Okay, readers, my inaugural piece of writing is up at Jewish Weekly’s new blog on the intersection of Judaism and disability!
Please, by all means: Go make it popular!
Okay, readers, my inaugural piece of writing is up at Jewish Weekly’s new blog on the intersection of Judaism and disability!
Please, by all means: Go make it popular!
The way to draw sympathy to your cause (in this case, gun control) is NOT TO MAKE RAPE JOKES.
I repeat: If you resort to MAKING RAPE JOKES to ridicule people who are politically opposed to you, your cause does not have any hope left.
As a rape survivor, I hope that those of you who thought it would be at all original, funny, or clever to MAKE RAPE JOKES and that you won anybody over to your side with this tactic can sleep at night. Because there are millions of survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, and issues with being triggered, who cannot get a good night’s sleep, in part thanks to people like you.
In short: Go to Hell, you pig-headed beastly drooling slime-breathed Lilliputian-brained should-have-been-abortions.
I am in no condition to be in a romantic relationship right now.
There, I said it. I said that dreadful truth which has been lurking in the back of my mind for months now, but have been denying, hoping I could shake it off.
Why was I afraid to admit it? A variety of reasons. Most notably, I mentally flagellated myself at the thought of admitting vulnerability in that area. I’ve written books and articles on dating, done workshops and webinars on the subject, and offered endless advice on dating and relationships to other autistics. I felt like I would be a professional failure if I said, “Actually, I need to take a break from dating and seeking relationships, I’m not really ready for this, and I feel I have a lot of maturing and introspection and critical thinking to do before I figure out what I want from a relationship, because if I’m not happy and well-adjusted while I am single, that’s not going to change with a relationship, I’ll just make another person miserable”. I felt a lot of pressure from myself and the critical inner voices in my head to find the right person, get into a relationship with them, and live happily ever after.
But admitting to myself last night that I’m not ready for a relationship was extremely liberating. It allowed me to lift the veil of judgement and pressure I was suffocating myself with, and has been a sort of step two (step one being quitting student politics) of figuring out what I want, not what I think I should want or what I feel like I am obligated to do by any sort of external sense of duty or morale. I can already feel a change in how I approach other aspects of life, like friendships. I’m not micro-analysing interactions with people I’m attracted to in order to see if they’re flirting with me, I just enjoy their company as friends and love them for the friendship and good times we enjoy together.
I don’t know when I’ll be ready for a romantic relationship again. All I know is that if I spend all of my time preparing for when I’ll be ready again, I’ll never reach there. So I am trying to let go entirely of that, and let it develop naturally. If the time comes when I find myself ready to date and find love again, I’m sure my future self will be grateful to this, for removing any obstacles caused by my own current bout of insecurity, stress, anger, and preoccupation with using a relationship as a magic salve.
It doesn’t mean I’m a fraud or a bad advice writer to come clean with this. It just means I am finally taking my own advice! I hear that’s a common thing for advice-givers to neglect doing.
As for the playlist, here’s a playlist I’ve compiled, so that I can have a musical accompaniment to this transitional period. It seems to be a popular thing these days.
1. The Noisettes- Sometimes
2. The Magnetic Fields- I Thought You Were My Boyfriend
3. Garbage- Cup of Coffee
4. Sia- Moon
5. The Magnetic Fields- With Whom to Dance?
Seeing the sudden popularity of gluten-free diets for people who have no form of gluten intolerance nor celiac’s disease is giving me deja-vu. Allow me to put on my hipster glasses and tell you all about how I first came across gluten-free diets and how they were packaged to me before books like Wheat Belly and other bestsellers touted living gluten-free as a means of whittling your waist.
Back in the olden days of 2004-2005, I was reading up as much as I could about autism and Asperger Syndrome, because I was naturally curious about my people, post-diagnosis. A recurring theme in the books, apart from the usual staples of socialization and behavioural adjustments, was touting a gluten-free diet. It was promised as a miracle which would change a “locked in their own world autistic” (sic) into an “active but odd autistic” (sic). There were entire recipe books devoted to avoiding gluten and casein (a dairy protein) and adapting an autistic child’s life to avoid the devilish proteins hiding away in just about every innocuous foodstuff.
