An article explains how the fervor and insanity over the "ugly Tumblr dress" can compare to sensory processing difficulty in autism. And every autistic goes "NO SHIT."
And a very powerful article about the dangers of Autism Speaks makes me cry again.
LOL, when trolling works well for a good cause, it is fabulous.
So, recently, someone I've known online for years pissed me off- and I held my tongue for personal reasons- by writing something along the lines of "I don't think you're autistic. You didn't used to act like it and you still don't. Weren't you just always high functioning and now less so?" And I found a really good quote that could've been a cool comeback. Thanks, Buzzfeed comment section!
"Functioning labels are a social construct, they are also offensive - and by offensive we mean oppressive and prejudice - we're all Autistic, it's a spectrum condition so it effects us differently and to different severity which can change throughout our lives. You're making assumptions about someones functioning based on personal judgement, and dismissing the voice of Autistic people based on your prejudice."
What matters is how it actually truly does change over time. It was suspected within me when I was a child in the 1980s, but I spoke fluently and powerfully and I was a very sociable huggy feely girl, thus barely fitting the stereotype of that time, ditto in the 1990s and the 2000s. As an adult, my brain kept changing and altering, and my autistic tendencies were spotted prominently by people who knew, who understood, autistic people and doctors trained well. I was able to stop calling myself abnormally weird. I was able to realize that having a name for a thing - and a community, full of new friends - was one of the best medically important moments since I was able to give a name to epilepsy and then fibromyalgia, names of things that got powerful and honest attention.
Over the years as autism and autistics became more studied, details changed. Which is what I think bothered people like the person who wrote me. "How can it still be autism they keep changing it over the years?" people ask. "If it changes, what's the point of a spectrum?" they ask. I dunno. I might ask that of anything in life, really. Everything tends to flow in severity and function over time, whether it is few years or a few days. I didn't just pop up autistic, regardless of what anti-vaxxers insist. Autistic folk everywhere who never realized they were #ActuallyAutistic are just figuring themselves out, and I think my online friend and many others have been genuinely startled by the idea that even the details of diagnosis and spectrum itself are changing. What do my Actually Autistic friends say?
Also, in addition to being a really fecking stupid idea, trying to discourage the use of labels is an utterly futile one. Referring to definable concepts using words is human nature. Centuries of biological and cultural evolution has created a species that NAMES things. It is among our most fundamental psychological drives. We are the species of science and of literature; of identification and expression. We are Pan narrans, the Storytelling Chimpanzee. Verbal communication is OURS, as a field, like hardiness belongs to the cockroaches and swimming belongs to the fish. Our species is too intimately tied to the concept to back out now. When one encounters a concept that has no name, it is hard-to-impossible for a human being to avoid naming it, if only in the privacy of their own head. Labels are not only part of how we communicate, they are part of how we think. I see a chair, my brain says “chair”. I see that someone is upset, my brain says “upset”. It is difficult to efficiently think about something that does not have a name, and even more difficult to do so without resorting to making one up. Have you ever actually sat down and tried to find and list lexical gaps in your own language? It is nigh-impossible to do so without noticing two things: firstly, that there is very little that we don’t yet have a word for, and secondly, that our instinctive reaction upon identifying such a lacuna is to think “This thing totally SHOULD have a name.” So it has been since not long after we first developed what would later be labelled “sapience”. To oppose the use of verbal labels is to declare oneself to be a glitch in human development; an evolutionary throwback to those wordless days when Homo sapiens wasn’t yet capable of living up to its own name.
Basically, if you actually used words, made out of letters, to type a statement of opposition towards the concept of labels, then your argument is invalid and you have already lost.
I care because of all the time I spent lost in the wilderness, thinking something was missing. I care because of all the time I spent looking at other people and seeing that I was fundamentally different than them, thinking something must be broken inside me. I care because of all the time I spent not knowing where I fit in the world, thinking that I must not fit anywhere.
I care because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.
I have a place now. I have a name for me.
I’m not broken anymore.
I can’t make you understand what it’s like to go through that, but I can tell you that it brings tears to my eyes when I think about how many questioning people in the asexual tag I’ve helped to realize that yes, actually, they are asexual, and no, that’s not a bad thing, and yes, that’s a real orientation and yes, it’s okay to describe yourself that way. People are confused and hurting, and they need to hear that their experiences are legitimate. If a simple label can help, then so be it.
If you have a problem with people affixing words to themselves as a means of reassurance and consolation, then you can shove it. Your opinion is irrelevant. Every other set of people who uses some label — don’t need to justify their choices to you. They owe you no explanation. And yet the internet is littered with explanations if you know how to find them, because people like you are so numerous that they’re compelled to write everything from snippets to essays to articulate what you failed to figure out on your own.
Why is it even necessary for them to explain to you, hm? Why do you need to hear it in the first place? Why do you want to stop us from making ourselves feel a little better after being ground under the heel of normativity? Here’s an idea: instead of asking why they think it’s “necessary” to label themselves, ask yourself why you object to it. And for Pete’s sake, don’t give me that “limiting yourself” crap.
