Feminist Aspie

So I had a huge shutdown and now I have a lot of feelings…

(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses an autistic shutdown and internalised ableism)

I won’t be around this Friday, so I’m being prepared for once and writing this on Tuesday night! I’ll publish now too, because apparently I’m more impatient than I thought. On the other hand, I’m afraid this is going to be one of those whining-about-my-life posts, because it’s safe to say the past few days have been a bit of a mess!

So: after I’d already had an intense couple of days, some (relatively new) friends from uni started planning to go to Women’s March and I decided to go with them too. This was a Very Obviously Bad Decision. I was overloaded and panicky the second the packed tube doors closed, ended up non-verbal and frozen stiff on the outskirts of the huge crowd, and ultimately found myself zoning in and out on a tube back home before any actual marching had even started. Everything had fallen apart.

Firstly, I know I’m not going to be the only one who’s had similar experiences, and even the fact that I could get there at all is a huge privilege in itself. There’s a lot to be said about inaccessibility in activism; about how some forms of activism are prioritised over others and seen as more “real”, to the detriment of the disabled people (and people in general) who carry out important activist work in other ways; about how instead of add-on tokenism so disabled people can feel included, we need to actually BE included and have our needs considered from the start of activist planning; the list goes on.

For now, though, I want to focus on the shutdown itself and the torrent of internalised ableism and self-loathing that followed. For the rest of the day all I could think about was how terrible and useless and silly I was – not because I couldn’t participate (like I said, inaccessiblity is a thing), but because I couldn’t participate and I tried anyway. If I’d stayed home in the first place I could have at least got on with uni work and perhaps been more vocal online, but instead I put myself through all that stress and ended up writing off the whole day (and, I think, reduced productivity for several days) only to ultimately contribute nothing. If anything, I’d contributed negatively, in that my friends (who were in this situation with me for the first time) were also held back while they tried to figure out what was going on and how to help.

Ultimately though, I think a lot of those feelings just boiled down to frustration. To put it bluntly: I came up against a huge barrier that would not have been there if I were neurotypical. Of course, in many ways you could argue that happens all the time, but, at least in my case, it’s rarely so blatant, so clear-cut, that the only thing standing between me and the goal was my brain. It makes me feel vulnerable; well, I guess it makes me aware of the vulnerability that’s always there.

The other reason I feel vulnerable is because I suddenly feel very visible; it didn’t help that I posted a lot about autism on my Facebook last week for reasons I can’t really go into here. As soon as I had the typing words, I was venting about what happened in practically every space I could think of, to the point that I was a little worried about this post in case parts are recognisably lifted from posts and comments under my own name. But immediately after doing so, I’d feel embarrassed, whiny, silly, looking for attention (why is that even a bad thing anyway?) and if I’m totally honest, I still feel a bit like this now as I write.

I got some really lovely messages on the day from the people I’d gone with, and they were all really nice about it when I saw them again in class, but it didn’t stop me feeling… weird. Weird: My go-to word for a feeling I haven’t quite identified yet. Self-conscious. Guilty. Ashamed. Yep, I felt ashamed that I’d shut down like that so obviously in front of them, even though I know on a logical level that I shouldn’t. Telling the whole story to others has also been…weird. Difficult. Misunderstood. I always forget until I have to talk about autism-related concepts like meltdowns and shutdowns that most people don’t really know what it means without you explaining it (which is something many people struggle with, including myself), and even then, they don’t necessarily get it. It’s not their fault at all, they just can’t relate, it’s not within the realm of experiences they have had. And it makes me feel so alien.

If today’s energy levels and executive function are anything to go by, I’m still not quite over it yet. (Okay, so I wrote a long blog post, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I actually had to do today!) I’m not sure if I have actually been more sensitive and less able to handle social situations over the past couple of days, but I’m definitely more consciously aware of other times when I might be visibly different, or other things I find difficult that “should” be easy, and it feels… y’know, weird. Again, frustration and vulnerability and shame and feeling bad for feeling bad, because I really know I shouldn’t.

Sometimes, the most useful contribution you can make is to take care of yourself, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you have to just accept yourself for who you are, and who you are is okay. I just wish I knew how to put that into practice.

