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I didn’t graduate college, and that’s okay.

I didn’t graduate college.

I have a massive pile of debt. Debt I will never be able to repay. I have loan companies calling me daily telling me I have to pay when it’s literally impossible. I have a cap and gown that I’ll never wear. At times, I still daydream of the degree I wanted so desperately and came so close to getting.

I didn’t graduate college.

College classes aren’t designed for disabled students. While schools have disability services, they aren’t always to make classes Nora-compatible. My immune system is too week, I get stressed out too easy, I get  too severe of sensory overload, I simply can’t people, oh, you get the picture. They can’t custom craft a class to be perfectly okay for me, because then it would make it inaccessible for someone else.

Part of learning, part of growing, part of acceptance has been coming to terms with the fact I won’t get my degree. I was merely a semester and a half away. But my classes cannot be completed in the state I am now. I didn’t graduate college.

But I am not worthless. The fact I don’t have a degree doesn’t mean that I failed as a person. It doesn’t mean my classes were worthless – I learned a lot. It doesn’t mean that I am worthless – not everyone gets a college degree. I still write a blog. I still advocate. I’m still an activist. I still do so many fun things with my life!

I don’t have a degree. Sometimes I do get stir crazy without classes or a job, hence why I’m trying to find a volunteer thing. I’m not happy just sitting around doing nothing on the days when I feel well enough to do things. I try to do what I can, but it’s really hard when society is designed to go against disabled people.

But I am worth it. I am worth trying. I am worth doing things. And that worth isn’t defined by fancy letters after my name or a really expensive piece of paper.

 

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Beyond awareness

It’s time to go beyond autism awareness. People are plenty aware that autism exists. Every year, the number of autistics murdered by their caregivers grow. This isn’t from a lack of awareness or services. This isn’t from people not knowing awareness exists. Awareness does little for us anymore and in reality, awareness is ableism in a prettier package.

It’s time to go beyond autism awareness. Awareness is Autism Speaks. Awareness is furthering the cycle of our abuse. Of eugenics. I don’t want your awareness. I don’t want you to light it up blue. I don’t want you to talk about what a tragedy it is to be autistic. I don’t want you to talk to me about how some autistics are superior.

Awareness is bullshit. Awareness is being told that I’m not like “those autistics”, because I attended college. Despite the fact I dropped out, due to a combination of my needs not being adequately met. One of those being my autistic needs. Awareness is telling me that I’m not like THOSE autistics who will never leave home, despite the PCA mess I had and wound up unable to live completely alone anymore.

It’s time to move beyond awareness.

It’s time to move toward acceptance.

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Adventures with Anxiety-Girl: now with extra anxiety powers!

Hi, my name is Nora and I have anxiety.

I have officially diagnosed general anxiety disorder, OCD, and a smattering of phobias as well as suspected social anxiety. This makes life, well, interesting at times. Living with anxiety isn’t easy. Living with anxiety is kind of like living with someone who is constantly abusing and gaslighting me, only that person is me and lives inside my own head. It’s horrific.

I feel that a lot of times, people think I use my anxiety  as an excuse. No, it is’t that I just don’t want to make a phone call. It’s that I literally feel physically ill before making them. I often wind up shaking before and after making them. It isn’t just unpleasant, it’s literally uncomfortable and often times actually physically painful. I’ve had full blown meltdowns and thrown up simply because I have to make a phone call. It isn’t attention seeking, it isn’t guilt tripping. Making that phone call is sometimes actually, really and truly, impossible.

While I’m an introvert and hardly a social butterfly, I’m also bubbly and outgoing. I like going out and doing things. However, anxiety!brain is sometimes plaguing me with “what ifs?”. What if this happens. What if that happens. What if if if if if…and starts to spin me into a downward spiral of despair that is neither productive nor helpful.

