When I was younger I had a recurring dream where I was floating on the sea surrounded by other round floats similar to the one I found myself bobbing around on.
I was quite alone and I knew I had to get close to the other floats and use them to move, to progress. There was no question I could just stay on the one I had but instead I had to jump onto the others one by one because there was no bridge, no connection. This action, of moving from one float to another (they were like small islands) involved a huge leap of faith and much physical effort. Not particularly skilled at jumping or any other type of athleticism, I had to gather all my courage and strength and just hope to be able to jump that distance. No wonder then that I woke up exhausted after this dream having spent much of the night jumping, and then clinging, onto each small island.
A small island around myself could be the map of the reality I live in. Other islands could be maps of other pieces of information. I say this because as a recently diagnosed “person with autism” I am thinking quite a lot these days about synapses. My own particular, beautiful synapses, in fact.
What is my experience of autism? Well, it’s many things but I have great difficulty in connection unless there is a rather obscure pattern to be discovered! Then I seem to kick in with a super power to see the pattern that others simply cannot see!
Connection. Important word isn’t it? Means such a lot to all of us. Without connection what have we really got? No woman is an island.
And so to synapses. I used to think that my inability to REALLY connect with people in a meaningful way was the LACK of connection due to an inhibition of growth of the synapses in my brain. A kind of stunted growth resulting in diminished or reduced connections if you like. I assumed it was due to the fact that I was separated from my mother at only 3 weeks of age and missed out on some very crucial and fundamental bonding and connection experiences early on when it really mattered. However, I am now reading more and more about the EXCESS of synapses present in the autistic brain and of the lack of a kind of pruning that happens in childhood in a neurotypical brain. Perhaps the excess of activity, all the new shoots firing off in all directions, pioneering but not necessarily connecting with anything already there, needs to be pruned before connections can be made?
This morning I had breakfast in a pub that I have visited a few times with family and had breakfast with there. I made that connection in my mind but it wasn’t until I had finished breakfast that it occurred to me I could have taken a “selfie” and a photo of my Eggs Benedict and sent it to my family saying that I was thinking of them. The truth is that while I was there, alone, having breakfast, the greater part of that experience held no memory, no connection, it mostly FELT like the very first time I was having that experience. I thought about that and realised that almost all experiences feel like they are happening for the first time with me. There is a pay off to that. There is a childish bliss-like sensation. The freshness of the new, the eternal NOW and the immortality of not seeing an experience as one event on a timeline which inevitably leads to death. It’s this childish bliss experience that makes me think this is a consequence of a kind of arrested or even frozen development. And it brings me back to synapses. Maybe, the lack of pruning of synapses in infancy translates as a series of isolated experiences where connection is lost in adulthood. Or at least that is our day to day experience of it.
Anyway, and on to other things….