Ah, man, so many people have so many issues with labels and it doesn’t make sense that they do. Most of the time, I feel that people have angst with labels because they don’t want to admit that the shoe fits, like people who dislike the word “bisexual” but prefer to be “heteroflexible” which is just another label to describe being bisexual but with some sort of difference (which is really no difference).
I ‘preach’ to people that without labels, we would be unable to identify the world around us – and it’s necessary and vital to our existence that we do this – we can’t function without labels and, as such, all we need to do is know what they are, how they’re applied, stuff like that, and just get on with our lives. But, we also know that words have power and that some words can be used as weapons and to attack each other at the most personal of levels… and all because of the ages-old mentality of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” and that habit we have of wanting to destroy that which is not like us.
Labels don’t upset me because they can only have that kind of power if I allow it – I choose not to allow it and I can’t really understand why other people choose to give them this kind of negative power.
Copied from a comment I left on Facebook. During a discussion regarding how cerebral palsy might or might not be seen socially as an active disability that impacts a person's social or professional life
I am medically disabled.
I'll be medically disabled and socially disabled even when society makes everything accessible and easier to navigate.
My disabilities are part of me forever because of my brain being abnormal and different from the average. I'm cool with that.
I don't want to fight or struggle or handwave against it. Disability is a part of Joanna Me, just like shortness and writerbrain and cat loving an writing paranormal urban fantasy with future elements.
It is one definition of Joanna Me but it is not the biggest. It gives me powerful insight into my world and the world around me. It's like a friend woven into my neurology. However, there are much stronger definitions to show.
Being disabled and having a disability are often unconnected depending on how the person feels. Hence the disconnect between medical model and social model. Cerebral palsy is medical, but social depends on how society is able to make room.
If someone wants to see my disabilities first, that's cool, as long as they see the rest of me too.
I identify as disabled. One of my disabilities is cerebral palsy. It is a result of congenital brain damage. I will always be brain damaged. I will always be disabled. That is fine by me. I embrace being disabled while having a disability.
Today, and yesterday, and the day before, I've been... I guess it's ill with a cold, or a cold and allergies? It seems to vary. Obviously, a fibromyalgia flare has been set off. I've been dizzy, shaky, sore, with a scratchy throat, itchy eyes, runny or stuffy nose, yada yada. If it keeps going past a few days, I'll call allergies.
At the end of December, Adam and I began talking honestly about my Neuroweird, and he figured I might do well on an ADHD drug or similar, which made me consider SNRIs, which made me recall my first attempt at Cymbalta in 2002 that went wrong, which made me decide, after talks with three doctors and my insurance, to go back on Cymbalta in place of Zoloft, to see if an SNRI would do better at poking away at my Neuroweird. In combination with the personal therapy regime that will be slowly happening for probably ever, it is working. Most of my compulsive episodes have been very controlled. It is hard work, obviously. Everything is hard work. Sometimes we who have multiple intense chronic illnesses forget to mention how hard it is to just... be. Every day, all the time. Or people who don't understand might forget how hard it is. Not having episodes of... All The Issues, it's hard.
Maybe I just forget, because it's all happening to me all at once, constantly, in the background, and I'm so used to it that I wave it off and go "Meh, it's just Things, it's always been Things, whatever" even though my entire brain is screaming and full of storms. I don't listen to myself enough; I'm too used to me. That's part of an upcoming therapy session, too.
Very current parts of therapy have been literally watching comedy videos while exercising. The Nostalgia Critic videos on YouTube, for example, and Futurama on Netflix, and Cartoon Network during the day (Woo, Amazing World of Gumball, woo, and also the creator of Uncle Grandpa was in my high school class, heeyy).
I've been sleeping with plush animals again since childhood. It's fabulous. Ty makes lovely plush My Little Pony dolls.
I had no idea this was a thing until my mom's novelist friend mentioned it. I'm going to apply and then look at other grants.
BTW, FYI, JSYK, etc: I'm happy. Nothing to do with cults of positive energy or what have you; although positive thinking plays a small part in a specific way, as well as negative thinking, which folds up into balanced thinking energy whatsit. Everyone is always saying "Find your happy." And I have. I'm still going to have low, bad, poor, ugly times, because that is life. People are going to criticise me for things and such, because that is life. Right now, the only thing that matters is how I feel. Good, bad, positive, negative. But I'm just happy. That's what matters. *slowly nibbles on a glazed honey bun*
First novel really is close to finished. I am struggling to figure out what's the better way to blow up everything before reforming. Exploding reality is haaard.
Second novel is flitting around my writerbrain. I think this is going to be all nonsequential. I'll assign chapters later.
LOL, my kitty. Callisto has taken over my leather task chair on which I use a Pillow Pet as a cushion. If I'm sitting, she jumps into my lap, walks behind me, curls around me, and suckles on my shirt while kneading.
