This piece was roused by a recent revelation of the power in owning my own words to redefine my social boundaries, coming to terms with deep-seated self-diminishment, and revealing a simple change that has liberated my being.

“Word of Mouth”
by Grace Morse

“Autistic hijacking,” she declared. Immediately, I felt flawed. Visceral repulse fluttered in my stomach. Sitting on the floor, my seat bones began to ache as moments passed, pressing deeper into the beige carpet, and greeting the plywood underneath. Eyes redden by streams of tears, paying glory to this uncontrollable parasympathetic force, I gawked at my counselor through the computer screen. Hair pulled up into a bun that resembled a newly established bird’s nest, and teeth feeling fuzzy, I was not ready to begin my morning with what felt like a criticism.

Until a few years ago, my idea of mental health was analogous to that third cousin you “knew of” but only acknowledged at mandatory family reunions. Yet, I eventually found myself hitting the inevitable rock bottom that makes you yearn for peace. Oh sweet, internal contentment. Since then, I’ve delved into family patterns, unconscious pains, and wrestled each emotional alligator to the ground, nearing an enlightened Steve Erwin, if you will. But “autistic hijacking”? This was outside my niche of cognition.

You see, I have been holding back my truth — my own words — for years. Decades, really. This process was subconscious — an overriding attempt to hide in silence. A defense to living in a home riddled with alcoholism, quieting myself meant survival. And so, as my words (truth) bubbled in my gut, rising to my diaphragm, teasing my vocal cords, I would, as my counselor explained “redirect (your words) elsewhere in an attempt to acquiesce.” I would steal — hijack — from my truism in attempts to stay unseen. Colloquially, we may call this “biting one’s tongue” to prevent discord (and no one appreciates the sudden surprise of chomping on that fleshy muscle mid-bite by happenstance).

Resultingly, conversations, no matter how simple the topic or with whom, would evoke a difficulty. Even more dangerously, from that, I would become riddled with frustration. How maddening it is to not speak! To not let loose the cannons of verbal recourse — no matter the mundaneness of the topic! Instead, I would recoil. What would happen if I spoke and no one agreed? Rejection. Shame. Misjudgment. I would, in all ways, become socially awkward and untoward. Frustrated at myself, but expelling these tendencies to those around me, I began to recognize how this had a metaphoric flavor of a social disorder.

Although sitting on the floor in confusion with tear-soaked eyelashes that morning, this ignited a quest to speak one truth per day. A small, attainable goal. Yet, this has propelled me into a realm of freedom like no other! Albeit I have failed and retreated once too many, stuffing the words away. But a gentle tug back, and I’m reminded to untangle my words so they may flow and meet the estuary of the surrounding environment; without departing my soul. I choose to no longer hide in incongruent falsity. And so, from my gut to mouth, I slowly reclaim each word as it journeys to tell the whole story, my story.       


Hear from the Author

Grace Morse

What is it about writing?

Writing has given me a medium in which I can explode from the seams, every thoughtful intrigue that comes across my psyche. My psyche is the origin of all emotions, visceral feelings and passion. Without writing, I believe I would be muted from my truest reality; a void that only silence fills.

Why medicine?

Medicine chose me. I know my purpose is to live a life of service, and like writing, which is a medium to express the soul, medicine is a medium in which I can serve others. I embarked on a medical mission and witnessed a truly unfortunate experience of poor bedside manner… When we empathize with the human experience of suffering, we truly neglect all selfish purposes and decide towards a path of relentless giving.  

What motivates you through tough times?

Three-second moments of hope. Sometimes it occurs five times a day and other times, once. Some days, I feel fraudulent. Others, I feel empowered. It is an undulating process. Chronic depression has been every bit of my reality as the necessary action of brushing one’s teeth each day. I choose not to numb my reality with substances, people and experiences. If you do not numb, you may stay in the present. And if you stay in the present, you may be able to have that hope that permeates its way through our realities. 

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2022-2023, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 98% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.