Yesterday was, perhaps, one of the most significant days of my life.
When I was just a wee boy, maybe six or seven years old, my best friend’s mother told me what it meant to be adopted. I’d always known I was adopted, but I didn’t know what it meant. To realize that the Tyrells were not really ‘my people’ somehow helped me understand the distance between us.
Yesterday, it seems to me that a similar thing may have happened. I’ve known for two years that I had a neurological condition, but yesterday I may have come to an understanding, a profound emotional/intellectual understanding of what that it means to have such a condition.
I wrote a short essay about my serendipitous revelation, my epiphany, to Dr. Shoja late yesterday and sent it to her. I’ve posted my letter below because if I am correct, I feel I have reached the top of the mountain of knowing oneself.
I see Dr. S. on Monday. My post next Tuesday will confirm, or not, that my new understanding of myself is valid.
I can never date memories, so I can never be sure of how old I was in my memories, but the ones I want to discuss may have happened during puberty, that’d be my best guess. On many nights, I would see the walls of my bedroom drifting away from me. It looked like the walls were shrinking—that’s what I’d see out of my eyes like it was real. But in my rational mind, I knew that couldn’t be happening, and the disparity between what I was seeing, and logic made me EXTREMELY uncomfortable.
I would go to the bathroom and close the door and turn on the bright bathroom lights. And I’d lie down in the empty bathtub. I remember all my thoughts and fears from those nights. I’d lie in the bathtub to, in my mind, amplify the lights in the room. I wanted as much light as possible to get into my eyes so that I could to not see walls moving.
I never told anyone. No one. Not ever.
In my thirties, I discovered Oliver Sacks. I read almost everything he published. I watched a documentary series about him as well. I loved him. I loved the personality of his writing and his incredible empathy. I couldn’t be more impressed by another human being.
One reason I felt that way, is because he ‘wrote about me’ in one of his books. Not about me specifically, but about the disease or disorder that gives a person hallucinations like mine at night—he specifically mentioned receding walls. Reading that made me feel less weird. I felt relieved to know that I was not alone, and that I had an explanation. It rationalized the irrational for me.
But I only told Steve, my first and only true partner.
On Jan. 26 of this year, in the morning, I asked Regina, a woman I really respect and admire, and who also loved dogs, if people felt for other people what I feel for dogs. And when I asked her, I thought to myself: Geez, that sounds like a question someone with autism might ask.
On the same day, in the afternoon, I heard the announcer on the radio suddenly mention Oliver Sacks, so I listened. The announcer described Oliver Sacks as a ‘famous neurologist’ who ‘wrote a series of books about…’ and I didn’t hear the rest. I thought: About me. I’m in those books. He wrote about people like me.
Then I thought: Those hallucinations way back when ... this FND thing is linked to those hallucinations. And then I found myself wondering if it was also linked to many questions that I've had about myself my entire life. Questions like: Can I love anyone? What does loving feel like? Why was I so good in math? Why do I like patterns and doing rote things like my dresses so passionately? Why the incredible social fears. Why, at university, did I believe I wrote an exam in a very elaborate room, but when I went back, the room it was drab and normal looking. Why I could not go into restaurants easily on all my solitary vacations. So, so many odd things….
Then I had an emotional/intellectual epiphany. I thought, I’m one of those Oliver Sacks people.
If I’m ‘one of those people’ everything weird about my life makes sense. Youthful experiences, the hallucinations, the emotional distance, the not making eye contact, the obsessions, the migraines, the speech, the FND. My condition, whatever he called it in that book, allows me to link all the inexplicables of my life in one simple unifying theory. I’m one of those people.
I love believing this theory because I love having a unifying theory.
Question: What do you think of my understanding that my neurological condition is akin to being on the autism spectrum? I’d greatly value a medical health professional confirmation of my theory. I don’t want to tell anyone about my new understanding if my theory doesn’t have merit.
I’ve felt enlightened by discovering this theory. It makes sense of my life; it absolves me of guilt and shame and weakness—especially weakness. I have felt so odd in many ways, especially social, I love patterns and so on. And I’ve been burdened by secrets.
My theory makes none of my secrets things I need, any longer, to hide, to be ashamed of.
I feel like a person who has found faith. I feel redeemed by my unifying theory.
Dr. Shoja: Am I correct to think of myself as akin to someone with autism?
Does this understanding of myself absolve my custodial parents of exclusive responsibility for my condition? This has been the narrative of my life until now. Does my theory absolve, to some extent, their non-attachment? Put another way: Is there a genetic component to being the way that I am?
Yesterday felt profound to me. My theory gives me an emotional/intellectual understanding of myself—it gives me a narrative that replaces chaos with unity/cohesion. A theory, sprung by a radio announcer introducing Oliver Sacks, has become a gateway to living the rest of my life unburdened, an insight that seekers of universal understanding seek: Enlightenment.
Books, spiritual leaders, scholars, they all say: Find yourself. My theory makes me feel like I have found myself. I want my theory validated, because I know how good it feels to come out of the closet. An official diagnosis would thrill me. I would understand myself profoundly. I’d feel clear, clean, valid, deserving. I’d be able to explain my symptoms to friends in a comprehensible way and be at peace with myself.
I found both my birth parents. That was something I thought would never happen. I have rights I thought I’d never have as a gay person. Now, I may have found me.
Question: Good ending, eh?