I have been this way since I was a young child. I don’t know what it’s like to not have anxiety. I replay convos with friends over and over in my mind, before and after they’ve happened. I honestly had no idea that people existed that didn’t obsess over everything they said or everything someone else said. When I started texting, I didn’t know it wasn’t normal to panic over words on my screen.

Sometimes I’ve seen people ask “what’s one thing you wish people understood about xyz?” There isn’t one thing I wish people would understand. I just wish that people would realize that it ISN’T simple like that. Just understanding one aspect of it won’t magically make my life easier. Just understanding that hey, sometimes I can’t do the thing you want me to do or something I have to do things differently so anxiety brain doesn’t cause me to have a panic attack doesn’t really make a big difference. What I DO need you to do is to stop shaming us.

Different people cope with their anxiety differently. I choose to medicate. For me, it’s the best choice. I can tell a difference in when I take my meds and when I don’t. For ME, Nora, medication is the right choice. I will not, and should not, be shamed because I choose meds. However, for someone else, medication may not be the right choice. It may make it worse, or they may plan just not want to take medication. And you know what? That’s their choice too. Just because we have psychiatric disabilities doesn’t mean we should be denied agency.

Anxiety always has, and always will, be a part of my life. I’ll never fully live without it. Through self care and accepting my limits, that’s what living looks like to me. That may not be it to someone else, and that’s okay. But this is my edition of adventures in Anxiety Girl! Your milage may vary.

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Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been

I am learning.

I was once racist. Ableist. Homophobic. Transphobic. Against myself, against my friends, against people I didn’t even know. I was raised evangelical conservative Christian. Anything outside of my bubble, anything outside of what I knew was really HARD to accept. Because, you see, I had the BIBLE on my side. I was RIGHT and they were WRONG. Their feelings? Didn’t matter. I am really glad social media wasn’t a thing when I was in middle school because I’m pretty sure I would have had an epic case of being a major butthead. I was pretty active online starting around age thirteen, and I outright cringe at stuff I wrote. And this was just on message boards and such! Twitter didn’t exist until shortly after I graduated and Facebook wasn’t open to high schools until during my senior year. My brunt of social media was on Myspace. Yeah. Myspace. 😉 And Xanga and Teen Open Diary and Neopets and, well, you get the picture. Social media was just a baby. And so was I.

I’m sorry for the person I became.
I’m sorry that it took so long for me to change.
I’m ready to be sure I never become that way again
’cause who I am hates who I’ve been.
Who I am hates who I’ve been.

I was young. The internet was young (at least, compared to the form it is in today). I am really glad that one of the Christian message boards I was active on (hi there, Zeeps!) kinda imploded because I’m sure I said some things that would make me want to hide forever now. But the message board literally doesn’t exist so you can’t find it. WHEW. Even reading back journal entries I wrote back when I started Forgotten Regret (my previous blog) in 2010, I cringe at stuff I said.

You see, I thought I knew so much. I thought I was so wise. I did say some good things. But I also said some horrible things. Because you know what? We’ve all done it at some points in our lives. Even if our -isms are internalized, even if we’ve never spoken our thoughts, it’s not something any of us are innocent of. But what matters is what you do once you know better. What matters is what you do once you are told that you need to sit down, shut up, and listen.

It’s hard for me, because I don’t want to admit that I’ve said some really awful things in my lifetime. It’s hard for me to admit that I was once one of the people who cracked “Adam and Steve” jokes. It’s hard for me to admit that I said things that are hurtful to some of the people I care about most. But I was wrong. And I’m sorry. And I’m doing my best to make it better. I’m doing my best to show I’ve changed. It isn’t easy. Change is hard. Heck, I’m autistic. I like things the way they are and I don’t like having to change. 😉 But I can change. Even though it’s hard. Even though it’s difficult. It’s a lesson we were taught in The Lion King, kids!  He said that change is good! He also said this:

““The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.””