I tried a gluten-and-casein free diet myself for a couple of months, while I was in college, hoping to find a fix to my anxiety, depression, sadness, and ongoing physical problems ranging from gassiness to bloating to constipation. Whatever side effects the gluten-and-casein free diet was supposed to curb or prevent, it was not worth the mental and physical anguish that it caused me. Having to constantly think and over-think about what I was eating, out of paranoia about accidentally consuming gluten or casein, made me miserable. Missing out on my favourite foods and having substitutes for them which tasted like sweetened sand made me miserable. The whole experience aggravated my symptoms, rather than relieving them. And, as it turns out, my personal experience was backed up by science. In Autism’s False Prophets, Paul Offit demonstrated that the effectiveness of “reducing” the signs of autism of gluten-casein-free diets was, at most, negligible, and in most cases, nonexistent.
Now I’m seeing gluten-free get a new spin, not as a means of managing autism, but as a means of making people lose weight. Unlike when I went gluten-casein-free, there are a great deal more options out there for gluten-free eaters, thanks to raised awareness of food intolerance and celiac’s disease. There are gluten-free cookies, bars, sweets, bites, and restaurant options too. Depending on the severity of your gluten intolerance (if you even have one) you don’t even have to depend on a gluten-free menu, it could be as simple as ordering a hamburger with no bun at McDonald’s. That probably makes it easier for those who want to live gluten-free and not miss out on their favourite treats. But if people trying to use gluten removal for weight loss the same way people used to (and probably still do) use it as a cure for autism or managing its “symptoms”, they’ll probably be disappointed. People’s bodies are all different, and there is no single magical cure for the vast variety of different bodies with different food preferences, intolerances, and personal body chemistry to magically get healthy.*
Lesson of the day: Eat whatever you want. You’re an independent being with agency who can decide what is best for your body, and if you feel a gluten-free lifestyle might be for you, go ahead. You are blessed with many options now. However, if you’re some quack trying to make a fortune off distortions of health and biochemistry and nutrition in order to make a quick buck, or some prescriptive tool who thinks that the world would be a better place if everybody adopted your dietary lifestyle, or a jerk who thinks that being thin equals being healthy, then I hate you, please choke on a bagel.
* I am not meaning to use it that way, but these books and promotional materials seem to equate “get healthy” with “lose weight”.
After repeated run-ins with the Montana State Legislature in various capacities, I thought that I would never have to deal with a more contentious, toxic, and poisonous political environment. How could it get worse than a group full of hypocrites, ignorant racists, homophobes, misogynists, and gentleman ranchers (If you don’t understand why that one is as insulting as the others, you’re not from Montana)?
Allow me to bake and cut a slice of humble pie for myself to eat, with a side of my own words. My brief tenure as a student politician had me crying for a return to a time when the simplest political drama in my life involved wondering how many fatalities by friendly fire would be involved if one fool got his way and allowed guns to be carried into the State Legislature, or a debate over whether to introduce “the cowboy code” to the Montana lawbooks.
I’ll spare you the ugly, boring, and serious details of that time in my life. They’re not important anyway. What is important is the lessons I learned from it. When I was in student politics, a load of unpleasant things happened to my physical, mental, and psychological well-being. I’m twenty pounds heavier, my skin looks like I received a facial consisting of Crisco oil and bacon grease, I’ve developed fine lines around my lips and eyes (partially from stress, partially from smoking due to the stress of being involved) my teeth partially rotted, and my hair became limp and lifeless. I became snappy, rude, and mean-spirited towards people I worked with and people I was supposed to be advocating for. I lost my temper several times over trivialities. I tuned out when my loved ones would tell their stories or troubles to me, and I told mean-spirited jokes at their expense. I was a loathsome creature. I applaud my friends and coworkers for not all abandoning me in a huff during this period, I probably would have walked out on me and my bullshit if I could have seen myself behave the way I did.
It wasn’t the fault of my esteemed coworkers or the university or any other individual person that I became this horrible monster. It was more just that the whole nasty state of affairs was a side effect of doing something I normally love and cherish (activism) in a way that was completely contrary to how I normally go about it, and in a way where I didn’t feel like I was making any real progress. In other words, the me that emerged from this was a version of myself that was frustrated, stagnated, and bureaucratized.