Tomorrow, I see my general physician and have her write a referral for the local hyperbaric oxygen therapy center. Although it's a bit premature, as they have yet to call me back about an initial consultation. While I was filling out their online New Patient form, I started wondering if they would even take someone like me, with two dozen illness. Even though cerebral palsy is the cornerstone. I just feel so excited about it. That's a good thing. I can still most of my emotion things.
What I find beautiful and fascinating about my private therapy protocol is that almost nobody believes me. I have been stuck in something insane since 2010. Why would they believe I would "get better" now, so many years later after therapy and medications and meditative exercises? Then again, none of them have been in long term therapy or medication. It really does take many years to spur a change this massive. Hence the secret protocol, which includes a possible medication update and potential oxygen therapy.
I don't expect anyone to believe me. I don't expect anyone to believe in my desire to change with this therapy protocol. How could they? Why would they? I am the same as I was when symptoms started. But I don't want their belief. I don't really want support if there is no actual active knowledge. How can you say "Hey, I've been there, I get it, fist bump in solidarity" unless you really have gone through a similar structure of treatment repeatedly for a grab bag of illnesses that mindfuck you for no reason?
Actual legitimate question, BTW.
If you're also a parent of someone with interconnected psychiatric and neurological disorders, I would love input, because when I try to explain these things to my mom who only has hereditary ADHD controlled via lifestyle, my emotion-brain starts shutting down so my technical-brain can word at her, and I know she wants less science and more human. I'm trying. I just cannot get past that very protective mental guardian who shields emotion-Joanna from Outside. And oh, as much as I love Serena, she feels it is easier and gentler to let me sleep while she and Koan the calico kitten organize and compartmentalize all the Me. Ananta works hard enough balancing out all the neuroweird that Alicia in my private epileptic Wonderland can't reach. I haven't had much success in psychically merging with Asha. We are working out my dissociative and depersonalization episodes first.
I will do this. It will happen. Steps have been severely taken. Hard to talk. But if you think you get it, I would love a discussion via Private Message. I am willing to reveal bits and pieces of my Rebuild Joanna Brain Project to acquire tips and advice from those who get it.
Now, see, I view many people as family beyond my blood family - who shall remain the besy family I would want. Various people in my social circle - friends plus family - have always stood with me. I will always need and want that. But for those who are truly normal and looking at me with confusion, puzzlement, exasperation, fear, anger... and the type of condesencing that means pats on the head, chuckling, and "I love you sweetie. Of course you'll change." "You do nothing. You never help. You are too self absorbed, you don't think, you claim memory loss. It is all right, dear. We are used to hit. Just finish writing." Followed by another hair tousle. I'm used to it. It's routine because I am me.
I am not out to prove them wrong, not entirely. I am out to prove to myself that my neuroplasticity really might eradicate the worst of the annoying symptoms.
Maybe this whole autistic ramble came from my hope and excitement over this slow gentle therapeutic process. If loved ones want me to speed it up, I can turn away for a while to meditate.
All I know is that my own husband has been putting up with me forever, and that says something huge.
Love you, LJ family.
It really is a gorgeous and poetic story. At least one member of the support group I'm in has pre-judged it because there is the concept of a "cure" via grafting in the brain, but said treatment is clumsy and doesn't always work. So, hey, I always say read the story before claiming "if it's about cures it's not beautiful." It's not about cures, it's about living in a mind that sees the world in a way that most people never will.
Autism is vastly different than my other disabilities. I'm proud of it. I'm proud of my brain, everything it has accomplished and attempted during its neuroplastic growth. And having a mother who, while thankfully is not a raging martyr mommy, is at least accepting and respectful of the idea that autistics generally don't want any cure, is good good. I am still so grateful that I wasn't diagnosed until adulthood. And that self-diagnosis is just as valid as a piece of paper from doctors; most auttstics who realize they are autistic (I had both and also encouragement from autists who have known themselves for years and years). It's not that "we were diagnosed with autism" - it's that we realized that our autism makes us what we are. I'm different and I love it. I don't want to assimilate with neurotypical brains. Like the girl in the linked story, I want to look at the universe on the atomic level and know how beautiful it is.
Bad day bad day. Brain misfires, pain everywhere, spasticity, OCD episode, distractions, hypersensitivities, gut issues. I will say, however, that probiotics and omega-3 supplements of specific kinds are actually doing good things to my brain. It's not really evident in any of my outward behavior, but I can absolutely feel something going on.
Dear neuroweird science students: Is impulse control mainly frontal lobe? I have a Thinky Thing I'm thinking about, but I need medical professionals and medical students to confirm. I know of Things that can help me personally and specifically, but I need to make sure I'll be doing it properly. Also, this means staring slackjawed at my MRI photos and calling my neurologist.
Unrelated, copied from Facebook.
Well, this person said what I was thinking.
My personal need for disability labels is personal. My need to be able to relate to people via stories and fiction. So many people have told me things like how they "don't see disability" (sorry, I have to laugh at that) and don't see labels... and that's cool. Really. That's fine. But that is not how I see the world and that is not how I view myself. Being able to say, "Yeah, I'm disabled, and these are the medical issues I have" is indescribably relieving, even powerful; it gives me a power to choose and know my own self in a very intense way that I honestly can't describe.
