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Heart of Autism: Little Man and Me

This is a blog post by Brian Patrick. Brian has Asperger Syndrome and is rollerblading across the country and back to spread awareness about autism. He is the second feature in our Heart of Autism series. His story is an inspiration, and we are so proud of all he is doing for the autism community!

Skating all day with a 25 pound backpack then skating through the night for two days finally begun to take its toll on me. This Journey is not about physicality; it is about the psychology of it all. How I am able to keep moving forward, when it rains, when I am sick, tired or skating on horrific road conditions? All of these issues as I travel on my own with no assistance and even I recognize there is an insanity attached to this.

Then it happened; it was December 28th, 2012. It was in between Christmas and New Years and I became very, very depressed because everyone I knew was celebrating the holidays with friends and family, getting over Christmas dinner and now preparing for New Year’s Eve. Me? I was skating across America on my own for this wonderful cause which has become a Life Altering Event. However, in that moment, I missed my friends and family at home and I began to wonder if anyone even cares what I am doing out here in the middle of nowhere as I am busted and disgusted and physically and mentally exhausted. At least I know there is a McDonald's down the street that I can fall asleep in. That now becomes the highlight of my day.

Having Asperger’s to me has become an advantage in my life and there is an entertainment value to it if I allow it. Asperger’s as it applies to me has always done two things: it has manipulated and suppressed me. Now, after all these years I fight back and I manipulate Asperger’s. Sometimes it is a little bit of a battle with Asperger’s and when I am tired - this tired as mentioned above, Asperger’s comes out swinging and usually wins.

At 1:00 pm as I was skating through Western Texas, it all caught up with me. "I am done." I skated about 25 miles which is a third of what I usually do so even I can sense I have the potential to have a meltdown. I skated to this convenience store that sold drinks, snacks and American Indian souvenirs. Usually when I walk into any establishment, my head is down and I try to remain as discreet as possible, which is hard to do when you are lugging around a dirty backpack named Melvin, a giant stick for protection and these enormous skates that Rollerblade gave me because they embraced the Cause. Oh my - how we really love Rollerblade. Anyway, as I walked in, I dragged all my stuff across the floor and i looked up almost - almost looking for a confrontation. Asperger’s is now in charge. In my mind or should I say in the mind of Asperger’s I am doing this for 1 of 2 reasons; Everyone will stare at me which I hate, but they will stare and it will get it out of their system and leave me alone or someone will make a comment and I will verbally lash out and that is nothing less than a guarantee that everyone will leave me alone. Either way, i accomplish the goal at hand - leave me alone. I look back at that moment as I am sitting here and I cannot even put into words how physically and mentally exhausted I really was.

I walked to the middle of this store and dropped all my gear and sat down in a rocking chair. As I slumped over in the chair, my eyes watered up and all I wanted to do was go home. There are very specific people back home I miss and I just want to go home. As I am sitting there feeling pathetically sorry for myself someone grabs my nose. Now, I am not a big fan of people grabbing my face so as I looked up, it was a little boy about 6 years with his head down. As I raised my head he put his hands together and they were moving a mile a minute and I thought to myself, 'I cannot do this right now.' This little guy obviously is on the Spectrum and in that moment of my mental and physical exhaustion and trying to prevent my own meltdown, I cannot do this with this little guy. However, it is not about me. This entire Journey has not been about me; it is about the Community that I am so proud to be part of. So, suck it up, wipe your eyes and see what this little guy is up to. What happens next could be one of the funniest moments in the entire Journey and yes; you had to be there:

There is no eye contact between us. This little guy's eye contact is as bad as mine. He is looking down and I am looking over his left shoulder towards the back wall. With his head down, this conversation begins:

"Are you the guy skating across America?"

"Yes. How did you know that?" He points at the skates.

"I saw you on Good Morning Texas."

"That is so cool."

At this point, his mother is watching with the funniest grin on her face.

"I just wanted and needed to tell you something."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"I just wanted to thank you for what you are doing for us."

Oh my - this kid is killing me. As I begin to wipe my eyes I realize it - this little guy gets it. He understands The Journey he understands the Cause. His mother finally walks over and says, "This is soooo adorable. It's like a little Asperger’s party." Yeah, I like her simply because she has the ability to make me laugh.

I started skating for the first time in June of 2012. Why did I choose to strap skates to my feet and go all the way across America? It was for this little guy. It was for all of us on the Autistic Spectrum. In my life, I was longing for something; something when I was 85 years old sitting on a porch somewhere I can look back and say, "Yeah, I did something of significance." I did something I can say, "I did something that was about doing the right thing even if it didn't benefit me." But my oh my - how it has benefited me. I would watch T.V. and read the newspapers and realize that families that for the first time found themselves with a child on the Spectrum how overwhelmed they were. I have been there and I am doing that. I have Asperger’s and I have this most incredible insight so now is the time; it is the time for me to help a Community that prides itself in helping each other.

My name is Brian Patrick and I am Autistic. Never in my life did I ever think those words would ever come out of my mouth, but at the same time I have embraced the fact I have Asperger’s and it has embraced me back with all of its strength.

On February 18th, I will be racing from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL on my Rollerblades to set the record for coast to coast inline skating. I did not file the paperwork with Guinness. I have been criticized for not doing this. My answer to those individuals is this: Get over it and move on. The moment I file that paperwork I have officially made this Journey about me and I become a hypocrite in all of this. This Journey is not about me and it never has been about me. Yes, I strapped Rollerblades to my feet and I am the one that physically skated across these United States - I get it. However, I never at any time did this on my own. Friends, strangers that became friends helped me. May be it was words of encouragement or maybe they let me stay at their home for a night and they bought me coffee. This Journey is not about me and I never at any point did this on my own. All I wanted to do in this Journey is have the ability to help at least one person or one family. If I did that, this Journey is successful. I am so proud to say that this Journey isn't just successful; it was needed and critically important. We didn't just help one family - we helped dozens of families. The most important thing that we helped these families recognize is this: You are not alone. You are part of this elite group and this most wonderful Community that only wants to do this: Help. I want to help and everyone else part of the Community wants to help especially our newest members. You are not alone - we are here for you and we will stand alongside you until the end of time. What has become one of the most important philosophies I found in this Journey? It goes like this:

The Community I am part of is more important than any one individual that lives in it.

Having stated that, there becomes a question:

What have you - what have I done for our Community today?

Today, with all these strangers that became my friends helped others on the Autistic Spectrum to make sure they realize that they are not alone and we stand together as one.

My name is Brian Patrick and I have Asperger’s, I am Autistic and I will help you any way I can because I love this Community I am part of and I will never quit until we go from 1 in 88 to None and Done.

With Love and Respect,

Brian Patrick

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.