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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?

 

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It’s time to listen: A Megapost

Sit down. It’s time to listen.

It’s time for me to do the talking.

I’m done. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally.

It’s time for you to listen.

I need you to listen. This is a megapost of important links y’all need to read. So get some coffee (or tea, or hot cocoa, a beer, or whatever the heck your drink is), read the links, and listen to us. Please read them. Please listen to us. I’m tired. I’m worn out. And I can’t do it anymore.

Autism Speaks sucks

I’m not a puzzle piece

Please use ID first language 

And I hate functioning labels

I’m tired of talking about ableism

The cure to autism is eugenics 

And The Mighty mightily sucks

And finally, I’m fed up with your awareness.

Call me bitter. Call me cynical. But the things have been said. Over. And over. And over. Right now, there’s nothing new I can say.

So can you listen?

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What if I stumble, what if I fall?

Father please forgive me
For I cannot compose
The fear that lives within me
Or the rate at which it grows

If struggle has a purpose
On the narrow road you’ve carved
Why do I dread my trespasses
Will leave a deadly scar

Do they see the fear in my eyes?
Are they so revealing?
This time I cannot disguise
All the doubt I’m feeling

I am scared. There is no way around it. I’ve spent my whole life  scared, really. I’ve been disabled since birth, though the list of diagnosis didn’t begin until I was three. When I was four and I became a childhood cancer survivor, I essentially became untouchable by insurance.  As I got older, the list grew and grew. We expected me to grow out of my disabilities, Instead, I grew into them.

And I’m scared. I’m so very, very scared. I’m outright terrified. I need thousands of dollars of medication a month to live. Thousands. Some of my meds do not exist in generics. I require numerous specialists. Health care reform is a very scary, serious thing in my world. I’m moving in under a week and I’m scared as to just transferring my Medicaid over state lines.

I’m scared my Medicare, Medicaid, and SSI will be slashed. I’m scared I won’t be able to get the meds I need to live. I’m scared I won’t be able to see my specialists. Imagine solely relying on government run programs to live. Imagine that private insurance isn’t an option for you – yes, thanks to the ACA I can’t be turned away due to my medical history, but I can’t afford private insurance and there isn’t a plan that would meet my needs.

I’m letting my fear show. I’m letting my doubt show. And let me. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable. It’s hard for me to be scared. Me wondering where this country is going to go isn’t me being a whiny crybaby, someone who’s feeding into hysteria, or any of that jazz. I rely on welfare to live. I literally would be dead without it. My lifetime health bill is in the several million mark. Do I not deserve to live? Do I not deserve to thrive? Do I not deserve a chance at life?

I  can’t hide my fears. I have to be open. President elect Trump, I need you to listen for once. I need you to know that disabled people like me deserve to live. I know I don’t have a job and you likely look down on me. But you know what I do have? I have a witty sense of humor. I’m loyal. I’m compassionate. I’m passionate about things. I’m fighting like hell against a world determined to pull me down. I’m an advocate. Won’t you give me – give us – a chance? We didn’t ask for this life but we’re living it.

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Sometimes

Sometimes doing the right thing is hard.

Sometimes being an advocate is hard.

Sometimes rallying for change is so darn hard.

I try and I try and it feels like my efforts are meaningless.

It feels like the words I say are empty and hallow. Who’s reading? Who’s listening? Who cares? What’s the point? Who lives? Who dies? Who tells my story?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. What the point is. Why I am doing the thing.

Sometimes I am just completely overwhelmed and done with it all.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve made a difference. If anyone will remember my words.

It’s hard.

It’s so hard.

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I don’t WIKE it.

I don’t like change.

I really, really don’t like change. It’s hard. It’s difficult. It’s messy. I’m moving to a new state next month and I’m terrified.

I see my therapist twice a week (which I’m doing until literally the day before I move). Most nights, I play a game or watch a movie until I fall asleep. I see my one of my best friends on a regular basis.

And soon, everything changes.

And to quote Chris Evans, I DON’T WIKE IT.

And everything is chaos.

I find myself approaching autistic burnout.

I find myself regressing.

I find myself below my baseline.

And I don’t wike it.

I try to tell myself it’s normal. It’s okay. That even neurotypical people don’t cope well with change.

But I want things to be the way they are. The move is needed and is very good – it’s getting me into a much better place.

But I don’t WIKE IT.

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Yes, I still hate Autism Speaks.

So today Facebook is abuzz. Apparently, Autism Speaks changed their mission statement to look prettier. For those following along at home, I am not a fan of them.  “But Nora!” I hear you cry out. “They no longer are searching for a cure! They’re searching for a SOLUTION.”

I’m here to tell you it’s the same thing. The exact thing. Cure? Solution? They’re different words for the same thing. And you know what that solution is? You know what their so-called awareness is endorsing? Eugenics.  THAT is the cure. THAT is the solution.

It’s all words. Just words. Blah, blah, blah. Nothing more. They can change their words, but until they change more  I’ll still boycott. They still insist we’re merely puzzles to be solved. And we’re NOT puzzles. They still insist that more boys than girls are autistics. We are still burdens. 

To them, autism does not speak. Autism parents speak. When actual autistics speak, we are silenced. We are bullied. We are pushed aside. Our words? Meaningless.

Autism speaks? Until you’re willing to listen to autistic adults, I’m still boycotting you. You know what your spectrum and solutions are? Wanting me and my friends dead. Forcing us into abusive therapies. Telling us the way we are simply isn’t good enough.

You and your supporters aren’t going to change, I suspect, but this is your chance to prove me wrong and you aren’t just words yet AGAIN.