Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Social anxiety

Hello everyone. It’s been quite a while since I’ve made a blog post. 

I’ve been trying to make a blog post for a while, but then I’d burnout, or something would flare up in my life. But, then there’d also be moments where everything was fine, but like a muscle, I had just gotten so used to not writing that I’d just locked up, I kinda forgot how to do it. So I just didn’t write.

And so time built up, it’s been a few months, and I’ve still been trying to write something. But I realized the biggest problem I was having with writing is I wasn’t pouring myself into it, I wasn’t just doing it, I was overthinking it. I was thinking “well I haven’t posted in a while so I can’t just jump back into it again, I have to explain myself.” But why? I’ve made countless posts on social media updating on my life, and the issues in it that are completely out of my control, so why can’t I let that be enough? Why do I always feel the need to explain myself?

I’m not very good at keeping friends. Allistic friends, mostly. I work differently than them, I am wired differently than them, so to someone who is not familiar with differences like mine, I can be offputting. People are afraid of change, that rings very true for myself, but I think it holds true to everyone in a way. Like birds, we flock towards our own kind. We go towards people that are like us before anything else. That doesn’t mean that a friendship between completely different people cannot happen— it can and it does— but it’s natural to mostly surround yourself towards people who are like you. We all just want to relate to someone. So I’m not offended when allistic people don’t know how to be my friend and I don’t know how to be theirs, it’s neither of our faults. But I’ve lost a lot of friends, and when a friendship ends I put a lot of blame on myself. I blame myself for being too different, too talkative, too blunt, too bad with boundaries, too annoying, too one sided, too weird, too autistic. I’ve spent my life mimicking, and while it’s not as bad now, I still find myself monitoring myself; trying to filter myself even though my brain was wired to work otherwise. I’ve hurt enough feelings and I’ve felt bad countless times that now I’m hesitant to be blunt, I’m hesitant to give my opinion, I try my darnedest to be appropriate and keep my words gentle. I have trouble saying no, I have trouble setting boundaries. I’m so terrified of losing people— of hurting people, of pushing people away—that I lose myself in the process. I maintain a life motto of and preach to people about being yourself, that it’s better to be liked for being yourself than to be liked for someone you’re not, and all that. And I still believe these things, these things matter very much to me and I hold them very true, but I feel like I can’t take my own advice. 

When it’s been drilled into your head all your life that you are wrong, that you are broken, that being different is bad, and that it is always *you* and no one else that is the reason for every problem—no matter how untrue—it’s hard to shake that. When you’ve had enough rejection your brain stops seeing it as just a natural and faultless part of life but rather something to do with you. When you’ve learned conflicting messages, each equally efficient in its affect on you, it’s hard to stick with just one. 

When you’ve had your flaws pointed out to you your whole life— even if they’re not even flaws at all— you begin to point them out to yourself. And you obsess over them. You monitor them. You fear them. You berate yourself for them. And in the process, you isolate yourself. 

I’ve lost friends so many times that now I obsess over every possible way I could lose the ones I currently have. I’ve said the wrong thing so many times I obsess over every possible way I could mess up what I’m going to say next and I obsess over what I’ve just said until I can find a mistake. I’ve been second guessed so many times, so now I do it myself. I’ve had to apologize for things my whole life—even when it’s unnecessary; especially when it’s unnecessary— and now I just do it before I have to. I’ve had to explain myself so much that now I do it before I’m asked to. I’ve failed at social interaction so many times that I avoid it altogether so that way I can’t fail. I’ve been bullied, so I’ve become my biggest bully. 

I’ve had enough bad experiences to develop severe, crippling anxiety over it. 

I have social anxiety disorder, and a very severe case of it. 

Its disheartening how common SAD is amongst autistic people. It’s disheartening that so many autistic people have been through the same things as me, especially the fact bad, mean people may be able to walk free of consequence and remorse, we still relive it. We relive it every day. 

Some of you may know this already, but I am a huge musical theatre nerd. I love doing it, I love listening to it, I love the scripts and the routine of it, I love getting to be a different character— everything about it, I just love it. I have loved it for as long as I can remember. But anyways, my favorite musical for the past few months has been Dear Evan Hansen. I started listening to it because Ben Platt originated the titular character— he’s so amazing, okay. I’ve loved and admired him all the way back to Pitch Perfect— but I had no idea what it was really about. But the first song I listened to was “Waving through a window” and I didn’t like, full blown cry, but I did cry a little, and I certainly wanted to cry more because I was just, so overcome with emotion. It is, first of all, incredibly beautiful, and I could listen to it... for forever (badum tsss, if you know Dear Evan Hansen you will get the reference), which I probably will. But, second of all, the lyrics explain social anxiety near perfectly, and just so beautifully. 

“I’ve learned to slam on the break, before I even turn the key. Before I make the mistake. Before I leave with the worst of me.”

That’s it. That’s exactly it. That’s exactly how it is, what I do. 

I’m so petrified of crashing that I don’t even get in the car. I’m so afraid of failure that I just don’t try. And when I do, I have to fight every urge to give up; I have to fight every overwhelming urge to just run away, to shut myself off and shut everything away. I’m so afraid of being isolated by people that I isolate myself so they can’t. My body prepares me for the worst before it’s even happened, before I can even experience it, or the good, or anything for that matter. I’m already slamming on the break before the key has even been turned. 

