IN THE JAWS OF THE BLACK DOG: Part 2

… I have reached a measure of greater understanding of who I am, and am proud of my abilities, the skills and talents I have had to achieve just to remain off the street and not a homeless man. To have taken advantage fully of the many gifts personally, but have not achieved the success in those that I should have had, all those that were given, along with the emotional baggage and emotional immaturity and insecurity and weirdness sometimes that I can be. I am a greater artist even though, condition stopped me from painting. I have made many inroads into music and my guitar and carpentry and working with my hands; my writing of poetry and storytelling which has helped me to develop a way into my own mind and find out where I falter with language. I am an obsessive dictionary reader, always unsure of my use of the language. I am a visual learner for the most part and found that to have saved me, mostly, even though I had impaired vision. Relationships are very difficult and friendship still eludes me to this day, as I have no friends to speak of, except my wife who is greatly patient and my children, even though their early lives were difficult with someone with Asperger’s. My beautiful and patient wife is a touchstone for me. It has been a long road for her to learn me, the idiosyncrasies and eccentricity, the storms that come and completely sweep us away into the final exhaustion of emotion…

I have remained free from the victim persona, it is a constant fight in a society that favours victimhood. Were individuals wear their afflictions like medals on their chest. That so many adapt to in their living conditions, and never really try to transcend it. I neither want nor care for your sympathy. But I will have your respect for what I know about this particular way of thinking. This particular way of being. In a world of autistics, I would be a king. But as I lay, I am simply its harlequin; the mimic who has imitated for himself and learned through the sometimes terrible and overwhelmingly profound experience and intellectual pursuit and through very tough life lessons how to act, how to be like you…how to mask what you do not know…

Communication is a difficult process for me, I find myself most times in an argument, unintended as it may be, it is eventual regardless of the beginning of the relationship. One of the side effects, the chaos of an Asperger’s is a form of ‘echolalia’ that inhibits the practicability of assured in being. Over talkative, verbose and self-righteous. I repeat sentences and explanations oftentimes in speaking. Yes, I repeat sentences a lot. And phrases and sometimes sounds. I have learned to normalize this and make it not seem so outlandish. In confidence of what one says, communicates, as sound — and from the heart, rather than a version of ‘stimming’ to increase the efficiency of being, and in the end calm.

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‘Mother and child’ – Pencil and eraser on 75lb paper — Michael Burns

Stimming is an interesting word for an autistic, it is a thing that is done as a way to soothe the ache of life; soothe the heart that might ache, it is immediate for an Asperger. You might say its a way of self-nurturing away a suffering day when all else fails and it is uphill and miserable all the way. A way to focus intently. A way to get caught up in that other world — the one inside. The most important one.

There are days when nothing seems to work, nothing will hold back that day’s hell. An incident can set a mood that must be intellectually conquered or suffered for the day. No matter how hard one tries to hold off the storm, it is inevitable that no amount of shifting and tweaking of circumstance, failure will be the end result. The mental strife, it becomes physical, the sympathetic nervous system response to who knows what, a fugue of emotion is a terrible thing that frustrates deeply and will not end until it ends. The parasympathetic nervous system is a way into the wiring and blown fuses. Through meditation and controlled breath, singing, or simply child’s play, the storm can be endured or quelled from burning the world down.

I remember a day in a coffee shop when my beloved was gaining our well-earned coffee and I had greedily and quickly taken the last remaining table and two chairs, at the window — always back towards a wall or a window, and I waited patiently for her arrival with our coffee and sandwiches.

A young — I would say around 13 years old young boy was sitting at the next table waiting for his father to return in the rather busy coffee shop. Extremely busy coffee shop. He was flapping his hands, frantic at the oppressive noise and cacophony of exterior noise and traffic and visuals; the strobing of fluorescence above our heads at 60 cycles per second, could be counted, and all that, that surrounded us. He was frozen in emotion and panicky, in the middle of it all, melting in front of me; turning from side to side to see his father. I was having difficulty myself, my empathy made his frazzled state become my own, my problem when entering a crowded room is the ability to pick up the emotions of the room, and bear them, it has been an ability, even when as one like my young friend across from me in the coffee shop rages from his autism. But my intelligence always ruled in such instances by keeping my back to the wall. I was an old autistic who had intellectually learned to cope with odd smells and noises, and rudeness of crowds, and curt behavior, which is the kiss of death to someone with ASD (Autism Spectrum disorder). All these are the elements that lead to anxiety, and too much of this can cause a complete meltdown.

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Michael Burns – Sliver-point Drawing on specially prepared ground (work in progress) – June/2015

My back as I say was to the window. My superpowers were at a peak. His ( the young autistic) father returned repeatedly — from his place in line to the boy to calm his son’s duress. He would caress his face.

An old curmudgeon started yelling at the boy to be quiet when his father returned to the lineup, he yelled to shut-up his stimming sounds; his echolalia was ugly to the old man’s ears I had imagined. And ignorance and prejudice of an obvious immigrant were quickly apparent to me, besides the boy’s autism.

The father of the young boy, a quiet-spoken and ultimately patient caregiver in his late thirties would return and touch the boy face tenderly and sometimes kiss and say “It is okay, I am getting a good boy’s treat, please be patient son.”

The old crank would glare at the immigrant and the boy, and tut and hiss and spit venom of disapproval of the young autists fears being expressed so physically. Being the bastard that I am against the bully, I am without a heart when I deal with them — I barked out when he spoke again in the open coffee shop, which silenced a maddening crowd as I glared at the old crank and said: ” He autistic you stupid old fuck, you should know better old man, he is an autistic child, don’t yell at that child again, or you deal with me.” The old one shrank back like a snake into a hole. And never made eye contact with me for the remainder of my stay. I watched him like a lion watches prey, he quickly crawled out of the coffee shop. I followed him to the parking lot, he was clearly terrified. And I sat surrounded by a coffee shop full of people staring at my emotional outburst. Not quite sure of me

I embarrass most who are with me on such occasions. And they are occasions for me to exercise revenge on the intolerant. Revenge on those who did me wrong so many times in my long life.

I am impatient to the stupidity in regard to autism now…

 

All images and writing are the copyright of Michael Burns.