The War on Pain Patients

CW: medical, medical malpractice, ableism, near-death experience, medical violence, suicide, MAiD, eugenics

Note: this entry will focus on conditions in the US and Canada, because that’s what I’m familiar with.

On October 27, 2022, I almost died.

I was under general anesthesia at the time; I was undergoing surgery to repair my paraesophageal hernia. (A paraesophageal hernia is a large hole, larger than the natural aperture should be, in the diaphragm around the esophagus.) Not only was my stomach protruding into my chest cavity, my lungs had fused to my esophagus. No, I don’t know how that happens either.

I experienced cardiac arrest and double pneumothoraces. In layman’s terms, I had a heart attack and both my lungs collapsed. I was rushed to the ICU, where I was intubated (tubes were inserted into my lungs to reinflate them). I was in the ICU for six days. This included a spell of ICU delirium, which is a state of severe confusion that afflicts some people who have been in the ICU, especially those who have been on breathing machines. And apparently, delirious!Amaranthe was PISSED. I had to be put in a four-point restraint, and I was fighting tooth and nail. According to my wife, who witnessed this, there was some surprise regarding how strong I was. (I mean, I did martial arts for 20 years.) I’m very glad I have no memory of this.

Once I was awake, lucid, and stable, I was sent home with only ten (10) hydrocodone pills and guidance to only take them if I absolutely needed them; otherwise, I was to take ibuprofen and naproxen. When I used them up, I was told that I was not going to be prescribed any more narcotics. This despite the fact that I was experiencing post-surgery pain that regularly hit an 8 or 9 on the Mankoski scale. NSAIDs didn’t help. Even kratom, the only thing besides narcotics that can touch my menstrual cramps, didn’t so much as touch the pain. On one occasion, my vision began to dim and become gray due to the intensity of the pain. (Yes, I should have gone to the ER, but I knew I couldn’t afford it.) Because I hadn’t been at my current job as a full-time employee for at least six months, I had to use sick days for my time spent recovering from surgery, and I had to go back to work after a scant two weeks off. The pain interfered with my work performance. 

At my post-surgery follow-up appointment, which I showed up to looking wan and exhausted with an electric heating pad practically attached to me, my surgeon told me to take Aleve.

Aleve.

After almost dying.

And starting to lose my vision.

My attempted appeal to crapitalism (“I can’t work with this pain”) didn’t even make him budge. So I went home and asked my PCP if she could prescribe narcotics since my surgeon wouldn’t, and my PCP backed my surgeon. This is because my surgeon is a general in the war on pain patients, and apparently my PCP is a soldier.

What do I mean by “the war on pain patients”? Well, it’s often called “the war on drugs,” but “war on pain patients” is more accurate. Really, pain patients are collateral damage in the war on drugs. The war on pain patients includes fearmongering and misinformation about opioids (including fentanyl), addiction, and refusal to prescribe opioids to people who need them. The hatred of opioids in the medical community is truly baffling to me; I mean, my surgeon told me that opioids “don’t help, they just numb your senses.” YES, SIR, THAT WOULD BE WHAT I WANT TO HAPPEN. I FAIL TO SEE THE ISSUE HERE. 

The CDC, who I’m extremely pissed at for the way they’ve handled COVID, is somewhat to blame for the hatred of opioids in the medical community. The CDC’s guide to prescribing opioids was restrictive enough that doctors who listened to it—or who already hated opioids and were using the CDC’s guide as an excuse—didn’t just minimize the number of opioid prescriptions that they wrote, they cut people off who were already taking opioids. This resulted in pain patients being tapered off their medication too fast or even abruptly going cold turkey. Can this cause withdrawal and other severe issues? Of course, but do doctors care about pain patients’ health as long as they can say they don’t prescribe opioids? Pffff, NO. 

Okay, that’s not entirely fair, but even doctors who know that they should be prescribing narcotics are screwed because of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). Doctors who write “too many” opioid prescriptions can lose their ability to write controlled scrips or even their medical licenses. So even doctors who know that their patients need opioids balk at actually writing the prescriptions because they’re too afraid for their careers to properly treat pain.

It’s not just me saying this. 

