Today I want to talk about the 10 things that impacted me growing up with high functioning autism. So stay till the very end, we’re going to count down from 10 to one, the first thing:
My parents and I were moving up from Southern California to Washington State, and on the highway, as we drove up Interstate I-5 it was a warm summer day, and my family and I looked over to the side of the highway.
It was kind of like that bleached concrete look, you know those highways in Southern California, if you ever watched Chips growing up, you’d see those white highways. It’s kind of like everything was just really bright, under the California sun it was very hot and I looked over and I saw these three brown objects.
I had never seen deer before because I grew up in Southern California, so when I saw those objects I asked my dad I was like, are those sleeping dogs?
I don’t know if he told me the truth or not but I think he told me that they were deer that had passed away, and I remember just being really sad and shocked.
Like I really didn’t understand death, I was only just turning five literally on the trip up to Washington State. So I remember just being so naive and innocent and being bummed out learning that they were actually dead deer instead of sleeping dogs.
Music impacted me tremendously. I mean I was glued to music. There’s pictures of me with the head big 70s headphones on, listening to music and just having this mesmerized look when I listened to music.
It just enveloped me, and I couldn’t think about anything else. The songs really impacted me but they had kind of a dark connotation.
There was a lot of synth pop back in the 80s and growing up in Southern California, somehow I pieced the synthesizers to a demonic presence in California.
I remember there was actually one song, the lyric of the song said, “hit them when they’re up, hit them when they’re down, hit them when they’re up, hit them when they’re down.”
And I got so sad because I visualized, with those lyrics, I visualized someone beating up my dad when I listened to that.
I had a very strong imagination so I always had a kind of like this movie scenario while I listened to songs, and I just pictured someone, you know, hitting my dad when he was up and hitting him when he was down.
I cried and I told my dad there’s a song and I picture you getting beat up and I listened to it really affected by it and he was so understanding.
One of the very first songs when I was 12, I had a record album, and I used to listen to 45’s on the record album and one of the songs that I absolutely loved, I became obsessed with was the song Cars by Gary Newman and only recently, you know, 40 years later I discovered that Gary Newman has Asperger’s, and he’s a very loud voice in the Asperger autism community.
But I used to listen to that song over and over, and then when I was 12, I started listening to Gogo’s song We Got the Beat.
It was my sister’s music and that’s when I started tapping on everything with my mom’s wooden spoons from the kitchen.
Finally, my mom was just like we got to get you a drum set because you’re just tapping on everything.
I was walking on the wharf, with my dad and my mom, and this is back in Southern California, and a man walked by and he had big frizzy hair and beard and was pointing at his arm and was just talking really crazy about something and I was petrified.
I was so scared, I had never seen anyone act out of character. I mea, I still remember it to this day and I just looked at my dad. I was like what’s wrong with that man? And my dad said oh he’s just drunk, and I didn’t even know what that meant.
The irony of that is that 25 years later I became that man myself and became the town drunk and almost died from a heart attack from alcohol itself. It was pretty scary.
I thought the band KISS – there was just rumor going around, this is in Washington state, there was a rumor going around that kiss was coming, and I’d seen kiss on TV or something, and I realized that they played with a lot with fire.
I was only like seven at the time and I was so scared that if Kiss were actually going to come to our town, I heard that they’re coming to a town next to our town but still it didn’t matter.
I thought that they were going to burn down our town. I literally thought Kiss was going to come to town, and they would have a show, and at the end of the show they were going to light their fireworks and their flames, and just burn down the concert hall, and then the fire was going to spread 20 miles to the town I was in. I was so scared about that.
My dad took away my Rolling Stones record, you know, it was a very strict household and my dad didn’t want me listening to rock.
And so, I thought Rolling Stones were satanic, I thought they were just bad, you know, somehow I thought there was some significance with the “rolling” part of their title, their band name.
I thought rolling meant kind of like being wild and crazy and they’re gonna come to town and just defile all the young girls and they’re just bad. Like the Beatles were good, but the Rolling Stones were evil. And I don’t know why I thought that at all.
I used to rock back and forth on my bed because my bedtime was so early every night. I would rock in my bed and it just made me feel good.
They call it stimming, so I rocked back and forth, I started doing that when I was two years old, and we’ll get to that later, of how much I did it, but I used to stare at the wall and this nightlight came in from the bathroom into my room.
I used to just stare at that orange beam on my carpet to the point where one night a man made out of that light walked into my room and I’m not kidding this is not my imagination.
I think the ghost was my mom’s dad coming to check on me because he never got to see me. He died from alcoholism when he was 40, and my mom was only seven. I think he came to see me.
But he walked in, you know he had a hat on and everything and he started walking towards my bed and I couldn’t stay quiet I just screamed at the top of my lungs, you know Mommy Mommy, Daddy, Daddy, and they ran in and rescued me and then that ghost disappeared.
But I really think that it was someone from the afterlife coming to see me because they hadn’t gotten to see me when they were alive.
It was basically me against the world growing up. Now I had a lot of dreams and ambitions and hopes and I thought really big I thought I was going to be a rockstar, and I believed that pro wrestling was real.