“Give them no reason to stare. No slipping up if you slip away. So I’ve got nothing to share, no I’ve got nothing to say.”

How can you mess up a social situation if you just don’t go? That’s what my brain tells me every day. “No slipping up if you slip away” is exactly how I think. That’s my internal monologue. 

People can’t stare at me if I don’t interact with them at all. I can’t mess things up if I just shut myself away. Nothing can go wrong if I do nothing. 

But it’s isolating. You can’t have a bad experience if you experience nothing, but...you’ve also experienced nothing.

“Step out, step out of the sun if you keep getting burned. Step out, step out of the sun because you’ve learned.”

Once again, so perfectly explained. If I step out of the sun I cannot be burned by it. If I push people away they cannot reject me. If I don’t leave the house I can’t make any mistakes outside of it.

But one also needs at least a bit of sun now and then to grow and survive.

“On the outside always looking in. Will I ever be more than I’ve always been? ‘Cause I’m tap-tap-tapping on the glass, and waving through a window.

Try to speak but nobody can hear, so I wait around for an answer to appear. While I'm watch-watch-watching people pass. I'm waving through a window. Can anybody see? Is anybody waving back at me?”

Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you don’t crave it. Some people like horror movies because they like the feeling of being scared. I like interaction, in reasonable doses; I also crave it. I crave experiencing the world. But what I want so badly is also the thing I fear. This chorus perfectly outlines how isolating and frustrating social anxiety is. You’re always on the other side of the glass, and though you’ve put yourself there, you don’t really want to be there. You’ve isolated yourself but you want to be surrounded, even though it’s the very thing you were avoiding. It’s confusing and it’s frustrating and it’s utterly painful. It is a constant fight between fear and desire, and it is exhausting. I wouldn’t wish this on even my worst enemy. 

“We start with stars in our eyes; we start believing that we belong. But every sun doesn't rise, and no one tells you where you went wrong.”

The first perspective we have is our own; we all begin innocent. We all begin believing everyone thinks, looks, acts, talks (etc. etc.) like us, but that is not the case.  We believe the best in everyone and every situation, some people more intense than others. And it’s the highest towers that come crashing down the hardest. 

Some people fit in a mold, others don’t, and others wildly don’t. I am someone who wildly doesn’t. I’ve always stood out, even amongst desperate attempts to stand in, I’ve always been so utterly transparent to everyone around me. I was a very naive child, probably more than other children. I believed everyone was kind, because I didn’t know how to be mean, so I assumed that it just wasn’t an option. 

I believed everyone was like me because I didn’t know any better, and that is what a lot of people maintain still to this day, but not everyone is like me and not everyone is kind. 

“No one tells you where you went wrong” they just let you know you’ve made a mistake. I’ve been made aware of my (sometimes spectacular) failures in social interaction, but I’ve never known what it is I get wrong. What makes someone bad at socializing? Is it subjective? Who gets to decide?

This line also rings very true to just being autistic (Evan isn’t canonically autistic, but he’s close to it. It’s quite implied and he’s also left ambiguous enough that anyone can read him however they want) allistic people see in between the lines, and so they expect you to also, but they forget not everyone sees what they see. I don’t see anything there! 

Often I misunderstand an allistic person and they let me know I’ve misunderstood them, but they don’t tell me why nearly as often. It’s like we speak completely different languages; there’s a gap between us.

“When you're falling in a forest and there's nobody around, do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?”

This bridge is heartbreaking and powerful. These lyrics reference a plot of the musical, which is that Evan fell out of a tree and broke his arm, but it also speaks to the part of social anxiety that is so debilitating (even though it all is, of course), which is the insecurity; the doubt, the constantly questioning yourself, the feeling of insignificance.

These lyrics, to me, are a significant-to-the-musical way of asking “do I matter?” And that’s a question I’ve asked myself an infinite amount of times. 

I love this song so dearly, it’s become like my personal theme song. Also Owl City (one of my favorite musicians since childhood and fellow autistic person) covered this song so that’s one more reason it’s awesome. 

After I listened to this song a billion times, I started listening to the other songs a billion times (I still do, constantly) and reading all about this musical and watching whatever I could of it online, and it’s just...so good. It’s just so good. That is an understatement but I cannot quite put it into words how beautiful and close to heart it is. Everything is so good, the music, the writing, the acting, the cast— all of it, it’s all just so, so good. It is some of the best representation I’ve ever seen, because it’s accurate, but also more importantly, it doesn’t demonize nor overcoddle neurodivergent people. Every one of the main teenagers in the story can be read as neurodiverse (I read them all as autistic), and none of them are without flaws. They’re all very morally grey characters, and that is just that. I’ve rarely seen neurodivergent characters and storylines handled so well. 

To avoid this post turning into a 10 hour infodump, I’m gonna cut this short, but if you are interested in this musical, look it up and become obsessed with it for yourself. The storyline is simple yet complicated, and ultimately I just wanted to talk about that one song, but the whole musical has such important messages, both relatable and empowering ones, and it’s just so real and raw and beautiful. All the hype about it is, in my opinion, one hundred percent deserved. 

The most important message for me about this musical is that everyone is important in their own right, and that no one is alone. And no matter how a situation goes, no matter how bumpy the road of life gets, just being you is enough. Everyday has good in it just by having the courage to be yourself.

