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Autism Symptoms

Inside Autism & Eye Contact: How It Feels

If you knew if you pushed a button, you gave a child electroshocks… Would you? Could you…? How eye contact feels to this autistic…

I have this crazy idea. Hope, really…

If I can bring you inside my world, see what I see, feel what I do…

We can stop hurting each other.

So…

This…

This is what eye contact feels like. To autistic me.

My wife & I are musicians. We just finished our 15 minutes of fame playing Rusty’s open mic. Mebbe Shorty’s bar, I disremember…

2012. 4 B.D. 4 years before diagnosis.

She’s pumped, like always after our friends love our set, eyes dancing, flirty mouth pouting…

Looks me in eye, “C’mon. I wanna dance…!”

I love her green eyes. Always treasure seeing them…

Can’t ever remember em. Face blindness…

Can’t ever more than glance, without looking away. Autism.

Look, I’m the Worst Dancer in the World. Problems with balance. Seriously uncoordinated…

Teen nickname? “Hey-You-Spazz.” Now… White, Never-Learned-to-Dance, 58-Year-Old, Middle-Class, American male…

But Kimmie. My wild-woman gypsy. Cuz something deep inside autistic me… moth met flame.

Naturally, I say, “Sure.”

Back then I thought I could survive bars by entering my own dissociative bubble with only room for Kimmie & me… And keep telling myself I don’t care what they think.

Why not dance… if it makes Kimmie happy?

I’m doing the White Guy Rock, weight on right, shift left, weight on left, shuffle right. Eyes shifting around the room, never lingering, never focusing…

“Look at me, hon,” she whispers. “Look at me.”

So I do. A few seconds. Just a few seconds more…

So calm. So happy. So big… Bigger. Only her eyes. Brighter… Bigger… I can’t hear anything but a roar. Spinning. I’m going to fall…

I shout or something. Step or jump back. Stumble through some dancers to sit down.

Kimmie’s shocked. You know, everybody’s shocked.

Especially me.

This is what happens when I look too long into eyes. Even eyes I admire, respect trust…

So…

I don’t look directly in your eyes cuz I don’t care, or I’m mad, or I’m hiding something, or I disrespect you, or I’m lying…

I CAN’T look in your eyes because I PANIC… And sometimes, experience fear-of-death-style ego dissolution.

Lots of autistic people have described similar feelings for a long time. Even as lots of parents & educators have tried to “convert” autistic kids to a “necessary social skill.”

Finally, some research with “live stream” brain scans of autistic brains (fMRIs) support their reports of pain & discomfort, with what looks like overstimulation in the amygdala.

“As it turns out, the issue isn’t so much that autistic people are insensitive to the feelings of others. It’s more that their brains are oversensitive. When autistic volunteers were given visual stimuli of other people’s faces, the researchers found an excess of activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for recognizing faces and interpreting facial expressions. That kind of overstimulation can cause pretty severe anxiety, which in turn can make meeting a stranger’s (or a friend’s) eyes downright frightening. That heightened anxiety? It’s basically what autistic people have been talking about this whole time.” https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-03378-5

But honestly? The “possible” research-of-the-moment “explaining” autism means less to me than naked experience.

When I look more than a few seconds directly into anyone’s eyes, even the love of my life’s…

I begin to lose auditory & visual perception of my surroundings… Details fade… Light gets brighter and brighter…

I cannot see the face, only the eyes…

I begin to feel faint…

There’s a sensation of spinning, then falling…

I not only feel the onset of panic…

I feel “ego dissolution”… I literally lose myself…

Very much like that sick panic falling out of a tree, “transcending” during meditation, or sometimes falling asleep…

As if I were dying.

I’m more used to it now, but it is very frightening still.

It must have ALWAYS been true. I remember distinctly horrific fear at age 2 or 3…

But I only discovered a couple years ago that I unconsciously, constantly shift my gaze from eyebrows to cheekbones to nose, etc…

To mimic looking into your eyes. So you won’t know I can’t. And we end up hurting each other.

Strangely I’ve been both a salesperson & therapist in my life…

And pulled it off. Briefly…

Cuz, “high functioning.”

But not every autistic person has words to explain.

So I tell my story hoping parents, friends, lovers, teachers, bosses, strangers in the street will…

Stop demanding the right to torture many of us to make you more comfortable.

Take a moment to watch this child do everything in her power to avoid eye contact. Imagine the story she’ll tell as an adult.


Via an excellent article by Emma Dalmayne http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2017/05/eye-contact-for-recipients-validation.html


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By johnnyprofane1

Live. Laff. Love. Rebel...

Pretend Rock Star... Cuz it's ALL cosplay.

I have no credentials to offer. At least none that matter anymore to me.

So I offer my life.

It's all I have to give.

Blog
https://AutisticAF.me

Music
https://open.spotify.com/artist/20QxTBY9Yk0d7BYCt3aVeS

#ActuallyAutistic #AllAutistics #AutisticElder #AutisticSurvivor #AutisticJoy #Neurodiverse #Neurodivergent

2 replies on “Inside Autism & Eye Contact: How It Feels”

I understand this so excruciatingly clearly that reading it in another has just shocked me to tears with knowing. I am actually having moments of hyperventilating panic that someone knows what I have been hiding for 47 years, even to myself. Wow. It is both terrible to see it said as what it is, torture, and wondrous to know I have not been making it up in my brain in silent conversations with all the broken parts of me sitting in here daily watching a world hate what I am.

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