My disabilities are not really eccentricities or special powers; they are painful and they will get worse as I age - and I'm talking about the comorbid, co-occuring, associated syndromes and symptoms. Eccentricity? Gift? Er. Yaaa...aay? I mean, sometimes my seizures cause wicked euphoric hallucinations when I close my eyes? That's... fun? And I suppose having severe anxiety and ADHD-PI and OCD and SPD could be my mind working out itself and it's environmental relationship?
So, um, so far I'm not seeing eccentric quirks and gifts. But I don't see myself the way someone who thinks that way would see me. I've met disabled people who say they aren't disabled, and a part of me marvels at the cognitive dissonance, a part of me wonders if they're completely rejecting the medical model of disability, a part of me wonders what they do when symptoms and syndromes kick them around and act truly disabling. I say nothing to them because I know it's their thing. The only time I'd want to try to sway them is if they want to spread their belief that disabilities are not disabilities, because that can become harmful and dangerous to the social model. As Stella Young said, no amount of smiling at a staircase will turn it into a ramp. So, as much as someone refuses the disability label, I really need them to consider it beyond their beliefs.
I'm just saying. We all have very different ways of talking about, discussing, portraying, coding, and having disabilities. I'm just glad that right now, I am able to very very openly discuss mine the way I want without being punished for it. And so should others, particularly those who think differently than I do. That's what makes discussion.
Also? I find it funny that so many people are like "OMG aliens, what if aliens come here, wouldn't it be amazing, we should learn alien languages, I bet they don't even communicate like we do, so we should be open to new communicative experiences!"
And then they're all like "WTF autistic people you're so weird we don't want you weirding us up we don't like you why can't you be normal like us!"
And I'm all, "*throws hands up* WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US, YOU JERKS!"
I am having A LOT of thinky thoughts on why people reject the term disability in favor of eccentricity, quirk, gift. Not just abled folk but people with mental illness like bipolar or schizophrenia. I am still determined to wrap my mind around visibly physically disabled folk, like with cerebral palsy, who say they aren't disabled. It fascinates me because that view is so so alien to me. As long as the conversation is civil if course.
I don't do Twitter. But lots of my friends do. Fuck Autism Speaks. I'm not pushing anyone to do the #Notmssing thing. But I do believe it is vital to send Autism Speaks the crucial message that autism is not a "thieving disease to be eradicated" because IT IS OUR BRAINS. WE are autism. We are born with a different operating system that doesn't really comply with the standard. People laugh about meeting alien cultures with other ways of communication, and yet we are right here, a metaphor, and they not only turn away from us, they actively seek to erase us. So. No. Bad Autism Speaks. No. Stop it. Nobody is missing. We are right here. We are staring right at you, angry and sad. We have been here all along. We have been speaking out all along. You just haven't listened.
Also, hells no we're not ready to meet any alien cultures. Not if we keep trying to erase members of our own.
(Nick Walker is awesome)
Autism as a neurocognitive variance. Indeed. It's a disability because it hinders how we interact with life all the time. But there is nothing wrong with us. It's just a rewiring of our brains before birth or at birth.
Like, with me. I was born a fetus. I was a 26-week-old fetus when I was "officially born". My developing brain didn't have time to pick and choose. It just grabbed whatever it could, crammed stuff in, got a random shiny new operating system that was able to work around all the dead white matter, and figured it was good enough because I still needed to finish growing into being a baby, you know? Like, "Fuck it, we'll deal with this brain damage later, just keep the body going, okay? Move it move it move it avoid the gaps in the dead parts, come over this way, this construction project is gonna take a few more months than planned, so we don't have time for sick days, guys. What's that OS? It looks kind of tangled. That's fine, it's shiny, build it in, hook it up, whatever. Hey! I told you guys to avoid the dead zones! Awww daaamn, somebody get a new team over there please? No workman's comp here, this is preterm, okay? Just go go go..."
And that's where I got my brain.
So, dear allistic and neuro-typical assholes who question my right to exist, who insist that kids like me are missing, stolen, lost, forever silent: Fuck off. My brain worked hard to be itself, and just because my OS isn't yours doesn't make me lesser.
After getting my flu vaccine, I went to look at the cane rack, because they have this beautiful blue and silver one that looks like dragon scales, and I have been waiting for discounts and coupons so I could get it. The price is under twenty dollars, but still.
A middle-aged man who looked so much like Idris Elba that I did a second take, also reached for the blue silver cane. Our eyes met, I smiled briefly. He said, "You know, I bet this would make an awesome magic staff for cosplay."
I grinned and said, "Good plan! I should at least join a game just so I can brag. Or just be my paganish elf self and cosplay every day." Which was blurted out because my filter is so thin.
The Idris Elba lookalike chuckled. "I adore that idea. I just pray to all mighty Atheismo that we aren't going too deep. Like that Tom Hanks movie."
