To Speak in terms of Hell
Last week I did a rather personal and raw post on an element of my autistic mind and life. Basically, I found myself withdrawing and struggling to engage my wife or son, my co-workers or even the public at large. While I do have some ability to set bits of this aside for periods of time (while at work or teaching), the truth is that I’m struggling against the need to run and hide.
The weekend was spent sleeping, mostly. This isn’t a good thing for me. While also necessary, the amount of sleep (at one point it felt nearly around-the-clock) meant no one that needed my time got it. Sitting opposite Erin and having her receive bad news about something elicited, “Okay,” from me and nothing more. She needed and deserved more. Knowing what is needed and doing nothing is part of the hell I live in, sometimes.
This weekend was much worse than normal. So much so that Erin stopped and told me it was the worst she’d ever seen. She was right. Though, admittedly, I’m glad she wasn’t there when the house burned down (another story for another time). My problem is the problem and yet it’s something we all recognize is inherent to who and what I am. I want to run away from work and family and things and I can’t.
We talked, at one point, and I had to admit that it didn’t matter whether or not I was better come Monday morning, I simply got to be better, take Cy to school, go to work, and do those things that grown-ups and normal people do. I got to move into the affectations of normalcy and reject what was happening inside. I’m rejecting what’s happening inside. Where I want one thing, the truth in all of this is that I get to be something else. I get to do something else with my life.
This isn’t easy. There were times I would’ve run away and checked out and assumed this was Providence telling me my life was heading in the wrong direction. Granted, those events have led to adaptation and adjustments and even made way into who I am enough that I could pursue real answers for what is wrong with me, but at the same time those answers have named a demon I cannot excise. I am autistic and with that comes emotional detachment with no ability to re-attach, sometimes.
None of this is a matter of what I want. I want to be there for Erin and Cy. I want to let them know that I love them and that I understand. When Erin gets bad news or Cy is hurt (emotionally or otherwise) I want to be the husband and father who can step in and assure them things will get better. But I haven’t been that dude and the most Erin got out of me for quite a while was, “Okay.” Okay what?
I know that this is impossible for people who are normal and understand emotions and proper expression of emotion to grasp, but the what is an everyday thing. I question whether or not my life would be the same, whether or not I would’ve allowed Erin to get close, had I known about autism before marriage. I question my own ability to adjust adequately or even sufficiently to make due for what is needed because we move away from want at times and needs are far more important.
The what is an expression of love and endearment that is taken for granted a lot by people I see. They get to simply assume (and probably rightly so) that everything is fine unless otherwise stated, and they can work through the improper emotional response. I can’t. I’m stuck in the improper and I’ve been that way for nearly a week. Drugs, while great, are only doing so much to help.
The degree whereby they stop is the same point at which I have to bend down and grab my bootstraps one at a time and pull up, hoping to become unstuck. This is when I set out to act normal in the hopes that the act of normalcy will result in the appearance of normalcy and the reality of semi-normal behavior. During these periods I find myself apologizing because I can’t be bothered to slow down.
Apologizing because I want information and data more than connection. It’s when my mind latches on to problems and unanswered questions and begins to churn through them in the expectation and hope that answers will appear. I am stuck in a circular pattern of analytical behavior and while I am not as bad as some autistic minds, I’m still struggling with the one I’ve got.
There isn’t any solace in things I enjoy because they become parts and sets to solutions or causes and embryonic examples of problems. I struggle in these moments and even writing takes on an almost sadistic quality that doesn’t allow me room to breathe or move because I’m not in control. And then I wonder if drugs or other forms of therapy might step in and help me out.
Can I drug myself any farther toward what is needed over what is my reality? The answer is, No. No I can’t. This, my friends, is exactly what I imagine the Christian concept of hell to be. Not Dante’s politically motivated rant (Inferno), but the repetitive cycle of loss and internal betrayal that forces my hand in ways that are impossible to describe.
Want to know what hell looks like? I don’t. I’ve been here too many times in my life and, truthfully, I am terrified to return.