Living in a dungeon completely constructed by the mind is a terrifying experience. Young children play games, get up to mischief, and love the world around them. I didn’t. To the five-year-old Jude Morrow, the world was a loud and chaotic place not too dissimilar to a constant apocalypse. My school playground was a hornet’s nest of noise that lacked direction. I stood from the confines of my dungeon and refused to play any part in it. I felt so anxious and shy because I knew I wasn’t like the other kids—and the fear of rejection exists in the youngest of children, trust me. I am different because I am autistic. I was always told that I was “awkward,” “anti-social,” and “a loner”. I felt like I was imprisoned and confined to the dungeon that other children, teachers, and society had made in their minds. Like a little lamb, I stayed there and looked at the view of the children playing below from the top of the tower. In my solitude, I began to read and write. My parents were there with me. They encouraged and loved me no matter what. They always told me how great I was and that one day I would prosper. I never believed it. I felt I was locked in the dungeon and wasn’t really allowed to leave. I attempted at times, but rejection made me stay up there. I took the time to perfect my craft of reading and writing and I loved it. I became institutionalized, although I nurtured my passion and talent. In adulthood, I became a social worker and a #Dad. By all accounts, I became quite successful. Although the tower still loomed over me. It came to a stage where this tower that was constructed for me started to impact my relationship with my infant son. I always believed I wasn’t good enough, that I had too many deficiencies, and that I would never integrate into society successfully, even as an employed, home-owning parent! I came to a point in my life where I realized that I had to learn to #love and accept myself as being #autistic. This thought never occurred to me, as my belief was that if I was open about this fact, I would be judged. I knew I needed help and I received that in the form of psychotherapy and CBT. The tower represented the societal misconceptions about autism, and I believed I was locked away by everyone. I decided to take a brave step. I tried the door handle from inside the tower and realized that the door was open. I walked down the stairs and took an instant hit of fresh air. What I didn’t know, was that the door was always open and a large part of the tower’s construction was completed by me. I now could walk around freely, go wherever I want, and the tower crumbled. I reflected on my time in the tower and remembered nurturing my love of reading and writing. I turned this experience into my debut memoir Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad? As a self-accepting adult, I started to view my childhood in a different way. Not that I was subjected to constant defeat but that I had so many victories that I had actually lost count. I speak fondly of this tower, though. When I speak to audiences, I always speak about my time there. I eventually had to take responsibility and a leap of faith. Many feel imprisoned in their own mind. If you feel trapped in a tower with a similar architecture to mine, always try the door handle.
Jude Morrow presented communication and social difficulties early in life, which led to a diagnosis of Asperger Type Autism at the age of 11. Despite having educational challenges, Jude progressed through secondary school and graduated from the University of Ulster with an honors degree in social work in 2012. Jude now works as a social worker and is a motivational speaker and advocate for all things autism. His memoir Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad? is the story of one man’s journey to parenthood, and how his autism profoundly affected that journey, for both better and worse.
For more about Jude Morrow, please visit www.judemorrow.com.