My jaw dropped. "Duuude," I said. "Futurama reference plus obscure D&D rip-off movie nee book reference? Cripple high five!"
We high fived and missed on purpose, stumbling. "Mild cerebral palsy, spastic hemiplegia" I said. "Mild cerebral palsy, diplegia mixed," he said. "And knee arthritis."
"And sciatica," we said in union, surprising ourselves.
"Fibromyalgia and epilepsy and autism too," I added.
He said, "My twin nieces are autistics! Their world is so awesome. I think they prefer me to my brother when they're in meltdowns, they talk about what's going on in detail."
"Awesome!" I said.
At this point, we had been staring at the canes and I had been avoiding too much eye contact. I was about to ask the Idris Elba lookalike about advocacy. Then I saw a gleam in his eye and sensed a topic shift. "Hey, listen," he said. "I'm a proponent of the pay it forward thing. I know we're strangers, but I do know enough about you that you really want the dragon scale cane."
I tilted my head. "Yeeeaah?"
"So, okay." He pulled some pieces of paper from his pocket. "I've got a buy one get one half off for this brand of canes. I will buy you your cane. What do you think?"
I blinked a few times. I looked at him. He wasn't hitting on me. He wasn't being creepy. He was just a fellow cripple offering help.
"Okay," I said, "thank you! That's really kind."
"Hey, the community needs all the assistance we can get from each other. Cripples helping cripples, you know?"
I smiled. "Totally."
As we walked to a register, he said, "I want you to know that I had no intention of hitting on you. I see your rings, and for all I know they could mean something else. But while I think you're a gorgeous-looking person, I have no plans on being a That Guy. I punch Those Guys on a regular basis."
"Physical trainer. Not so much punch as pinch in sensitive areas. Men can be scum."
I giggled. "Hashtag Not All Men!"
He laughed. "Anyway, let me pay for everything." He nodded at my basket, which had a few comfort items. I immediately said he shouldn't, since he was getting me the cane.
He then put my basket on the conveyor belt, looked at me until I noticed that his eyes had gold rings, and said, "Then pay it forward. Help another cripple." The corner of his mouth turned up. "Even if it's just donating to help someone get better access."
I nodded. I was going to cry any minute. He paid for everything, put his things in two totes and put my things in two more totes. He saved me almost forty dollars.
He said, "I would offer you a ride, but my friend's picking me up so we can go back to Philly. It's been a great road trip so far."
I nodded. "It's cool. I'm going to take the bus home anyway." I was feeling giddy. "Well, obviously we had this encounter for a reason. So. It was lovely meeting you, clone of Idris Elba."
He threw back his head and laughed. "I get that a lot. Same to you, clone of Mia Sara. Anyway, I'm Laurence."
We fist-bumped and he helped adjust my cane for my height. We walked outside together, and he stood at the curb to wait for his friend while I walked across the parking lot. I turned and waved. He waved back and kept looking at me. I realized it was to make sure I was safe.
I got to the sidewalk crosswalk and peered back. I saw him get into a green SUV. I realized I would probably never see him again.
I am definitely going to Pay It Forward.
Also! Links! For future reference!
PMS is vicious. Although with oral contraceptives, it's technically withdrawal bleeding rather than menstruation. Besides, I haven't truly bled in over a year. Being on the highest dose of birth control for over fourteen years will do that to some women.
PMS is vicious. A veliciraptor chewing through my pelvis. There's a photo out there of a plastic female human skeleton, with a toy raptor stuck head-first through the pelvic bone.
And the bloating and bizarre fluctuations on the bathroom scale.
Having slid back to psychiatric anorexia after failing to control neurochemical anorexia, I know damn well I should not stand on that scale especially during this time. I know damn well that numbers don't mean as much as how my clothing fits. But paranoia bred from life-long anxiety over disordered eating patterns is paranoia. And then there was the entire food=growth=death connection when I was little. And then there was being under a hundred pounds until my mid-twenties. And then there was the anorexia voices insisting that I needed to get back to that, being under five feet tall. I was never overweight. I used to weigh something around the high "set point" - but I have no idea where I've constructed this memory of being convinced to lose twenty pounds. Unfortunately, my illness has burrowed deep enough into my subconscious that my thoughts have turned to the classic hallmarks of anorexia: "I absolutely must be below X number or I will never feel right". The unwillingness to stop. The belief that everything is wrong. I know where I am. I know what's happening. I've been able to compartmentalize and separate enough so that I smack myself when those thoughts occur, so that I at least eat an apple or two, or cheese, yogurt, celery, even cheesecake or dark chocolate. My friends are with me.
Sag Harbor will happen next week, with Thanksgiving. Part of me is in a total blind mute panic. That part doesn't want to eat anything. That part wants to Be Good, Be Perfect. It doesn't matter that I'm over thirty, says the panic. It only matters that I am extremely small and I must keep being extremely small.