Yeah, the past hurts. Yeah, it sucks knowing we’ve screwed up in the past. But do we learn from our screw ups, or do we run from them? Do we accept we screwed up when confronted and challenged by things we said, or do we double down and gaslight people? Making mistakes is okay. What matters is what we do when we’re called out.

So I am pledging this.

I am pledging to do better. Know better, do better, they say. I am pledging to accept that I’ve made mistakes in my past. I am pledging to make amends to the people I’ve hurt. I am pledging to do my best to make things right again. It isn’t easy, but it’s good.

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Yes, I am a “keyboard warrior”.

Why I am a keyboard warrior.

I have seen a lot of memes and posts over the years trashing so called keyboard warriors. Also known as “slacktivists”. It seems that since we use our keyboards to speak out and we’re deemed to be hiding behind a screen, our opinions and voices aren’t valid. I’m here to tell you that’s ableist.

There are many reasons why I choose to use my blog and Facebook as a platform. And when you try to tell me that isn’t valid, you’re being ableist. It’s flat out gross to imply what I say isn’t worthwhile because it isn’t possible for me to do it in what you deem to be real life.

I can’t attend protests. It doesn’t  mean I don’t want to. It doesn’t  mean I don’t care. But what it does mean is that due to anxiety and being autistic, for me it simply isn’t possible. The mere thought of attending one makes me physically ill. It doesn’t mean I’m not willing to help organize one, make signs, etc. And frankly, what is needed isn’t always bodies at protests. It’s one thing if you’re at a protest, but there’s also value in behind the scenes work. Your health is still important and if attending a protest isn’t a part of taking care of yourself, is it worth the cost for you? For some people, it is. For others, it isn’t. And either option is okay.

Here’s the thing. We can make a difference from behind our screens. It sometimes is large scale, it sometimes isn’t. Changing a friend’s mind is making a difference. Offering a new perspective is making a difference. Sharing an article is making a difference. Making a difference and being an activist isn’t always adding a new voice or a new perspective. It’s something amplifying what is already out there. It doesn’t mean that I’m lazy or I don’t care because for me, the best form of being an activist is by typing.

It’s ableist to say that I should just shut up. It’s ableist when you tell me that I’m not making a difference. It’s ableist when you call me lazy for choosing this form of speaking out. It’s ableist. Not everyone can do every form of activism. And that is healthy and OKAY.

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I was once a self-professed grammar nazi. (I now wince at that wording. Like, wow. “Nazi” is NOT a good choice of words there!”). I gleefully corrected the grammar of anyone who was wrong. I didn’t care how blunt I was; I didn’t care how I made them feel. What was important was pointing out that they were WRONG and I was RIGHT. Thoughts and feelings of others? Didn’t matter to me. The thought that I could be hurting someone on the other side of a screen? Well, why did it matter, right? Didn’t they know that they were wrong and shouldn’t they be glad I’m helping them learn grammar?

But then I realized some things. Insisting on proper grammar is racist. (EDIT: this article was shared not because I agree with the author. I disagree with the writer and agree with Chalabi. This is an example of someone disagreeing with it. It’s still racist. There are a couple good points in the article but it’s an example of someone being the unnecessary type of grammar snob as well) It’s classist. It’s ableist. AAVE is proper English, even though people seem to be quick to correct it. And quite frankly, it has no place in the social justice movement. It is almost important to keep in mind that many more people are using phones or tablets, which make grammar errors even easier to happen. Autocorrect, typos, it all happens so much easier. I mean, just today I messaged my roommate with “booby dungeon” instead of “bonus dungeon”, so, like, I know perfectly well how easy it is to fall down the autocorrect hole. 😉 Continue reading

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It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap

I’m through accepting limits, because someone said they’re so
Some things I cannot change, though till I try, I’ll never know
-Defying Gravity, Wicked

I am fiercely stubborn. If you tell me I cannot, I will. If you tell me not to do the thing, guess who is going to do the freaking thing? I have a love/hate relationship with this trait. It makes me an awesome Hufflepuff because it means I will kick the butt of anyone who hurts my friends. At the same time, it makes it hard and painful to walk away from friendships that are not healthy for me.

