Posted in Neurodiverse, Problems

When I Can’t Find Words

When I can’t find my words,โ€”when Chase can’t find his wordsโ€”it’s not so much that I think we suffer from selective mutism, as it makes me think about other disorders that may or may not share neurological processes with the mysteries I’m trying to solve about our brains… and that puts selective mutism on my radar.

Once Upon a Time ๐Ÿ’™ Finger Pointing

I babysat a child on the autism spectrum when I was a child. I was six to eight years older than himโ€”I don’t remember the age gap exactlyโ€”and I marveled at he dragged at everyone around the house, pointing when he wanted something. Yet I’d heard him talk. I knew he could. I knew, in just the right environment, he could string a sentence together. I also knew we shared a common developmental challenge, even it was manifesting in completely different ways, even if I’d have to wait another two decades for my diagnosis, even then.

Watching Right Now ๐Ÿ’œ Selective Mutism

I really do identify with a lot of this, although I still don’t think I have selective mutism; I just have autism, and through that lens, am feeling interconnected to the topic, recognizing patterns.

Quote Response ๐Ÿ’™ Similar, But Different

Here are the two parts that get me, @0:3:58:

Selective mutism comes from an intense internal anxiety which leads us to feeling like we actually cannot speak. We’ll want to, we’ll have so much to say, and we literally, physically cannot.

…and then again, @4:48:

It’s an inability to speak due to intense internal anxiety.

This describesย exactlyย how I feel when I’m having {tooltip}an autistic shutdown.{end-text}Not when I’m having a meltdown, mind you; if I’m angry, I only have one thought on my brain: HOW DO I CALM DOWN. WHAT IS IN MY WAY.{end-tool} When people talk to me, and I can’t reply, yet they can’t see I can’t reply, so they continue to ask the question, but in different ways, I moan to drown out the noise, because it makes the anxiety worse, and by the time the anxiety has multiplied with enough layers of intensity that I’m curled in a fetal position on the ground, my chest is tight as a rock, my throat is straining, I’m struggling to breathe, I cannot think in more than two or three words at a time, everything is vibrant with color, everything, my emotions and numbers and time and you and me, and my head hurts a lotโ€”like, a whole lot.

A few times, when I was having panic attacks at McLane, I grabbed a pen to write words down, as the bursts came to me, because I could not speak, even if my life depended on it, which in my darkest hours, it often felt like it did.

I am very grateful that facet of my depression has died down in severity, where I am happy again, yet I still feel like at any moment, the sky will fall; in this place, I know I can focus on my anxiety more, which means I know I can make it through the rest of the Great Filters that lie ahead.

Watching Right Now ๐Ÿ’œ Great Filter

I am really jazzed at this idea. I love exploring with the thought experiments around the Great Filters. It soothes me.
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Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit

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