Saturday, October 31, 2015

Autistics Speaking Day? (2014)

Liese sent in this submission for ASDay 2014, on her Tumblr Waking Up to Live.

Trigger Warning for mentions of bullying, social pressures, self-taught "quiet hands".

Autistics Speaking Day?

It’s actually November 2nd here in Australia, but I decided I wanted to write a thing.
Sometimes, quiet hands is not said to you. Your hands are not clasped or pinned to your sides by someone with stronger arms, who says in a voice calmer than their violence, “Quiet hands, dear.”
Sometimes, the words don’t have to be said for you to understand.
Sometimes, quiet hands is when your parents come into your room as you are pacing with your hands fluttering above you, your mind a motor and your hands the cogs, weaving out intricate stories that spill out of your mouth. Your parents come in, and smile, confused and worried, and ask, “What are you doing?”
You learn to stop when you hear their footsteps in the hallway.
Sometimes, quiet hands is when kids much older than you say, “Why do you do that?” and mock your movements, moving their hands in ways that don’t match their significance. They laugh when they see you, and laugh even more at your anger. 
Sometimes, quiet hands is when kids your age refuse to play with you, and you don’t understand why. It’s when the girls call you gross and the boys run away into the bathrooms. It’s when you instead wander the school oval at lunchtime, hands fluttering and mind whirring, your hands your only companion. But eventually, you lose them, too,
Sometimes, quiet hands is strangers whispering to your parents as if you’re too far below them to hear.
“You should get that checked out.”
“You should stop her from doing that.”
“Is your daughter okay?”
Sometimes, quiet hands is your oblivious joy in your own movements and thoughts being shattered by the pointed look of a strange who doesn’t understand, of a stranger who thinks they know better.
And eventually, you learn. You learn quiet hands, even though no one has said the words. You sit on your hands in class when you feel them begin to twitch, and you tuck them under your arms in the playground. Your room is the only place where your hands can be loud, and it is your only sanctuary.
As you get older, you forget about your hands, even though you still hide them without knowing. You forget, and your mind sticks. You don’t understand the anxiety, the frustration, the feeling of being stuck, and the depression that builds up inside you over years and years. You hide your hands, and you don’t understand that your body contains that cogs that whirr for your mind to run, and you rust. You rust and stick and you don’t understand why you feel so wrong.
It’s not until you’re 17 that you notice your hands moving of their own accord when you lose yourself in thought that you begin to remember, and you begin to wonder.
It’s not until you’re 18 that you see Autistic children freely moving their bodies, and you feel jealous for reasons you can’t name. And you begin to wonder.
It’s not until you’re 19 that the words, “You have traits common to Autism Spectrum Disorder,” are spoken to you. It’s not until you’re 19 that you begin to read the words of people like you. It’s not until you’re 19 that your life finally makes sense, that all the fragments of your unexplainable differences come together and form a picture you can finally see and understand. You see yourself, full and whole, for the first time in your life.
You are finally able to wipe the rust away from your cogs, and with their whirring, years of anxiety and frustration and fear and sadness dissipate.
For the first time, you understand.
For the first time, you don’t feel afraid.
For the first time, your hands are loud.
For the first time, you are truly happy.

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