“Comfort items” seem like a staple among the Autism community. Examples include weighted blankets, a toy, or in my case…a stuffed animal I got after my original open heart surgery in January 1991. My grandfather on my mom’s side, Pop, gave me a GloWorm after my surgery. I still sleep with it on my bed, and yes, I am aware that I am a grown 28 year old now. I keep it on my bed as a memento to Pop and it provides security…something to “look over me” at night. Sure, it doesn’t light up anymore and is very dirty, but I am NEVER EVER EVER getting rid of it! I mentioned I keep it on my bed as a memory of Pop. Sure, I have photos of me and Pop when I was a kid (he died of lung cancer in 1996) but to me, this is better than just a picture. To me, this is a physical “in-the-flesh” memory.
My dad thinks I am getting a little old for it. Maybe he has a point, but to me, he doesn’t get it. To me, the GloWorm that Pop gave me is my personal security item/comfort item/whatever you wanna call it. I feel safe and sound with it and actually, truth be told, I can’t sleep without it. The exception to this is when I am at my sisters’ house in Philadelphia. My sisters and I are extremely close, so weird as it sounds, my sisters are “security items” to me, too…as far as I am concerned. And yes, I realize Caroline and Abbey are people and not “items” but you get what I am trying to say. Caroline and I are especially close, seeing as we grew up together and shared a lot of the same experiences as kids. Don’t get me wrong…Abbey and I are really close, too, but Caroline and I are only 2 1/2 years apart, so I feel that makes Caroline and I closer. My sisters are like my best friends, and I know they have my back no matter what…excluding illegal activities.
So back on track and comfort items. I have mine and I know my girlfriend has hers. I think it’s a stress reliever. I get anxious at night (I am not afraid of the dark, but I do get anxiety) and having something physical to hold really does help. Now will that change when I move in with my girlfriend? Maybe, maybe not. I think having a person to hold as comfort as opposed to an actual item is different. So in that regard, GloWorm helps. I know it sounds juvenile, but I think it’s also my disliking change. Whenever I sleep over a friend’s house or even another family member’s house, it’s a new environment for me. It’s not home. It’s a change, and I don’t really like change that much.
As I said, my dad thinks I am getting a little old to sleep with a stuffed animal, but my dad–as far as I know–is “normal” or neurotypical. As far as I know, my dad doesn’t have a diagnosis of Autism or anything. So in that regard, sorry dad, but he just doesn’t “get it”. I think this is a subject that is very sensitive and touchy because I feel only people with Autism will get and fully appreciate what I am trying to convey. I see people day in and day out at my agency in Baltimore, and even in public, with comfort items.
I feel insecure without my GloWorm and am actually kinda embarrassed to say that. Why am I embarrassed? I think it’s because I am aware of my age, surroundings at home, my public image, and maturity level. Am I the most mature person with Autism in the world? Hell no! I am actually kinda immature for my age, but I am more mature than some other people I know with Autism. I think I am getting more mature, but I still have some work to do. I think there will always be some immaturity in me. Maybe it’s all Autism or maybe it’s the environment I was raised in and around. My dad’s side of the family, when they all get together, can be kinda immature, too. So maybe it’s a combination of both. Either way, I realize I am a grown man sleeping with a kids’ stuffed toy on my bed. BUT what most people don’t know about me–at least I voice it–is my diagnosis of Autism. And I can assure you I sure as Hell am NEVER getting rid of my GloWorm! I’ll be 80 and still have it on my bed. So to the “regular” people who have no idea what the Hell I am talking about…do some research and educate yourselves. And I don’t mean that in a mean way. Just know what you are saying and/or talking about. And to the people who do know what I am referring to…thanks for understanding!