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I reach out to the truth

Now I face out, I hold out
I reach out to the truth of my life
Seeking to seize on the whole moment to now break away!

Oh God let me out, Can you let me out?
Can you set me free from this dark inner world?
Save me now last beat in the soul.

My entire life I’ve been told there are so many things I cannot do because I am disabled. I’m a victim of both being told there are so many things I cannot do and that Ic an do anything I set my mind to. How these both work, I really don’t know.

As a result, I’ve been trapped in lies. Lies that I’m not good enough. Lies that because I’m disabled, I cannot achieve anything. I’ve been told that I need to not let my disabilities define me or hold me back. It’s confusing. And I need to find my own truth. Make my own truth. Find my own path.

Something I’ve learned is I need to reach out to my own truth. Reach out to it, even. Because it is within reach.

Because it doesn’t matter what I’ve been told. They were wrong.

It doesn’t matter what I believed.  It was wrong.

But what matters is the truth I know now and what I do with it.

 

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To the autistic child

To the autistic child,

Hi! I see you. My name is Nora and I’m an autistic adult. We’re pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. It isn’t easy being autistic, and I wish there are some things that I had been told. That’s why, little one, I’m writing this letter to you. You may not know me, but maybe someday we’ll get to meet each other. Maybe we never will and we’ll only talk on the internet. Either way, you’re loved and so very amazing. Your brain is so COOL! Isn’t it nifty how different people are? Isn’t it nifty how different brains can be?

I don’t want to sugar coat things. Sometimes it’s hard being autistic. You know all those bright lights and loud noises? Yeah, sometimes I want to melt down, too. And sometimes I do. My brain just gets all these signals from different directions all at once and cannot tolerate it. And you know what? It’s okay. It hurts, and it’s okay to let people know we’re hurting. People may get annoyed or frustrated when we melt down, but we simply don’t have the words to articulate what’s going on inside our heads. And you know what? That’s okay. It isn’t our fault that sometimes we’re overwhelmed.

Sometimes, you know those little movements we make? We flap our hands, we rock back and forth, we spin around. We fiddle with toys in our hands or we wear special bracelets or necklaces. Sometimes we chew our shirt collars. Sometimes we make certain sounds. This is called “stimming”. Sometimes it calms us down, and sometimes it makes us feel good. You know what? It’s okay. It helps settle us down in a big, scary world. If it doesn’t hurt someone else, it’s okay for us to do it. Part of taking care of ourselves is doing things that helps us cope, and so that’s why we stim.

Sometimes we find a topic we like and just want to talk about it a lot. Our brains are like soil – the little info seeds take root and grow into various things we just love to talk about. Some people call them “special interests”, others call them “obsessions”. I just like calling them “interests”. Sometimes we just kind of info dump on them, which means just blurting out everything we know about the subject. This is okay! It’s part of what makes our brains special.

Maybe you have trouble doing, what many call, “using your words”. I don’t like that phrase. Words are hard. Not everyone can talk with their vocal cords, and that’s okay! Some people use sign language, which means they talk with their hands. Some people use what’s called AAC, which means they use a special device or iPad app to talk. They type the words into it or tap a picture, and it says their words for them. Little one, all forms of communication are valid. It doesn’t matter if you speak it, move it, or tap it – your words MATTER and we (the autistic community and those who love you) want to hear what you have to say.

Sometimes when we talk to people, we use words we’ve said before. Or maybe phrases we know from video games, TV shows, movies, or books. Or maybe phrases we’ve made up that have special meaning. This is called “scripting”. Sometimes, when we’re asked a question we just repeat it back. For example, maybe we’re asked “Do you want milk or juice?” We might just say “or juice”. This is called “echolalia”. Sometimes people got frustrated that we don’t seem to understand what they’re saying. But most of the time, we do. We just are communicating in the best way we can. But when people can learn our scripts, we can adapt and learn to communicate with them in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

People WILL sometimes talk about you right in front of you. People WILL sometimes say you don’t understand what they’re saying about you, because you’re autistic. People who say they love you may say mean things about you in front of you. People may record your most vulnerable moments, and place them on the internet for the world to see, claiming to raise awareness for you. They’ll claim you don’t understand. I know you understand. You may not look like you’re paying attention, but in your own way you are taking in the world around you. But even if you feel like no one else understands you and no one else loves you, know there’s one person who has never met you who would move the world for you, if she could. Know there is one loyal, passionate person who is fighting for your rights as an autistic child.

Precious child, you are fine as you are. You don’t have to change to fit in. You don’t have to be not YOU in order to be loved and accepted. Some people are autistic. Some people are not. You’re autistic. It’s okay to say no, even in a world that teaches you to say yes and obey every order. It’s okay to let people know you’re in pain. It’s okay to stim. The world wasn’t built for autistic people, and we have to learn to live in it in whatever way we can. Sometimes, people don’t understand our ways but that’s okay, because we don’t understand their non autistic ways!

I hope that one day you find acceptance, and not awareness.

Love,

Nora.

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Sometimes I’m not okay

Sometimes it’s hard being disabled. I talk a lot about how I’ve accepted it and I’ve talked a lot about how I’m at peace with some of the paths I’ve walked down. I’ve talked about how many doors have been shut, and some of the windows just haven’t opened.

But sometimes I’m not okay with it. Sometimes I am just very frustrated with being disabled. I long to get a job, I long to work, I long to do something more with my life than typing on a keyboard or staring at a square device in my hand. It’s hard to see my friends and whatnot working jobs when I know it’s out of reach for me right now.

