Warbling and wobbling

I love singing.

If I had my way, I would spend at least 95% of the time warbling away to whatever particular tunes were stuck in my head that day. As a child, I would hurtle around the living room screaming along with Björk about how quiet it was and then wasn’t. Obviously, after many years of having it drilled into me that this is not always considered socially appropriate, I’ve managed to scale at back – but there is always a song just a hair’s breadth away from escaping my lips.

I often refer to singing as one of my stims. It helps me to feel grounded and in control of myself, in a world where there is often very little control to be had. It makes me feel bright and powerful and happy. There is nothing quite like belting ‘I am MOOOAAAANAAAA!’ at the top of your lungs in the shower to soothe the soul and embolden the heart; in that moment, I am unstoppable, I am magical, I am Moana diving into the sea to retrieve the Heart of Te Fiti and save the world.

Being a perfectionist, however, hitting a wrong note can be soul destroying for me. I can sing. I know I can sing. My range is not as far reaching as other people I know (and admire), and so, often, in the jump from chest voice to head voice (often found in the large swelling musical theatre numbers I love) there is a crack in my voice that might as well be a crack in my heart.

(I’m also incredibly dramatic, can you tell?)

In my teens, a wobbly moment on my own in the living room could send me into a devastating meltdown; it literally felt as though my world was crashing in on me, because why can’t I just get it right?? It felt like I had to punish myself for not being perfect, for not sticking to the plan, for not following the rules. It made me want to scream and bash myself against a hard surface. Now that I have my diagnosis, I can understand that it was a loss of control that threw me into overload. But, at the time, I couldn’t understand why I was reacting so badly, and as a result would seek to mentally punish myself even further for not having a rational response.

This is something that, in the case of singing anyway (we have some ways to go in other aspects of my life, but that is for a different post) ,I have learned to overcome. Particularly through singing in a choir, I have realised that a dud note here or there is not something that should crush me. Singing with others has showed me that everyone can miss a note. I’d prefer not to (it is important to keep up the illusion of one’s flawlessness for as long as possible) but I take it as a sign of my burgeoning self confidence that it doesn’t destroy me in the way it used to.

There’s something about, not just singing, but performing for an audience, that is addictive. I feel more confident singing on stage in front of a hundred people than I do sitting at a table with one. In that moment, I am exactly who I want to be, where I want to be, and doing what I want to do. I am the me – the diva, the badass – that I am in my imagination. I can look out into a hundred faces with the knowledge that ‘hey, you know what, I am awesome’.

I get stage fright. I get nervous. Terrified even. Of course I do. But that is part of the adrenaline rush that makes me feel invincible. I’m not generally a thrill seeker in life – my anxiety tends to inflame my imagination and convince me that even the smallest of risks will result in death or serious injury – so my moments on stage, experiencing that fear and exhilaration, are incredibly important.

I know that singing won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I encourage everyone to give it a go. I firmly believe that everyone, with the right training and support, can find a voice that suits them. Most of all, I want to normalise singing – I want to be able to calm my nerves in public without fear of ridicule or retaliation. I want everyone to be able to close their eyes and scream Defying Gravity if it helps them get through the day (as long as they don’t belt themselves into unconsciousness with those last few notes). I want everyone to feel awesome.

And if anyone could have a word with my dogs about this, that would be fabulous. All that jumping around and crying in protest is a very rude way to respond to a beautiful serenade.

Author: QueerlyAutistic
Erin Ekins is a queer autistic writer, speaker and attempter of activism. She has an interest in all areas of autistic social justice, but has a particular passion for improving understanding and acceptance of the intersection of autism and queerness. She runs the blog queerlyautistic.com and is the author of the upcoming book 'Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens on the Spectrum'. By day, she works in campaigning and influencing at a disability related charity, but, by night, she is inhabits a busy space between angry internet person and overly-excited fangirl.

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