If you’re on twitter, you might have seen that the Autism Acceptance Day was fulfilled with hate messages towards the organisation AutismSpeaks which give a terrible image of Actually Autistic people with often messages of hate and frustration. Reading several blogs and reddits on autism you may find an incredible amount of frustration, mainly coming from lost parents who don’t know very well to handle their autistic children. They don’t understand them and are unable to change positions to a more positive attitude. They fear that the society wouldn’t accept them anymore, mostly due to the constant negative image on the media.
But children grow up; they face adolescence, school, college etc and become adults facing society, work, relations… One of the main issues that we struggle with as actually autistics is the self-esteem. And this is what I always try to boost on my autistic tutees with a surprising result. Trust them and show them that they can go further. Promote their self-confidence and their focus. Give them space, silence, time. Help them build their self-confidence. Share positive messages with them. Bring them to life. Put yourself in their place for a moment. And do never give up. Ever.
We often have blogs and webs showing mainly the negative of autism. It’s unfortunately what sells and give webs views and readings. One got arrested, another got killed, a third had a shameful tantrum in public place. This only decreases one’s self-confidence. Yes, actually autistic people do read your webposts and blogs. And we need more articles with positive views. Paddy-Joe Moran does an excellent work on AutismDailyNewscast, often writing about the positive traits of Autistic People, being himself Actually Autistic: Eye for detail, Strong Bonds with Animals, Intelligence, Sense of Humour, Sense of Justice, Empathetic and Understanding, Honesty, Creativity, Logical Thinking, Hard Working, Loyalty, etc
Paddy-Joe does what should be done: spreading a positive message on autism.
This is the first step to educate: to create awareness, thus acceptance. This is what we need: boosting self-confidence, which can only be built by positive messages.
You can also build self-confidence by looking at the negative side. But then, you’re building your own self over a base of hate and negativity. When we should build ourselves always on a positive base.
It’s important that we’re aware that our brains are wired differently from what society call as “normal”. But “normal” does not mean it’s the best way. We might not be as emotional as NT, but maybe we are more empathic them most of them. We might be more logical then most of them, but that don’t make us better or worst. As a gay person is not better or worst than a hetero one: they are just different. A woman is not less or more than a man, we all have different missions, we are all humans living a passage of time. No matter your color, race, sexuality, or gender. Being labeled is something that happens to those who are not White/Straight/Cisgender/NT/Male. So there are lots of labels to put then.
It depends on you to be yourself, no matter which label you have. To be Human.
I was put out of home when I was 16yo because I refused to go to the mass, as it didn’t make me any sense the existence of an imaginary friend who’s responsible for everything that happens: disease, war, love. Someone created to judge you deciding if you deserve hell or heaven. Someone that exists to make you feel guilt for having born.
I’ve been always an existentialist: I believe that each one is the only responsible for their own life, thus their own existence.
For few days I slept on the stairs of a building, because my family was so conservative catholic that couldn’t bear to have someone who wasn’t, in their home. They refused to accept diversity.
This made me fight for myself since very young age. At 16yo I had no one who would give me support. Everyone I knew were somehow related to them, and my mother made sure no one would give me support. I had to rely solely on myself and go in search for my own life: I didn’t want to give up studying, so I got 3 jobs at the time. One, not paid, that worked like internship for me to learn. Other, not mind satisfying but well paid, to give me money to live. The 3rd one to give me awareness and pleasure, half paid. And I had time to keep studying. And eat and sleep properly.
I was diagnosed as High Functioning Autism when I was 13yo. The psychologist made me talk to mirrors and play drums and do lots of things that I found absurd at the time. Why would I want to talk to myself in the mirror? Why would I want to play drums if I wanted silence? I found nonsense, even though I knew that was to liberate me. So I told her to give me fulfilling (brain) tasks instead, something more useful than play drums. I was always terrible with music, so I wouldn’t create anything good out of it, only noise. And I’m far from being masochist. Even less sadistic.
I started then doing Yoga and Meditation. Soon I was doing Transcendental Meditation, using and working on energy, as it was natural for me to visualize energetic fields. To feel them. I realized that I could heal, and that I could wire in a more creative and better way.
My diagnosis with 13 yo made me realize that I could use my IQ to wire my brains for a better way. I started creating defenses and observing others so I could fit and be helpful.
With 16 yo I started working, kept studying, rented my first studio in which I lived for almost 10 years. I had no one to sponsor and support me apart from my own self.
Then I started traveling, after getting honors for my work by the cultural ministry. I lived in Tibet and Nepal, in monasteries and schools of philosophy and martial dance. I lived with Shamans in Himalayas. I traveled to Africa and lived and learned with shamans there too. I traveled alone through almost all Europe. I always traveled alone. I always lived challenging myself. As long as I could learn, I would go for it. I kept building defenses as I kept learning by observing others.
I lived in Barcelona afterwards for almost 9 years. I left it after 3 days of brain death. I went into coma alone and I woke up alone at the hospital.
When I woke up from the 3 days of brain death I had no memory, so I went to the countryside to rebuild it. Alone. I didn’t remember anyone. Through transcendental meditation and self-hypnosis I learned and rebuild memory again. I came back to life… but then something happened: I lost all my defenses as autistic. Until then, no one knew that I was actually autistic. I always hid it pretty well. Now, I had to go through the same process again. Now it is hard for me to not be me. And all the defenses I had, made me be someone who fit in the society, but not me. Now I’m me, but now I don’t fit. I became more and more into solitude, less and less social. I have no concept of marketing. I create as I always did, but now I had no idea how I could reach others. I kept creating: no matter if drawings, photography or writing. But once I had no social attachment, I didn’t know how to reach the public. How to make my message to be visible. How to share my knowledge.