To bring everything around again: PMS is not helping. PMS is several numbers upward on the scale because of fluid retention, bloating... losing that fight to not overeat. PMS is barely fitting into the purple dyed jeans yesterday and having them slightly loose today. It isn't helping anything.
But I look at that blue and silver dragon scale cane, bought for me by a total stranger with the same disability as me, and I think the best way I can Pay It Forward is to make sure someone I care for stays as mentally healthy as possible...
My mother has always insisted that I be more self aware. I never figured out why that was so difficult. I'm learning so much. I feel like rediscovering myself.
" Low emotional self awareness means that i can be – often have – building up to full meltdown without even knowing it. On a really low self-awareness day, I can be crying or raging over something and not even know that I’m crying or raging, let alone why. Tears will be streaming out of my eyes, and I’ll insist I’m fine, it’s just my allergies. Not because I’m lying, but because my conscious brain is genuinely unaware of how upset I am."
"In one of my favorite posts about identity-first language, Zoe at Illusion of Competence writes the following:
I was at a conference last summer at which Ari Ne’eman gave an introductory speech, and it fell to him to explain why ASAN uses identity-first language. One of the things he said, which I really liked, was “If I’m on a flight and the airline loses my luggage, I don’t arrive without my autism.”
No matter what our view of autism’s origins, I think we can agree that it isn’t an appendage that can be taken on and off at will. It travels with our kids. IN our kids. As PART of our kids. And as such, it’s simply not reasonable to expect them to understand that we loathe autism but we don’t loathe them. Or that we hate this thing that afflicts them, but they shouldn’t hate themselves. Because even if we could get them to understand the difference intellectually, we’d be hard-pressed to get them to FEEL the distinction. And after the other night (and last night again and this morning again while Katie was still coughing and Brooke was still screaming), I was convinced that if we continue to tell these kids, through our words (to them or in front of them) or our actions, that we hate / fear autism, we are teaching them to hate / fear / pity themselves for having it. People do not separate themselves from what they have / how they act / what they feel / how they experience the world. And we as a society don’t either.
For the love of God, Katie had a COUGH – something temporary and fleeting. Something that will, God willing, be gone in a matter of DAYS. A cough – not the filter through which she tastes, sees, smells, hears, touches and perceives everything in her world. Yet because Brooke hated the cough, Katie’s entire identity became conflated with it. Driving with Katie, talking about how she felt, the implications of the moment rushed over me. And the weight of those implications was almost unbearable.
If we keep FIGHTING autism, HATING autism, FEARING autism, talking about the UTTER HAVOC that autism wreaks on us and our families, we will end up with a generation of children who have learned to hate themselves – or who, at the very least, hate things about themselves upon which they have no control or that, if they can control, they do at tremendous cost to their sense of well-being and self-esteem."
A lot of parents of autistic kids and adults don't know how to work with and help their children, turning to damaging methods like ABA - which I am still reading up on myself, as scary as it is. But lately some of those parents have taken up a mantra of "speak to autistic adults; listen to autistic adults." Nothing About Us Without Us, indeed.
'See, my autism is my new best friend. Really new. I don't know its favorite sub-shade of green yet. It doesn't know why I prefer cobalt blue and hate powder blue. We are circling each other, even after a whole year of being introduced despite having a whole life together. We are both really uncertain about specific TV shows for different reasons. But I don't know what my autism would say to non-autistic parents of young autistic children, and my my autism isn't sure those parents would like it and thinks I might sound like a jerk. So, I'm kind of flailing. What DO you say?'
It came via a website called Sticky Jewelry. They're pretty awesome, and affordable. This came with a free cleaning chamois cloth and a free medical identification card on which to fill out vital information, like emergency contact, physician phone number, prescriptions, blood type.
The pendant I attached it to is an Etsy-bought custom-made ouroboros pentacle with an amber stone. It has a lot of power for me. Also, it's a fun stim.
A friend posted this, so I'm sharing.
You need a (free) Medscape account to read this (you may, er, need to fudge a little about *technically* being in the healthcare profession . . . my opinion is that those of us who need to spend significant time managing our medical care are roughly equivalent to being at least *part-time* healthcare workers.) ;P
It's important to stay up-to-date on this, because medical continuing education programs don't necessarily require keeping up with specific disease criteria, and may be more general in nature -- plus, the trigger-point/tender-point exam has been around for so long, it's a matter of habit with some clinicians. You will be best-armed to manage your own care, if you walk into your appointments without assuming that your doctor is necessarily knowledgeable about the *most* recent research.
"[T]he 2010 criteria was to create diagnostic criteria that were more user-friendly for clinicians to use in practice— for example, reliance on the tender point exam, which we know may be incorrectly applied in practice and be misleading in suggesting that FM is primarily a muscle or tendon problem as opposed to being primarily a problem with sensitization and dysregulation of the CNS. The new criteria rely more on pattern recognition of the constellation of chronic widespread pain along with other characteristic features such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive dysfunction, and irritable bowel symptoms—symptoms that may occur either as an independent entity or in association with other chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis."