What I learned from this is that I have to be on guard to make sure I never let myself, my goals, or my values be crunched up into other people’s definitions or ideologies and eaten alive. That almost happened to me in the last few months, and I can’t ever allow it to happen again. I also learned that everybody has a different type of talent. My talent doesn’t lie in bureaucratic, political methods of advocacy and activism. When I tried to force myself to become that way, I warped like tupperware in the microwave, until I was twisted and nearly unrecognisable to my original form. But, most importantly, I learned what my limits are, and that I can challenge myself, but I can’t push myself to the breaking point. I know what I love to do. I know what I am talented at. I know how I can challenge myself, and I can effectively conclude that I overexerted myself this time. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be afraid of trying new things in the future. Only that I know for sure that this wasn’t for me.
What’s next after learning these valuable lessons? I want to heal. I want to get my good health and good spirits back. I want to feel good about what I do and how I go about doing it. I borrowed a method from Jonathan at Stupid Motivational Tricks to hopefully achieve this.
Why do I want to do this?
Because I want to come out of this experience assured that I am stronger, smarter, and more ready to face future challenges than I was before I entered it.
What is my goal?
To become (physically, emotionally, intellectually, and mentally) healthy again, and to apologize and move forward from mistakes I made and make it up to people that I hurt.
What are my challenges?
It’s a tall order, I’m aware of this, and it can be pretty vague. I have a more clear-cut idea of how I plan to achieve this in my head, but it’s late and I will write more later. I also acknowledge that challenges will come about because it’s very easy to get too comfortable with how things are. I want to think about how things should be, so I hope that I never lose sight of what I want because inaction is easier.
What do I ultimately want to do?
Be more educated, kind, intelligent, well-adjusted, and healthier than I was even before I became a student politician.
What are the drawbacks of this goal?
None that I can perceive, apart from the challenges to reach it.
What makes me think I can do this?
Because I kick ass and because I have a plan and a vision, and I do not let things get in the way of my dreams and goals.
I’m late to the game, but I’ve been seeing articles posted by my friends and fellow bloggers which have trumpeted a story of adult autistics “outgrowing” their autism. I don’t have the patience or the spoons to look up the articles which claim this, but they all follow a similar narrative- allegedly, when autistic children grow up to become autistic adults, they “lose” a lot of their most pronounced autistic traits. Scientists, psychologists, parents, talking heads, and others are eager to point this out as a sign of progress, as proof that autism isn’t a “lifelong” condition, and that there must be something out there which can cause autism to vanish from one’s life.
I’m pretty familiar with the narrative of “vanishing”, whether it’s related to my autism “vanishing”, belonging to a “vanishing” people (Jews and Natives, respectively) and other such talk which places facts of my life in a stiff and static past where I have no room to speak my own mind or express my thoughts. Let me tell you tonight that what others see as “vanishing” or “outgrowing”, I see as adapting, strengthening, and reinventing for survival.
I didn’t “outgrow” my autism. I still have it as an adult.
However, my mother, former teachers, and other people who knew me from when I was very small always remark on the “progress” I’ve made since I was a young girl. I don’t stim in public anymore, I don’t talk out of turn any longer, I stay on-topic when conversing with others, and I stick to subjects deemed “appropriate”. I have a rich, complex, and satisfying social life now, with a great variety of friends whom I love, respect, and cherish. I can form romantic relationships with others, and I have a good (some might even say enviable!) grasp on sex, sexuality, and sexual expression. I am a straight-A student who is active in my campus community and in my larger community. I can, in essence, tick a variety of boxes that are deemed to be signs of being successful and well-adjusted for somebody in my age group. People see that, and their immediate assumption is that I must have outgrown my autism, because there’s no way I could have gone from being a socially isolated, maladjusted, tantrum-and-meltdown having kid to this without getting rid of the autism, right?
Wrong. But I will tell you what the key ingredients are in ensuring this transformation from being an unhappy and pained autistic kid to a well-adjusted autistic adult. Notice that none of it involves shedding my autism, I keep the qualifier of being autistic.
Without getting rid of my autism, outgrowing it, or “recovering” from it, I changed because:
1.) I gained independence.
