Feminist Aspie

Autistics Speaking Day 2014: Human

on November 1, 2014

(This post is my submission for Autistics Speaking Day. There are loads of great posts on there already, and many more will be added today and over the next few days, so please go and have a look!)

Hello there. Let me introduce myself. I’m a human.

I have a name, although I don’t really use it on here. I’m a student, a blogger, a feminist, a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a friend, an autistic. Not mutually exclusive.

Right now, I’m typing this because I lack the necessary executive function skills to stop what I’m doing and actually get a good night’s sleep. That, or I’m just enthusiastic about this post. In reality, it’s a bit of both. Also, like so many of my fellow humans, I spend far too much of my life procrastinating from studying. I take BuzzFeed quizzes, I tidy up, I play 2048, I make tea, I listen to music, I pace and pace and pace across the floor on my tiptoes because that’s what music does- sorry, does that sound weird? Fair enough, I suppose some people prefer coffee. But at the end of the day, I almost always somehow manage to get that essay written on time, and I tend to last longer with actually going to the lectures than a lot of my friends too; maintaining the routine helps me feel safer.

Outside of that, I play guitar (or rather, I should practice more often!), I go to a few student societies, and I quietly blog, mainly about feminism and autism, under the world’s least imaginative pseudonym. I’m currently catching up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I also really like Doctor Who. Really like Doctor Who. Nonononono but you don’t understand. Actually, I think you might; there’s no bold obvious line where the “slightly above average level of fandom enthusiasm” ends and the “autistic special interest” begins.

When you first meet me, I am almost definitely quiet. Nervous. Awkward. I’m better at the whole “people” thing some days than others, depending on a million and one other factors. Sometimes I feel like I can take on all the world, sometimes I feel like it’s all going to crash down on top of me, most of the time I’m somewhere in the middle. This doesn’t make me “high-functioning” nor “low-functioning”. I don’t suddenly regress, or am suddenly cured. I have varying emotions, and I have varying energy levels, being a human and all. Having said that, I find online interaction far easier even just amongst people I know in real life. On Facebook, I’m known for my love of and constant use of reaction GIFs, despite sometimes finding real-life, real-time facial expressions impossible to navigate; I don’t have any logical explanation for this, but maybe that’s okay. I mean, most people don’t find themselves having to explain their personality to people like that.

Let’s go back to emotions for a second. There still seems to be some confusion on this re: autistic people for some reason, so just to confirm, I do have them. It’s just that they’re often over- or under-expressed. I cry with laughter far, far more often than I cry with… um, crying, which is a rare occurrence. Unless, of course, I’m having a meltdown. Anger, frustration, lashing out was a real problem when I was younger, but these days I’m better able to nip those situations in the bud before they arise, and rant freely into the void of the internet instead. These days, I think it’s fair to say that my primary emotion is fear. I’m scared of talking to people, family arguments, sudden loud noises, sudden total darkness, crowds, my ex-boyfriend, and yesterday I managed to creep myself out – intentionally, in a sort of fun way – watching YouTube videos of game corruptions. But my biggest fear, for some reason, is probably that pesky heat/suffocation/being-trapped combo that, combined also with an actual over-sensitivity to temperature and humidity, just sort of gets in the way of everything far too much. But I’ve totally missed out on the whole bugs-and-spiders thing so, y’know, swings and roundabouts. Anyway, sometimes I panic and/or get too overloaded with sensory input, so I have a meltdown or, more commonly, a shutdown. If I can get out and get back to my room or somewhere else that’s nice and safe and quiet, these days I can generally handle it myself. What I can’t handle is your judgement.

Yet, despite the perceptions of autism as a tragedy, I find that the good is at the very least equal to the bad. Sound hypersensitivity means that music is even better, for one thing. Special interests are just the best thing, many of which have stemmed from music, although of course there’s Doctor Who too. And I’ve grown to love my neurodivergent body language, even as those around me don’t understand it or, in some cases, want to suppress it because it’s weird and therefore bad or because they think some other group of people won’t like it (and they say autistics don’t have a concept of irony…). My fingers flutter or fly inwards in defence, I tap the walls, the tables, the floor, my toes bounce with my full weight whether I’m pacing in my room or exploring the outside world and I’ve never had to think about high heels, I repeat words and phrases to myself and rehearse and perfect my lines for the conversation I’m about to have, I’m jumpy and twitchy and sorry sorry sorry sorrysorrysorrysorry. Okay, so that last bit’s sort of a pain, but I’ve even found it to be a great conversation starter. It’s a thing I do; it’s a part of me as much as everything else I’ve mentioned. I’m not perfect. I’m human.

I worry about how I’m going to get my work done on time, how I’m going to talk to whoever I need to talk to without drawing a complete blank and not being able to use words, my family and friends back home, what to have for dinner, how on earth I didn’t immediately realise that remark was sarcastic, the weather, the weather, what I’m going to do this weekend, if that guy could even possibly like me back, if I could even possibly risk going to that social event that sounds really fun and exciting but also loud and crowded and scary, whether or not the world and its people can overcome and recover from the effects of kyriarchy, whether or not I can overcome and recover from the effects of that constant, constant, constant feeling I’m being judged for not being neurotypical.

My autism cannot be separated from my humanity; my autism is a part of my humanity. To me, all person-first language does is imply that my autistic traits need to be somehow isolated from the rest of my personality for me to be seen as, well, a person. But they’re not. I am multi-faceted. I can be good, bad, flawed, happy, sad, angry, scared, so so scared, strong, weak, changing, all of the above. Most of the time, my general state of being has been influenced by my being autistic, positively, negatively, sometimes both. So, because I’m often afraid to be visibly neurodivergent in public, I’m often afraid to be multi-faceted around other people too. Of course, then I’m apparently too robot-like and stereotypical and feel bad for that too, but I digress.

