The Stigma of Autism

Young, maybe 6, cocooned in protected warmth
innocence, love and laughter are child’s things
Autism shattering everything into small pieces
now an outcast, no one understands

7, in front of a psychiatrist, seems school knows best
1970, Autisms’ a mystery, unheard of
no diagnosis, no institution, no label, no sense,
school thinks Health Camp might be best

Health Camps full of confused, anxious children
misfits unable to tolerate normal childhood
sent to find peace, laughter and strength in each other
how many I wonder were Autistic just like me?

Cold, calculating, distant father persecutes
doesn’t want a son who’s clumsy, always bullied
the shame on a man who only understands perfection
your oppression is far more damaging than my peers

It never stopped this thing called Autism
misunderstood words and actions few comprehend
anxiety, depression, alcohol, drugs, crime, what a waster!
a lifestyle indicative of low self esteem

Epilepsy and brain surgery, daunting thoughts
huge waiting list, Government inaction, pending elections
perfect opportunity to show the world hidden strengths
TV appearance, newspaper stories, fight, fight, fight, fight

I won; I beat them all, the Government, epilepsy and my own inadequacies
strength, pride and confidence now my allies
new career, new life, new me
now helping others by fighting to reduce stigma and discrimination

Copyright © 2010 Tipene Taylor

Happy Faces

So this is what it’s come to
distant memories of innocence
lost long ago
memories relived, mistakes
my undoing, all played
out on life’s stage

you’re out there miles away
untouchable, I tell myself
over and over where I’ve gone wrong
it’s too much for the bravest,
I’m not
I know what they’re thinking

I hear it in my head
like a broken record, jumping
over lines.
I look for ways out,
ahead of my future
there is no parallel universe

in my world
just constant reminders
of what I fail to become
and could have been
if it weren’t for me
I am swimming to stop the sinking

feeling, dragging me
down.  it would only take one gulp
one backward sigh of relief
to make it all go away
I never do anything by halves
I am no saint

no martyr for a greater cause
I leave behind everything
that ever was
they could never understand
what I know is my truth,
my world

I don’t belong here anymore
than the rest of us
but you don’t complain
if I could reach out and touch,
the sky, I would
melt away, floating my drops

I trace tracks with my finger
down the window pane
my happy face
smiling back at me

(in memory of Ian CurtisJoy Division – D.O.D, 18th May 1980.  The birth of New Order.  The 2007  movie release of Ian’s life and times is called Control)

© Copyright 2009 Jodine Derena Butler.  All Rights Reserved

CONTRIBUTORS NOTE:
Jodine Derena Butler grew up on various farms all over the North Island of New Zealand.  She now lives in Cairns, Queensland, Australia with her husband.  She has two adult daughters and three grandsons.  Her poems have been published in Side Stream, Blackmail Press, Live Lines Anthology, Tracks Magazine and others. She has a background in social work and mental health and loves to dabble in the Arts.