Not Neurotypical: An Overshare

7 Apr

For various reasons, I’ve spent much of the day teetering on the edge of tears. First, my martial arts class was cancelled because my main school had a bomb threat. That martial arts class is amazing – if I’m having a shitty day, it takes the focus off of what’s happening to my life and allows me to get out of toxic thought patterns. And when I don’t get that, my day tends to suck. Plus, you know, bomb threat to the school I’ve spent large amounts of time at for the past 15 years (my dad’s a professor there, and has been since my childhood). So, I return to my other school to wait for my afternoon class, and I mark time, as I am wont to do, by going through my RSS reader and seeing what’s new. One of the first feeds I check is Shakesville, and this guest post by Meowser sucks me in. It’s about (warning: very poor summary) being diagnosed with Asperger and the stigma our society awards non-neurotypical brain function. You seriously need to read the whole thing, if you haven’t already (though I assume most people who read this blog already read Shakes).

But the reason I’m writing this post is because, as has been stated ad infinitum, the personal is very much political (and oh, how I wish it weren’t and I didn’t feel compelled to write this post and tell the internet my problems because the internet very likely (in my head) does not give a shit).  I’m trying to not have a heavy hand (er, pinky finger) with the backspace key the way I normally do when I’m writing about things I’d rather nobody else read, things I’d rather I didn’t even think about, let alone spill to the internet. This will likely give me more runon sentences and weird grammar than usual; please forgive me this. You see, dear reader, I have trouble coping with challenges in my life in ways that neurotypical people *ahem* typically don’t.

As I’ve stated on the LJ entries I just linked, I suspect that I have depression (which is currently deepening, as evidenced by the reemergence of my most common symptom), but I’d never considered Asperger’s Syndrome before. For one thing, as Meowser stated, I’m biologically female, and women don’t have such syndromes, silly goose! But enough of the symptoms Meowser listed made me go, “That…sounds a lot like me, actually,” to make me curious enough to take the quiz linked in the post. I scored 35/50, and a score of 32 is a strong indicator of likelihood of Aspie’s. UrsusRufus linked another quiz in comments, I scored 186/200 for likelihood of Aspie’s (and a 16/200 for neurotypical brain function). So.

I was an unusual child, the most common description is “dancing to the beat of her own drum.” Quite often, literal dancing. In the third grade (age 9 or so), I got in trouble because I stood up and started doing a happy dance because school was almost over for the day, and I could go home and read my books. One time, the art teacher got upset with me because I was skipping through the halls on my way back to the ordinary classroom (Orderly walking ONLY – stop that infernal disorder!). For this and other things (like the fact that soon after I discovered chapter books, I decided to read (and succeeded in reading) Little Women *cough*feminism buds early*cough*), I was mercilessly teased through junior high. But I was and still am one of the slowest people ever at arithmetic. When in second grade, I had to have remedial math quizzes at home with my parents so I could have a chance in hell of being anywhere near an acceptable level (by high school, I was finally allowed to use a calculator for everything – woo!). But I’m very good at higher-level maths, like algebra and pre-calculus, especially for a liberal arts-focused person. My logic class is frustratingly easy, because I can just see how arguments like Modus Ponens and conditional exchange work logically, and how equivalencies are, in fact, equivalent, and it’s hard for me to let the teacher teach at the other students’ banally slow pace. A lot of my school problems (again, outlined in the LJ entry linked earlier) could be said to be symptoms of Asperger.

But I’m also very good at passing for neurotypical. I’ve had to learn how to be – like I said, merciless teasing through the age of 14 (and plenty beyond that, but nowhere near the level it was for the first 8 years of my public school education). So most of this shit – nobody will notice it. Ever. When my parents separated in September 2001, I began acting out my frustrations, and they sent me to a therapist so I wouldn’t be as aggressively troublesome as I had been. I was diagnosed as having passive-aggressive tendencies, and friends my own age were recommended by the therapist. My mom started going to church and taking me with her; I was fairly serious about Methodism for most of my teenage years (previous exposure to religion was fairly agnostic). I became involved with the youth group at the church, but I never made friends easily. I never exchanged phone numbers with friends in the group, never dated, kept to myself. This worried the therapist about me, but as far as I know, Asperger’s was still never mentioned. I remember one time on a trip home from a Christian rock (oxymoron if ever there was one) concert, one of the boys in the youth group fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. I sat there panicking because, OMG, somebody is making physical contact with my body and what do I do what do I do what do I do? So, I did what anybody worried about being taken for a freak does – I let him sleep while I sat there in hyperawareness of how far away from the church we still were (half an hour, okay, only fifteen minutes, ten, very close now, almost there, OHTHANKGOD, he’s awake). But anyway, before I got off on that tangent, I was going to say that I taught myself how to act neurotypical to convince the therapist that I was okay to stop counseling sessions. And it worked, taking a little over a year of seeing her. But I never actually got better at coping – just at hiding my problems because I knew nobody actually cared I was having problems, they just cared that they weren’t affected by it (for a frighteningly near-perfect example of how this plays out in my head, see this comment by JJohnson).

But why am I posting this here? I try to keep my mental stuff away from this blog – I like to quarantine it on my LJ, because I’m afraid nobody will take me seriously as an intellectual and a feminist if they know how bad it gets sometimes, how much I hate myself, how much I want to make the pain stop, how far I’m willing to go sometimes to do so (as Meowser said in the post, I’m not suicidal – most of the time. I can avoid self-harm fantasies – most of the time.). But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that increasing the voices that say, “Look, I’m not neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean you get to shut me away in an institution, drug me until I look like I’m coping with shit again, tell me that what my brain naturally does is irrational and absolutely useless in the discussion on how to help nonneurotypical people cope (not look like they’re coping, but ACTUALLY FUCKING COPING) in a world that isn’t built to allow them any degree of success,” is absolutely a feminist issue. Even among allies, it can be impossible to get across the idea that “…non-neurotypical people retain full human rights regardless of the severity of our conditions.” That’s why this post is here – because the more people shout from the rooftops that ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’, the more likely that our voices will be heard, and we won’t continue to have our voices drowned out by the thundering roar of normalcy fetishism.

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2 Responses to “Not Neurotypical: An Overshare”

  1. Chally April 18, 2009 at 3:17 pm #

    ‘I’m afraid nobody will take me seriously as an intellectual and a feminist if they know how bad it gets sometimes’

    I’m taking you seriously. :)

  2. inyourpanorama June 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Very eloquently stated—I went through (and am still going through) much of the same processes myself, only with me it took an extremely traumatic hospitalization for me to get my diagnosis; even though my diagnosis with AS was like finding a magic puzzle piece that made so much of my childhood suddenly make sense—for example, I was (am) a happy dancer as well—I wish it didn’t have to be in the situation that it occurred in. I really appreciate fellow autistic spectrum folk speaking out about their situation since it’s by far the best way to combat the ignorance that drives those rage-inducing “cure” organizations such as Autism Speaks.

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