UNMASKED: Snippets & notes from a lifetime collection of journals  (pre-diagnosis).
Advocating for autistic acceptance.

 

 

 

August 11, 1993  

 

I am not deliberately trying to neglect you; quite the contrary: I “write” in you mentally constantly. I long to write the myriad feelings & thoughts now, but am already getting [only] 6 hours of sleep. I do love you & have much to say to your never-tiring ears. Thank you.

 

 

Kalpita Pathak
Age 18

COMMENTARY:

I. Anthropomorphism

 

So many  autistic people feel deep emotions for our beloved inanimate objects. People come and go. Our things are reliable, predictable, nonjudgmental. Most of all, they are comforting. Safe. A special sweater (however worn and torn), a favorite fork (the one with the small handle!),  a particular pillow (lumps and all). My collection of journals. I love my inanimate objects fiercely and forever. We are bonded.

 

II. My constant mental journal writing is a product of two things:

 

1). Scripting. Many autistic people script what we’re going to say  so we are prepared for social interactions. Small talk and/or big talk may not come easy for us. So, having readily-available scripts (whether lines from a show/movie/song or our own words) help us manage these situations.

 

I do the same with writing. I compose entire essays/poems/scenes in my head before putting them to paper. This is how I arrange words. Of course, this led to complications when my professors expected to see many drafts and I would only have the one. It seemed like a waste of time to put my words to paper until they were polished (easier to move them around in my head than on a computer screen).  But my professors didn’t believe I could write that way. More than once I’ve been accused of cheating or procrastinating or just not taking my work seriously.

 

2). Analyzing and Processing. Hypervigilance can be a sign of trauma. So many autistic people, both early- and late-diagnosed, have cPTSD from continuous negative feedback. We live in the cold space of flight/fight/freeze. Because of this, we tend to over-analyze our interactions with others. We – diagnosed and undiagnosed – have been told our entire lives how rude, flaky, dismissive, self-involved, condescending, insert-negative-term-here we are, so we go over our exchanges again and again trying to understand where and when we “messed up” (were misunderstood). Trying to understand why so it doesn’t happen again.

 

(Spoiler alert: it happens again. And again. Oh! And again.)

 

There is a fine line between over-analyzing and processing. Journal writing helps anchor me in the latter so the former doesn’t overwhelm me. I process by analysis. This is how I “organize” the events of the day. I need to sort through the paperwork, label it, categorize it, and file it away in my mental filing cabinet. Doing this allows me to let go. Not doing it means indefinite perseveration. People always ask, “Why can’t you just let it go?” without realizing that examining “it” is part of the process of letting go .

 

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