I’ve a month-long story to tell about why I made a blog for autism awareness; and it’s also a story about why I prefer, in general, to write on the Internet, versus say, writing in a diary, or writing with the intent to publish traditionally (i.e., in print)—although I write in those spaces sometimes, too.
Most of all, this is a story about fear.
Lately, I’ve felt terrified to update this blog with much of anything, because every post I make, I dance ever-closer to the event horizon: the awareness I want to give to autistic people themselves, rather than coaching neurotypical (i.e., non-autistic) people about the autism spectrum.
When I see a meme, visit a website, watch a video, or read a book that suggests exploring my deep dark fears, one of the first thoughts that roils in is how I’m afraid to write truthfully about my autistic experiences, followed immediately by the knee-jerk reaction of and if I write openly, I will offend people; I will lose people from my life.
Once in awhile, I get some courage and “go for it,” but the backlash hurts.
I’ve been threatened with break-ups, lawsuit, and family segregation because of my writing. I’ve been gaslit. I’ve been dubbed ungrateful. I’ve been called a bitch. In all that time, I was trying to express myself; not start fires. So I’m scared to make this leap.
Yet as I age, I’ve realized that my fear cannot define me. I know the leap is necessary to grow. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve bottled up so many memories, I fear my shadow. I’ve internalized so much, I can’t turn to my inner autistic world the way I used to anymore, not without seeing the glowing eyes of all the stories waiting to be told.
If I don’t pop the valve open properly, this suppression will destroy me.
I’m tired of my life—my very experiences—quaking within a taped-off hazard zone, just because I might accidentally pee in someone’s soup.
No story is solitary; there are always other people at play in our experiences. It’s part of the nature of living as a social species. So I get why, when writers decide to exhibit their abuse in an online space, it can make people within their everyday landscape uncomfortable.
Without personal anecdotes though, the Internet loses a very important and integral resource; our worldwide knowledge misses out on the unique refuge found in true story.
That’s why—at least this go-around—I intend to strip the stories down to their bones; to keep the other people of my narrative out of it, while inviting you into my experiences, feelings, and observations, I’ll only be writing with the following tools,
- dialogue; &
- internal monologue.
In stripping the environment from the story, and removing names (and relationship labels), I hope to encapsulate the interpersonal exchange—rather than the person(s) making the exchange—so I can illustrate what it’s like from the autistic perspective without, as my parents would phrase it, “Throwing someone under the bus.”
The stories I’m about to tell are no longer fresh wounds.
Rather they haunt me like old sores, like an itch that won’t go away, particularly at night, as I think about the other autistic young girls out there—enduring the same experiences I did, seeking answers that I’ve been too scared to make available to them—and I feel like a coward.
I need to release these haunts.
This is also a story about when to be brave.
I want to remind you, reader—perhaps, implore you—to navigate my stories in order to learn, not to blame; to grow, not to pity; to open up, not take defense. I’m going to explore classical abuse, and it’ll get ugly, but the goal isn’t to gawk at the ugliness, to incriminate or garner pity, so much as learn something new through an autistic person’s lenses.
These stories are for providing autistic girls and women with lanterns to escape the darkness. If you’re a parent or loved one of an autistic person, you can also use this lantern; it could fit your situation, too.
And as I write these stories, I’m using them as a lantern to find my 18-years-old self again; that guilt-stricken teenager, performing Google searches, coming up empty.
Visualize her with me.
I’ll never be an 18-year-old autistic young woman again, but there’s someone out there who is that person, and she needs more than the inundated trenches of parents talking about how hard it is to have autistic kids—which is currently the largest narrative the Internet has to offer—so even if it takes her ten years to reach this digital space, I’m leaving these stories here. For her.
Here are the demons I’m going to unveil, without revealing whose mouth the words spilled from (except in the first case, where the label will be necessary):
- Stepfather: “If you tell your mother, I won’t love you anymore.”
- “I love you, but I don’t love how you’re behaving.”
- “Why are you pissed off? You look pissed off.”
- “What would this restaurant look like if everyone did that?”
- “A person at my work says the way you’re behaving is wrong.”
- “Stop it. That’s why you’re bullied.”
- “Why don’t you write your feelings in a diary instead?”
- “If you don’t have an abortion, don’t expect me to stick around.”
- “You love that cat more than me.”
- “Ignore her. She’s just like that. She’s a complete bitch.”
- “Figure it out. I don’t care if you can’t read maps. Figure it the fuck out.”
- “You aren’t writing about me, are you? What have you written?”
- “If you don’t take that poem off the Internet, I’ll come after you for defamation.”
- “You upset your whole family.”
- “I had anger issues once, too.”
- “Welcome to the real world.”
- “That’s because college brainwashed her.”
- “It’s like I have to take care of you. It’s like you’re one of the cats.”
I’ll also explore the following internal/nonverbal experiences:
- When I was harassed in the shower.
- When I was pushed into a wall, then told I was responsible for the cut in my leg, after I fell into an old car battery left out in the hall.
- When my cat was abused.
- When my parrot was killed.
- When I ate in front of the fridge in the middle of the night.
- When I drank myself to blackness at a work party.
- When I drank myself to blackness while home alone.
- When I was left alone in a club.
- When I was recorded having a meltdown.
Unlike my previous blog posts, I want to draft and edit the content for several iterations before publishing it online. This is because I’m working with a sensitive topic; so I need to prune my sentences for tone, clarity, and impact—the way I used to when I was a professional blogger—versus the more relaxed, everyday blogging I prefer to do.
In light of that, the first publications will go online in November for National Blog Posting Month, although I’ll be drafting through September and October. So this blog will receive November daily updates, except Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and that following Saturday, when I’ll rest.
Hope to see you back then.
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.