I try to accept it. I try to say I’m okay with being disabled. And, you know, for the most part I am. It’s the card I’ve been dealt, I’ve accepted it and made the most of it. But yet… sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I wonder what my purpose is. Why I will be like this… I just find myself questioning WHY.

And I wish I had an answer to why I’m sometimes not okay.

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Ableism is…

Ableism is when you say that I’m not like those disabled people.

Ableism is when you see someone helping us, and your first thought is to take a photo.

Ableism is when you don’t let us do things for ourselves before offering to help us.

Ableism is when you speak over us and for us.

Ableism is when you get mad at us for not being concise in our speech.

Ableism is when you get mad at us for repeating ourselves.

Ableism is when you shout out “but not all *insert word of the day here*.

Ableism is when you expect us to be happy with what we have.

Ableism is when you get mad you have to reword something.

Ableism is when you’re upset we cannot always control our pitch/volume.

Ableism is when our stimming upsets you

 

Ableism is when you try to change us.

Ableism is when you have standing room only.

Ableism is when you get upset at the person in front of you for not walking fast enough.

Ableism is when you refuse to listen to our voices.

(IMPORTANT NOTE ON THE STIMMING ONE. Dual access needs are a thing here. For example, I can’t stand the sound of pens clicking and it sends me into sensory overload.  But for others, that’s a comforting stim. This is called conflicting access needs, and can, shockingly, be accommodated.)

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A heart made fullmetal

I’ve been getting more questions than usual about my URL lately, so I’m taking a break from autism acceptance pieces to finally sit down and write a piece on why I chose my domain and blog title. It comes from the AMAZING anime, Fullmetal Alchemist. And these two quotes:

“A lesson without pain is meaningless. For you cannot gain something without sacrificing something else in return. But once you have recovered it and made it your own… You will gain an irreplaceable Fullmetal heart.”

“There’s no such thing as a painless lesson, they just don’t exist. Sacrifices are necessary. You can’t gain anything without losing something first. Although if you can endure that pain and walk away from it, you’ll find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yeah… a heart made Fullmetal.”

If you haven’t seen FMA, well, you should. Even if anime isn’t your jam. Because it’s that good. I can’t say too much without going into spoilers, but basically guy-loses-his-arm-and-leg-and-his-brother-becomes-a-robot-thing-so-they-try-to-become-human-again. Yeah. Well.

I’ve had a lot of pain in my life. And I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. Life hasn’t been easy for me. And I have rods in my back, which I joke are my own personal automail.

My own heart became automail. My own life became making myself strong enough to recover from the pain thrown at me. It hasn’t been easy. But it’s been worthwhile. It’s been a piece of making my heart strong enough to overcome obstacles.

Hard? Yes. Worthwhile? Well, I wouldn’t want these things to happen to me again. Or anyone else. But it made my heart fullmetal. It took my life and made me stronger. And I’m the champion as a result.

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The Cost of Remission

I am in remission from many of my chronic health things. Which isn’t to say I don’t struggle and I’m not in remission from others. I am not currently in remission from fibromyalgia/chronic pain syndrome (no, my doctors cannot decide which I have. Yes, it’s awesome), from neurofibromatosis, from my neurodivergent alphabet soup…but others I am in remission from. And it comes at an incredible cost.

There’s a delicate balance to keep this going. The things I will NEVER be in remission from and NEVER recover from can trigger the things that can be controlled to spiral again. My diet and my sleep schedule? Require to happen just so. And sometimes my other disabilities prevent that from happening. Which creates a vicious cycle, I know.

Remission doesn’t mean I’m healthy. It doesn’t mean I’m doing well, even. It means I’m doing marginally less sucky. It means that one aspect of my health is slightly less crappy than the other – and that’s not saying MUCH. It doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle. While I may not be actively puking violently from cyclic vomiting syndrome, I still struggle with nausea every day and often have to drug myself to get through. While I’ve been seizure free for years at this point, it doesn’t mean that one day (note: I do NOT have epilepsy. I had non-Epileptic seizures related to a medicine side effect but I’m told they could come back to haunt me) I will not have one again.

It’s hard. I still live in fear of remissions. I live in fear that my delicate balance will get thrown off kilter and that I will no longer be in remission. It’s just so HARD. I fight and I struggle and I try to LIVE and I am scared that one day I will no longer be able to. I am scared that one day I will be longer to be able to do the things I love. I had to leave my passions in school behind. I had to leave my dreams of a career behind. And it’s been a REALLY difficult pill to swallow. It’s been incredibly difficult to realize that yes, I am disabled and yes, I will always be. There’s no way to candy coat it, sugar coat it, make it prettier. I can’t work a job despite having some things in remission because others just aren’t and it isn’t feasible for them to be despite being on all the best medications.

I wrote this in the middle of the night, while listening to music, and scheduled  it to publish during my neurologist appointment. I don’t have a normal sleep schedule. I don’t have a normal eating schedule. Nothing about me is normal…and it’s a ticking time bomb in some ways. It’s a mess but at the same time, it’s my mess. It’s my life. I’ve accepted it. Embraced it. And am moving on with it. Because it’s all a part of who I am. The bad health stuff, the good health stuff, the alphabet soup of brain cooties. It all adds up to me. And while remission comes at an incredible cost… I’m okay with that.

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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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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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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?