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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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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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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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sometimes i’m quiet about things that matter

When I first became advocate!Nora, when I first became an attack badger…I fully threw myself into it. I lapped up every cause I cared about. I defended things to the death. I mean, you can kind of envision me sitting in front of my laptop/phone/tablet being all “FOR NARNIA! AND FOR ASLAN!” right? Or… you know, whatever my cause is. But you get the point. At the edge of my seat .Ready to fight. Ready to attack. Ready to defend.

You know the old song? Lean on me, when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.  For so long, I’ve been the person to lean on. For so longer, I’ve been the person ready to defend, to speak out, to pounce, to say the things that matter. For so long, I’ve been so ready to be at fight me! mode that I forget to do things that are also important.

And so, sometimes I’m quiet about things that matter. Right now, we have a commander in chief who, well, many have very valid concerns about, to put it lightly. Concerns that could, and likely will, affect me and my livelihood. About people I love deeply and would truly do anything for (the “would do anything for” list is very small, though the “I will fight for you” list is hella long). And I’ve kept fairly quiet about it on Facebook.

I feel like people think I’m privileged because I haven’t been speaking out like they have. I’m not – I’m autistic, I’m disabled, I’m low income. There’s so much that matters. But like anyone, I burn out sometimes. And right now, I am quickly spiraling out of control.

Many of you know that I cling deeply to being a Hufflepuff and consider it an essential part of my identify. Right now, I am a burned Hufflepuff. I pull away. I retreat. I am burned out. Because right now, being quiet is an important part of self care. Right now, when I fully emerge myself in politics and whatnot, I make myself physically ill. And my already fragile health cannot handle that. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It doesn’t mean I’m not affected. It means I’ve learned the lesson of saying no and I’ve learned the lesson of when to speak. You know, like the Bible verse. A time to speak, a time to be silent.

It doesn’t mean I will be quiet forever. It doesn’t mean I no longer care about politics, the world, my friends, or being an advocate. It means that right now, I have to be silent about things that matter. It means that right now, the right step for me is taking care of myself and those closest to me. One day, I will be an outspoken advocate again. One day, I will say all the things again. But that day is not today, and today I am taking care of myself.

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Well done, Sister Suffragette

Cast off the shackles of yesterday
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sing in grateful chorus

Well done, Sister Suffragette

No matter how you slice it, it’s a historical seven days. November 2nd, 2016 the Cubs ended a 108 year streak of no title (Go Cubs go, go Cubs go, hey Chicago, what do you say? The Cubs are going to win today!) And on November 8th, we’ll either elect our first female president or our first…. whatever Donald Trump is.

I voted early today. And I had to make a choice. Who do I vote for?

 

I am a Christian. My faith is important to me. I have LGBT friends who I dearly love – in fact, some of my closest friends are LGBT+. How can I vote for someone whose vice president  advocates for horrifying “therapy” for them? How can I vote for a president who wants to deport refugees?

I hear people say they are voting for Trump because he is pro life. First, read this.  And if you are still convinced The Cheeto is pro life, read this.

Who did I vote for?

I voted for Hillary Clinton.

I don’t think she’s perfect. I don’t agree with all her policies. I’m not happy with how the whole email scandal played out. I am  NOT condoning her actions by voting for her.

But this election, LITERAL lives are on the line. LGBT lives. Muslim lives. Any life who doesn’t fit Trump’s every changing whim. Women put their lives on the line so that they have their right to vote. How can I throw that back in their face by putting even MORE lives on the line?

Yes, I could have done a protest vote. Yes, I could have voted third party. But I’m that terrified of a Trump presidency I just can’t. I can’t with a president who has mocked disabilities. I can’t with a president who has such horrific views.

This is one of the most terrifying blog posts I’ve ever written. I’m scared. I’m scared my friends will hate me. I’m scared friends will desert me. I’m scared that I will be mocked over social media. I’m scared my faith will once again be challenged.

But right now, #ImWithHer. Right now, I am hoping that my daughter’s daughter’s will sing in grateful chorus, being thankful that  Donald wasn’t elective. Right now, I am throwing away being meek and mild and doing what in my heart is right.

And that is why I am a Christian who voted for HRC.

No more the meek and mild subservient we
We’re fighting for our rights militantly
Never you fear

So cast off the shackles of yesterday
Shoulder to shoulder into the fray
Our daughters’ daughters will adore us
And they’ll sing in grateful chorus
Well done
Well done
Well done, Sister Suffragette

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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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And We Dance

for nicolas.  january the 13, 1990 – july the 25, 2011

moments of childlike joy
the children’s museum, the science museum
and we dance

 

those nights that we shared
with the little princess and scrubs
and we laugh

those moments you saved my life
hours and hours of prayer
and we weep

we had our disagreements and fade
but you always were my friend, nicolas,
and we care

as the waves of time come crashing
and stop crashing far too soon
and i mourn

i long for the day where we reunite
and we can catch up once more
and i wait

together, no longer in pain
together, with our creator
and we dance

oh, i thought about You the day that nick died, and you met between my breaking. i know that i still love You god, despite the agony. cuz people they want to tell me You’re cruel, but if nick could sing he’d say it’s not true ‘cuz you’re good. cuz he loves us, whoah, how he loves us, whoah how he loves us, whoah how he loves…

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I’m A Bad Crip

I was born disabled. I don’t know what it’s like to not be disabled. Every second of my life has been “Oh gods, Nora, you’re SO INSPIRING!”

I have nearly died. I don’t know what it’s like to be healthy. And my entire life I have been told I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I’m special.

I’ve been told I’m inspiring. That it’s amazing I graduated high school in the top portion of my class. I’ve been told what an incredible person I am merely for existing.

I am a bad crip.

I think this is bullshit.

I am a bad crip.

I’m not inspirational just for velcroing my shoes or getting a freaking soda from the store.

I am a bad crip.

I hate being told I’m amazing. I’m inspiring. I’m incredible. Don’t be inspired because I’m disabled. Be inspired because I’m a kickass Hufflepuff. Be inspired because I am loyal to a fault. Be inspired because I can still rap all the words to Jesus Freak, thank you very much. Be inspired because I know all the words to One Week by Barenaked Ladies. That my brain is a useless trap of Disney trivia and 90s Christian trivia.

I am a bad crip.

I don’t accept bullcrap excuses for ableism. I don’t let people push me around. When my PCA was treating me like shit and emotionally abusing me, I spoke out instead of just taking it. I document the hell-wringer the company puts me through, instead of doing what the world wants me to do: sitting down and shutting up.

I am a bad crip.

I’m snarky and sarcastic. I don’t take no for an answer. I push back. I don’t let the world walk over me. When I was told that I looked too good to be depressed and I just thought I was depressed, I ditched the doctor instead of believing the bullshit.

I am a bad crip.

And I’m proud of it.