I’m doing something a little different today. I’m gonna share an excerpt from my auto-biography about an event in my life I refer to as Healing Night. It comes up in my diction from time to time, but I realized not everybody knows what I’m talking about when I say that. It’s about time that I started sharing the story more publicly though. As I do speaking engagements, the question of how I developed through different stages of autism often comes up, but I only have time to share a small part of the story, when there is so much more to the emotional journey before, during and after the process, which all needs to be shared.
Chapter Ten: Healing Night
If there was a cure for autism, would I take it? The question has been raised more than once over the course of my life, and the answer is always no. God intended this for me for a reason, and I wouldn’t go against that. It isn’t something I need to be “cured” of. Besides, I’ve gotten used to it, even proud of it. It’s the thing that makes me unique. What would I be without it?
When taking the Alpha course for the second time, partway through my first reading of The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, I lay praying in my cabin bed. God was up to something. I felt He was turning me to clay and preparing me to be molded. I had an unusual feeling of being exposed, bare, like a lobster that’s just grown out of its cramped, hard shell.
I felt like something had left me and something else was trying to takes its place. On one hand I was glad, because although I felt vulnerable I knew it was God at work, but at the same time I felt vulnerable to attack. I spent a lot of time praying for protection for as long as I was in that state.
Two things happened over the course of the next two weeks. One, I once again considered whether or not I would take a cure for autism if one was available. And two, I prepared for the upcoming session called “Does God Heal Today?” Although there was no known scientific cure for autism, I knew it wasn’t outside God’s power to remove my autism if it was His will.
I again answered no, very proudly. Then I got an unexpected sense that I was hindering some of the work God was trying to do in me. I gave it some thought, took it to Him in prayer, and then realized why I was being so adamant.
I came to realize that I was relying on autism for my sense of identity [see blog post Wolverine Complex], and I was afraid of how things might change—how I might change, if that was taken away. I wondered if there was something God wanted me to do with my life that autism was hindering me from doing. Had the purpose of my autism reached its fulfillment? I was already aware that this was a time of change for me, and the changes already happening in my life were scary enough. I prayed on it further and asked for confirmation.
There was a rescheduling, and the Healing Night ended up taking place one week after it was previously expected. The Purpose Driven Life, which I had started reading on Easter, is a book that takes precisely forty days to get through. With the rescheduling, my fortieth day fell on Healing Night—which also happened to be National Prayer Day. My center-of-the-universe mentality kicked in.
I decided to go forward for prayer, making sure that people prayed for my healing from autism only if it was God’s will, not my will or anybody else’s. If I were to be healed, then God would be praised! If I were not healed, then I would know for certain that God wanted me to use my autism as a part of my ministry, and God would still be praised! But I had to take the plunge, if only to know that I had offered everything I knew about myself as a living sacrifice to God, to do with as He saw fit.
As people prayed for me, a feeling of warmth spread through my body. My mother was there, and so was my friend Shanks. I asked them to be with me for this. As the Alpha leader prayed for me, there was an acknowledgement of some of the pain in my life, which brought me to tears. No specific events were mentioned. Perhaps the leader wasn’t given specific events, or she didn’t think they should be mentioned. It didn’t matter which. I think I had just been trying to ignore, as hard as I could, all the pain I’d had in my life. Being permitted to acknowledge and mourn that there had been pain caused the tears.
After Healing Night
My life since Healing Night has been interesting. The autism has not left me, not completely; however, some disabling aspects of it have been lifted. I have been steadily growing socially and independently. I no longer have a reason to worry about my autism being a setback. I trust that God is allowing it for His will to be fulfilled, and that He trusts me to work with it.
My friends and family tell me now that I have become more empathetic and expressive. I have apparently started using my eyebrows. I’m more adventurous and a bit more willing to socialize. I also find it easier to accept myself as I am in a social environment, and to find ways of relating to people.
There have also been some unexpected side effects. I realized sometime in my teen years that I couldn’t think of my mother as anything other than something fulfilling the role of “mother.” I had a hard time perceiving her as a person. This changed after Healing Night, when she finally felt an assurance in her soul that I was going to be alright, when she knew she could step away from her maternal duty and just be a friend. It was in this time that the personality I always suspected was there but never saw finally came out. She seemed to become younger as well, and I found I could relate to her much better as a person. Before that, she hadn’t let her personality shine much, which I think is part of the reason it was hard for me to separate her from “something that fulfilled the role of mother.” Even though I was consciously aware of my perception of her, I didn’t know what to do about it. I couldn’t think of anything I could do. I wanted her to show me her real self, but she wouldn’t. I’m glad now that I can finally have her as a friend as well.
It used to be that I could spend entire days in solitude with no social problems. As long as I knew how to feed myself breakfast and lunch (and somebody made me something healthy for dinner), I could spend entire days without having a real conversation with anyone. It’s not like that anymore. Since Healing Night, I’ve developed a need to communicate with people. Before it was just something I could do or not do; I was okay either way. Now it’s something I need on a daily basis to carry me through. I need to talk about my problems now, my worries, my fears. I need second opinions. I need to know that I’m giving of myself for the sake of another, and that others are willing to do the same for me.
There have been some unfortunate side effects as well. About a year after Healing Night, I noticed I was becoming more aware of other people’s negative social tendencies, such as hypocrisy and superficiality. This awareness seemed both familiar and forgotten, as if I’d been aware of these things as a child and trained myself to become ignorant of them. Perhaps I couldn’t handle the mind games, or I didn’t want to know what people were really like, or I didn’t want to get caught up in it myself.
It’s like what is already known because of body language has to be buried under a layer of superficial words, only the layer is a lot thinner than people pretend it is. Nothing is really hidden; we are simply expected to go along with the act and pretend our motives are more hidden than they really are.
This awareness was very uncomfortable and scary, and at first I worried that it would become a hindrance to my development. I did learn to cope with it, but it’s still uncomfortable with certain groups of people. As before, I do best around people who aren’t as prone to superficiality, who are comfortable with my openness and honesty.
Some of my behaviors are still distinctly Autism Spectrum. It still seems to me that the condition suits my personality. Perhaps that is why the removal has only been partial. There was only so much that I actually needed healing from. The rest is meant to be. If you asked my friends and family how I’ve changed since Healing Night, they wouldn’t say I’m a different person. They would say they are able to see more of me than they could before. That’s been my experience overall. I am still very much myself, just out of my shell more often.