Why Joseph June’s Vacuum is the song I need

Today has not been a good day.

My executive dysfunction, which I normally manage through a series of tricks and guilt, got the better of me this morning. And that triggered an anxiety response which raised my adrenaline levels and made me hypersensitive to everything. The woman having a conversation next to me on the train? Grating, even with headphones on. The noise of the ambient air conditioning in my office? Unbearable! An email asking for something? Like the weight of a thousand mountains pressing on my chest.

It’s now been about twelve hours since my first surge of panic and I’ve finally calmed down enough that I only feel a little jittery and tense around the shoulders. That’s a lot better than most of the day, when the only thing keeping me from breaking into tears was the fact that I’m in an office full of other people (and it’s kind of hard to explain that nothing in particular is wrong except a residual stress effect from something you’ve already fixed.)

And that is why I love Joseph June’s Vacuum.

So last year, Sheldon Riley brought the autistic representation to Eurovision when he sang a beautiful anthem complete with a symbolic unmasking. It was dramatic and glamorous and a neat little package I can show to people when talking about autism. Sheldon may be saying “I’m not the same” but he’s being gosh-darn entertaining while doing so. It’s aspirational autism, where he coherently and confidently bares himself to the world and gets applause. It’s the type of autism that I laughingly credit when people compliment me on my ability to remember dates or notice things that other people don’t.

But Joseph June? First of all, I have no idea if Joseph June falls on the spectrum or not. His song is written from the perspective of an introvert, a quality that doesn’t necessarily indicate neurodiversity. And yet, even with that disclaimer, Joseph June is bringing a neurodiverse experience to Eurovision.

Because if Sheldon Riley is autism acceptance, Joseph June is the autism of daily life. It’s being overstimulated and wanting to run away from everything to go sit in a dark room. It’s feeling too many emotions all at once and having no place to channel them. It’s about wanting to, as June says, live in a vacuum where nobody touches me, and having that be a normal human response to life.

That’s why Vacuum is such a great companion piece to Not the Same. While Sheldon gives a voice to embracing and celebrating one’s neurodiversity, Joseph June enables me to describe what it’s like to have autism in terms that anyone can understand. In order for me to function, I need to spend several hours a day just decompressing in my own space – crawling into a vacuum of a weighted blanket and purring cat and the comforting reassurance of Tuju on a loop.

On a day like today, when I haven’t been able to regulate my emotions and I feel like a gigantic exposed nerve end walking through the city, it’s a relief to know that I’m not the only one like this. So thank you, Joseph June, and I hope you’re recovering nicely from Pabandom is Naujo in your own little vacuum.

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