The Migraine..,,and Autism

Today I left work early because of a miserable migraine. Of course I was in our Charlotte office day, and I had much to do. Got a lot done, but still the remaining stack was overwhelming. My workday was only half done. The headache and nausea kept getting worse. I was having computer problems, day three after getting a new laptop on Monday, and I spent a few minutes wondering what the technical support guy from India would think if I said “I think I am going to be sick” and ran off to the bathroom to vomit. (Yes, I like to make pretty word pictures. You’re welcome.) I managed to hold it together.

I drove home…..felt every mile….picked up a prescription that had been waiting for me at the pharmacy since Saturday, arrived home, took medication, and slept for four hours or so. Felt better when I woke, but still with that headache hangover that could last for a day or so. Migraines loom.

It was spring, 85 degrees,  and gorgeous outside…..but those beautiful blooms are like the plague to me. I love spring. I hate spring.

I think life is like that sometimes…the things that are so perfect on the surface, can be horrendous to someone else experiencing it. Our experience is not the experience of others. I am sure on the surface I looked fine. I talked to clients, wrote coherent emails, went through the motions, but a part of me was barely holding it together. Part of me just wanted to lay down and cry. But it wouldn’t have been appropriate, would have made me look like a bit of a lunatic. People were nice to me, but either nice or  mean could have made me a weepy mess.

So much goes into happy. Our bodies control us, our emotions are unreliable, and things that are joys to others can be harmful or distasteful to us. It’s a reason kindness is so important….even if the person is disagreeable. Sometimes their pain is both overcoming and all consuming, but they try to hide it. Sometimes they don’t do a good job of it. Sometimes your “normal” reaction to their bad-tempered self is salt in the wound. They’d like to lighten up….but they can’t get to that place.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.  Do you know what autism is? It’s the fasted growing developmental disability in the US. I prefer to think of it as a difference. The spectrum is a long one…..people with autism come in all shapes and shades and ages. (Secret revealed. It’s not just present in kids!) My friend Kim Eroh’s son sported a shirt today that said “I have autism. What’s your superpower?” And really, it can be superpower. The intelligence and abilities of some autistic folks I know is unbelievable. Genius level. But they often don’t react to the world the way many of the ret of us do. They often can’t pick up your social cues. They often don’t seem to notice you’re there and may not react to you in a way you’ll expect. They may not recognize who you are, even if you have been a constant presence in their life. But yet they may, and will love you and cling to you in a way that sometimes makes you want your own space. They may have strong fears, some that appear to others as irrational. They may hate change and throw a tantrum when something disrupts their world. They may have rituals that bring them comfort, including very rigid diets they don’t want to vary from. But yet, these are full people, normal people. They may be different than you, but it is normal for them. Sometimes, most of the time, you are the one who needs to adjust. Most of us forget that too often. Their normal may not be your normal, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Especially if those around them don’t treat them that way.

So I get migraines, someone else gets autism. Both present challenges in life. I’d say the migraines are the only sickness, but since I believe treatment for autism needs to be covered under insurance I will call that a sickness, too. But really it is just a difference, that education and therapies can help correct. You aren’t cured, but you can learn to cope. It presents tremendous challenges for the parents of children with autism who try to balance the marvelous uniqueness of their child, but also keep them making steps forward in life that will help them live well and independently in the world and get along with people. Encourage them, support them. It can be a lonely road with slow progress.

If you don’t have autism, you can’t catch it by being around someone who does…..don’t step back.  Don’t let autism scare you. Reach out when you can. I read a fascinating article lately about a highly successful businesswoman with autism. She is open about her condition and people who work with her know she is a bit on the quirky side. But she has tapped into that superpower and has used it to her advantage. Some of her success is directly attributed from knowing her strengths, and weaknesses, and learning how to balance them both. Her high intelligence is her greatest asset. We can learn from her. It’s no different building a successful life than it is for the rest of us, really. Look in the mirror and don’t deny how you were made. It was not a mistake. You can make changes, and I believe we should all work to change our negatives into positives, but you’re pretty great the way you are. Here today. Warts and all. Whatever your superpower.

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