Thursday, July 27, 2006

How 'Autism Every Day' Affected Me

I've been trying to work up courage to write about this for a few days.
When I wrote my entry Autism Every Day, I found that I was only mildly upset by the stuff said in that video. Mostly, I analyzed it intellectually. Then it was time to go home, so I wrote 'to be continued' and left.
On the way home, I was irritable with my brother. This progressed, so that by the time I was home I had argued with my mother and brother and decided they both hated me. When we went in I immediately went to talk to my Dad, since I neede comforting and he was the only one I hadn't fought with. I told him I thought I was upset because of that movie, but Mom came and I shut up. Dad got upset that I'd suddenly stopped talking, and kept trying to get me to talk, but when I'm in that state I can only discuss my feelings if I feel safe, and I was convinced Mom hated me.
Mom left and I tried to explain to Dad why I'd stopped talking. It took some work but finally he understood. Then he and I talked about what was upsetting me. Mom went to bed, while my brother, desperate for Dad's attention, kept popping in and getting sent back downstairs to wait. After awhile my focus shifted to the fact that it was bedtime, and I doubted I'd be able to fall asleep alone, considering how anxious I was.
At this point I tried to make it up with Mom. Finally, we both apologized for taking out our stresses (Mom is writing a thesis and working very hard) on each other, and I felt safe to cuddle with Mom. I fell asleep in bed with my parents. Several hours later, I was told to go to my own bed, since I was now feeling much calmer, I could sleep alone.
As far as my meltdowns go, this was mild. In fact, Dad doesn't consider it a meltdown. But it could easily have been worse. Had Dad at some point said or done something that led me to think he was against me, I'd have had no one to comfort me and probably would've ended up screaming at them for ages, running off, punching/biting my wrist to leave a bruise, or some combination of both.
When I decided to write the entry about Autism Every Day, I expected there might be trouble. But I never expected it to hit me afterwards, rather than as I was writing. On other occasions I've started crying, or gotten triggered, or otherwise reacted strongly in an unpleasant way while writing something upsetting. For example, the reason my article The Difference Between Pedophilia and Homosexuality is unfinished is that I started having body memories partway through. Amanda Baggs described something similar in her article This Is What Your "Treatments" Do To Us, although she has it much worse than me.
I wonder if partly it's that I didn't describe my own emotions or the emotions of people I strongly identify with very much. Partly, it's obviously that that movie was so much more awful than any other curebie autism movie I've seen. The time I wrote a reply to someone posting the link Recovered Autistic Children, I found it less upsetting, because those movies are less vicious (at least the ones I saw). There was less of the feeling of a tide of hate washing over me as I struggle to stay upright. I described this feeling somewhat in my entry Drowning in Discrimination.
Once again, I think of how ridiculous it is to believe that autistic rights activists are just doing it to feel important. Often when I write about discrimination, I get only hints of emotional reactions, unless I call up my emotions to write about. What hints I do get, however, are not pleasant emotions, more like anger or sadness or terror or just plain exhaustion (which was mostly how I felt when I wrote Drowning in Discrimination). And I certainly don't enjoy getting triggered by these things and having meltdowns. Nor do I enjoy people's reactions.
But it's worse to think that kids are suffereing from similar kind of stuff as what harmed me, and people think it doesn't hurt or that we deserve it because we're autistic. I could pretend to myself that it's fine, but I made a commitment to being nondiscriminatory, so once I realize it's discrimination, I won't disguise it to myself anymore. Not to mean that I'm never discriminatory, because I'm sure I practice various forms of covert discrimination without realizing it.
I'm not sure when I decided this. Maybe it was because my parents raised me to be aware of discrimination. My parents have always said that discriminating against people for gender, sexuality or race is wrong, and my Mom's theses are pretty much all about sexism (and history, and sometimes law). They raised me to be aware of discrimination, and concerned by it.
Maybe it's my schools. I learnt in my first school to fight back when someone tries to force you to conform to unfair standards, and in my second school I learnt that normal is definately not perfect. I learnt these things by getting repeatedly wounded emotionally, and by the support my parents gave me as I fought back.
And as often occurs, my entry wandered along many tangents, and I wrote down stuff I hadn't planned on writing. Such is the beauty of my autistic mind.
Ettina