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Ableism and Memes

There is something that has really been frustrating me lately, which is why I’m writing a blog entry at nearly 11 pm on Sunday evening after being out of town for nearly a week. But I can’t not say it anymore. I can’t keep quiet about this level of ableism.

There are a couple of memes that are really popular on Facebook lately. They come and go. One of them is a math problem, and implies that there is something wrong with you if you can’t solve it. These happen a lot. The other one is an image, and it implies if you can’t spot the difference, if you can’t see what’s wrong with it, you’re also somehow lesser than.

STOP.

That is ableism.

Not everyone is good at math. I failed multiple math classes at college level. I barely scraped by eighth grade math. I have a learning disorder and as a result, math is very difficult for me. And yet, people make comments like “if you can’t solve this, you shouldn’t be able to breed.” “If you can’t solve this, you shouldn’t be able to vote.” “If you can’t solve this, *insert insult here*”. Okay, really? That’s offensive. I don’t need to be able to solve what to you is a simple algebra problem in order to be a member of society. There’s no reason to belittle those who cannot solve them. If you can? Great! If it is something you struggle with and still manage to figure it out? I’m proud of you. But for some of us, it isn’t possible. For some of us, no amount of trying can make something click in our brains that we literally are incapable of. All it does is hurt us. All it does is make us feel lesser than.

Then there’s the vision memes. You know. “If you cannot spot the red panda, then you don’t deserve to be on the Internet. “If you can’t see the problem, blah blah blah.” Again, stop. There are SO many reasons why this level of ableism is infuriating. It insults blind and low vision people. It insults people who may not be able to focus to find the thing. It mocks those who have very real struggles, and are actually amazing people – their brain just doesn’t work as your brain might.

I know, I know, someone is going to come back with “Well, I didn’t mean people like *you*. You’re obviously smart.” SHUT. UP. If you don’t mean the ones like me, then which ones did you mean? I’ll let those words sink in. You mean the ones that you pick and choose to not be good enough, right? The ones who were disadvantaged by no fault of their own. The ones that society already mocks and looks down on, because they don’t meet your bullcrap levels of good enough.

It’s absurd and ableist to base self-worth, intelligence, and basic rights to people based on just some viral meme. So knock it off.

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To the person who sent me a nastygram

I am disabled.

My disabilities and my health issues, both visible and none, psychiatric and other types, hinder my various abilities in life. I don’t know what it’s like to be able bodied. I don’t know what it’s like not to have a disability.

Being disabled is hard. I sometimes lose things I love – like events I’ve been looking forward to for a year, friendships, certain aspects of freedom. I cope by talking about it.

Like a lot of people in my age demographic, I opened a Sarahah account. I knew I was taking a risk. But I got so many nice, sweet compliments and when I’d feel down, I’d read them and feel better.

But there’s always that one.

“You talk about your health problems too much and it makes you seem desperate for attention and pity. Grow up.”

I don’t do it for attention or for pity. I do it because it’s my life. I do it because it’s the reality of how I live. I literally don’t know life without being disabled.

I assume you wouldn’t tell someone who posted constantly about their kids they were desperate for attention and pity to grow up, right? After all, they live with their kids and see them every day. Most people are okay with people talking about their kids and don’t write them off as immature.

What if someone talked about their hypothetical job constantly? Again, they must be desperate for attention and pity, right? No, I guess not.

So WHY is it so taboo to talk about my health constantly? It’s what I live with every day. Juggling doctors, juggling appointments, finding the fine balance between what I can and can’t do is incredibly difficult. I talk about my health problems. I actually have been working on posting it less.

Disabled people are often put up on a pedestal to admire, we’re expected to be inspirational, we’re expected to defy the odds. But not all of us do. Not all of us defy the odds. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I don’t know who you were. I don’t know who you are. But please, just delete me from Facebook if you’re that annoyed with me talking about my life and existence as  attention or pity? I honestly don’t give a crap if anyone comments on my stuff. If anyone feels bad for me. I just want to talk about my life and my existence as it is.

And finally? Saying something like that anon, and telling me to grow up is actually hilarious. Pretty sure that means I’m not the one who needs to “grow up” if you’re sending anon nastygrams. There’s a delete or block button, and I suggest you utilize that if I annoy you that much.