Also, a recent study has shown that fibromyalgia patients process multiple types of sensation differently, not just pain sensations:
"Brain scans of patients with fibromyalgia showed that they processed nonpainful stimuli, such as sound and touch, differently than the brains of people without the disorder. This may explain why patients often complain of hypersensitivity to sensations in everyday life, author Marina López-Solà, PhD, from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told Medscape Medical News.
"What we wanted to know is whether in fact there was something in the brain that would account for these feelings in response to stimulation that is not painful in nature," Dr. López-Solà said. The study, published online September 15 in Arthritis & Rheumatism, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show that patients with fibromyalgia processed visual, auditory, and tactile sensations with reduced brain activity in primary sensory processing areas, combined it with higher activity in sensory integration areas such as the insula, compared with individuals without fibromyalgia."
Please feel free to quote and repost anywhere -- just please don't attach my name to it, since I don't want to lose access to *my* Medscape account. Thanks!
And everything you felt about being such, deep inside, comes up and out, and you catch it in a clear quartz prism, and you turn it and examine it, and you hold it up to as many lights as possible. And it is all beautiful and even those cracks and dark spots are beautiful.
People don't always pay attention when an autistic person is killed by their parent or guardian specifically because of words like "burden" and "burned out caregiver" and "mericful" and "for the best" and "couldn't take it anymore."
Like Kelli Stapleton - and yeah, typing her name made me feel a pain in my fingers. I have no emotion for her. I could hate her, but this is beyond hate. No sympathy. Kelli took her 14-year-old autistic non-verbal daughter Issy and attempted murder-suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning, rather than seeking actual help, therapies, and treatments for Issy and herself. And she has a cheerleading section. I cannot wrap my mind around this. People are supporting her, calling her brave, shattered, wonderful, because she "put up with lower-spectrum autism" in her child for so long that she finally snapped. Feel sick? Me, too.
This happens dozens of times a year, more, and rarely is it reported. Now, I didn't know until this past spring, when I began navigating the careful waters of autism activism. I can't swim. And some of my new friends are dragons. I keep a lot to myself. However, I need those dragons, those growling leopards, those night-seeing owls, to make sure I navigate.
The point is that when a neurotypicalm able-bodied person says "I love you because you are amazing because of your disability"... that is powerful. I have never, ever felt unwanted; I had intense, deep, powerful love my entire life. However, my social peers, educators, and adult peers obviously had different reactions.
One phrase I dislike is "Don't let your disability define you"/"Don't let your disability become your identity." I laugh a wry laugh. See, a congenital disability is part of what defines me. A congenital disability is part of my identity. I realize and understand completely when those phrases apply to acquired illnesses and acquired disabilities. But I'm someone who is, as they say, disabled and proud.
So that blog post is a big hug.
1 "When you’re going through a thing like this, you tend to latch onto ANYTHING that isn’t panic inducing and repeat it over and over to avoid the things that are terrifying..."
2 One time, a long while ago, I was having a panic attack, and so I shifted my thoughts to looking for a lost plush animal to move away from the panic, and I told Facebook because I have friends here who understand, and I was told by a random acquaintance that it was unnecessary to post about having lost a toy, that nobody cared because what good would it do, and that I should post more meaningful things.
Panic attacks don't care even more, but at least they start to fade once you work through them and work past them. Internet trolls don't. Especially not those who don't care what panic attacks do to specific people and how they get treated by specific people.
*quick deep breathing*
Goodbye, trolls. I turn away from you. I will quit talking about being harrassed and move on.
Also, panic attacks suck. So I am focusing on my stuffed animal toys and my cat Callisto, who is snuggled up with me like comfort.
That is all.
3 My phone case from Diztronics is deep blue with blue and silver glitter. It's like someone spray glittered the TARDIS. My Galaxy S4 is red, so it is amusing. :-D
4 I did a chaotic organization of medical supplements, loved toys, loved books, skin care; and all the patterns I'm seeing are making me squeal and dance. And now to watch all of Futurama on Netflix, and then Uncle Grandpa, and then The Amazing World Of Gumball, and today is a Soft Clothing day because my skin is being sensory processing disordered and hypersensitive to pressure. Etc. And The Amazing Amanda will understand because she and I are like autist sisterlings.
5 I decided that resistance bands are better than push ups for my capabilities and issues. Grab each end of the rubber band and lift up to my chest, pull and hold for one second and do as many reps as I can. It works various upper arm muscles, shoulder muscles, chest muscles, and ab muscles if I engage them. Then my brain sorts through patterns to connect to different muscle sets and brain signals that might work best with the hemiplegia. Sometimes I color code the central nervous system activities when I can. It takes a hell of a lot of meditative concentration and it doesn't always work. But it is fun and it is soothing.
Compromise, compensation, modification, personalization. My mother always made sure I could do stuff however I had do.
6 "So please, just listen. I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is alright. Because didn’t anybody ever tell you? Fear is a superpower. Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger.
