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N O B OD Y N O WHERE. The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic DO NNA WILLIAMS. Donna Williams. Donna was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1963 Donna has Autism. This is The story of Two Battles. “A battle to keep out ‘the world’ And A battle to join it”. Donna’s Worlds.

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n o b od y n o where


The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic


donna williams
Donna Williams
  • Donna was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1963
  • Donna has Autism
this is the story of two battles
This is The story of Two Battles

“A battle to keep out ‘the world’


A battle to join it”

donna s worlds
Donna’s Worlds
  • “The World” – Where you were expected to be ‘normal’
    • It was impatient, annoying, callous & unrelenting. She responded to it by crying, squealing, ignoring it and running away, but she could not stay away.
    • Something always drew her back.
    • Donna was aware enough to know that she was not considered ‘normal’.
    • She needed to act normal, interact with others, but if she did she would lose ‘herself’.
    • “Staying aware and alert to what was happening took a lot of energy and always felt like a battle.”
donna s worlds cont
Donna’s Worlds Cont.
  • “My World”
    • “It was a world of my own creation where I didn’t need to control myself or the objects, animals, and nature, which were simply being in my presence.”
    • Hypnotic state. Everything was reduced to colors, rhythms and sensations.
    • Donna took pleasure and comfort in doing the same thing over again and losing herself in objects.
    • “Mine was a rich world, but like many rich people I was very alone.”
    • She could be quiet & vegetative, then wild & destructive.
worldview influences
Worldview Influences
  • Her disability – Autism
    • Affected how she processed and related to the world
  • Her Experiences – Homelessness
  • Her Dysfunctional Family – violence
  • The Friends she had and the people she encountered - some good, some bad
    • Discarded those no longer needed when necessary
  • The Characters she played to cope with “the world”
  • Things – associations that accompanied them
  • Jobs – many and varied
  • School – Special school through College
  • Travel – Australia, England & Europe – She met many people but most importantly she met people like herself.
the conflicts
The conflicts
  • Be accepted, but be left alone
  • “…give up control and interact with others. The more I tried, the worse become the conflict.”
  • Needed to refine the act of acting normal. “On the inside I knew that by definition this meant that whatever and whoever I was naturally was unworthy of acceptance, belonging, or even life.”
  • Donna wanted to come out of the “darkness of the cupboard” (where she hid herself) but would not reach out her hand for help. A hand had to be extended unconditionally and she would take it.
  • “..the closer I came to bringing myself out, the greater became the fears, which caused serious conflicts between my inner self and the characters I used to communicate with the outside world.”
    • “I was stuck in a small room of brightness, and the rest of the world was a beckoning but unreachable light that lay miles beyond a terrifying journey through the dark.”
the book
“The Book”
  • Upon returning to England after having traveled through Europe, Donna bought a cheap little typewriter & started collecting the pieces of her life and searching for answers. She started writing a book. It wasn’t for publication, it was for diagnosis.
  • What is wrong, why is she the way she is?
    • Not Schizophrenic – the pieces do not fit
    • “Autism, not to be confused with schizophrenia.” “There on the pages I felt both angered and found.”
  • “Autism” - “The Label would have been useless except that it helped me to forgive myself and my family for the way I was.”
  • The “Book” freed her, she could commit to “the world”, she could be a part of it, she could be ‘Donna’.
  • “…each horizon broadened with my new experience, I began to catch glimpses of my true self”
donna s characters alter egos
Donna’s Characters (Alter Egos)
  • To cope with “the world”, Donna used “Characters”
  • Carol – A real girl, met only once, but she would became Donna’s ‘self’ to “the world”
    • She was “the girl in the mirror”, People liked Carol
    • She laughed, made friends & was sociable, though empty & emotionless
    • She loved to perform & could communicate
    • Carol was “ready to run” when anyone got too close emotionally
  • Willie – Evolved from the two green eyes under the bed
    • The “self” directed at the “outside world”.
    • A form of protection against intruders, responded to fears outside herself
    • Hateful, glaring eyes, pinched mouth, clenched first, stomped feet and spat.
    • Evolved into the embodiment of total self-control
    • Eventually became a “mother” (voice)
  • Carol & Willie were Donna’s translators between the two worlds – Carol moved about in “the world”, Willie tried to keep her safe.
  • Carol & Willie evolved as Donna aged and experienced the world
  • For Donna to exist in “the world” - Willie had to accept Carol
  • Ultimately, both characters would have be let go of for Donna to exist
discovering donna
Discovering Donna
  • The book goes into great detail about her:
    • School years – special school through college
    • Her jobs – many and varied
    • Her friends – usually one at a time, more than that was too many
    • Her dysfunctional family – especially her mother (very violent)
    • Her Treasures – she felt more of an attachment to things than to people. Things she understood, but most people she did not.
    • Her joys – music & poetry
    • Her travels – left Australia at 26. Met people similar to herself
      • Finding peace within herself within “the world”
    • The special people in her life, e.g., Mary (her Psychiatrist), the special mothers and people she who helped shape her life
  • All of the above attributed to the growth and discovery of her “self” but none as much as writing the ‘book’.
donna s recovery a combination of all of the following
Donna’s Recovery-a combination of all of the following:
  • Recovery of the body, came first – Multiple food allergies. Once these were resolved and under control she became more stable, “but the deep rooted emotional insecurity and social communication problems were still there.” Something was still not right, something was still missing
  • Confronted the past – family
  • Wrote a book – not for publication, but rather to help her determine who she was, why she was the way she was.
  • Recovery of the mind – acceptance of self and willingness to share it. She never had a problem saying what she thought, but she would not allow herself to say what she “felt”.
  • Letting go of the “characters” had to be slow, used “travel dog” to make the transition away from ‘Carol’ and ‘Willie’.
  • She had to meet other Autistic people.
treasures keys to self
Treasures – Keys to ‘self’
  • Comfort and coping mechanisms
  • Tin of Treasures – carried them everywhere she traveled
    • Colored tinfoil
    • Buttons
    • Ribbons
    • Sequins
    • Colored Glass

“The places, experience, and people I had become attached to, my sense of security, and my ability to make sense of the relationships between things existed within these collections”

“..the people I liked were their things…”

  • The Cupboard – Physical refuge as a child, and later a metaphorical escape from “the world”, left Donna in there while being Carol
  • The Mirror – needed to get into the mirror, that is where Carol was. In front of the mirror Donna was Carol. The mirror was the way out of the “mental prison”. Her room was full of mirrors. She loved to stare in them, getting lost.
  • Kittens – strays, Donna
  • The Phone Book – Reaching out to “the world”
  • Mary’s Office – Donna’s Dilemma
  • Travel Dog – The bridge to living things. Letting go of Carol & Willie
characteristics of autism
Characteristics of Autism
  • Difficulty processing information
  • Inability to recognize facial expressions
  • General difficulty in understanding what is going on in common social situations
  • Difficulty comprehending any information expressed through spoken language is challenging – will often ‘echo’ what is heard (echolalia)
  • Hypersensitivity of some sort – the senses will overload easily
  • Like routines

She is finally and “I”

after having waged a war

with “the world”.

She has called a truce,

on her terms.