[ Also see Anlor Davin on LinkedIn, and facilitating meditation for the neurodiverse at Autsit.net ]
Being Seen is a memoir about an autistic woman struggling not only to be seen but to be understood and respected.
Anlor Davin grew up in a small town on the Western coast of France. From earliest childhood she was beset by overwhelming sensory chaos and had trouble navigating the social world. Only many years later did she learn that she was autistic. Throughout childhood Anlor struggled to hold her world together and in many ways succeeded: She became an accomplished young tennis player, competing even at the level of the French Open. However, in addition to her autism a dark history hung over her family, a history revealed to her only in her teen years, and that she did not fully understand for years to come.
In the days of Anlor’s youth France was in the grip of a psychoanalytic view of autism and related conditions — a view that blamed mothers for the condition and relegated many autistic children to lives of institutional confinement. Without yet having a name for her world-shattering condition Anlor sensed that it was unsafe for her to remain in her home country, and so she packed up and headed to a new life in America. When she landed she was as autistic as ever but now also had to contend with the raw basics of survival in a new culture, speaking a new language, and without support from her family. Through incredible effort Anlor was able to parlay her knowledge of the French language into a job teaching in the notorious South Side neighborhood of Chicago, one of America’s most violent. Never stinting, Anlor married, had a child, and even dreamed that she might be able to pass as a neurotypical person. However, this was not to be.
The grim toll of daily compensating for her autism, of “pretending to be normal”, proved too great a challenge and Anlor’s life imploded. She spiraled downward into a kind of hell; she lost her marriage and had to let go of her beloved child. Desperate, answering an inner summons, Anlor moved West to California, where she found her way to what was to her a mysterious and ancient tradition of spiritual practice from the Far East — zen. Through this profound system of meditation and community she was able to slowly rebuild her life, this time with honest acceptance of the challenge she faced. The path took her through extreme emotional and physical duress but also led at last to proper medical diagnosis and treatment of her autism. Anlor was reunited with her beloved child. She came at last to understand the shadow that had hung over her family for generations. Today Anlor works daily to help people understand autism of the kind that she experiences, and to let people know the value of basic meditative practice in living, and thriving, in autism.
Thanks to Tom Morrow for making the video!