I remember my teachers made fun of me, my friends made fun of me. If I talked about things like that with my dad, he made fun of me. So it just seemed like the whole world was against me.
I was a big dreamer and I used to rock back and forth and I used to daydream all the time, while listening to music, because all I had back then was rocking and music, those were the only things that saved me from the harsh realities of this life, and I wanted to dream big.
I had big things, big plans, and people just got in the way. We lived in a small town and they wanted to hold me back. They just thought I was ridiculous. So that’s that.
Now this is when I’m 17. I’m just now experimenting with alcohol and alcohol is doing something to me that didn’t happen to other people. It really hit me like magic.
It was something I’ve been waiting for my whole life, because like I said everyone picked on me. And so when I finally tried alcohol, it was like 17 years of suppression lifted off of me, I could think clearly, I could articulate my thoughts, I felt confident, it gave me liquid courage.
But it also did something in my body, it just lit everything up, I became manic. I could stay up all night on alcohol, it was a godsend at the time, it hadn’t turned against me yet, I was just discovering it and it opened up a whole new world to me.
But one night, I was walking around my neighborhood, or my friend’s neighborhood, a couple blocks away from where I lived, and I had drank like a half a fifth of vodka, which was a lot of alcohol for me, because I was just starting to drink. I didn’t have a tolerance.
I walked around the block, it was foggy out, it was dark, my friends didn’t know where I went, I just left, because I had all this energy I left and went for a walk.
And on that walk, I was walking up this hill, and I looked over to the driveway of a house, and there was a man sitting on an amplifier and he was just hanging out.
He was an older guy probably 10 to 20 years older than me, and he looked like he was a rock and roller, you know, and I shook his hand and he was really cool.
He’s just like, how are you doing, and we had this awesome conversation, and I felt like I really knew him, like he went back aeons with me like he was this eternal, older brother that I’d never had.
I was so blown away by it that I ran back to my friend’s house, they’re playing Nintendo, and I was just like, Guys, I just met this guy, he shook my hand, his hand came out of the fog and I shook it, and he told me all these things about life and I was blown away, and they just made fun of me. They thought I was crazy.
They’re just like, you know, you’re drunk, whatever. And what’s funny is that later on in life, this is past my childhood, just a couple years ago, I had a dream that I met someone like that, and they were scarred up, they’re like old rock and rollers or Hells Angels, or something.
He told me some things, and he was such a beautiful man that he had this angelic aura about him and when I hugged them, it felt like I got hit with the Holy Spirit.
I knew that he was my guardian angel, and he has been protecting me my whole life, when I drank and drove, when I almost died from drugs and alcohol, he’d always been there and he saved me and I’m still alive for a reason.
So I really believe that this guardian angel was that man that I met on the driveway that night. Because angels will show up as people that we recognize and I was a heavy metal rocker, so it was only natural to have angels that were like old rockers.
Also, I never had a brother growing up and I really missed that brotherly camaraderie, and that love. So, you know, when I woke up from that dream I just bawled my eyes out for hours, because it was an angel. I know for a fact.
I thought I was going to be famous, and I literally thought I was going to have a record album, I thought I was going to make millions of dollars, and my friends just teased me all the time.
But, you know I always had dreams and they couldn’t squash them. And when I finally got sober when I was 36, I created a full length music album, never got famous, never made a lot of money, but I finally got my own record album so that squashed that whole bit.
I’ve been rocking back and forth since I was two years old and I calculated recently that I rocked 46,000 hours. Towards the end of my rocking I just quit rocking four months ago, you can see other videos on this channel of when I quit rocking.
But I used to rock back and forth for hours and in the last few years I was rocking 14 hours a day, literally from morning until night. I rocked back and forth, listening to music, and just looked out the window.
I’ve had so many thoughts while rocking, and people with high functioning autism can create an amazing life and laser focus on anything they want, and, and create genius level, ideas, and, and things, and
I believe that I have created an amazing life because of all the thoughts that I had while rocking back and forth, but it was very hard on my body, and created social anxiety and I couldn’t really connect with people because I was always way out there with my thoughts rocking back and forth.
I even had scars on my knuckles, you can almost see the pads still on my knuckles from rocking most of my life. And I could have regrets and say,
Growing Up with High-Functioning Autism
I wasted 40 years of my life rocking back and forth, but really it gave me a gift to give back to any of you that are stimming, rocking back and forth, or you have Asperger’s or autism and you just don’t feel like you fit in.
There’s definitely a hidden gift with what you’re doing, and there’s people out there that desperately need your message. So, that’s been probably the biggest thing of my life.
Besides, you know, surviving alcohol and almost dying from drugs and having a heart attack when I was 36, I think the biggest thing I’ve ever done was rock back and forth for 46,000 hours.
46 years of my life rocking back and forth and I finally am sitting still. And this video/article is a testimony of what you can do with your life. You can quit anything you want, you can do anything with your life, you can become the rock star, you can become the greatest artist that ever walked this earth.
You can do anything you want if you set your mind to it, and people with autism can really laser focus on anything they want. So I hope this inspires you, gives you a little chuckle or, you know you can think I’m a moron whatever you want, it’s out there, so hit that subscribe button if you’re new here, and we’ll talk to you soon.
Erik C Johnson