A Song of Hope, A Man Abused6 min read

Be me, an unknowingly-autistic man.  Put your­self in my shoes.

I man­aged school. Literature and English lan­guage were a bit of an issue, though.  I got to uni­ver­sity, studying physics, a lovely yes or no sub­ject. I found it ter­ribly dif­fi­cult to try to fit in, but so do a lot of people in a physics pro­gram.

In 1989, late winter, I heard a song that lives with me to this day.  I did not know I was autistic. I only found out half a year ago at age 46, but this song played in my head as I strug­gled in the neu­rotyp­ical world.

Here are the lyrics to the “Battle of Bodmin Pill” by the New Model Army. I will say later what each bit meant to me after quoting the song…

Ballad of Bodmin Pill

Smash glass against the wall
Curse the music on the radio that the neigh­bours play.
Door slams, she turns her head
Watches through the window as he pulls away
Funny how your racing brain drives you so mad
When all the while you feel so numb
Too old to be clean far too young to be broken

Like an army we come
Cut back, left behind
I watched you self-destructing oh so many times
Shot down, once again
Sitting in a chair crying what am I going to do with my life?
Just learn to hide the way that you really feel
Never let them know that you’re scared
But under­stand that you’re not the spe­cial only one
Watch us now, watch us real close

Ch: How we all dance with this fire ’cause it’s all that we know
And as the spot­light turns toward us, we all try our best to show
We are lost we are freaks, we are crip­pled, we are weak
We are the heirs, we are the true heirs, to all the world

Let’s go build a fire down on the empty beach when the waves are crashing high
White heat purify, as the sparks fly up into the great black sky
Sacrifice these crutches to the crack­ling flames
Stand as sil­hou­ettes against the dawn
It’s far too late to try to sleep now, seems I’m never tired any more

Ch: I want to dance with this fire ’cause it’s all that I know …
We are lost we are freaks …
And we try our best to show …
I am lost… I’m a freak ha ha.

Here is my dis­sec­tion of the song…

Smash glass against the wall
Curse the music on the radio that the neigh­bours play.
Door slams, she turns her head
Watches through the window as he pulls away

This is my anger at the world I don’t under­stand. The smashed glass con­jures the image of some­thing I used to self harm with.  The music was the dance music that I hated, the music with too much bass that everyone was always playing. The slam­ming door was me closing out this odd world I did not under­stand as I retreated from that world.

Funny how your racing brain drives you so mad
When all the while you feel so numb
Too old to be clean, far too young to be broken

I see, hear, feel, smell, taste every­thing.  Neurotypicals (NTs) can filter their inputs; I cannot. My brain over­loads very often.  When this hap­pens, I feel like I’m going mad. I also feel numb because I cannot under­stand or relate to about 75% of NT com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I cannot con­nect fully with your world. The last line was a wish that autism would not break me. It did sev­eral times, though, but I am still here to tell my tale.

I’m to old to be clean because the iso­la­tion and abuse suf­fered because of autism has driven me to attempt sui­cide too many times.  I’ve seen too many dark things, had too many dark thoughts, and expe­ri­enced too much to have a mind that is clean and free of scars and bag­gage and pain.

Like an army we come
Cut back, left behind
I watched you self-destructing oh so many times

We are 1–2% of the pop­u­la­tion.  We have been held back, mis­un­der­stood, ignored. Now there can be diag­nosis and help, and we need to be an army to force this for­ward in the rest of the world.  We no longer should be left to self-destruct in our iso­la­tion.

illustration-2223973_640Shot down, once again
Sitting in a chair crying
What am I going to do with my life?
Just learn to hide the way that you really feel
Never let them know that you’re scared
But under­stand that you’re not the spe­cial only one
Watch us now, watch us real close

This is me pre-diagnosis. I didn’t fit in, was shot down all the time.  I couldn’t and still can’t fit in with the NT world.  I didn’t fit into the world, I was always an out­sider and was always told so again and again.  I was used in 2 mar­riages by people who abused me over and over again.  People have always known that I couldn’t cope and didn’t have a social safety net, and they’ve used it against me:  Who are you going to tell?  No one cares about you.  You just don’t– or can’t– under­stand how things are. 

And how does a man sur­vive that kind of mes­saging?  Even typing the words, the lyrics res­onate as I sit in my chair crying.

I hid for 46 years trying to be normal, but I’m not doing that any­more. I’m autistic as f*ck and proud. It’s time to change the world to allow us to be part of it. I’m not the spe­cial only one, there is a world of us out there.

How we all dance with this fire ’cause it’s all that we know
And as the spot­light turns toward us, we all try our best to show
We are lost we are freaks, we are crip­pled, we are weak
We are the heirs, we are the true heirs, to all the world
Let’s go build a fire down on the empty beach when the waves are crashing high
White heat purify, as the sparks fly up into the great black sky
Sacrifice these crutches to the crack­ling flames
Stand as sil­hou­ettes against the dawn

fire-123784_640Right now, there is a spot­light on autism.  But their spot­light is to show that we are crip­pled, freaks, and weak com­pared to the neu­rotyp­ical stan­dard.  We dance with the fire they point at us because it is all we know; its dan­gerous, but its our only choice.

We try to show who we are, authen­ti­cally, while the NTs look at us as how we fit or don’t fit into their world. In their majority, among a crowd of them, I’m an aber­ra­tion.  They hate us while we are alive, but they hold us up as heroes after we have died, like da Vinci, Einstein, Tesla, Mozart, and Steve Jobs; how­ever, while we are alive, we are denied the right to be heirs to our own lega­cies.

The last is a purifi­ca­tion fire that gives us the warmth we miss out on from the NT world, the healing kind­ness that isn’t extended to us.  It burns away from us the stigmas and the pain of iso­la­tion, abuse, and con­for­mity imposed on us.  With the light and heat of knowl­edge, we will no longer be seen as crip­pled and can throw away our crutches and be wel­comed into society.

I’m a freak ha ha.

I am, but only through the NT lens.  To me, they’re freaks.

I’m sure this isn’t a reflec­tion of what the song was intended to mean, but I’m grateful to the New Model Army for a great song which has helped me to sur­vive.

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