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Smashing the OCD stereotype

I have OCD.

Yeah, I know. I’m not a neat person. My room is best defined as the name of one of my college radio shows, premeditated pandemonium. People find it hard to believe that I have OCD because I’m not a germaphobe and I’m not a neat person.

But it doesn’t change the fact I have OCD. OCD isn’t just about being clean and tidy. OCD is recurrent and persisting   thoughts.  OCD is about obsessions, not just compulsions. And those obsessions can take the form of thoughts. Of your brain looping things over. And over. And over.

Bad events that have never happened and never WILL happen loop in my brain. “What ifs” loop my brain. I check things that have been checked. Again. And again. I ask questions I’ve asked. Again. and again. I repeat myself. Again. and again.

Because I’m TERRIFIED of what will happen if I don’t. 

OCD isn’t just about being neat.

I don’t want these thoughts.

I don’t want my brain to be like this.

But I literally can’t control it.

I loop bad events that have never happened, that never will happen, in incredible detail in my brain. It’s terrifying. It’s scary. I feel like a horrible, horrible person. I’m not. I’m literally not in control of my brain and there’s nothing bad about me for being like this.

You see, OCD isn’t a one size fits all disorder. The stereotype of the Danny Tanner-esque germaphobe isn’t what OCD is for everyone, or even the MAJORITY of people! You can have OCD without obsessing over cleaning. You can literally obsess over anything. Your compulsions don’t have to be to keep things clean! Your OCD is still real and valid even without these harmful stereotypes.

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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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Accepting Depression

I’ve made it no secret that I have depression and anxiety. It’s very much a key aspect of who I am. It shapes how I view the world, it’s the lens I make decisions through. It’s my very core – I don’t know who I am without depression and anxiety. Despite meds (which is my choice!), despite therapy (again, my choice – I am currently choosing not to be in therapy but that isn’t a choice I have always made or had the option of making), despite hospitalization in the past… it’s very much a part of me.

I don’t know who I am without depression. I don’t know who I am without OCD. I don’t know who I am without anxiety. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Part of accepting being disabled has been accepting depression. Accepting anxiety. Accepting OCD.

It doesn’t mean it’s not disabling. Oh lord, it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t learn coping skills or ways to navigate the world. That’s silly to think I don’t. But it does mean that I realize it’s a part of me and I make accommodations in the world to make it possible for me to get around. It might mean I need a friend to talk me down when anxiety brain goes haywire. It might mean that some nights I need someone to watch fluffy and/or crappy YouTube videos with me. It might mean that some nights I’m just a puddle of exhaustion and brain cooties.

And that’s okay, because it’s my normal. That’s okay, because it’s the person I am. Accepting my limits, accepting my flaws has been crucial in accepting who I am. It doesn’t mean I glorify it, by no means do I. I don’t think it’s amazing to be depressed, I don’t think it’s great to have soul crushing anxiety that impacts every little thing I do.

But I do think it’s okay to accept it.

I do think it’s okay to say that other people need to accept it if they want to be my friend and interact with me. I do think that it’s wrong that when many people find out that I am psychiatrically disabled, their immediate reaction is “you need meds”, “you need therapy”, etc before they even interact with me and find out why I am the way I am.

Accepting my disabilities has allowed me to accept who I am. It’s high time for other people to accept them now, too.

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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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Awareness vs Acceptance

Awareness is talking about all the ways we are not like you.

Acceptance is talking about what makes us US.

Awareness is about trying to change who we are.

Acceptance is meeting us where we are.

Awareness is trying to change our behavior because it annoys you.

Acceptance is encouraging it, because it comforts us.

Awareness is talking about all the things we cannot do.

Acceptance is talking about all the things we can.

Awareness is “special interests”.

Acceptance is listening to our knowledge and infodumping.

Awareness is talking about trying to cure us (Which is eugenics. The ONLY cure for Autism is to ensure we don’t exist. I’m pretty sure being alive is better than, well, not).

Acceptance is adapting the world to us.

Awareness is talking about how tragic our lives our.

Acceptance is celebrating the fact we’re alive.

Awareness is Autism Speaks and Julia the Muppet.

Acceptance is Autism Women’s Network  and PACLA

Awareness is changing your child…

Acceptance is changing the world.