Posted in family

I Hid in a Closet 😱 Part III

Before I finish the third part of “I Hid in a Closet,” I wanted to talk about my favorite elementary school activity: Show and Tell, a.k.a. structured social time. 😉

show and tell.gif

Every post, I provide the calming music I’m listening to while I write; and I also provide meaningful YouTube videos that I’ve enjoyed as a brain break. If you have music you listen to while writing or making stuff—or if you have some awesome brain breaks—I’d love if you’d show-and-tell it in the comments.

Or just tell me about what happened today; tell me a story.

Also, I have another thing to share today besides YouTube…a schedule for Autism Awareness Week! And plans for June, too.

In case, like me, you like to know things in advance. 🤗

@End 😱 I Hid in a Closet

If I hadn’t been so sensitive to the cellphone light though, if I hadn’t screamed, maybe my mother wouldn’t have decided to ask Chase to give her a Yellow Pages.

(Later, her stammered, “Yellow Pages…? I seriously couldn’t remember what that was for a second,” which tickled me, since in the Internet boom, I worked at a marketing company that was partnered with YP.com.)

Maybe my mother wouldn’t have scrambled to get a taxi, at twice the cost of an uber, so she could stay at a hotel near the airport, where she refused to see us as we’d planned, even after I tried to apologize, tried to internalize the mistake, telling her it meant a lot to me if we could just joyously celebrate my upcoming wedding.

It didn’t work. Once she decides you don’t love her, it never works.

And she’ll bury you with her suffering, too. She’ll demand you “own” her perceptions of reality, that your memories are wrong; in other words, she gaslights.

Need a brief on gaslighting? Want to meet Kati Morton?

I know I was loved when I was first born; I remember the cabinets stocked were stocked with food. According to world my ancestors endured, my upbringing was good.

I remember feeling afraid.

I knew it was good because I’d listen to family talking to other family on the phone, conversations behind a shut door that lasted an hour or more. Eight, nine, ten years old, I would lay on the floor in the hallway with a coloring book, and bring order to this chaotic universe by carefully, carefully, following the lines. And eavesdrop.

These memories are not real.

My brain craved its autism be touched, pampered, caressed like the grand magic it was, and I promised it a life of colors, stories, and fantasies, if that’s what it took to create an environment where everything felt okay, where an amygdala different from neurotypical perceptions of reality and fear could still exist in peace.

I was always so scared. The children smelled it, and they beat me up at school constantly.

Meanwhile though, my brain also craved to feel safe, the same attention I received at 1, 2, 3 years old, before I heard my family talking with one another, 6, 7, 8 years old, about how good I’d become at taking care of them.

My therapist often asks me why I’m not excited about the wedding.

I haven’t yet figured out how to tell him, It’s because my family doesn’t think I have sensory sensitivity issues. Because I can’t see a way for this event to end without someone burying me in stimuli. Besides, my therapist and I have been having conversations about my relationship with work, so there’s no reason to spend therapy time discussing…

Except, the struggle with my previous (and short) career is over.

 

I also don’t know how to tell my therapist, It’s because this wedding will be on stage. It’s because I’ve been on stage my whole life. Now my amygdala chooses hypertension as its default mode. Now my anxiety feels like a rollercoaster fight-or-flight to the death. I can hear the CLICK-CLICK-CLICK of life as it ascends to the grandiose drop of July, the wedding with or without my family in attendance.

I am not excited
because I’m scared.

“But you’re a teacher!” I say to the mirror, after Chase has left for work, when Philosopher Jones is looking at me like:

IMG_8093.JPG

“You’re in front of people all the time!” I pep talk in the shower.

Oh, side note—As a teenager, my mom pulled my therapist (a different therapist) (I’ve had a lot of therapists) (I hope our 2021 home artificial intelligence systems are programmed with therapy scripts and comedy skits in them) aside and asked her, “Is it normal for teenagers to play-pretend conversions in the shower?”

Another characteristic of children and some adults with Asperger’s syndrome is to vocalize their thoughts, commenting on their own actions or giving monologues without needing a listener. A characteristic of all young children is to vocalize their thoughts as they play alone or with others. By the time they start school, however, they have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. Eventually, talking to oneself is considered by some members of the public as a sign of mental disturbance. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may continue to vocalize their thoughts many years after one would expect them to internalize them. This often disrupts the attention of other children in the class, and may lead to their being teased when they talk to themselves while alone in the playground. The child may also fail to hear the instruction of the teacher because he or she is too engrossed in a personal ‘conversion.’

—Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome

The shower is, naturally, a safe place to rehearse, and you bet I still do it when I’m alone. I may even try out a few snippets of dialogue for a novel I’m working on.

Anyway, you should have seen me the first time I took the stage of teaching. My first day piloting a college classroom, instead of navigating among them, I felt like a clumsy wreck, could feel actual fear in my legs, a second-year graduate student, a second-year Fresnan resident, standing in front of these eighteen-year-olds who’ve lived in this same place all their life, wearing expressions I could not read…

I felt like my spine was trying to do the jig to get out of my body, while my digestion system set up shop for spring cleaning, and—well—

🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨

Now I’m awesome at college teaching. Back pats.

wakeup.gif

…If only I’d four years to practice marriage ceremonies!

…And if only we didn’t have an issue with the toilet paper…

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

—Stephen Hawking, R.I.P.


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Author:

Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit Kourtnie.net.

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