This year, for Autism “Awareness” Month, I’ll be bringing “awareness” to some of the great things about being autistic!
We all know the struggles and hardships of being autistic. It becomes a general theme every April, and in the world of advocacy, we talk about it year-round. Hell, I spend half my time on this blog trying to explain why certain things are so much harder for us and how they could be made easier on us. But there are wonderful things about being autistic, too! Let me tell you about Autistic Joy.
Autistic Joy is intense – like everything we do. An autist in a state of engrossing joy can be just as intense as one in a meltdown. Our joy can be so consuming that it comes out in our movements and our voices, our happyflapping hands, our vocalizations, singing, and humming. We DO our joy – we hop, we dance, we skip and twirl, we clap and jump with excitement.
When I watch a favorite show – recently it’s been Monty Python’s Flying Circus – and a well-loved joke hits me just right, I don’t just laugh. My hands shake back and forth with pure glee, which I couldn’t hold back if I wanted to. I rock back and forth on my couch, grinning madly with excitement as I start my favorite movie or series for the 50th time. Listening to music I love, I can’t be still. If I’m at home, I’ll dance and jump up and down at the really good parts. If I’m driving, I can contain some of the movement, but at the very least my head and shoulders bop back and forth. My body is an instrument of my emotions – I can’t feel without it – and it allows me to feel and express my happiness and joy to the utmost degree.
We find our joy in all kinds of things that NTs often miss. The play of light and shadow on the ground under a tree; a rush of wind through the trees that feels like it could lift you off your feet and teach you to fly. A delightful little play on words or a quote that matches up perfectly to the current situation. Any little thought that makes us giggle to ourselves even though we wouldn’t bother explaining it to someone else because it’s dependent on the way our own brain makes connections between ideas.
The extra intense way in which we experience the world gives us more to enjoy. The right sort of fabric or texture can put us into a state of bliss. A bite of a favorite food can send us into a happy dance. We can listen to the same song over and over for hours and get not only the same enjoyment out of it each time, but also a cumulative build-up of happiness that comes from finding new harmonies and melodies and letting the music seep so deep into our brains that it becomes part of us.
Autistic hyperfixation can bring us joy, too. For some, there is nothing so joyful as spending hours learning about ancient civilizations, working on a favorite project, or just going down an internet rabbit hole learning all about some new obsession. We can get so engrossed in our hobbies that we may forget to eat or lose track of time and stay up all night, and we will be riding high on the thrill of doing something we love.
Autistic joy is a beautiful, magical thing. It’s the biggest reason I would never give up being autistic – I doubt that NTs can feel joy so intensely. We don’t just get happy, we get filled up with happiness. It builds up like electricity and flows out through our fingers and toes and spills out from our mouths. If you’ve never felt that, imagine what it could feel like to be so overcome with joy that you absolutely have to let it out physically – and what might it be like to be able to do so unashamedly, unabashedly?
Uninhibited, consuming, and brought on by small everyday things as much as by big events. That’s autistic joy. We don’t just feel it, as if it were separate from us, we experience it on every level of our being. It’s one of my favorite parts of being autistic and I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.