That sentence has taken two months to write.
When I was a little girl, I was scared.
When I was a little girl, I was a lot of things. I was functionally blind, and other kids teased me about my huge, staring eyes. When I was a little girl, I was somber. When I was a little girl, I was remote. When I was a little girl, I was devout.
When I was a little girl, I was scared, and I was alone.
I don’t know how to tell you about growing up scared and alone, except that I don’t want to, and maybe that says enough. I can tell you, though, what changed. What changed is that I was fifteen, and I found this.
I was fifteen, and I spent months circling Amanda Baggs’ site, skimming the front page (the background and url were different then,) afraid to click on any of the posts, testing and tasting the words autism and autistic and okay over and over in my mouth. I had found someone like me. I had found someone like me, and they were fine.
It was months before I could look at this straight on, accept it, and click a post to read. Eventually I was brave.
When I was fifteen, I stopped being alone.
When I was fifteen, I stopped being alone, and that meant I could stop being scared.
A little more than a month after I wrote Quiet Hands, I woke up and found that the number of hits on this site [i.e. Just Stimming — ed.] had erupted. Quiet Hands had gone viral, and there were a dozen comments waiting in moderation, links all over facebook, emails. I was bewildered–it was a stupid, personal post I’d written in the middle of the night to process a flashback a terrible character on a wonderful show had triggered–and overwhelmed by the attention. My friends can attest to my state that week–head-banging, bewildered William Schuester did something good by accident, obsessively relaying the ever-increasing hit-count as my words died out. I told one of them:
The irony in writing about what I write about is that you write about not-existing, and then you very suddenly exist.
I’m not so good at handling that.
But as I adjusted, as I pieced together the history of what happened and approved comments and somehow, strangely, kept existing, I started being able to read what people were saying. I started getting emails from parents who wanted me to know that they’d brought the piece into IEP meetings and had it written into the IEP that their child would be allowed to stim and move, from parents who’d talked to their child and asked if this had happened to them, told them to come and tell if it ever did, from teachers who’d thrown away their Quiet Hands posters.
I get a couple of these a week, now, and I’ve never been able to respond because I cry every time I read them.
When I was a little girl, I wanted more than anything for someone to tell the loud, looming people to stop.
(No one ever did.)
There’s another class of responses I’ve gotten. Autistic people, writing in. Sometimes only a word, a word scraped out and bled through with meaning I understand and never will be able not to.
In my school, it was “sit on your hands.”
You remind me I’m a person.
I feel a little less alone.
I see another little girl, flapping in the pharmacy.
Raising my arms comes a little easier, every time.
Julia Bascom blogs at Just Stimming.
Response appears here by permission.
Julia Bascom has recently had a second viral hit, an essay republished here at Shift Journal. As of this writing
The Obsessive Joy of Autism is still going strong and has just surged past 20,000 views. –ed.
[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]
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related: The Obsessive Joy of Autism