Lisa D. (chaoticidealism) wrote,
Lisa D.
chaoticidealism

My story.

This will be an emotional rant. You have been warned.

I am extremely idealistic. Lately I have been very discouraged with the world in general... It seems like everyone I meet is either selfish or doesn't have enough self to be selfish. Why do we have these ideals in our heads, of how we could be; and yet nobody comes close to ever living up to them? I grew up in a Baptist household and my mother would have had kittens if she saw me reading books of Catholic saints; but there is something that's always attracted me to those and other exemplary human beings... Nowadays, though, it seems like nobody's really like that; and I always knew the stories had been embellished over the years. I know I've never met a real, live saint. My own selfish motivations make me even more ashamed.

So what triggered this? Lots of crazy life events. I'm not very resilient--I've had on-and-off major depression ever since I was about eight or so--and naturally that doesn't help me handle things, though with each recovery I tend to learn more... but each episode sets me back more, too. No family support. Oh, and I'm five states away, which is actually good because of said lack of support.

I'm not actually in the middle of a depressive episode right now. I said "discouraged", not "depressed". Thank God. The only reason I'm not dead is because I'm not impulsive, and I seriously couldn't handle another depression right now.

I'm autistic. I can talk and I can take care of myself and I'm going to college but after years of trying to keep jobs and being kicked out after people found out how weird I was or that I couldn't multitask or that I just gave people the wrong vibes, I'm living on disability. As a kid, my mom refused to get me diagnosed for fear of labeling me, so I didn't have a clue why I was different. I ended up not knowing why the whole world drove me crazy, why I couldn't figure out all those stupid social rules, or for that matter why it was so important to take showers. Great for the social life. I was a real bully target. Oh, and the whole abusive-stepdad thing? Twice? Didn't help.

So finally, after being hospitalized a couple of times (depression, as usual), I finally got to talk to a psychiatrist. She had a son with Asperger's (autism) and it took her about five minutes to suspect something and a single session to diagnose me. I thought she must have been reading my mind, because she was talking about all these things that I figured nobody else experienced, like being fascinated by the light flashing from a quarter when you turn it around in your hands, or hating to look people in the eye because it means you can't listen to them at the same time...

Anyway, as usual when I have a question, I researched autism. I read books about it; I read Web sites; I joined forums and talked to other autistic people. And I was completely and totally shocked by the two sides to this supposedly singular "autism community". On one side, people were talking about autism as a horrible tragedy, about the autistic person as a financial burden on the community, about how these "poor children" were "trapped" by autism, about how these moms just wanted their little child to call them "mommy". It was classic pity. It turned my stomach. Initially I even tried to tell myself I wasn't "really" autistic because I wasn't the mythical rocking-in-the-corner nonverbal object-of-pity, diapered, tantruming child.

Then I discovered the other side. To some people, autism isn't shameful. It's something that just exists, the way your mind is, a neutral sort of difference. I saw autistic people and their parents celebrating that difference, finding ways to fit into the world. I was fascinated by that perspective. I came to realize that being disabled wasn't something to be ashamed of. And I learned that I was a valuable person not because I am intelligent and I can write well, but simply because I'm a person. When you meet families with very young autistic kids, or very disabled--and very happy--autistic people, you begin to realize that intelligence doesn't matter all that much. That means that I don't have to be anxious to prove myself, to justify my existence. I don't have to be useful to be valuable.

So you'd think that's a good thing, right? Well, not really, because nobody is listening to the things I and a lot of other "loser nerds" are discovering. Every day I look at the news and the magazines, and I see yet another "autism is a tragedy" story. Worse yet, I see autistic people objectified, as though they are soulless (I have literally seen us described as soulless). Even Asperger Syndrome, the mildest of the lot and by definition connected with intelligence, is villified as something that breaks up families and causes teenagers to angrily shoot down their classmates.

When I talk to other autistic people, I hear stories of severe bullying--the kind that causes broken bones. Every once in a while somebody admits to sexual abuse, and it's pretty obvious that there are a lot more people who aren't admitting it. I hear about kids held down in special education classrooms just for crying or getting out of their seats. I hear about people being denied the picture cards or symbols or keyboards they use to communicate because it's assumed that they just "don't want to speak", and then they're severely overmedicated because of the inevitable meltdowns that come when you can't communicate. There are the "autism awareness" charities that make us sound pitiful, make our lives seem like dead ends. There are parents who will subject their children to dangerous, unproven procedures, at worst, or put their very young children through 90-hour weeks of grueling therapy, at best. The aim? To make their children "normal".

It'll never happen. We'll never be normal. Autism is part of the very structure of the brain, and there's no changing it. And yet, as most of the world thinks, autism is a lot like cancer: It's unacceptable. It has to be purged. It's the enemy.

It's my mind. My personality.

You can't take autism away and leave a person whole. Teach skills; teach communication? Yes. Sometimes we learn so much that you couldn't tell we're autistic unless you knew. But you can't cure autism.

I know why they fear autism. For many people, socialization is the reason for existence. Love; family; friends. They're afraid because for an autistic person, socialization doesn't come naturally. I like to have one or two friends, and to be mostly alone; and for some reason, to a lot of people, that's frightening. They think I must be sad, because they would be sad in my position. But they don't have my mind.

Even mental illness is starting, just barely, to be accepted. But autism, apparently, is not. Either you're a performing animal with Savant Syndrome (never mind that you're a person too), or else you're a frightening, soulless creature, little better than an animal.

My own history really doesn't come up to what other autistic people are having to put up with--even in this modern era, autistic children are at least ten times more likely to be abused or even murdered; adults don't have it much better, especially if they are low-functioning and people can convince themselves that they're mistreating them for "their own good".

It's been said that a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members; and in a society based on social contacts--"It's who you know, not what you know"--those with the least social currency are very easily near the bottom of the heap.

For the first time, I feel a sense of community. I never felt a part of my country or my town or even really my family. My idealism was attached to a sort of impersonal altruism; I'd do anything to help my family--but I'd help a stranger with nearly the same enthusiasm. I'm very Spock-like, that way.

And now... the first time I really understand what it's like to understand how other people feel... I see around me those same people maligned and stereotyped and hardly seen as people at all. People seem to want to love only their own kind, not those of us who are different.

But why? Why is being different such a crime? We are very different from each other, after all; hyperlexic and visually-oriented and nonverbal and little-professor chatterbox... Why is it that we can accept each other, in all our wonderful diversity, and yet nobody else seems to want to?

We're people. Just people. Can't anybody see that?
Tags: emotions, identity
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