Getting out of my hometown, going to university, and living on my own made all of the difference. It didn’t happen overnight of course. I had a great deal of help along the way, I had people teach me how to do basic things like cook my food, get to the store for food without a car (I can’t/don’t drive) take care of my own home, pay my bills and taxes on time and correctly, and work while going to school. But it made all of the difference once I learned how to do this on my own and could practice it without judgement and scrutiny. I have my own organization system, my own way of doing things, and my own approach to how I live my life. Without somebody scrutinizing me, I was able to live on my own terms. That made the biggest difference in how I behaved.
2.) I got to have playtime, self-care time, stimming time, and “me” time on my own
When you’re a kid, especially a kid with a disability, parents, teachers, and other adults have this dreadful habit of trying to quantify and micromanage every action you perform in order to find some rationalized “benefit” to it. Oh, Leah’s molding with sculpting clay? That will be good for her fine motor skills! Leah is walking every day with her iPod? That will help her lose weight! Leah is getting into music! She’ll have an age-appropriate topic she can discuss with her peers! Leah’s stimming, that’s bad, she’ll distract people. Leah’s reading again, that’s not a very social activity. Leah’s spending too much time on the computer, she should be talking to real people.
I got away from all of that as an adult living on my own. When I do any activity now, I do not face that level of scrutiny, and I don’t have to worry about my hobbies or actions being deemed worthy or not worthy of some arbitrary scale which measures my progress (Progress towards what? Mimicking non-autistic people?) I am blessed by having a caring and accommodating workplace which allows me to take time if I need to in order to take care of my needs, so if I need to stop working because I need to stim, or draw, or work off excess energy by going for a brisk walk, I can do that. I am allowed to doodle in my class notes without being scolded for being a poor note-taker, and therefore can absorb a lecture in my own way and not concentrate just on making “good” notes that I would never use anyways. This is freedom.
3.) I stopped being so stressed out about methods of de-stressing
I still have stress in my life of course. I just went through a very stressful period of my life which nearly wrecked my mental and physical health (More on that later!) But the stresses of adulthood and independence are ones that I can handle now, because I can de-stress by stimming, clicking together my fingers, or other rapid-fire movements which help re-set my mind from anxiety mode to calm mode, and I don’t have to fear being told that these methods are wrong or that I am being naughty or embarrassing. Ninety percent of the “really bad” autistic moments in my life were triggered by adults taking away my ability to self-regulate my emotions and reactions through stimming or other “bad” autistic behaviours. Now that I do not have to fear being punished for acting autistic, I have little methods of coping with stress which I can use to keep the meltdowns at bay for the most part.
4.) I got through puberty.
I have a theory as to why autistic adults are seen as much “milder” or “less” autistic, one of the reasons, anyways. Because those autistic adults often just got over being autistic teenagers. Going through puberty is stressful and painful enough for a neurotypical teen, for autistic me, it was a nightmare. People are often very clandestine on the nature of puberty and sexuality around disabled children and teenagers, either out of discomfort of the idea of us being sexual beings, some harebrained notion of “protecting” us, or out of cruel malice on the part of parents, caretakers, or other adults. I was told very little about puberty, apart from what I got from books at the library and my high school sex education classes, and there were virtually no books written for autistic cisgendered girls on how to deal with puberty. So that time in my life was very difficult for me, physically and emotionally, and yes, I often took that out in the form of aggression and rebellion towards my parents and other adults, what teenager doesn’t? But what was seen as “normal” teen behaviour for a neurotypical teen was pathologized for me, seen as a byproduct of my disabilities, rather than a fact of my existence. When I calmed down, became an adult, and got more self-aware, I must have seemed like an angel in comparison.
As you can see, I never left my autism behind. Instead, I ended up leaving behind a lot of people and forces which tried to regulate, pigeonhole, and control me and my autism. With that out of my life, I became a happy, well-adjusted adult. The problem here isn’t me losing my autism, it’s those who think that “happy and well adjusted adult” and “autism” are always mutually exclusive categories.
Everybody’s story is different of course, and I welcome other autistic adults who share their stories about living as adults with autism, and whether they feel like they are labelled “more” or “less” autistic than they were in their youth. But that is my story, and I hope it sheds some light on the myths around outgrowing autism like last-summer’s bathing suit or an old coat.