Ten days in.
I have been here – home? Not home, not quite yet – for ten days now. It feels like both a longer and a shorter time.
I am doing this. I am doing this. I may not be doing this well, but so far, at least, I am doing it and doing it and keeping on with the doing.
The first night here, alone, I cried. I did not stop crying for over twenty-four hours, at which point I recognized it for the panic attack it was and forced myself to go to the ER for some emergency psychiatric help. I was a failure, I told the nurse. I was a failure at everything. Everyone else could do this, but I failed, I failed harder than anyone had ever failed in the history of failure before.
Are you going to hurt yourself, the nurse wanted to know.
No, of course not, I told her. I was just a failure, and, you know, a bit of chemical help with the whole keep-breathing and stop-crying thing would not be that bad of an idea because not only was I failing to live on my own my body kept failing to remember to breathe and that was getting rather old rather fast. Luckily, the doctor agreed, as did my own psychiatrist.
The doctors say that needing help to get over such a move doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me human. And so I filled the prescription, and when I don’t swallow the drugs I carry them in my pocket like a lucky charm or a comfort object. I haven’t had panic attacks in over ten years, but they still have a way of scaring the crap out of me.
I did it. I am doing it. I moved……..I am living on my own….and…… I asked for help. I didn’t want to ask my mom, I wanted to be independent, but I did ask for help…..and I kept asking……..and I discovered something.
I have the absolute most wonderful fantastic friends in the entire world.
And many of them now live within walking distance of me.
It’s the kind of joyous novelty that will take quite a while to wear off.
I threw a party nine days after moving in. I called it a party, and people showed up like it was a party, but they all knew and I knew it wasn’t a party because I hadn’t done any baking, after all……but I also knew I needed help and so they came to this non-party of a party and for four straight hours, my friends cleaned. My friends cleaned and decorated and moved furniture, hung pictures, put together bits of fiddly ikea plastic. My friends tore up the linoleum in the laundry room and found black mold and helped me with solutions to this black mold. They sanitized the kitchen so I am not afraid to eat or cook in it. They made the house smell like vinegar and lemon and Murphy’s oil soap and not of cat pee.
I discovered that some of my friends, having been Adulting It for awhile now, own things like Fancy Mops and Steam Cleaners and Shop Vacs. That people have surprisingly strong opinions on cleaning products (Murphy’s is acknowledged as the best. Barkeeper’s friend has its’ doubters.) That they are unafraid to get down on their hands and knees to scrub a floor until oh my gosh, that paint is white! Look at it! (I really cannot stop looking at it. It looks bloody fantastic, and you know who you are.)
I knew that it would be hard to leave my mother, and it was, but what I did not expect was how completely my community would step up and surround me, would help me along on this stumbling road as I navigate autism and adulthood. And that they would do it not out of pity or sympathy but because I am a valued member of their community and they know that I would and will do the same for them. I did not expect this. I did not expect that I would find the courage to reach out and get help when I needed it, or that the help would come from both random ER nurses and my closest friends.
The place isn’t perfect. The cats hate me. My commute is longer. I have an odd, hard ache in my chest, a pain in my soul that is missing what used to be. Autism does not like change. The very nature of autism is to reject all change as a necessarily negative experience. My body and mind are still struggling mightily with simple daily tasks like cooking, laundry, and getting to work on time.
But alongside the pain, alongside the burn, there is a warmth. There is a certainty that is not due to drugs but to logic that tells me I can keep on moving forward. There is a tiny voice inside of me that says, I am doing it. I am doing it, and I will do it, and I will keep on doing it still.
I’m not home – not yet. But I will be. The pain recedes, the tide goes out, I take a deep breath and find I am breathing air, not water anymore. My movements are not graceful, they are awkward and odd but I am doing it.
I am doing it still.