Listen to Suggested Audio
Florence + The Machine featuring Calvin Harris “Spectrum”
I’m on the spectrum. In my seven years as a scribe, this is the first time I have ever written that out loud. Should it appear my best kept secret, then please allow me to assure you that I only recently solved the riddle myself. In 2013, after six sessions of psychotherapy, I began a long and enlightening journey to rewire my mess of a mind. Over that time, I have learned of each of my afflictions and how to overcome their greatest challenges. What has made this a slightly longer slog is the fact that I have never actually been officially diagnosed. With anything. In a world where we need to see, taste, touch something in order to refer to it as real, mine may appear the blatherings of a madman. Again, please allow me to assure you that I’m not ready for my straitjacket, just yet. A little different to many of my breed? Perhaps, in some ways. I certainly process data in a manner unique to user. As a self-confessed journeyman, I like to think I have done the legwork to arrive at the precipice I have. I’m no different to the next man, but my perspective is far from that of the regular homosapian. It just so happens I can see out across the spectrum from here.
No mistake, I am high functioning. For one, empathy has come effortlessly to me, particularly in recent years. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly be autistic, could I? I would suggest said spectrum is far wider than has been represented televisually, through the likes of Atypical and The A Word. They certainly raise awareness of the condition and both series do so gently and assuredly. However, they can only present individual case studies. Besides, it is only in recent times there has been a name for it, meaning there are likely a great many people out there touched by the magical Technicolor brush who aren’t even aware of it themselves. Some of us slip through the cracks. And sometimes, in time, we come back.
My thing was always routine. Safe places. I wouldn’t say I was jarred by sounds per se, it was more erratic human behaviour that set my fur on edge. There were certain regimen I simply had to follow, much to the bemusement of friends growing up. Doing so gave me an innate sense of calm, being refused led me straight to alarm. I hoarded in my compact room like the proverbial squirrel, prepared like a boy scout for the unlikely event of global apocalypse. Indeed, my chamber resembled a civilian air-raid shelter, albeit without the need for food stamps or corrugated iron helmet. Here I could very simply be, whenever the white noise grew a little too much.
I have always been a self-sufficient fellow. That being said, while isolation invariably leaves me happy as a hare, I crave interaction and love nothing more than to work a room, raising as many smiles as I can as I pass. Robin Williams once said “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anybody else to feel like that.” While sadness has played its part in my life, I am ever grateful to not have been defined by such. But goddamn, do I empathize with this lovely, gentle soul. I guess I’m the extroverted introvert. A social butterfly with the run along now legs of a bashful caterpillar still attached. Too much time in the chrysalis perhaps. Whatever the reason, at least I’m a designer original.
To know me is to know that I am love. Pure love and just that. There was only available hard drive space for one of the two, and its second cousin thrice removed, hate, was rejected out of hand the very moment it revealed its true feathers. I’m just not programmed that way. It’s no longer in my genetic make-up and, in truth, never was to start with. Yes, I possess a temper and it is white hot. However, only sheer frustration can ever lead me to lose it (even then in a controlled manner) and I can suffer a wealth of ignorance before arriving at that particular juncture. Better yet, I’ve retired my hiking boots now. As I mentioned at the offset, done the legwork. No tantrums forecast for the foreseeable. Love is who I am, every fiber and sinew. Every dash of passion to continue. It all stems from love.
I’m not writing this seeking validation regarding autism and accept that it may seem too long a stretch for the imagination to accept such a claim, when I am unqualified to offer self-prognosis. Or am I? The human mind is ultimately a muscle. Flex it enough and it grows. Tell it enough and it knows. Open it up and it shows. My entire personal mantra revolves around giving all of me for the sake of my art. Channeling every drop of the red stuff I possibly can through the tip of my quill, onto parchment. Whatever I learn of myself, I share gladly. Indeed, should any of the aforementioned never again be spoke of, then I am more than fine with that. In a way, I’m just thinking out loud.
However could I paint the vistas I do through my poetry works, without a clear view of the spectrum? For most of my recovery, the chief concern has been complex PTSD, as it is a great deal more bullish in its approach and potentially devastating in its attacks. I finally found my safe place earlier this year and my triggers, while still present, are now juxtaposed against coping mechanisms which have been tried and tested on numerous occasions. The “blackout” has been transformed into a temporary self-imposed lockdown, for the sole purpose of maintaining calm and perspective. But the demon at my window no longer glares so. Which has afforded more time to dig deeper into the membrane. I have been constantly surprised myself by the results, while certain long running behaviour patterns do make a great deal more sense now.
No matter the affliction, it’s in my nature to look at it as superpower first. The only ones who can tell us otherwise are ourselves and I’m long since done with emotional self-harm and all it entails. Everything is possible only if we allow ourselves to believe it and retrieve it. As children, we wouldn’t have such a hard time doing so. A lifetime of societal conditioning will do that to the best of us. I need not a diagnosis to own my place on the spectrum. Simply a safe vantage from which to oversee it. And delight in the veritable rainbow of colours before me.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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