This is a piece I wrote for the Autism Art exhibition at university, the prompt being ‘if there was a magic pill to ‘cure’ autism, would you take it?’ Is my response what I really think? Sometimes. It is also because playing devils advocate among the politically correct is fun.
If there was a magic pill to cure autism, would you take it? It’s something that anyone with any kind of disability is likely to have heard in some shape or form. It does seem particularly common among autistic spectrum disorders, learning difficulties, those disabilities that are not classed under physical or mental. Those disorders over which there is some debate as to whether or not they should be labelled disorders at all.
The answerer is supposed to respond that of course they wouldn’t take it, their disorder makes them who they are. Yes, there might be some downsides, but the positives make it worth it. They wouldn’t want to give that up to be ‘normal’.
The question is more than that. What would a cure mean? Could it be selective, leaving an ability to hyper focus but deleting hyper sensitivity to sound, touch and light? If so then yes, in a heartbeat.
If not, if it removes all of those traits I have that are considered autistic, how much would change? Do I still avoid crowds because they overwhelm me, or do I avoid them because I know that they will overwhelm me? Are some of those behaviours so ingrained into habit that even if the cause behind them were to be removed I would act as I have always done? Perhaps I’d have fewer meltdowns. Perhaps I’d spend less time in the fantasy world inside my head. Perhaps I’d be able to get up and dressed without having to think the process through stepwise first.
The question makes the assumption that the positives make it worth it. So by extension, the question is implying that the positive aspects of my personality, that any skills I might have developed are because of my autism. What if they’re not? What if my imagination and my way of looking at things is entirely separate? What if, if anything, autism is limiting my writing ability because of the overwhelming anxiety that comes with it? Maybe, if I were to take the magic pill I’d be a better, enhanced version of me rather than a dulled one.
So would I?
I’d have the pill. It would sit in a bottle on a shelf in the bathroom. I’d spend hours pacing thinking, thinking, thinking. I’d pick it up, my hand trembling and wonder ‘do I?’ before putting it back down. Eventually, frustrated, I’d put it in the cupboard, on the top shelf, where I couldn’t see it. Every so often I’d take it out and sit cross-legged on the floor staring at it as though time was standing still.
Then there would come a day. A day when I’d misunderstood something, when everything was too loud and too bright. When my muscles were all so tight I could draw enough breath. When something hot inside me expanded so far that I thought my head would explode with the pressure of it and I screamed. I ran away. I left another part of my life in ruins. A day when I’d screwed up again. When the pile of screwed up things got so high and so heavy it threatened to crush me in an avalanche of ‘why couldn’t you just….?’ On that day, I would fling open the cupboard, open the bottle and swallow the pill dry.
It doesn’t matter if a magic pill changes who you are if you’d rather not be you.