Feminist Aspie

What Self-Care Means To Me #AutismPositivity2015

This post is part of the Autism Positivity Day Flash Blog; this year’s theme is “Acceptance, Love and Self-Care”.

This post has been a frustrating one to start, because at the moment self-care is something I have a lot of feelings about, but it takes so many different forms that I don’t know what to focus on. Self-care varies, because people vary, but here are some ways in which I (at least try to!) practice self-care:

Disregarding “normal”. This might sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done when the neurotypical standards aren’t just present in your own minds, but in the minds of others and in the very fabric of a society not designed to accommodate people like us. This year I’ve had to try and unpack every single “I’m not X enough” standard I have – I mean literally typing out every single one I could think of – and counter them, one by one. I am learning to compare myself to me, six months ago, a year ago, three years ago, but not to my peers, because they’re not me, they’re all their own person, and most of them are neurotypical. This year, I have grown – my experience wasn’t necessarily what I expected, or what was expected of me, or what my friends have experienced, but I have grown.

Special interests. (No, I don’t like the term either, but nobody’s thought of anything better yet…) Escaping the rest of the world, engaging, pacing and spinning around the room and *gasp* not feeling guilty or childish for it. If they can have their big night out, I get to have this.

Accepting online interaction as real, valid interaction. Because it is.

Actually genuinely really being honest. This is a very very VERY recent thing for me, and it’s been brought about for two main reasons. Firstly, to cut a long story short, there is a space where friends are dropping our socially-acceptable masks and talking about our worries and fears and realising we’re actually not alone in them. Secondly, out of necessity, because I haven’t exactly been feeling 100% this week and I needed to have somebody here who understands and can help me out where necessary. I have definitely internalised the idea that if I am still capable of asking for help then I obviously don’t need it and nobody will believe me; I also often fall into the trap of assuming an allistic person probably doesn’t really understand whatever my problem is. Neither of these things are true. Showing vulnerability is hard for me, and this is going to be a slow process, but you’d be surprised by the level of support and empathy that’s there, given the chance – and who knows, you might encourage others to do the same.

Writing notes to myself. This is something I’ve done on-and-off for a couple of years, mostly just on my phone and laptop. I look back over them when I’m feeling useless and pathetic, and they remind me that I’m not.

Lists. For when there’s so many thoughts competing for my attention that I have no idea how to proceed with my day.

Acknowledging invisible strength. That is to say, feeling proud of having done something that scares or overwhelms you even when that’s not noticed because to the neurotypical majority, it’s just normal and everyday. Sometimes, for many of us, that stuff is everyday – and even if I do say so myself, that is really, really brave. Recognising that helps me to recognise when I need to step back and recharge, why I’m feeling crappy and how to fix it (where possible), and how best to prioritise when spoons are low.

Taking things one day at a time. The next couple of months have very scary elements, next year seems impossible, and the future is a dark and terrifying void. But today? I can do today. The chances are I can even do tomorrow.

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Yes, You Do Mean Me

People I know will talk at length about how ridiculous and over-sensitive and overly angry they think feminists are, or social justice activists more generally, and often expressly refer to specific views I share or groups I’m a part of, but, well, obviously we don’t mean you.” They don’t mean me because I’m not confrontational, I’m not argumentative, I stay quiet and let everything slide because direct confrontation is something I really struggle with. They don’t mean me, even though if I spoke my mind more often, they’d know they do mean me.

They don’t mean you, yet, they just want to check you’ll laugh along and keep the part of you they clearly do mean out of their sight.

They don’t mean you as a disabled person either. Certainly, when misogynist and/or ableist trolls came after the NUS Women’s Conference for using BSL applause to accommodate various disabilities“well, obviously none of them meant you” although, being autistic and hypersensitive to sound, I’m amongst the people who would benefit, and my friends often end up making very similar accommodations for me, albeit on a smaller scale. People, even those who campaign for social justice and claim to strive for intersectionality, make sweeping catch-all criticisms of people who don’t follow a healthy enough or ethical enough diet, who spend a lot of time online, who didn’t vote* or go to a protest or something else which involves being able to leave home and get to another place that may be inaccessible in any number of ways, and when someone points out the inherent ableism in that and how it affects them personally… “Well, obviously we don’t mean you.” Sometimes that’s also accompanied by a thorough assessment of whether the individual in question tried this, tried that, tried hard enough, or whether they actually really genuinely have a good enough excuse.

They don’t mean you, so long as your disability and your experience has their approval. They don’t mean you, but all these other disabled people need to just try harder, or also come forward as individuals and hope they’ll be believed. They don’t mean you, as long as you’re in a position to willingly disclose your disability in demand. They don’t mean youunless your invisible disability hasn’t been spotted or diagnosed yet, because everyone’s abled by default, right? They don’t mean you, they approve of your excuse so they don’t have a choice about it, it’s not your fault you’ll never be as good as your abled peers in their view.

Believe me, “well, obviously we don’t mean you doesn’t make a jot of difference to those of us who have to put up with this stuff from all angles, day in day out, always the afterthought they didn’t really mean. Unintentional harm does happen, and in a society where oppression and exclusion is so widespread it goes unnoticed, I’d go so far as to say it’s inevitable that we all cause unintentional harm at some point, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful. We need to learn from our mistakes, take care not to repeat them in future, and apologise where necessary; getting defensive and claiming we never meant you doesn’t solve anything.

Because when faced with the reality that their ideologies are hurting actual real people, they never mean you. They just mean everyone else like you, and they expect you to be okay with that.


*Just so we’re clear, I managed to arrange a postal vote on time, used it, and felt it was important for me to do so, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of blaming non-voters, even where it was by choice – it’s not something I want to get into here though, so I’d recommend reading Stavvers on the subject instead.

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