I love my brain for many reasons. It has brilliant ideas. It sees wonder everywhere. It’s good at learning stuff. It allows me to experience everything both in fine, nuanced detail, and on a grand, dramatic scale.
It’s also a bit of an arsehole, because it tends not to let me get on with stuff.
[Image descriptuon: Digital cartoon image. In the top right hand corner, a disembodied pink brain with a smiley face, eyes and little cartoon arms chatters away. In the bottom left hand corner, Mama Pineapple, a reddish-haired white femme-presenting person wearing a purple long-sleeved top, looks upward in despair, whilst shaking both fists. The background is grey, and the brain, and Mama P, are surrounded by lots of words and phrases denoting complete and total distraction from the task at hand (whatever that is. Probably something very important and difficult).]
You’d think, wouldn’t you, by now, that the stereotype of autistic people as emotionless, empathy-devoid, monotonous-voiced beings with no inner life might have been chucked out of the window forever. But it still seems to persist, even as we work to change the narrative.
I am fully human. My brain is simply a different machine from that of a neurotypical person.
I do quite like robots, though.
[Image description: Portrait orientation fineliner pen drawing of 28 brightly coloured robots of various sizes, shapes and types, with a range of facial expressions and poses. This is not a ‘scene’ but a series of individual images – the only background is the page on which they have been drawn.]
Autistics like me see, hear, and feel the details. Everywhere. We can’t stop our brains from detecting everything. When we’re vulnerable, tired, stressed, or anxious, or already overloaded, it’s hard to cope.
But sometimes, details can be delicious. When I’m relaxed, I revel in them. And sometimes, drawing my focus towards one particular detail or cluster of details keeps the rest of the clutter out of view.
[Image description: Cartoon Mama Pineapple, full colour, drawn in felt tip. A white female-presenting person with brown midlength hair clipped to one side. She is wearing a pink top, and has her hands clapped together an a lovestruck, dreamlike expression on her face. The words “Ooohhh! Deeeetails!” Are written above her, and coloured love hearts radiate outwards from the image.]
As a kid, I observed what others wore, and mostly aped what I thought was deemed “cool”.
But there’s no instruction manual for operating in pre-teen or teenage polite society, and nobody ever tells you what isn’t cool. Sometimes in my later primary school and early secondary school years, I just liked wearing my Girl Guides sweatshirt – outside of Girl Guides meetings. It was a nice shade of blue, and it was comfortable.
And the white socks. How was I supposed to know these were unacceptable clothing items? I didn’t realise until years later what some other kids had really thought of me for such apparently ill-judged sartorial decisions.
[Image: An 11-year-old Mama Pineapple: a white girl with chin-length bobbed brown hair, wearing a blue sweatshirt with white Girl Guides logo, floral skirt, white socks and black lace-up shoes. She has her hands behind her back and smiles.]
Quick, scrappy one, this one.
I hate waiting for stuff. Whether it’s the (possible) ADHD influence on my autism or not, I don’t know. But I am impatient. If I’m stuck in a queue (a “line” for all you users of American English), I have to stim because I hate standing still. I need something else to focus on other than the fact I’m stuck waiting for something. The situation is made even worse if it’s an eating establishment or food outlet, and I’m hungry. I get very upset when I’m hungry.
[Image: a scrappy, scrawled pencil sketch of three people in a queue (line). The person in front waits patiently holding their bag, the person at the back looks at their phone. Mama Pineapple, a white female-presenting person with mid-length hair, stands in the middle, stimming vigorously and angrily by tapping a foot and flicking/flapping her hands.]