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Let disabled people talk about their lives

I’m really tired of the way disabled people are currently treated.

If we talk too much about our disabilities? Oh, we’re too NEGATIVE. We’re just whining.  We need to try  ~positive thinking~  *tosses glitter*. We just need to be more positive! Yay!

If we try to be too positive about our disabilities? See, it’s not really that bad. We can’t be THAT disabled if we’re able to see the good in it. If we’ve accepted our disabilities, then we must not really be disabled. 

The thing is, no matter what we do, people seem uncomfortable that disabled people exist. Some think that we should be willing to share every detail about our lives, some think we should just shut up and live in silence.

The thing is, EVERY person has a DIFFERENT level of comfort with what they are okay with sharing or note. For the most part, I am happy to talk about my disabilities and teach and educate. But sometimes, I just plain don’t want to and there is nothing wrong with that! I don’t owe anyone an explanation on why or how a certain aspect of my disability affects me. “Because I’m disabled” IS an adequate answer to “why can’t you do thing?” and details aren’t necessary.

As an activist and an advocate, I think it’s important to be open and honest about my disabilities. Which, for the most part, I am.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are some things I am more private about and don’t really want to talk about. And just because I’m willing to write about it, doesn’t mean I want to answer the random person on the bus who asks me about it.

I get to choose when, where, why, and how I talk about my disability. That isn’t for someone without my disability to decide. If they don’t want to hear about it, they don’t have to put themselves in a position where they have to listen. If I want to share why or how a certain thing affects me, that’s okay! I’m not being negative or candy-coating my disability or whatever. If I don’t want to, it doesn’t mean I’m not “really disabled” or I don’t “really want to educate”. I have a right to privacy just like anyone else.

People should be able to talk about their disabilities how they want.

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Let that be enough

My hearts breaks every time I see a fellow autistic believe they are a burden. My heart breaks every time a fellow autistic thinks they aren’t enough. My heart breaks every time I see a fellow autistic think they don’t deserve accommodations, that they’re asking too much, that they should just suck it up.

You aren’t a burden because sometimes you need things reworded in a way that you understand. You aren’t a burden because sometimes you need silence and sometimes you need noise. You deserve to have a place you thrive in for work and school or anything, really. If that means you need noise canceling headphones, if that means you need to do it in a seperate, dedicated room – that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you need expectations written out and not just, well, expected  of you, that’s okay! That doesn’t make you a burden. Just because it’s not what the majority of the world seems to thrive on doesn’t mean it’s what YOU need to thrive on.

If you need to take a comfort object, if you need to stim, if you physically cannot sit still, that’s okay. You aren’t hurting anyone else by stimming, you’re doing what makes you comfortable in a very scary world.

Your existence is not a burden. . Neurodiversity is natural. You are WORTHY of the help and supports that you need to THRIVE in the world. Just because someone needs different, more frequent, or what you deem as “easier” accommodations, doesn’t mean that yours also don’t exist and that yours aren’t worthy.

The accommodations I need due to being autistic may be different than the ones someone else needs. That doesn’t make theirs more or less important than mine; it doesn’t make theirs more or less valid than mine. They still exist, because that PERSON exists. 

You are a beautiful, worthy person who just happens to be disabled. You’d beautiful and worthy and perfect without that disability, you’re beautiful and worthy and perfect with the disability. Accommodations make it so that you can enjoy and thrive in the world as you deserve to!

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. There’s nothing wrong with needing supports. It doesn’t mean that you’re a burden. There’s nothing wrong with needing help sometimes.

You exist. You’re worthy. You’re loved. You’re valid.

And just for today, just for now, let that be enough.

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No cure doesn’t mean no hope

I was born with a neurological, genetic disorder with no cure. I’ve often said, and I will say it again, no cure doesn’t mean no hope.

I have neurofibromatosis type 1. What does it mean, for me, personally? Well, I’m glad you asked!

My vision is absolute shit. I am defined as low vision, meaning my vision does not correct above 20/70 even with glasses. Lasik or other correctie surgeries are not an option for me. It means I use larger fonts, sometimes need help reading things, etc. It is one of my more difficult disabilities for me, though I’ve learned how to adapt in many ways.

I have multiple learning disorders. I have dysgraphia, dyscalcuia, and ADHD. I am also autistic, which may or may not be related. I also struggle with spelling and grammar, which while it isn’t a specific learning disorder, it’s certainly related to all this stuff.

I have…well, had? Scoliosis. I’ve had two back surgeries as a result. I also have vertebral scallopingand dural ectasia. Basically, my back is a hot mess.

As a result of my NF, I have migraines.

Because I have NF, I don’t know what it’s like to not be in pain. I don’t know what it’s like not to hurt. I don’t know what it’s like not to be able-bodied, because I never have been and I never will be.

This disorder has no cure. This disorder has no treatment.

But it doesn’t mean I’m without hope.

It doesn’t mean that my life isn’t worth living, disabilities and all.

In September, I’ll be walking with the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Please consider sponsoring  me?

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Growing Up Disabled

I have always been disabled. Some people acquire disability, some people are born with it, some people are born with it and don’t realize they’re disabled until adulthood.

In my case, I was born disabled and I’ve always known I’m disabled. It’s very much of fact of life, the same way I have blue eyes and pale skin. It’s just the way I’ve always been and always will be. There’s no changing it, no looking around it.

Growing up disabled and knowing it means that people always  belittle you, because you’re disabled. You’e often talked to like you’re not there. You’re talked around. You’re handled with kid gloves. You’re treated as lesser than. Why?

Because you’re disabled.

I have been told, to my face, that I’m an inspiration just for doing things like getting a soda out of the drink cooler at Walgreens (I wish I was joking…). I have been told, to my face, that people would kill themselves if they had be disabilities. I’m told I should be grateful to be objectified and turned into inspiration porn, because it touches other people. I’ve been told so many bullcrap things.

Because I’m disabled.

I’ve been told I don’t deserve health insurance. That I should die, because I am expensive to keep alive. I have been told that because I cannot get a job, I don’t deserve to live. I have also been told I have to get a job, that there are “jobs for everyone”. This simply isn’t true in today’s world and climate. I was actually kicked OUT of vocational rehab for being too disabled (which at the time, was frustrating. Now I think it’s hysterical).

Because I’m disabled.

I’ve been told not to let my disability define me, that I can do anything despite being disabled, that I can’t do things because I’m disabled. I’ve been told both extremes.

Because I’m disabled.

I’m told that “my mind is fine”, even though the rest of my body isn’t. Which is ableism, because my mind isn’t fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been told that I need therapy, I need meds, I need this diet, I need that diet.

Because I’m disabled.

Somehow, being disabled, means it’s open season. It’s somehow okay for strangers to comment on my health, on my very existence. It’s okay, when it really shouldn’t be.

Because I was born disabled, I’ve lived with this every day of my life. I’m sure I would if I had acquired disability, but I’ve never known what it’s like to live without this. What it’s like to live without people commenting on my very existence, in ways that would be rude if I wasn’t disabled.

Why? Why is this acceptable just because I’m disabled? I was born disabled, just like some people aren’t born disabled.

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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.