If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, poet would not have made the list. As a child, I was called gifted. I loved to read. But I was supposed to use my intellect to become a lawyer. Although I was a very shy, sensitive and emotive child I figured I’d grow out of that eventually. I’d mature and be a high powered professional attorney.
But what I didn’t know back then was that “gifted and painfully shy” really meant autistic with hyperlexia. I didn’t find that out until just a couple of years ago when I was 44.
I didn’t grow out of my sensitivity. Or my emotional volatility. I didn’t go to law school. I got a degree, got married, started a job, bought a house. And it all felt wrong.
During this quarter-life crisis I found that my incredibly intense emotions were taking over my life. From the outside, I appeared to have it all. But I was dying inside. I felt like nobody understood why I was so unhappy. And when I had nobody to talk to, I began to write.
The more I wrote, the more my thoughts demanded to be written down. I began to fill the pages of my journals. Some of what I wrote was traditional journaling, but some of my thoughts took a more poetic turn. That first burst of poetry writing helped me make it through my divorce. It helped me to release and process all of the emotions that had built up inside of me. And it helped me to understand who I was, and how I wanted to be in the world.
For a short time, I shared that poetry on an online forum. And for the first time I felt truly seen and understood. I met my current husband on that forum and moved from Michigan to Australia to be with him. That massive life change sent me spiralling and stopped sharing my poetry. But I didn’t stop writing.
And over the last 20 or so years, I have written nearly 100,000 words of poetry. Poems have helped me to connect with myself, with others, and with a higher power. But I haven’t had the capacity to share my poetry again until recently.
In my 40s I hit what you might call a midlife crisis. My life was spiralling out of control in so many areas. After a very long time of avoiding mental health supports, I felt like I wasn’t going to make it without some outside help.
And during that exploration, I found out that I was autistic with ADHD. By the time I was diagnosed I was 44 years old. As part of processing my diagnosis, I started a blog called Autism at Midlife where I shared my thoughts, experiences, ponderings and ruminations. But I wasn’t really sharing. I was tucked away in online anonymity.
My autism profile, ADHD, perfectionism, trauma background, social anxiety, and high expectations (internal and external) have made it difficult for me to maintain the confidence and capacity to share my writing. But I figure taking small steps is better than taking no steps.
And this year, I am happy to announce that I have my first book coming out. Monster is a full colour illustrated book featuring my poem Monster. This poem explores the journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance. I wrote it while I was struggling with all the parts of myself that I felt were unworthy of love; the parts of me that I was hiding. The parts of me that I was afraid to be.