And one day you’re gonna come back to this... and on that day you’re going to be very afraid indeed. But that’s okay, because if you’re very wise and very strong, fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind.
It doesn’t matter if there’s nothing under the bed or in the dark so long as you know it’s okay to be afraid of it.
So listen. If you listen to anything else, listen to this. You’re always gonna be afraid even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there. But that’s okay because fear can bring us together. Fear can bring you home.
I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember. Fear makes companions of us all."
- Doctor Who Season 8 Episode 4 "Listen"
-Now one of my own personal fear litanies
And also, see, as a signature, I tell stories and engage in conversations as though my Facebook friends are already with me.
It is highly frustrating for some, and I've been harassed over it by random strangered acquaintances and bored trolls because they want to know stone details in rational and logical ways that are opposite from my whimsical spontaneous blurting out wordenings, but they don't realize that I am waiting to reveal, I am preparing those stone details for later in the story and that is how I work and how I brain, because a neuroweird brain like mine isn't very straight, it is curvy and looping and wavy and look over there at the shiny. Autist? Sure. Artist? Yes. Atypical neurology? Forever.
Details are for the comments sections, in which the story continues like a deep conversation. I never plan to engage conversations, but when it happens it becomes magical and it becomes anything.
And so this monologue in an episode about facing fear and patterns of lonely and alone and companionship and need, I see stories and conversations that veer everywhere across a dozen thought processes, neural connections zooming and smashing and spiking as ideas slam into each other.
Come, friends, fall into the story with me! We can converse in the comments. But don't be harsh. Be kind. Be clever. Be an empathic friend, not a severe critic. Be companions, and we will ride these blurted engaged stories buoyed by the strength of companionship.
7 "Scars tell the story of our lives, inscribed upon our skin. I’d not remove mine for the world." -Failure To Fire Comic via comments section
It took me so, so long to accept the scars I had as a newborn. Like... three decades. Alex has acquired scars, so I feel that I have a sort of mental dissociation with that for some reason. I still feel irritated, literally and figuratively, with my scars, since no matter what they hurt but are also stories.
Discussion to continue in comments. I'm in a weird headspace.
Okay, so the above post on my Facebook has been getting a lot of awesome replies, and I wanted to share it here so people could see what I mean. I'm gonna copy the post itself here. If people's comments show, please don't bug the people.
Here is what I wrote:
So, fellow adult autists: Can we talk about autism comorbid conditions? When explaining the more annoying aspects of having an autistic brainworld to health professionals, the genuinely curious, and people who want to learn more, I've started talking more about autism's comorbidity. Because I have talked so much at length about cerebral palsy's comorbid conditions - which, in fact, can intersect with autistic comorbidities.
Also I ask all this since cerebral palsy is the result of static brain damage; ie periventrucular leukomalacia, which is closely related to, even can be a type of neonatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy. Cerebral palsy is technically a result of static non-progressive collective brain injury. So cerebral palsy itself stays as static damage, while its many comorbidities march on progressively, causing widespread chronic pain, a sort of premature organ aging ahead of chronological aging, bone and joint debilitation, muscle atrophy, etc - generally beginning in the late twenties, peaking in the mid thirties, and slowly moving forward through our lives.
CP alone is ugly and worrisome, but most research is so focused on children that older adult patients tend to be ignored. It's only recently that adults with cerebral palsy, specifically spastic CP, have been studied. Our systems are... I don't know the right phrase. Degrading? Slipping? Damaging? Certainly debilitating and disabling. As we hit our thirties, many of us do get worse. There has been a giant amount of self-denial in the CP community. It brings up a rallying cry of "I'm strong! I can fight this disease!" except strength isn't the point, you can't fight, and it's not a disease. It's a disability, and it's personal to each individual.
See, I'm spastic and ataxic hemiplegic, but mild enough that I've gotten "But you don't look disabled!" all my life. Even when my left side goes through classic flexion, internal shoulder rotation, toe walking, all very obviously (you see, it doesn't stay like that all the time, hence the mildness. But when it doesn it's obvious enough to get "What's wrong with your arm? Why are you limping so much? Were you in an accident?" comments.
However, the chronic illnesses that developed in my youth that we all ignored because we figured "it was just from CP" have gotten so much worse in my now 35 years. I am in a lot of fibromyalgia communities, for example.
Now! Since autism's comorbid conditions include anxiety disorders, sensory processing disorders, neurological disorders like ADHD and OCD, mental illnesses, epilepsy and seizures, visual problems, spatial problems, depth perception problems, I want to cross-check them with cerebral palsy's comorbids, which include... all of those, plus pain, joint issues, nerve issues, muscle pains, skin conditions.
But fellow autists, please correct me if I am wrong on things. I need to figure out how many of my comorbids are specifically connected to autism so I can sort them all out, charting and making patterns and checking them against the comorbids from cerebral palsy. What are other autism comorbids?
Also, I don't like saying things like "autism symptoms" since this is how I am wired from birth. Like cerebral palsy. So I've been saying "comorbid condition symptoms". Does anyone else do this?