Anxiety is an illness I will battle for the rest of my life. It isn’t fun, it will never go away, and some days it completely swallows me whole, but it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t dictate if my life is good or bad, only I can decide that. It may fight me tooth and nail, it may try to break me, but it hasn’t yet, and I am still fighting. If you are battling too, please know you are not alone in this. The thoughts in your head may seem so much louder and stronger than you, but just know you are just as loud, and just as strong. 

I will not sugarcoat this. There aren’t a lot of positives except, like, maybe, I’m gonna be alert when I need to be. But I am sick, and I always will be. But I have two options: 1) I can just give up, let the anxiety win, and live a life of isolation and misery, or, 2) I can fight back as best as I can, be me despite the voices in my head telling me not to, celebrate victories both big and small, and try to make the best of every day and every situation. 

My goal in life is to choose 2 as much as I possibly can.

And if all else fails, in the words of Evan Hansen, “at least you’re you, and that’s enough.” 

I am working on seeing myself as good enough. 



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ableism, invalidation, & more in the #actuallyautistic community

I like to start off my posts by giving some warnings. 1) All opinions I give are just opinions, they are my own and I stand by them and you don’t have to agree by any means. As I say, the best part of being human is having your own individual experiences, and that we are all different. Having the privilege to disagree is a good privilege to have, and if you have it, cherish it. I will not be offended if you disagree with me, and I’m open to *respectful* discussions. I do not like arguing, however, it’s pointless and petty, and not productive. But it’s okay to disagree with me, and if there’s anything you feel I’ve said or done that was really wrong, I’d like to know, because there’s more a chance that I didn’t mean it than I did. 2) Trigger warnings are unique and specific to every person, and so trying to count through all the different ways something I discussed could be triggering is exhausting for me to write and for you to read, so I would like to just make everyone aware that there’s probably something triggering in this post, but I didn’t intend it to be that way. If there’s something I do a lot that you feel is triggering to lots of people including yourself, please let me know and I’ll make sure to work on it and/or make people aware of it. I want my blog to be educational and comfortable for everyone, and don’t want anyone to feel excluded. So I’ll do what it takes to make sure no one feels left out, I promise I would never intentionally leave anyone out, this is a safe space for all people of all kinds and all *respectful* view points. 3) You are loved, and no storm lasts forever; And afterwards you may just feel cleansed, or find a rainbow. That’s not a warning but I think it’s important to know anyways :^)

So, I touched a little bit upon this subject in my last blog post, but it’s something that’s really prominent and something that really bothers me, so I want to talk about it more and rant about it in my typical fashion. This topic is invalidation and ableism within the disabled community, but I’m specifically discussing the #actuallyautistic community for most of this post. I myself have probably contributed in the past, but it was out of my own ignorance, not out of any ill intent, and I want to educate others and help them learn- Not because I’m perfect, but because I’m a flawed human being who makes a barrel of mistakes, but is trying to learn and make a difference in the world. 

Now, I love the autistic community, I’m APART of it...obviously. But outside of the friends, acquaintances, and other varying words for “people I know and like” I’ve met through my blog and things like that, I don’t really interact with the major community too much. That kinda doesn’t say much, though, because I’m an incredibly private, introverted person. I spend as very little time on social media as humanly possible, mostly because I don’t understand it in the slightest, but I also find it to be a confusing, and a lot of the time, negative, toxic place that can heighten my own existing negative thoughts- But it’s given me a platform, and so I use it accordingly. 

Really, anything with the word “social” in it is kind of like a “do not enter” zone for me. And mostly because of what I’m discussing today, there are really only a few trusty blogs, social media’s (social media’s?? Is that grammatically correct? I’ve no idea. As I said- oblivious), and whatnot that I read, and follow, and all that. 

Recently there’s been an epidemic in, really, any community, and just people in general, but especially this one- wow, this sounds like an Autism Speaks commercial, I promise it’s not headed that way- AS I was saying, before I rudely interrupted myself, there’s been an epidemic of invalidation and just low key ableism within the disabled/neurodivergent/autistic community. There’s a lot of issues with social media communities in general, but I’ll get to that another time; This is a big one, though.

I’ll be reading a post- For example, a post about autistic representation- and it’ll be fine and I’ll agree with some points, and then there will be something along the lines of “I couldn’t relate so I doubt any other autistic people could” or “I’m autistic and I know, like, 3 other autistic people so- -“ or just flat out “we, autistic people, are not like this AT ALL!!” or “An autistic person doing (insert thing here)??! Completely unbelievable and inaccurate!” and my personal least favorite, “this is a minority in autistic people, so it shouldn’t be represented” which really, deeply peeves me because when it comes to racial, sexual orientation, or gender minorities in representation it’s a very big deal- which it is, completely, it is a huge deal, please don’t go and spin my words into something they’re not- but when it comes to something small like “only a small majority of autistic people like broccoli! Most of us dislike it so this is inaccurate!!!” (I don’t even know if that’s a real thing, I love broccoli myself. That’s just the first thing that came to my mind) Why is that any different than representing racial or gender minorities in the autistic community? A minority is a minority! You don’t get to pick and choose what a minority is to suit your arguments. And in my personal opinion, anything that changes the usual narrative is quite progressive, and there are many people who see, for instance autistic women and non-male autistic individuals, as a “small minority”- not to mention just being autistic is a minority- and base stereotypes on their opinion, so isn’t representing any minority a *good* thing? Isn’t suggesting we don’t hypocritical? Or is it just specific minorities? Which, in that case, I wish people would specify that instead of insinuating any minority matters rather than only some. Please just say what you mean. 