I have trouble trusting my instincts. My entire life I’ve been told they’re wrong. That I need to do what the world tells me to do. Sit down, shut up, be quiet, be still. Even though all these things are literally physically difficult for me. I fidget. I stim. I’m vocal at times. But sometimes I trust that instinct. Sometimes I close my eyes, and leap.

As a disabled adult, I’ve been told so many things I can never do. I’m tired of accepting those limits. There are some limits I have accepted, and others I have not. I have accepted that I will never go back to college and never have a job. I refuse to accept that my life is not worth living. That I still can’t be an advocate and an activist. I refuse to accept that my life has no value, just because I cannot live up to what society says a “good person” should do, what society says someone who contributes to it is like.

I’m funny, I’m loyal, and yes, I’m disabled. I have the limits my own body and my health puts on me, and I have the bullshit limits the world puts on me. But you know what? Striking the balance is fine. Shouting out “NO” to the limits that everyone else tries to put on me, tries to pin me down with, is perfectly okay and perfectly acceptable. Because I, and only I, get to choose my limits. I get to choose what I can and cannot do. I get to decide. And that alone is a huge step. That alone is a big deal.

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when your ableism is about yourself

I’ve talked and talked about ableism. I’ve talked and talked about what bullcrap it is. I’ve written so many things about how much ableism has an affect on my life. I’ve said so many things about how much of an impact your ableism has on my own life….

And yet, the person I’m the most ableist is someone I see in the mirror every day. The person that I know the most intimately. The person who is intertwined with me…because that person is me. The person I’m hardest on? The person who I use ableist slurs at? That person is me.

It’s pretty common knowledge I withdrew from college. Largely because of my physical health at the time, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say my neurodivergent brain wasn’t also a factor.

Which is where my own ableism comes in.

I tell myself that if I had just pushed myself harder, I could have gotten that degree.

Which is bull, because if a friend had done the exact same thing, I wouldn’t dream of saying that to them.

Somehow, the words I would never utter to someone else, are magically OKAY when it’s about me.

[image description: drawing of an orca saying “Just because you had to drop out of school doesn’t mean you’re a failure.” in a gray speech bubble. Thank you to EMM not EMMA. on Facebook)

[image description: drawing of an orca saying “Just because you had to drop out of school doesn’t mean you’re a failure.” in a gray speech bubble. Thank you to EMM not EMMA. on Facebook)

In high school, I was told that I could do whatever I wanted. That my disabilities wouldn’t hold me back. In fact, I was told I minimized my “struggles” and didn’t fully grasp how much my disability impacted my life. This casual ableism, this micro- aggregation… became so twisted inside me, so much a part of who I was… that I likely stayed in college for far longer than I should have.

My own, personal ableism could have killed me. I tell myself my disabilities are no big deal, even though I’m totally and permanently disabled. I cannot work. Not only is my health too unstable, I’m likely to push myself on the days where I am well enough too much and land myself in the hospital. I was threatened at least once while in college that if I didn’t skip class, my doctor would put me in the hospital. My own, personal ableism is lethal.

I talk about the ableism I deal with from others on a regular day. But to admit that I am ableist about myself is hard, one of the hardest things I’ve ever said. I feel that people judge me, and think I’m just selfish or lazy because I can’t get a job. It isn’t for lack of wanting. I desperately want nothing more than to hold down my dream job. I want nothing more than to finish my college degree, but college is a world that is completely inaccessible for me. And THAT is terrifying to say, terrifying to admit. It’s like I’m saying I’m a failure, it’s like saying I’m worthless (see, there’s my own casual ableism at play once again).