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Everything is the worst – and we shouldn’t have to just put up with it

By the time this post goes up, Donald Trump will be President. Yep. Really. Remember how ridiculous and impossible that was three months ago? I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why this is terrible and dangerous, but I do worry about how easy it is to normalise it, to buy into all the awful “marginalised groups provoked this by asking for basic human rights” rhetoric when it’s everywhere. So, for the record:

  • You don’t have to “just learn to live with” the fact that someone who openly admitted to sexual assault has been allowed to reach one of the most powerful positions in the world.
  • You don’t have to engage in “respectful debate” over the “controversial” views that climate change isn’t real or that vaccines cause autism. Those views aren’t controversial. They are objectively, scientifically, wrong.
  • You don’t have to “just get over” your healthcare, even your means of survival, being taken away.
  • It’s not “demonising” to point out that people in power think conversion therapy is okay and to point out that it really, really isn’t.
  • You don’t have to “get along with” people who think you and people like you are an acceptable target for open mockery.
  • And you DEFINITELY don’t have to “unite as a country” with people who support literally actually really building an actual fucking wall to keep you and people like you out. (Or with people who put their own economy at risk to keep you and people like you out, for that matter… and they say WE “want to stay in our own echo chambers”?)

The far-right and its supporters want you to think that it’s irrational, unreasonable or childish (cleverly playing on the insecurities of many millenials who haven’t had the same socio-economic opportunities to reach “adult” milestones as in the past) to stand up for yourself and your rights. It is NOT irrational, unreasonable or childish to stand up for yourself and your rights. It is NOT irrational, unreasonable or childish to resist.

 

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Some Twitter threads on transphobia

CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses transphobia and conversion therapy, and also mentions anti-vaxxers. The first linked thread mentions transphobia, healthcare gatekeeping, ableism and sexism. The second linked thread mentions transphobia, healthcare gatekeeping, gaslighting, suicide and ableism.

Three weeks into the whole “new post every Friday at 7pm” thing, and I’m already messing it up – a lot’s happened this week and I have a few deadlines coming up, so here I am with an imminent Blog Time and virtually zero Blog Ability.

Instead I’m going to link to two Twitter threads by two autistic trans people, Harry Giles and @Scattermoon, broadly about the BBC’s decision to broadcast a documentary entertaining the idea that cis adults know what’s best for trans children better than trans children do, framing abuse of trans children as a ~~debate~~, and suggesting that autism is a valid reason to disregard gender identity, amongst other things.

You’d have thought media organisations would have learned lessons from the whole Andrew-Wakefield-claiming-MMR-causes-autism thing, but apparently not.

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Uncertainty, risk, and consequences

(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses autistic meltdowns)

Uncertainty doesn’t mean that something bad is going to happen.”

This is one of the main points I took away, word for word, from my uni counselling service sessions last year. I find it very helpful to remember because, well, it’s true. Sudden changes with no advance warning can be pretty awful in terms of sensory overload, but on the other hand, sudden changes with advance warning can lead to days of slow-burn, pit-of-the-stomach anxiety which, most of the time, turns out to be completely unfounded. I find it helpful to remind myself and to be reminded that, realistically, there’s a big chance that nothing bad is going to happen to me at all.

Having said that, there is a huge difference between reassurance and denial. A dismissive “stop worrying, it’ll be fine” or a laughing “you’re worried about THAT?” from neurotypical people, however well-meaning, is incredibly frustrating. The main reason for this is that these people don’t understand what I mean by “things going wrong”. They don’t understand the consequences of things going on. I’m not just worried about inconvenience, discomfort, general less-than-perfection. First and foremost, I’m worried about meltdown.

Autistic meltdowns are experienced differently by different people and in different situations. For me, meltdowns mostly involve a lot of crying, the intense feeling that nothing is going to be okay ever again, and a horrible all-consuming headache that makes me feel sick, makes it difficult to speak coherently (in a situation that may attract the attention of well-meaning people pressuring me to speak coherently so they can understand what’s going on) and means I can’t process more sensory input (in a situation that’s usually provoked in the first place by some ongoing source of sensory overload I can’t get away from). It can take days to fully recover from. These days, I experience true meltdowns rarely, so I know the risk is low, but the very fact that it could happen is terrifying. In addition, if I get into this state away from home, there’s really no guarantee that I’ll be able to make it home or to a place of safety myself, so the prospect of that happening when I’m on my own is very scary indeed.

“Why on earth are you so on edge about it? It’ll be fine!” always makes me think “Well it’s alright for you, you don’t have to deal with the consequences if, by chance, it’s NOT fine”. But articulating that in the moment is difficult, especially after years of it being mocked and dismissed as over-reacting even by people who really mean well.

Of course, in reality, it’s almost always fine. Uncertainty doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen. Uncertainty only means risk. But that risk is very real, that the severe effects should that risk actually occur are very real too. By all means, offer reassurance that it will probably be fine, but understand that it might not be fine, and that risk is not to be erased.

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