~I want to note I am not comparing disliking broccoli to being a person of color or a member of the LGBT+ community (which I am a member of, if I might add), or anything like that. I was using that to make a point, that’s it. Any other interpretation is not right, because I meant exactly what I say I meant. I don’t know if anyone will take it the wrong way, but I want to point that out before someone else does because- not to sound like an annoying relative on Facebook- these days people will find just about anything offensive or wrong or problematic. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt when no hurt was intended, I always wanna make sure of that. But, as you obviously know, I’m autistic, and for me, communication is a struggle, and I don’t always word things how I want and I have to settle for what’s close enough. Long story short: I’m just sick of hypocrisy, that’s all. And I like analogies. And I also have the right to my opinions, as do you. That is all.~

And it could be any topic, really- I see this everywhere!! But I see it specifically in conversations about ending stereotypes about autism. In order to prove that Group A of autistics is as valid and exists just as much as Group B, we erase, alienate, and invalidate Group B instead. And to me, that’s just- pardon my language- shitty. Imagine if we just did that with all of our problems? (Actually, don’t answer that...)
I’ve found this is a huge thing in social justice or “progressive” circles, which I will not be getting into in this post, but that actually ties into a post I have planned; So stay tuned for that.

Sometimes I can just roll my eyes and brush it off, but sometimes it really gets to me. Because some of those people talk about these things in a way where you should almost feel guilty for being a certain kind of autistic person. Like, if you fit a certain stereotype, you should be sorry because you have contributed to the discrimination of other autistics who don’t fit these stereotypes, rather than- I don’t know- the allistic people who made it a stereotype in the first place. 

I also find it blatantly hypocritical when I see autistic people doing exactly what we’re calling out allistic people out for doing. Just because you, yourself, are autistic, does not make what you are doing any more okay. Boxing up an entire group of people and putting a label on that box to describe EVERYONE in it, whether you are in that box or not, is ridiculous and inaccurate every time. Pulling that “I know everything about autism because- -“ bull crap is ridiculous and inaccurate every time. I don’t care if an allistic or autistic person is being ableist, it’s wrong either way. You don’t get a “get out of ableism free” card just because you, yourself, are disabled. Disabled people can be ableist- in fact there’s a huge portion of the disabled community that is actively and unapologetically ableist. 

There are physically disabled people who erase the existence of mentally/developmentally disabled people to make physically disabled people more taken seriously. There are mentally/developmentally disabled people who erase the existence of physically disabled people to make mentally/developmentally disabled people taken more seriously. Intellectually disabled people are thrown under the bus by all sorts of disabled people, and slurs and such that specifically target them are thrown around like it’s nothing. And I think we’ve all been just negative and ableist to each other at least once. I have, and I will apologize and work to fix that, I work on it everyday. Being disabled is not a pass from ableism- In fact, there’s an immense weight of internalized ableism every disabled person must overcome, and we have to overcome the ableist mentalities we have against disabled people with disabilities we do not share. 

Internalized ableism, however, is not some buzzword to throw around when it’s convenient. It’s a serious thing that plagues the best of us, not simply a fellow disabled person disagreeing with you. Any form of discrimination is more serious than someone disagreeing with you, but that’s a whole different discussion.

One form of ableism I’ve seen in the disabled community, specifically in this example with autistic people who say things like “(*Mentions autistic trait*) this is inaccurate, autistic people aren’t stupid” - things like that piss me off so much. Honestly, the words “stupid” or “dumb” or “idiot” in reference to a living being should be cancelled; I have never heard it used in a way that is not ableist. 

Sometimes I’ll just have a crisis, like “this fellow autistic person has just said it’s impossible for me to be autistic so they *must* know what they’re talking about because every autistic person must be the all knowing authority on autistic issues and experiences so they MUST be right and I’m not autistic, but I’m DEFINITELY not neurotypical so....So what the heck am I, then?” 

I am someone who compares myself to people very often, I am extremely hard on myself and I’m already spending way too much time thinking thoughts like “I’m autistic and so is this person but we’re slightly different so I’ve obviously probably been faking my autism this whole time”, and I also spend a lot of time feeling unintelligent because neurotypical people can make me feel that way. I’m already so hard on myself, even if I know all the things I’m thinking aren’t true.

And it’s just such a negative thing, I wouldn’t wish this mind gunk on anyone, and I know there’s probably a ton of autistic people out there who deal with the same thing and to read blog posts from within a community you’re meant to feel safe and accepted in, and read invalidating, just genuinely ableist comments is utterly horrible. You begin to invalidate yourself because of that or they’re brought back to a place where they were invalidated or bullied by ableist jerks- Maybe both, for me it’s both.