I’m autistic. I’m also a person. An autistic person. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you need to re-think your idea of what is required to be human.

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11 responses to “Autistics Speaking Day 2014: Human

  1. Im sorry i cant read your post right now. I just came out and then my friend gaslighted me and i feel scared andcalone. Imhope its ok to leave this comment. I left one another blog too…i dont know what to do. I just dont want to feel alone. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, I had forgotten that I left this comment. It was awful, yes, but much better to know Now than to put more time into a relationship that I didn’t realize was horrible.

    Today, I am trying to find out how “communication” is formally defined for purposes of diagnosing autism. I thought it would be easy to access, but there seems to be an unwritten social assumption or a common sense type of implicit rather than explicit definition.

    The implicit definition has a distictive oriinration towards strategic means–ends outcomes with measures of “success” determined not by the achievement of mutual understanding, but instead by an effective outcome for the speaker.

    This definition is alarming because what is actually being critiqued, evaluated and measured is social domination not communicative action. The implications are disturbing. The diagnostic critera thus construct communication as social control. So then autism is not a disorder of communication at all. The implickit definition logically suggests that communication can be isolated into separate or single speakers. But communicative action requires mutual participation, meaning no one speaker is privileged with or burdebed with a greater responsibiliy to be understood, for that would indicate a false realit whereby speech acts can somehlow be assessed for quality based on an imaginary, non existent standard of objectivity. As if communication can magically detach from the communication context, for example, power relations, including problematic aspects such as stigma, privilege, status difference and authority.

    With this social construct, the effective manipulator and gaslighter, for instance, is posited as the more effective communicator for their actions dominate the outcome,. This commoditization of communication as an exchage of Value, mirroring the money exchange of a commodity marketplace. Hence, the more “effective” participant, who achieves her goal of successful domination, is reified with a false claim to objectivity. (OBJECTIVE SUBJECTIVITY?)

    I am new to this discourse community, and am eager to know if others are discussing how the whole diagnostic process is predicated on false assumtions about power, etc. Moreover, i cannot distinguish this construction of a false reality as any different from a culturally sanctioned lifetime of gaslighting with the professionals playing the role of psychopathic strategizers.

    Anyway, I really hope to find someone to discuss these ideas with, and so I am starting with you. Thoughts? Or maybe you can point me toward someone…or some site?

    My special interest is communication. I had never analyzed diagnistic criteria from a communication stand point. And now my response is WTF? The implications are staggering.

  3. Pardon all my typos, please. I need Barbie doll sized fingers to type on my tiny device. 🙂

  4. All through your essay, I identified with the struggle of making meaning–both to be understood and to understand others. I imagined what it would be to live in the world and have the privilege of being being understood without having to work so hard. I appreciate that you expressed those subtle tensions which never go away. It is a special vision of a person’s way of fitting perfectly into a life you approach so matter of factly.

    I guess I am feeling too many feelings…and i hope i will understand first hand— at some point, that matter of course drift in balance, at times, with the tension.

    Beautiful piece. I enjoy your writing voice and style. And I don’t have to second guess what i am hearing as i read along.

  5. I think the ideas in my comment above are too inflammatory to stand alone, without a paper in a journal, at least, to back them up…. so it seems I will try to write that paper now instead of blogging more. The issue is important. But i see now that I was coming at it from an angle that is not helpful. Mixing theory with real life confuses and alarms, in this case. A formal paper is the more responsible route, I hope.

    These ideas cut to the heart of oppression and deserve a very different kind of attention and care.
    Otherwise I fear that people may be harmed more than helped. I have seen enough of that to last ten lifetimes. I am autistic, and only starting to realize what that means.

    • And i don’t know what autism means if science is not its definer. I cannot separate in my mind the science from the name. I feel so strongly about this impass, I had to end my blog.
      I cannot overlook the way that science dehumanizes with an inverted view of reality, one that calls communication by its opposite, and makes differences the problem of individual people. This is too big for me to take on…this thing i wish i did not see. I have to leave it for others, and try to find a path only through philosophy, not science. It is a personal thing, a bias I cannot escape, perhaps, yet science is a rhetorical lens through which the world and my place in it can only feel like a betrayal. I know there are huge gaps in what I am getting at, in this short space, and i can only pray that these gaps will not be mistaken for some kind of judgement about others. It seems I do that without seeing it, and i believe it has everything to do with all our human shortcomings, and with our shared limits of language, and with forces of domination. And all of this does not make my disabilities any less real, does not make anyone’s diabilities less real. So…I need to work this stuff out in a way that won’t be a burden I cannot carry alone, and that won’t put a burden on all of us who carry this culture on our backs. I must take another road. Again. Thank you for traveling this short distance with me. I will read your writing, and keep trying to learn about our world through your words and others’. I don’t want my science biases to end that.

      • “one that calls communication by its opposite, and makes differences the problem of individual people.” – yep 😦 I think that sort of thing ties into the “neurotypical reality seen as ‘true’ objective reality” issue you mentioned above too. Thanks for the comments, sorry it’s taken me forever to get back to them!!

  6. Thanks, yes, you point out the main thought which is enraging, and to me dangerous. I found a site to engage a bit from anthropological POV. And i left my blog’s About page open for discussion of ideas in relation to autism and Autism and communication / reification. It is a huge idea and i feel scared, yet i am telling Myself i gotta get over my fear…this seems too big to let fear stop me from this inquiry. 😮 — good luck to us all…

  7. A Quiet Week says:

    I adore your fresh, vigorous voice. All the good actually autistic posts on tumblr condensed into one. I smile and feel human, too. Thank you for amusing me, encouraging me and embracing autism. ❤

    Lori Degtiarev

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