At the Tunnel’s End – A Poem

Un – ravel – ling
from an
fetal position

Legs — just barely
but weakly –
moving — unsteady
unsure of their
own condition

to stand again
Toes uncurl and
Fists — open — wide
as I open my eyes

& I crawl through
the darkest tunnel
Scraping knees
Bruised and bleeding

seeking light
seeking freedom
and the blue light I see
comforts me
at the tunnel’s end

a different world
an ocean — of wisdom
of choices –
of vastly – different

timidly leaning against
a tidal wave to stand
as it CRASHES down
upon me-

Sending me to depths
of self reflection
I’ve never seen –
Concepts and pages
I’ve never read —

Swimming against
this tide of searing pain
these waves are closing in
from all directions

beginning to kick –
to fight against the
seaweed that is wrapped
around my ankles

Wrists and I –
gasp — at the surface
Flailing – as I
breathe in again

blinking at the sun
that is slowly
rising before me

and warm sand sifts
through my toes
below — and I realize
That I’m — I’m – yes…
I am standing

This pain, this wisdom –
has it’s own heartbeat
& yet it also beats within me
and despite adversity
and it’s warfare
that never fights fair…

I know – that I will
conquer this ocean
that sits just
beyond the tunnel’s end

Posted in Autism, Poetry | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Changes #Autism #Aspie #Aspergers

Hello everyone,

There have been a lot of enormous changes in my life this year and a lot of personal self growth.

But what do you do when it’s not enough? Sometimes I feel like I am constantly trying to ground myself because it feels like everything is constantly changing around me whether it be work or personal…

Changes are so hard. Temporary ones are easiest…permanent ones shake me to my core.

Posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism, GLBTQ | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Self Respect

I have done a lot of learning and growing recently.

So much that I haven’t had time or the energy to write never mind try to find the words to share them here. Some are far too personal to share. But one thing I do want to share is that I have learned is that if I want people to respect me, I need to respect myself first.

ASD does not disqualify me as a human who deserves love and friendship. It’s not an excuse for anything either though. It simply is what it is. It makes relationships harder. It makes life harder. But adversity has an odd silver lining when you choose to learn and grow once you have faced it.

It seems that somewhere down the road in my past I learned this behavior called “groveling”. It’s not an attractive quality to people who do not take advantage of others.

I somehow managed to make my brain think that selfish pride and self respect were one and the same. I feel discouraged to figure this out at my age because I feel like I have missed out on opportunities for years because of this very mixup.

I am breaking that cycle. I cannot blame the other person for pushing away if my own response to normal behavior is to grovel just because I’m afraid they will disappear. I’m seeing that that behavior is so destructive.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful, amazing, inspiring, wise, strong, likable, lovable a person may seem or how badly I/you may want to be their friend…if they are really your friend…there is no need to beg for them to stick around.

Don’t get me wrong…valid apologies and humility are really important but they have their place. What I’m talking about is very different. I’m talking about someone not accepting me for who I am and in turn me pleading with them to accept me.

It’s a waste of time for both parties. Especially me. It seems to push real friends away too. This is something new that I am learning and it has inspired a deep reflection on how I view myself and how much self worth I have and what I’m projecting to others.

I think this is what people mean when they say that if I don’t learn to love myself, no one else will.

PS- Sorry for the hiatus all. I am back.


Posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism, GLBTQ | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Let’s Talk About Empathy #Autism #Aspergers

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of the word empathy is as follows:

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for empathy

From my personal perspective, as an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome, I want to discuss to Simon Baron-Cohen’s “Theory of Mind” and why I disagree with it.

For me, every single emotion is intense. When I was a child and I saw my mother trip and fall I would cry hysterically. If I saw another child being bullied, I may not have expressed my feelings the way a neurotypical child would, but I became extremely upset. In those moments, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Sometimes I would chastise the bully only to be told by a parent that I wasn’t being nice. Perhaps, I had misunderstood what I had been watching/experiencing? Perhaps my perception was incorrect.

As a teenager, I sought out the lonely kids in school. I went to twelve schools in twelve years for various reasons (none of them having anything to do with my behavior). I was often the new girl but I sought out my “peers” who seemed upset. However, they often were not happy to have my “empathy” or “sympathy” or whatever it was at the time because no one knew me. I couldn’t understand that people don’t necessarily want a stranger to try to comfort them. I thought “If I was in pain I would be so happy that someone would sit beside me and listen.” But apparently, that’s just me.

All I know is that when I see someone in pain, I feel physical pain. When I see someone cry, my chest burns and I feel pressure behind my eyes. When someone is extremely happy, that is very intense for me too. Their voice changes pitch which can make it hard to listen to for me but if I look in their eyes, it’s still too intense.