I just want to hand out some advice I may never take myself, but I hope it’ll at least help someone else for what it’s worth:

If someone invalidates your place on the spectrum, or makes an ignorant, nasty comment on your autistic traits- regardless of their own neurotype, they can frankly eat dog shit. I know that’s an immature, silly way of putting it, but it just makes me so angry, because it’s so horrible to be made to feel like you have no idea who you are. Ones identity can be one of the things that we’re aware of and we’re familiar with in this ever changing, chaotic world and to have someone attempt to take that from you is the cruddiest feeling in the world, especially coming from the very group of people you should expect empathy from. It doesn’t matter if it’s an allistic person doing this, or an autistic person, the only person who is the expert on your individual experiences is you. If you are autistic, that is enough; You are autistic and no one can tell you otherwise or take that away from you. You are no less or more autistic than anyone else, you are you and you own your experiences, not anyone else. 

And you are not dumb- Let’s just throw that concept out. What is “dumb” anyways? Because the definition changes from individual to individual. Words like “dumb” “smart” “normal” and stuff like that, in regards to people, or really anything sometimes, all have completely different meanings to every person and none of them really exist. I think we can do without them, and find better words. 

And I mentioned it before- do you mean intellectually disabled? Cognitively disabled?  Learning disabled? Because don’t claim to speak for and be an ally for disabled people but erase members of this community because they don’t fit a nice little agenda. Those with intellectual disabilities are so looked down upon, even in our own community, and it is disgusting and it breaks my heart. They are capable as anyone else to achieve great things in their own ways, but they also don’t need to prove anything to be seen as worthy human beings. They have a voice as much as the rest of us. We must welcome ALL disabled people, of all kinds, of all shapes, all sizes, all colors, all genders, all perspectives, all opinions, and all experiences. We must stand together, not against each other. This generation is determined on the idea that hating and segregating from each other will solve problems, but please look at all the change that has been made in history; The good change, the change that matters- it didn’t happen because we yelled, threw things at each other, and had petty arguments. 

Another concept I’d like to talk about- What is “childlike”? Who defines it and what exactly is wrong with it? Because much like other “stereotypes”, people are very against being childlike or autistic people being portrayed as such, as it is “infantilization”.

Autistic/developmentally disabled people can and most often do exhibit traits considered “child-like” such as literal thinking, being naive or coming off as naive, difficulty expressing what they’re thinking and therefor coming off as “distant”, slow auditory processing, simple or slow speech, being sensitive, overreacting to things, interests aimed at younger demographics, etc. etc. etc. - I fit every single one of these. Apparently this means I am a child, or promoting the idea autistic teens and adults are children, simply by existing. “Autistic people are not childlike” people will say about these traits I exhibit. “Stop representing us this way” - Who is US? Maybe you’d like to see different representation for YOU, or your autistic friends, but then say that! We are not one giant being, like the cluster on Steven Universe. We’re all different people. For me, it’s so wonderful to see characters who act and present in ways typically seen in those younger than them, because it’s been something I’ve been shamed for and ashamed of myself for my entire life. So much of my bullying came from having traits that matched those younger than I am, and exhibiting these traits. Insinuating it was pretty much my fault, and that ones infantilization is their fault, simply because this is who we are is- you guessed it- ableist! 

Being childlike doesn’t make you a child. Not all autistic people are childlike, but, once again, you guessed it, SOME ARE! Because it’s a spectrum! And we’re all different! What an (sarcasm incoming) incredibly wild concept! Are childlike autistic people to blame for their own infantilization? Because I’ve seen so many people seem to insinuate this.

Autism is such a vast spectrum that the possibility of two autistic people being exactly, identically alike is impossible; Two human beings in general being exactly, identically alike is impossible in general. There will always be differences, because that’s just being a human- that doesn’t even have anything to do with the autism spectrum, it’s just the human spectrum. We are all so vastly different even if only in subtle ways; If we were meant to be exactly the same we wouldn’t have individual fingerprints or DNA. We are created to be our own, and to attempt to speak for and be the expert on the experiences of anyone but yourself is not just impossible, but it’s ignorant. You speak for no one but yourself. Speaking with others is a whole entirely different subject, but speaking for others is just ignorant, impossible, and frankly, pretentious, in my opinion. 

Long story made short- We’re all different, and this is scientific fact. 
Just because it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean that’s necessarily wrong or not representative of everyone in a group. You are not everyone, representation is subjective and everyone will respond to it differently. No one is wrong, and everyone deserves the right to be who they are and be respected and represented. Just because, for example, it’s a stereotype that all people with Tourette’s swear or all people with OCD are obsessively clean doesn’t mean that all people with those conditions are like that- but it’s also not the fault of those who DO fit those stereotypes that these stereotypes exist. They are not the reason people aren’t taken seriously, unless if they’ve, ya know, personally been an ignorant, ableist butthole themselves. People who fit those stereotypes exist and it’s unfair and awful to erase them simply to make a point. Please don’t alienate people, no matter who they are, from somewhere they should feel safe. That’s one of the cruelest things you could do. For some people, this is the only home they have. Why risk alienating a group of people to validate another? It’s creating no change whatsoever if more people wind up hurt.

It is GOOD and FINE to say “hey, this majority is not the only thing that exists, this minority exists too. We are all valid and all deserve acceptance, respect, validation, representation, and accommodation.”

