A Blessing and a Curse: Autism and Me – Caiseal Mor
Caiseal Mor is a fantasy author and musician, although I confess that I had not heard of him before reading this book. I will link his website at the bottom of this review for those keen to investigate his music and writing. Mor’s diagnosis of autism was unknown to the wider public until the publication of this book in 2007.
Before going any further I will say that some readers might find sections of this book hard to read as Mor describes the abuse he underwent as a child in considerable detail, so any people who might be affected by that should take that into consideration.
In my humble opinion autism is a wondrous gift, a blessing of sorts. As far as I’m concerned, autistic benefits far outstrip any drawbacks you can imagine. But it’s taken me a lifetime of self-examination and inquiry to arrive at that conclusion.
The book starts (after a brief introduction) with a peculiar anecdote in which Mor refers to himself as Marco Polo and details an event in Morocco that had a profound impact upon his life. Needless to say this is a bit confusing, but by the time you’ve finished the book it will make sense. It then tracks back to Mor’s childhood and the first half of the book is predominantly concerned with his life before the age of ten. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, it was not an easy life at all.
Mor is very straight-forward and blunt about the abuse he underwent, describing it with an air of detachment that he describes as being a vital part of him being able to go through the experience and come out the other side. There were no special classes or schools for autistic students in Australia (or indeed many places) and the general attitude was that if the families couldn’t cope with them then the asylums (after a long time on the waiting list) were the best place for them. Mor’s family could no cope with him, they did not understand him, nor did they try to. Mor himelf is surprisingly forgiving of his family, his mother in particular, but readers will find it hard if not impossible to be anywhere near as forgiving themselves.
Nevertheless I copied the colourful expressions Australians are famous for whenever I heard them. Bloody bastard was my first and it’s still my personal favourite. I love alliteration. Then came bugger and arsehole. Little turd, I heard that a lot. So how could they expect me not to repeat it? Dickhead was probably the worst thing you could call someone in those days. I addressed everyone I met with it.
Since he wrote this book in 2007, it will come as no surprise or spoiler to anyone that Mor escaped from his family. The second half of the book is focused on his life as a teenager moving through young adulthood and onto his adult life. He writes about his university experiences, different people he meets and jobs he worked and how all of this impacted him. He discusses keeping his autism a secret, in case people judged him or had preconceptions of him based upon it. He talks about the splitting of his personas in characters of sorts to help him deal with day-to-day life. He writes about his successes, of which he had many; he writes of what made him happy. He also writes about how he was repeatedly taken advantage of and mistreated by those he thought were friends and went through dark periods of his life, even after he reinvented himself as Caiseal Mor.
The day after I emerged from my meditation I went to the registry office. In less than ten minutes I had my name officially changed to a Gaelic language phrase that meant ‘great stone fort’. And this how Caiseal Mor came into existence.
As the writing progresses closer to 2007, Mor writes about being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and how finding someone else who thought like he did helped him in his own life. Which is where he feels that his life finally began to find some peace, and so he wrote this autobiography:
All the great spiritual traditions of the world, including Christianity, teach that some good comes even from the worst excesses of evil. In that sense evil can never prevail in this world. Recently I came to understand that telling my story could benefit others. I’ve always wanted to be a healer.
Is it worth reading?
Yes, it might be a difficult read for some in places due to his blunt writings of his abuse, but Mor has led an interesting life and his writing is engaging and representative of his character and personality. I would also suggest giving his music a listen, you can listen to some through his website or through Spotify.