It seems to be a common theme among the Asperger’s/autism spectrum community: a huge proportion of us loved to spin when we were young.
Many of us report spinning for hours. And loving every minute of it.
When I first read this (while researching online, of course), I thought, “wait…didn’t everybody do that? What kid doesn’t like to spin?”
And I remembered back to the hours that I, too, would spin. I would start slowly, with my arms at my sides. I would get going faster and faster, letting the air flow under them, between them and my torso, feeling that air flow, feeling it transform into wind, feeling it satisfy me deep inside.
Sometimes I would look down. I would see my feet moving in perfect coordination, with the perfect timing that also brought me satisfaction deep within. I would notice the patterns in the ’70s vintage carpet as they began to metamorphose and swirl together, forming new, moving patterns. The motion engulfed and involved my entire body, bringing it into an equilibrium that touched a special place that few other activities did.
Apparently, for me, it was stress relief. It was also fun. It was also something to do, something that could easily occupy hours of my time. I can’t say that I didn’t have a care in the world, but I can say that I had no other pressing obligations. My days were free, and my time was my own, to do with what I wished. Given the choice of all the activities I had available to me (which were many), I often chose to spin. It brought me a sense of joy, a sense of balance, a sense of harmony, none of which I can quite explain.
Eventually, I would make a wrong move, one wrong step, loose my balance, and painlessly fall over. No problem; I would simply get up and begin again. Speeding up, slowing down, and speeding up again. Once I felt satisfied in one direction, I would start again, in the opposite one.
Once I started school, however, those joyful spinning days became more scarce. Spinning would have brought me peace in my stressful new environment, but it was not on the structured classroom agenda. It would have settled my spirit, but it would have disrupted the highly-regimented atmosphere and the other kids. The other kids weren’t spinning. Somehow I knew that this wasn’t the time or place, so I conformed and remained seated and quiet. Like a good girl.
And the spinning faded into the deep vault of my memory bank, forgotten and decaying.
Until one day, a few months after I had discovered the truth about my Asperger’s/autistic neurotype. I was scrolling through Twitter, scanning the threads of conversations of my fellow Aspergian/autistic lovelies. And that day, someone mentioned spinning, within the context of the autism spectrum.
It’s an Aspie/autistic thing. I had never known that. Of course, I had never heard of any of my neurotypical friends mention it, but then, I hadn’t, either, so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know that it was missing from the conversation, or their lives. I thought everyone had done it, and that it was a universal activity that didn’t need mentioning.
Maybe no one had mentioned it because no one else had done it. That thought had never crossed my mind before that day. Had all my neurotypical friends actually missed out on that pastime?? Poor things.
Those days are long gone, of course. In the process of reunification with my child-self last year, I think I would have liked to have been able to revive and reignite the activity of spinning and the joy and comfort that it brought me.
But life has taken over. In a cruel and ironic chain of events, my cerebellum and vestibular system are being stolen from me, slowly withering away into masses of pointless and useless white matter. Because of a condition known as autoimmune-related Cerebellar Degeneration, my spinning days will likely have to remain a thing of the past, a fond memory, a memory only.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t reminisce. It doesn’t mean I can’t look back and smile.
And it may be that not all hope is lost; newer findings in the scientific research has already established that new connections between existing brain cells can be made. What this means is that even with fewer cells, when new connections are made between existing cells, some of the lost function might possibly be regained.
And findings that are even more cutting edge yet suggest that brain development is not necessarily the done-deal-by-the-end-of-childhood that we only recently assumed it was. This means that it’s looking like new cells may be able to be formed in the adult brain after all, a concept we had never considered or entertained before, because of what we assumed we knew about brain development and maturity. “Post-mitotic cells,” was the mantra my professors would chant. “You’re born with all you’re ever going to have.” And, “the brain is fixed; it can’t be changed,” they promised. Anyone who dared question that was a fool, until now.
But that was then, and this is now. I’m not sure if I have a prayer yet of being able to launch into a good, deep, satisfying spinning session any time soon, but it’s no longer an open-and-shut, case-closed impossibility.
In fact, I’ll make it a top-priority goal. I’ll even add it to my bucket list, if that’s what it takes.
I’m going to spin again.