It’s not GOOD and FINE to say “hey, this majority is not the only thing that exists, this minority exists too- and you should only focus on us and only us because that majority is a total stereotype and doesn’t even exist”

I fit a gigantic ton of autism stereotypes. I’m highly intelligent (my IQ has never been tested due to anxiety levels, but it’s incredibly likely I’m a genius. That’s not to sound boastful or bragging, just telling a fact about myself to demonstrate the point) and my abilities in several areas fit the description of savant syndrome (a term I don’t personally care for). But quite contrary to what other people think and what some have experienced, people never thought of me as autistic BECAUSE of my intelligence, I wasn’t diagnosed early because I didn’t have any delays. I could read before everyone in my class and generally performed mostly well in academics. My autism was invalidated because of the stereotype that autism equals unintelligence. The narrative I’ve always seen and experienced has been that autistic people must always be unintelligent. Shows like, for instance, The Good Doctor existing when I was younger might have gotten me diagnosed earlier. This show existing now could get someone else diagnosed and taken seriously.

Of course, there are autistic people with intellectual/cognitive/learning disabilities or average intelligence who are expected to be intelligent or have a “special gift”. This is the opposite end of things. But guess what? People like me and people like this both deserve good representation and to be taken seriously! And we’re all validly autistic! Because it’s a spectrum and we’re all different!

I am also what a lot of people like to call a “walking DSM” inside and outside this community. I don’t really have a “personality outside of autism”, all the things I consider and what others consider great and endearing about me are all autistic. Put an autistic trait checklist in front of me, and I’ll have nearly the whole thing checked; And there are people who can only check off a few of these boxes.
They’re nothing like me, and I’m nothing like them, but we do have something in common- We are both validly autistic, we both have the right to be taken seriously, we both have the right to good representation, we both have the right feel respected and understood in our community, we both have the right to acceptance, and we both have the right to be ourselves and not feel like we’ve done something wrong by doing that. It’s not my fault stereotypes exist, I am not the cause, nor am I intentionally promoting them, I’m just simply existing as an autistic person in the world- which every autistic person has the right to do.

Once again- in bold- I will yell it from the rooftops- It’s a spectrum. This is why we need a multitude of different types of autism representation and autistic voices because we are all different and all have different strengths and struggles, and have all faced our own things.

A community does not work by having the majority of people doing all the speaking while the little tiny amount of people who don’t fit or don’t agree sit in the corner and don’t get to be heard or have a voice to listen to. A community works by everyone, regardless of who they are, what they are, what or how they think, anything- Everyone getting a chance to talk. Everyone lending an ear. It’s about everyone coming together, and despite differences, working towards a common goal. Everyone having a voice. That’s a community. We’re not a community. 

Though, on the topic of the spectrum, I will add one thing- there are hallmark traits that indicate autism. These aren’t stereotypes, they’re just things that pretty much across the board every autistic person has to some degree. Professionals look for these hallmarks in diagnosis, it makes the process easier. Though not all professionals do this, instead they look at things like gender or intelligence, which is ~language warning~ shitty and a completely different topic. 

And while seeing people argue about stereotypes, I’ve also found we have slowly turned pretty much e v e r y t h i n g into a stereotype. I was reading a blog post which had something to do with stereotypes, or something, and every single “this isn’t autism” comment was a hallmark autistic trait. I’m not even joking. I wish I remembered the post but at the same time, I don’t want to slander anyone, they’re allowed to have this mindset....Even if it’s terrible... (I joke. Even if there was truth to that.) 

“WHAT IS AUTISM THEN?!” I just want to scream sometimes. 

What the hell is autism? 

Because it seems like, according to social media, it’s absolutely nothing. Is it a personality? No, because if your personality is autistic, you are perpetuating the stereotype that “autistic people have no personality outside of autism”. WHAT IS IT THEN? IS IT EVERYTHING? IS IT NOTHING? IS IT.... Is it God?

I have never been so confused.

And this is why I stay off social media.

This brings me to another topic- Self diagnosis. 

I’ve been wanting to discuss this for a while, but I’ve never known how to bring it up. Mostly because it’s quite controversial, and I don’t want to offend or alienate anyone. But I have wanted to give my opinions on it, because I feel like it fits this general topic, and what I was just talking about. It’ll all tie in, just bare with me. 

First off, I’m gonna say this- 

I support self diagnosis...

...for the most part.

Not always.

I have a very complicated view point on it, mostly because, ultimately, it is not my life and it’s not my job to tell people what to do, but when it comes to the point where something is harmful and it’s affecting others, I do want to find a way to help in the best way I know how. 

Here is my humble opinion- Now you don’t have to agree! It’s just an opinion! It’s not gospel!- Self diagnosis should be a last resort. It’s not something fun, it’s not something cool, and if you have the privilege to seek out a diagnosis, I highly recommend you take that route.

Self diagnosis is a wonderful, wonderful option for those who are underprivileged, either they’re a minority and are not taken seriously in the diagnostic system, or they can’t afford a diagnosis, or their family is holding them back from it, or anything like that. If you know in your heart you are autistic and you don’t have the privilege to be professionally diagnosed, that is perfectly okay. I pray that one day you have the option, and if not, you are still validly autistic. If you’ve done the research and you’ve spent time studying and you know that there’s no possibility it could be anything else, and you just know- congratulations, you’re autistic.