My name is Nora, and I am ableist sometimes. And the person I pull down, the person I bash the most, is myself. The person who I judge the most for their disabilities, is me. If another friend were autistic, had my physical health list, had my same brain cooties, I would support them. I would tell them  they were good enough, they were enough. That it was okay they didn’t finish college. But the person who I cannot give that same advice to is myself.

Part of becoming a better person, a better advocate, a better activist, is learning to remove the ableism from my life. Even when it’s about me. This isn’t easy, but it’s something I’m trying to do. And admitting is the first step, right?

 

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Day of Acceptance 2017

I feel like there’s something telling to be said about the fact it’s the disability day of acceptance And the fact I’m having one of my GI flares. I’m sure I could write some profound analogy…but that would involve my stomach not staging a mutiny. But that’s neither here nor there and I really don’t want to write about the president today – my already unstable health cannot take it.

But today is the disability day of acceptance. For those new to my blog or my life (hi new friend!), I am multiply disabled. I am autistic. I am physically disabled. I have an alphabet soup of brain cooties. I don’t even want to start counting my physical ailments but there are a crapton.

I was born disabled, vs having acquired disability. I don’t know what it’s like to be able-bodied and I never will. I have been both accused of minimizing the impact my disability has and of using my disability as an excuse or exaggerating it. I’ve been told that I cannot do things because I’m disabled and that I should suck it up, buttercup.

I’ve been told I am literally incapable of holding a job and this is true. I do volunteer stuff and my advocacy stuff but I cannot hold a job. My disability does not allow that. I’m a college drop out. I will never be capable of going back to get my degree. I will never be capable of having a job. These are things that society says I have to do, to be a good person. To be a valuable person. To be worthwhile in society. So many people place my worth on what I cannot do, vs the things I can do.

Part of growing has been accepting my disability. I dropped out of college three years ago. I should have graduated from college in December of 2014. I was literally a semester and a half away from graduating. But I couldn’t, because I’m disabled.

Disabled children become disabled adults. And accepting this as a reality is hard. I wasn’t ever expected to live on my own, but I did. Even though I ultimately wound up moving in with friends because living alone did not work for me. For years, I tried to deny the fact I was disabled. You’re talking to the person that literally had to be threatened with putting in the hospital in order to convince her to stay home from college classes. I was very much of the “push through, it isn’t that bad, it’s all in your head” mindset. This actually made my disability worse – this made my health worse. Because I couldn’t do the thing even though I tried to insist I could.

Today is the disability day of acceptance. And I’m here to say my life is worth living. Despite people thinking budget cuts should be made to avoid that. Despite people saying that I’d be better off dead than disabled. Despite people saying that I don’t deserve health insurance. I’ve accepted my disability and it’s time for you to accept it as well.

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Respect the Stim

I’m a lifelong fidgeter. I don’t sit still well. I bounce in my seat at times. I rock. I fiddle with a Tangle Jr or my fidget bracelet or my Hufflepuff necklace. I flap my hands. Sitting still is stressful.  Playing with the nearest gadget or toy helps ground and stabilize me.

For me, stimming (which is what we call fidgeting to help calm and ground ourselves or to make us happy) is a way of life. It’s often like the first sunshine after a bitterly cold winter – warmth and comfort and happiness. It’s like the first sip of a perfectly brewed mug of my favorite tea. It’s the feeling of my soft, fluffy cat curled up in my life. It’s like a big bear hug from my favorite person in the universe.

It isn’t meant to annoy you. I can’t just stop because you don’t like it. It’s as natural as breathing, as natural as the in and out, in and out rhythm of air. It doesn’t hurt you, does it? Maybe when you need to calm down, you take deep breathes. You hum or whistle. Maybe you tap your foot. Maybe you visualize things. This is my method. This is my way.

Stimming is my very way of life. It’s the warmth of a fireplace. It’s the comfort of a book I’ve read a thousand times. It’s what makes me feel at peace in a world I often don’t understand. Respect the stim.