It is a ‘hangover’ sort of day, and I spent much of it crashed out in my bedroom with Lucy, inside a whirly heaviness. I received very sad news this morning: a dear friend, Jack, passed away on Christmas Eve. He was a beautiful entity – generous, gracious and the perfect gentleman. Jack was Lucy’s first friend after she came into my life. Lucy is a minx, but Jack was the perfect gentleman. He shared his bed, his toys and his home with Lucy, who would hijack his space every time she visited. Jack was very well loved by his dads Nick and Monty, and everyone who had the honour of knowing Jack. I paid tribute to Jack via two Facebook posts, and mark his presence here in this blog post. It is my way of etching his memory even deeper into my Space of Mind… I am processing, churning… re-locating grief and loss, re-shelving memories… re-aligning myself with beauty…

But why ‘hangover’? Why ‘crash’?

The deficits-focused, pathological approach to autism insists that autistics do not possess the same emotional sensitivity as the non-autistic population. Right and wrong. True, we do not feel and express our feelings in the same way, since the underlying modalities differ, sometimes very markedly so. False: this difference does not mean we are dispossessed of emotions or capability to feel deeply. In fact, quite the opposite. Our hyper sensory state creates heightened vigilance, that includes the emotions. Hence, emotional overload can be (and is) so overwhelming that we either have to shut down and distance ourselves in order to simply survive, or experience meltdown on a constant basis. Most of us juggle our way through the minefield, somewhere in the middle of shutdown and meltdown, in a state of exhaustion.

This morning, I read this article about “emotional hangover” and I chuckled, not with glee but with an “we have been saying this for so long” wryness. Is the sensory-social connection worth investigating only if it pertains to the normative population, and even then, only from the perspective of normative standards, then? Autists have been shouting themselves hoarse for so long, but no scientist has dared to put precious funding money into a valid and properly respectful study about our assertions. Here we have it. Humans can and do suffer from overload. And autists are humans, are we not? Just humans with somewhat different neurological pathways to the world at large. There is so much this said world at large can really learn from the autistic realm – if only they could muster enough empathic resonance and Space of Mind for respectful reciprocity.

Perhaps art-science transdisciplinary approaches hold the key to this pathway of reconciliation?

I join a small group of researchers and practitioners in this effort to change the way our humanity is studied and understood.

Perhaps, someday, there will be a way to better mitigate these episodes of withdrawal due to overwhelming lassitude. In the meantime, I am going to hide in my little Clement Space with Lucy, and ride this ‘hangover’, while my brain processes the beautiful memories, navigates the pain of loss, and reinvents these into a work of gracious artistry in heart and mind, as befitting of the pulchritude that Jack brought to this world. We love you, Jack. Thank you for the smiles and gentle paw marks across our landscape – and thank you Nick and Monty for sharing Jack with us.

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