But if you have the option and the privilege to get a diagnosis, and there’s nothing holding you back- aside from the lack of spoons and the frustration that comes along with it sometimes- then that is the safest route to go. Because while we do know ourselves better than anyone else ever could, and there is that gut feeling where you just know, we are still human beings and human beings can be wrong. Misdiagnosis is a thing, in professional AND self diagnosis, but the difference between getting your information off of the internet, or just from your own thoughts, and getting it from a professional is that a professional has studied this for years and regardless of anything else, they are more capable of getting it right than a page on the internet. Well- there are professionals online, people who diagnose via the internet- one being Tania Marshall who is a brilliant ally and advocate for autistic girls and AFAB individuals, and professionally diagnoses all over the world- but on the internet there’s also places like Tumblr which glorify and simplify absolutely everything, and yell at you if you disagree. 

There are downsides to really anything you can think of. You have a thing like self diagnosis which started off as an alternative for this who do not have the access to professional diagnosis, and it has slowly spawned into a trend. Kinda like the whole fidget spinner hell of this past year. 

Self diagnosis, like most things, has a downside and is abused by those who don’t actually need it. 

Self diagnosis is not a statement. It’s not something to use to say “F U” to society. 

It’s not even an opinion at this point, professional diagnosis IS the safest route. Self diagnosis is valid, but professional diagnosis should always be the goal, and it is always the safest route. 

In some cases, when it comes to just knowing yourself, it doesn’t matter- though, for me, I have a completely different experience and viewpoint. (*whispers* it’s because autism is a spectrum) 

That’s another thing which truly ties all these topics together, I can’t stand when self diagnosis advocates say that professional diagnosis absolutely doesn’t matter and that it doesn’t mean anything when it comes to knowing yourself. For some people, this may be true, but for me, if I didn’t get diagnosed, if I never had that, I may not have ever had the answers for the questions I had my whole life. Not everyone has that “A-ha!” moment. I didn’t know the first thing about autism beforehand, I knew I was different, but I thought it was just a flaw rather than my neurology. I knew absolutely nothing about myself, and I was depressed and isolated because of it. It’s wonderful that people have more options now more than ever to figure themselves out, but not all of us have been so lucky. I wouldn’t even have thought to look up autism, I wouldn’t have even thought to even think about it. To me, autism was the kids I knew who were autistic, who presented extremely different from me. Without a professional saying “autism”, I would have never known. Nobody around me would have even thought about it, regardless of how obvious it was and still is looking back. I’m sure eventually we might have thought of something, but I was so depressed and it already had taken so long to learn I was autistic, I can’t imagine even making it longer without knowing. 

Sometimes it just doesn’t occur, even if it’s right on the tip of your tongue, for some people, it takes hearing it from a professional to have that “a-ha!” moment. I agree, let’s normalize self diagnosis- SAFE self diagnosis that is- but much like with what I said about stereotypes, let’s not shame and alienate people to get the point across. Everyone deserves to figure themselves out in whatever ways they can access. 

But as I was saying, self diagnosis- actual, safe, committed self diagnosis- is not what I have a problem with. It’s people who can relate to maybe 2 traits of something and then just stick the diagnosis on themselves. Also simply relating to autism doesn’t make you autistic, especially if the traits you are relating to don’t affect you in any major way. Being autistic is pervasive, meaning that it pervades and affects you in every way. If you’re able to function at a neurotypical level or *better* than most neurotypical people, and don’t really have any significant traits, than you’re not autistic. And that’s okay! 

Also, this is specifically with ailments rather than autism, but you, for instance, diagnose yourself with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, or a chronic illness- And then what? Are you going to read a self help books? Take supplements? Find affordable ways to cope that don’t require a professional diagnosis? Because the point of a diagnosis of an ailment is to get accommodation. It’s not like autism, or another condition that is neurological, where it shapes who you are. Sure, an illness can greatly affect you and how you live, but the goal should be managing them and finding a way to live with them, not glorifying them like cute little stickers to wear on your shirt and make relatable text posts on tumblr about. People like that make it incredibly hard for those who need self diagnosis to be taken seriously.

~Something I want to put out there is there is a difference between self diagnosis that is the only option for someone, and/or that has been the result of years of studying and researching, and self diagnosis that is simply relating to a post by an autistic person on tumblr and deciding right then and there you’re autistic and no one can question it. They are very different, and I honestly don’t think they should be in the same category. One is an accommodation, the other is just harmful and yet another example of people jumping onto something great and ruining it ~

How this connects- and how I got off topic on the first place- What the heck is autism? I’ve found that the harmful side of self diagnosis has screwed around with the idea of what autism is. It’s been simplified and changed to be more Inclusive™. We are entering Everyone’s A Little Autistic™ territory. Really, I go on social media, and everyone has “self diagnosed (blank)” in their bio. And that’s fine!..If you actually care about this diagnosis and aren’t using it to feel special. Because, contrary to what people may say to validate arguments- Yes, people do self diagnose to feel special; It is extremely common, actually. And there are many, many people who are like that in this community. It’s highly common in the social justice side of the community. ~Once again, upcoming blog post~ I’m not anti social justice or feminism- the idea of them, the ORIGINAL idea of them, are wonderful ideas. I am a feminist, the original, good kind. Though, I prefer the term “good human being who supports equality” because the term has became heavily changed much like everything else today. And, once again, I’m for social justice too, but I’m not for the people who claim to be these things and use them to promote hate and segregation, and also completely ignore disabled people ~ U P C O M I N G  B L O G P O S T wow I’m very off topic ~. And sometimes this gross side of it comes into other groups, like the autistic community, and it’s Magical /sarcasm. 

