I’ve written some about this topic before, regarding the joy I feel when I see other Autistic people moving in Autistic ways, but today I want to write about how my own movement affects and reflects my emotions. I get a little sweary at the very end when talking about getting rid of the allistic (non-autistic) mask.
I am attempting to reclaim my own movement, trying to elicit decades’-old kinesthetic memory from my body.
How did I move as a child? How did I experience and express my feelings before I learned to primarily move the way other people do?
Feelings weren’t a big thing in my childhood house. Logic was prioritized over feelings, always. With Spock and Data as my childhood idols because they didn’t fit in with human society any better than I did, the anti-emotion message from my parents was only reinforced.
But then came my job, working with pregnant/birthing people and their families. I quickly gained an education in the importance of emotions and how they can affect people’s lives (and births).
This did not, however, help me with either identifying or feeling my own emotions.
But my natural ways of moving seem to help, at least somewhat.
My movements around other people, even my own spouse, are rigidly constrained. I also find it most difficult to feel emotions when I’m around other people and I’m beginning to suspect these two things are connected.
When I’m alone, I move differently. It’s easiest when I’m listening to music because dancing is an acceptable time to move differently than others do. When I’m alone I feel my feelings more accurately and can even sometimes put words to them based on how I’m moving.
The movement creates, amplifies, and clarifies how I feel. Movement, Autistic Movement — the way I move when I’m alone — creates joy and a peacefulness that I’ve rarely felt in the most recent two decades of my life. During those decades I’ve almost never been alone ever. Not since I immersed myself in music — attending classes, playing in bands, tutoring others in music — have I really been alone for long periods of time.
After that was college, when I had a roommate and was constantly around others unless I was in the shower or taking one of my many solitary walks through the woods on my campus’ grounds.
Then I got married and had children, further constraining my movements to those that are socially acceptable and expected.
Natural (Autistic) Movement
When I’m cold or distressed, my hands automatically flutter at my sides. I can tell that I’m feeling those ways when my hands flutter in that specific way. It’s subtle to others, but ever so clear to myself.
When I walk barefoot with my toes hitting the ground first, I feel content and maybe even happy. It’s a bouncy way to walk and makes it almost impossible to feel discontented. It’s energizing.
When my hands are “loud” and move in natural ways that don’t add alleged allistic meanings to my words, my mind is clearer and words are more easily caught, rearranged into meaning, and tossed through my mouth into the universe.
When I don’t feel free to move in those ways, I don’t really feel. Not the way I do when I can move in the ways I need to.
Even when clearly feel, I can’t usually put words to how I’m feeling, but I can pay attention to my outward movements and get a more accurate idea of what’s happening inside myself by putting all of the information together in a pattern that’s uniquely mine.
Reclaiming my Autistic way of moving is hard to do.
The mask that I, as an allegedly “mild” Autistic, have to wear is not only heavy, but it’s partially and semi-permanently fused to my face and body. It has sapped my ability to enjoy my positive emotions or to really recognize any emotions, no matter how strong or important they may be. I’m sure the mask isn’t the only sapping mechanism in this equation, but it’s a huge factor.
And I will remove that fucking stuck-on mask if it’s the last thing I do. I will reclaim the way my body wants to move. I will move that way whenever I can safely do so and to hell with anyone who suggests I shouldn’t.
Just as self-care and being inconsistent are vital, so is Autistic movement vital to my mental health and physical well being.