June 3, 2014

The body autistic

I am often uncomfortable—physically ill-at-ease with my bodily position, my immediate environs, my sensory milieu, or with the motions I am performing. Sometimes I’m just walking down the hall or even sitting still in what should be a comfortable chair. I feel as if my senses are miscalibrated, like I’m perceiving wrongness where there shouldn’t be any. This has bothered me for as long as I can remember. I have always assumed there was something bad about me, some adaptation or discipline I have been remiss in acquiring. I assumed I wasn’t trying hard enough, no matter how hard I earnestly was trying to ignore the discomfort.

As I learn more about neurodiversity and the experience of being autistic, I am coming to understand that this discomfort is not my fault, not a failure of my will or determination: In truth, sometimes I simply do not fit where I am or what I am doing. Sometimes, the “normal” expectations I have been trained to impose on myself are fundamentally abnormal for the way my nervous system works. I am expecting myself to feel OK in a situation I am not designed to find comfortable.

I formally gave up requiring myself to be “normal” years ago—but there’s saying you’re quitting and then there’s actually quitting. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve fallen off the wagon until it’s rolled away over the horizon and, in a contemplative moment, you suddenly wonder why you’re not moving anymore.

1 comment:

  1. Growing up, few of us were taught to listen to our bodies, which almost always tell the truth.

    Many of us, lost in our uniqueness, also missed the insight that on a planet of 7 billion people, we are never alone in our idiosyncrasies.

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