themselves and holy shit we have to give those kids ALOT OF ATTENTION until they get tired of it five days later and everyone goes back to acting EXACTLY the same as they did before this all happened (despite extreme professions to change their ways). People forget who the person who killed themselves really WAS and make up this pretend person who never existed and then beat that dead horse until there’s nothing left. Which, inevitably, leads to the mindset that makes suicide a viable option to many teens.

It’s this never ending cycle that I’ve found myself stuck in year after year after year and almost every year I have to write about it just to get it the f out of my system.