Springingtiger's Blog

Autism Awareness: I Wish I’d Known About Information Processing Overload

(Looking at my Google Docs I found a blog post I’d started but never finished. I decided to finish it for Autism Awareness Month, I hope it conveys to some extent how it feels to lose one’s self)

I was sitting in one of my Geography A level exams, my mind blank, my eyes full of tears. Obviously I should have taken some time to compose myself until I could make a start, so of course I panicked and walked out thereby failing my A level. I blame no one but myself. It is a shame, I loved geography and enjoyed transforming the contours from a one dimensional map into a two dimensional topographical diagram, I enjoyed the measurement and calculation and had a fondness for the bifurcation ratios of rivers. On that day, sadly, and I am not sure why the pages of print on the question paper froze my brain.

It was as if I were facing pages of Greek or Sanskrit and the images were no better. I knew I had prepared for my exams, but nothing had prepared me for the sheer powerlessness of not being able to understand my own language.

I should have been prepared, it was nothing new. At primary school I was completely incapable of reciting my multiplication tables, any mistake was punished by the teacher with a punch in the back. When asked to recite I was rendered speechless. I realise now that the stress rendered me incapable of coherent thought, as I was equally incapacitated in the face of other people’s emotions. I used to laugh involuntarily when I was told off while tears would (and still do) reduce me to impotent confusion. To be spoken to by a teacher amid the hubble-bubble of the classroom, aware of every noise and movement, as well as the sounds from outside, is still the stuff of nightmare. It is horrifying to be trapped inside my own body, unable to articulate my thoughts because I, quite literally can’t hear myself think. I have frequently been in further trouble when frustration and panic have led me to lash out. I am considerably more in control now than I was as a child, but there is hardly a door in my house that doesn’t bear the mark of my fist. I am an intelligent and articulate adult, but scarcely a day passes without the fear of an unforeseen situation reducing me to helplessness. My life contains moments of utter terror that even now, unstressed and in complete control of myself, I am incapable of expressing adequately in words.


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