This is the side I try to avoid like the plague, which is sad, because as I said- we should be a community, but we’re a very divided one. I avoid this side because like most so-called “feminists” and “social justice warriors”, they are not open to discussion, difference in opinions, or the idea that not everyone in their community is exactly the same as them; And for warriors, they have absolutely no idea what they’re fighting for. 

This side of the community is always at war. And the Autism Parents™ are at war on the other side. Somewhere in this mix are the Aspie supremacists. And then ALL of the extremist sides come together and have a war against EACH OTHER. 

And then there’s people like me; I like to refer to us as the “I’m so scared and confused what the heck is going on here I just went to the kitchen to get tortilla chips and I come back to World War 3” part of the community. We’re the part that just wants to be a community and- not to boast- actually gets stuff done. 

In every extreme of the autistic community, there’s extreme views on what autism is, all pretty much shaped to fit an agenda. And none of them are true. 

Speaking of autism as anything other than what is factually is, both a neurodevelopmental disability and a natural variation of the human brain, is harmful and wrong. 

And as for what autism is- GOOD LORD, ITS A SPECTRUM. It is a spectrum, and each individual autistic experience will vary. Though none of us are quite the same, there are hallmark indicators/traits across the board that are experienced by the vast majority, and if you don’t really have any of those, or any other traits besides just a few, than it’s highly unlikely you’re autistic and more likely it’s something else. However, if you find yourself relating to autism in more than one way, you’re probably neurodivergent in some other way! The safest route on figuring out your brain is to see what your options are for diagnosis and figuring it out, please see what you have access to before doing anything else, or diagnosing for yourself. Though, I am not you, you can do what you feel is right and have your own opinions, but I just want people to stay safe, and not ignore facts. Because the wrong self diagnosis can and HAS harmed autistic people, it’s spreading misinformation about what autism is. And most importantly, self diagnosing yourself irresponsibly can harm you. 

So please, if you’re going to self diagnose, please consider other options first and when you find you have no other options, do it responsibly and educated. Always make sure it is safe, because it has the power to harm more than just you, especially if you’ve decided you’re going to advocate for the community you’ve self diagnosed into. Self diagnosis is sometimes valid and good, but not always. Saying all of it is good and hasn’t harmed anyone is just a blatant lie. 

With all the (many, many) things I’ve discussed (and went off topic from) today, I think it goes without saying that the autism community as a whole is very separated, and I think that is something we can all actually agree on for once. Especially on social media- once again, in pretty much every community- there’s a lot of arguments and passive aggressiveness; A lot of “this side vs this side”. In any community I think there’s a lot of “”allies” who don’t want to learn” or “members who don’t want to educate” so it can feel like nothing gets done. 

But something really prominent in any community, specifically one aiming for social justice or anything like that, there’s a lot of obligation out on members of the community to always agree and always be on the same page as everyone else in the community, but that’s just not right nor possible. Being autistic, between some people, may be the only thing they have in common. We’re human, not some other species, and all humans have different personalities and thoughts. Simply because you have the same brain or are apart of the same minority does not mean you must agree and follow along with everything someone says. You don’t have to like every autistic person, or get along with every autistic person. I know for me, this is hard, because I just empathize so hard with other autistic people, and I can let this get in the way of my true opinion and feelings on them. But I’m learning how to overcome this, because it’s just human nature and reality that I won’t like or get along with or agree with every single autistic person I meet or know. This is how it is for anyone, even neurotypical people. You’re not failing your community or yourself by being a human being. 

Don’t feel bad about disagreeing with another disabled person. Don’t feel bad about calling someone out if something doesn’t feel right. Don’t feel bad for being you- and don’t make others feel bad for being them. 

Really, just don’t be an a**hole. If you find yourself being ableist, work on it. Speak for you and only you. Listen to others and encourage them to listen to you. Be open to opposing view points and respectful discussions. Be open to the concept that people are different from you. And when it’s possible, be kind. 

I want this community to be what a community should be. I don’t want it to be segregated, I want people to listen to each other and help each other out towards the same goals, and for everyone to have a turn to speak. That’s what a community is. That’s what a community should be.

So what did we learn today?

  • Autism is a spectrum

  • The autistic community is incredibly divided and in all the extremist parts of it, and even sometimes in the middle, you will find lots of ableism and invalidation and nonsense

  • Safe and educated self diagnosis is valid. Trendy self diagnosis is not.

  • Autism is a spectrum 

  • People are different

  • Speak for yourself 

  • Don’t be an a**hole

  • I have a very short attention span 

  • Autism is a spectrum 

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you’re having a wonderful day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day. 

Also, if there’s any topics you’d like for me to write about, let me know. I’ve just come out of a burnout and I generally struggle with executive dysfunction, so it helps to have things planned out and to know what people would like to see from me! 

If you liked this post, feel free to share it around! It means a lot to see my stuff be apart of discussions and change, it makes it all worth it. 

Thanks again for reading :^)