Following on from yesterday’s Flashblog event for Autism Awareness month (and submissions are still flooding in), a friend mentioned this morning that she loves T’Pau’s China In Your Hand because it was playing at the exact moment that her son was born and placed on her belly. She didn’t actually know what the song is about, and so I’ve been having fun telling her.
With autism still very much in the forefront of my mind, I also began to make some comparisons between Frankenstein’s Creation and how an autistic person can feel.
Frankenstein himself is the real monster of the piece, with his Creation being an unwilling participant who didn’t get to choose his existence any more than the rest of us do. He didn’t ask to be a walking freak show with electrodes in his neck, and he lacked the capacity to understand why humans loathed, feared and ultimately abused and destroyed him.
The Creation himself was – to quote from the song – Like a child in the form of man. He was innocent, lost, afraid. A stranger in a seemingly alien world. His only crime?
I cannot speak for anybody else on the Spectrum, but when I was growing up I often felt just the way that poor Creation would have felt – had he ever existed. I was different, I didn’t fit in. I stood out from the crowd for all of the wrong reasons. I was bullied relentlessly, rejected, discarded by my peers. I had no right to be so intelligent when I did odd things with my eyes and hands and facial expressions, and appeared to float as opposed to simply walking (I walk on tip-toe and always have done. I know that this gives the illusion of “floating” and I also know that my autistic son does it too).
When you’re a teenager and have no diagnosis then apparently “weird kids” are supposed to just sit in a corner and stay quiet. They’re not supposed to be helping their classmates with reading and writing, or blaze a trail of terror across the hockey field. Weird kids aren’t supposed to be semi-professional swimmers either.
I spent many a lunch hour in the computer room, where nobody wanted to pick on me. Schoolmates that I never expected to ever even speak to me – the top “geeks” – became my friends. I “fitted” with them, and it’s only in hindsight that it occurs to me that they, like myself, were probably high-functioning autists.
Which brings me back to Frankenstein’s Creation. A frightened, lonely soul who developed deep intelligence and attempted to escape his maker – looking for a place in which he belonged. Exposed to all of that ridicule, fear and hatred I suspect that he willingly gave up his “second birth” in the end. Sometimes I found the world and my peer’s reactions to me so hurtful that I just wanted to die too.
I felt as though I wasn’t real; I was simply a creation with a brain and easily hurt feelings. Perhaps I was one of Doctor Who’s Autons and was actually made of plastic but didn’t realise it. I definitely felt that I was something unearthly – not of this world but stuck on it anyway. A realistic robot, perhaps.
I suspect that Frankenstein’s Creation sums up my feelings when growing up best of all. A misfit in society, misunderstood and feared.
I awoke this morning to discover that I have new followers, both here on WordPress and on Twitter. I began this blog because I wanted to speak about disabilities – autism and epilepsy in particular – and have my voice heard. Thanks to the Flash Blog Event I am now being heard; one small, quiet voice in damp and gloomy south-east England. Imagine the impact worldwide now that other voices are speaking out with me and for me.
I would like to end this by saying the following: autism is not neccessarily your disability. Very often, it’s the people around you that impact negatively on your life and not the autism itself.
Unlike Frankenstein’s Creation, no autist is ever alone. We exist. We are out here. We are real and many of us are proud. I don’t stand out so much as shine, because I am me and I am loved by many – because of my autism and not in spite of it.
Break down the barriers and escape the mold. Your life does not have to be the tragedy of the Creation’s short existence.
Let your voice be heard. Speak out.