After the brain death I created a series of photography titled Oneness. In them I brought the wisdom of the shamans, bringing the skills of the animals to myself. I was suffering and the photographs show it. They were widely accepted. They got sold and they reached a lot of art collectors, private and public. They shared my suffering, and that sells. In my latest series, titled Totem, I created visual poems to life, grateful for being alive, to have learned with nature how to live. They have been sold to other people, the ones who have them as shrines, the ones who want to be surrounded by positivity instead. In all these years I had more than 40 exhibitions in galleries and cultural centers all over the world. Lately, I come up through skype only. As I do my shootings like the B Shot by a Stranger about youth loneliness that so many times leads to suicide: I’m in my house shooting others through skype. To protect me, to be in my safe place not having to deal with others.
I want to keep doing something useful and creative, and to help others as I always did. However, if I don’t reach public and visibility, I can’t deliver my own message. If no one is there to listen to me, it’s of no use to keep shouting. But maybe that’s the point: I’m not shouting. I’m whispering as I always did. Maybe I should go back to talk to the mirror and play drums. Or doing noise with them. To wake up the “neighbors”.
Or maybe is one of the greatest firewalls: anxiety. Anxiety is the main responsible for not getting feedback: it blocks autistic people immensely. And that, once again, can be worked with boosting self-esteem and practicing meditation as well. Learning how to not expect anything from anyone. Learning how to accept oneself as we are.
Now I’m writing my second book. It’s a book about energy, sharing my experience and knowledge on that matters. About my experience and learning with old shamans, and what I’ve been learning with physicians and scientists. It’s a book to help others understanding how important it is to be alive. How important it is to be different. How important diversity and healing is. How important each one of us can be. Because every life matters. Because it’s in diversity where the beauty of life lies.
I always had great and not so great moments in my life as anyone else. But I never gave up. I always learned with the less great moments as I always be grateful to both of them. If I starve or if I end up living on the street, it’s because I didn’t do enough. I didn’t shout enough. I didn’t make my message to reach the right people. There’s no one to blame, as I never counted on anyone to make my own job, to make my own life. So I only have to stand up and go forward. And do more, or do better.
When I had 7 yo and old aunt told me: “Whenever you want a good job done, learn how to do it and do it yourself. Do never expect others to do it for you.” I guess that I always took it literally. I know I can do it. But knowing that I can do it, is not the same as projecting trust and belief and ego. As it’s probably our biggest issue as autistics: to build our own self-confidence and self-esteem: to boost our useful ego.
Because your wisdom and knowledge it’s of no use if you keep it for yourself. Wisdom and knowledge is of no use if you can’t share it. And we often don’t know how to do it.
Some people don’t want; some others don’t know “how to”.
And this is why we need to build self-esteem and self-confidence, so we can develop our own social skills. No matter how, we will learn. I trust so.
The Sacred Book of G, was my journal through a year that I had to move from one city to another and to another and another without having our so much needed safety space. It helped me writing. I found that vital safe space in writing. The Sacred book of G was my only safe place, the only one I had through that year. In there I screamed, whispered and shouted. I lived naked. I had meltdowns. I cried and laughed. I challenged myself. And before reading it, I published, I made it public. I only read it afterwards so I wouldn’t be able to delete any part of my life in there. It was releasing. And it was my only safe place, my sacred mind that I’m sharing in the book.
The new book I’m writing is different: it’s about you and how you can lead your own life. How you can empower yourself. Using shamanic and scientific knowledge and wisdom. A result of many years of learning, challenging myself, research, traveling, reading and living.
I’m actually autistic, and the fact that I never had anyone to give me support it gave me strength to go for it, to live, to enjoy my solitude. To create. And creativity plays a vital role in life: whenever I’m about to have a meltdown: I sit down, I do meditation or I create something new.
Reading negative news destroys and gives unbalance. Sharing and reading and learning with positive lectures, lives and learning’s can only boost you, can only increase your best.
As I wrote in The Sacred Book of G: “We don’t need more Gods, We need examples of life, We need to be ourselves. “
Be always positive! Trust yourself and do never allow anyone to destroy or unbalance you. Surround yourself by people who love and accept you the way you are. Don’t listen to others with negative speech, as they are often fuelled by frustration and envy. Build yourself upon love and trust instead. Learn how to rely on yourself. The fact that you have no one to rely on doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t build yourself so others can rely on you. Be energy. Be positive. Be needed. Be alive.
And don’t tame yourself to walk solely on blue, or on red: there’s the whole rainbow waiting for you.
If you’re a NT boss, be aware of something: trust us, increase our creativity and logical thinking giving us space, silence and trust… and you’ll have back your most loyal and honest person to work with. Boost our confidence and you have everything positive back. An autistic person can be your best mate for life. We just need to feel safe and respected in our own world, which by coincidence is the same as yours. Trust and respect are the keys to build a safe relation, no matter which.
Gonzalo Bénard is an art-photographer and the author of The Sacred Book of G. He also runs a blog on photography called 2HeadS, lectures privately and on universities worldwide on aesthetics/photography/art (through skype) and he’s tutor of teenagers in the autism spectrum.