This is partially why I do not like looking into people’s eyes. There is a whole world within someone’s eyes. I see pain, I see sadness, I see vulnerability and it’s too intense for me. It’s very hard to have a low key conversation when every time I look into their eyes I see this intensity that is unspoken. Sometimes the pain I see hidden in someone’s eyes is enough to bring me to tears or want to scream in pain.

I can understand that I cannot relate to lots of things neurotypical people express. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. It simply means that I don’t understand. In fact, I have a passionate aversion to injustice that I have never seen in a person who was not on the Autism Spectrum. I have heard so many neurotypical people brush off injustice because it didn’t affect them. Isn’t that an issue with empathy?

I’m not saying that people with ASD are more empathetic. No one is better than someone else and everyone is different. Sure, maybe there are people with ASD that truly struggle with empathy just like there are plenty of people who do not have ASD who struggle with empathy.

My theory is that we just process empathy in a different way. Should that surprise anyone? Not likely.

I attribute pain to pain. It doesn’t matter what shade of gray that pain is, I know what pain feels like. I know physical pain. I know emotional pain. I may not know what to say to you if you are crying. In fact, I might feel intensely uncomfortable. But for me, that is because I too feel pain even if I don’t say that in words.

Maybe this isn’t empathy that I am feeling. But if it isn’t, then I don’t know what is.

Posted in ASD, Aspergers, Autism | 16 Comments

Good Morning Boston


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Makeshift Mattress – A Poem


Steel springs roll

cardboard slides

with grating teeth

and blinking eyes


The alarm clock sings

like cymbals in

the harsh melody of

an unforgiving city


Smearing grit and

sweat from my face

wanting to just forget

this place


Fingers slamming

on the Snooze

for even the briefest

of escapes


Burying my face

counting the hours

that I must stay awake


wishing this was all

just a horrible dream


As I shift my body

on this teetering


balance beam


Each move unsteady

Each move // I ache


Awakened to

the consequences

of my mistaken ignorance


Blinded by misguided

& falsified intentions

in a place I dreamed

would feel like home //


and not a life sentence.

Posted in Poetry | 28 Comments

Thank-you Orange #OITNB

Dear Ms. Kerman, Ms. Kohan & the OITNB Cast,

Inspired the emotions I felt while watching the Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, I began contemplating (yet again) writing out what my own childhood and teenage years were like. I guess I had honestly blocked most of it out of my mind because it felt like a terrifying tsunami wave of emotion as I began my manuscript. My fingers were trembling from the get go.

I felt anger. I felt joy. I felt sorrow.

Writing my story felt extremely intense. It didn’t matter that I have never arrested nor have I ever been to prison. That had nothing to do with any of this. There were so many memories buried that I unearthed. Some made me weep, some made me laugh, and some made me really re-evaluate where I have come from and where I want to go in life. As I wrote my story, I felt like I was looking at myself through a totally different lens. I found myself judging my own actions in a different light. I started recognizing patterns of behavior that I had never fully owned or accepted about my past.

It felt like looking into a broken mirror.

It wasn’t a pretty picture. At times, while writing the chapters I would cringe as I considered how someone else might view a mistake I made at eighteen. I would feel this flood of panic and want to delete it and then realized that I couldn’t just erase history. We all make mistakes and now seemed a good time as any to take ownership and responsibility instead of pointing fingers. I reminded myself that a decade has now passed and that girl that I once was has changed for the better.

I reminded myself that I am human.

The times that I was stuck living in a motel, the times that I trusted people I never should have trusted, and the times that I had such little sense of self value that I hid in someone’s shadow out of fear are over. But I as I finished my manuscript I realized that my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome at twenty-three seemed like a pivotal moment in my past, present, and future.

It was like someone turned the lights on.

Big thanks to Piper Kerman, the author of the book Orange is the New Black, Jenji Kohan, and the show’s amazing cast for showing the world the art of vulnerability and inspiring the world. I had been waiting for years for the inspiration to write my story and now I have. It’s finally done.

I agree with those that say that the past is in the past.

I agree with the sentiment of letting go. But I also think that sometimes we have to look back to remember just how far we’ve come, to remember where we are now and where we are going. As I wrote the final sentence in the final chapter, I had a rather startling realization. I had finished writing about my life until now…but where would tomorrow lead?

I have such big dreams for the future.

I have such intense passion to help the Autism communities voices’ be heard. I feel such a deep sense of gratitude for those who have gone out of their way to share their story for the world to read and the greatest part is that I have so many more chapters left to write.

This is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see Season 3!


Gretchen Leary

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