One of my closest friends, who is a chronic pain patient, recently told me that doctors who refuse to prescribe opioids to patients who need them are violating the Hippocratic oath, and I completely agree. She knows what she’s talking about, too; she takes ADHD medication, which is controlled and could fetch a higher street value than narcotics, and despite her being compliant and safe with those meds, she has been denied opioids that she genuinely needed. She also did a sensitivity read of this blog entry, during which told me about how pain clinics and/or pain management are, and I quote, “a steaming crock of shit.” Many “pain clinics” don’t prescribe any opioids, period. Most will make you sign a contract in order to be treated, and said contract includes bullshit requirements such as random drug tests, random pill counts, a proscription on getting opioids from anywhere else (even the ER), and forcing obedience to their rules in exchange for any medication whatsoever. Many “pain clinics” will fire patients—yes, really—if they admit to kratom or cannabis use (and the clinics drug-test for both). The friend who taught me these things about “pain clinics” was once being treated at one of these bullshit places and lost an oxycodone scrip because a random drug test revealed that she was negative for hydrocodone, which is different from oxycodone.

Another friend described to me how her partner has chronic pelvic floor pain but his insurance will no longer cover his pain medication. This same friend also told me about how her mother recently had kidney surgery and was sent home with no narcotics whatsoever and told to take Tylenol. Yes, Tylenol, the trash drug that barely works better than a placebo and has a high likelihood of damaging your liver. (More from Rebecca Watson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH1sEGmOrT0)

Why is the war on pain patients so harmful?

Well, you know what happens when pain patients can’t get the pain control they need? Not just intense suffering, which leads to increased disability (trust me, pain is disabling). Sometimes pain patients die by suicide because they would rather die than live with their pain. I would imagine that sometimes death by overdose when pain patients turn to street drugs happens too, but I don’t want to make claims that I can’t substantiate, so I can only speculate on that. (I also live in the Midwest US, where fearmongering and misinformation about opioid overdoses—from both illicit and prescription drugs—is common, and it’s hard to sort out fact from fiction.) It’s not just the Midwest, either; any former industrial area seems to have more of a fentanyl/heroin problem than other places. This isn’t just because of economic depression leading to drug use as a coping mechanism, either; workplace injuries contribute to need for pain control. Also, Canada is now pushing MAiD, medical assistance in dying, on Disabled people who are slipping through the cracks in the social safety net. That includes pain patients who are being denied opioids, many of whom can’t work as a result of their uncontrolled pain. When Disabled people in Canada who can’t work request services, MAiD is suggested to them in order to save money. The war on pain patients is literally killing people.

“But Amaranthe,” you might say, “what about addiction?” Well, what about it? If you had chronic pain, chronic pain so terrible that you couldn’t so much as move without opioids, chronic pain that kept you from basic activities of daily living without the medication you needed…wouldn’t the fact that you genuinely needed opioids long-term look like addiction to an asshole doctor who hated narcotics? There’s a conflation of addition with actual need in conversations about opioids. Yes, being dependent on an opioid can happen, but that happens with plenty of medications that are needed long-term. Hell, I’m dependent on my antidepressant, without which I become to much of a suicidal mess to function. Opioid dependence is erroneously seen as addiction, and addiction is still better than, you know, death. 

Fortunately, my post-surgery pain is almost completely gone, and I’m recovering well. But there are still thousands of pain patients who are suffering from both pain and discrimination, and being labeled drug-seekers and being denied adequate medical care. And that needs to change yesterday. Honestly, I feel bad just writing about this topic now—I’ve been planning on it since I first started this blog—but I didn’t have the requisite experience to write about it from my own perspective until recently.

I think that’s all I have for now. Sorry it’s been so long since I updated this blog; I did almost die.

More on the CDC fuckery: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/rr/rr7103a1.htm

A Borderline Woman’s Response to the Depp v. Heard Trial

Content/trigger warning: abuse discussion, anti-cluster B saneism (as you may have guessed), self-harm mention, suicide mention, saneist slurs (censored)

The Heard v. Depp trial is being treated like a spectator event by the mainstream media and by content creators, especially on TikTok. There is tons of speculation about who abused whom and whether or not the relationship was mutually abusive. Many people are forgetting that the trial is actually about whether or not it was defamation for Amber Heard to talk about being abused in an op-ed that didn’t mention Johnny Depp by name. Still other people are completely ignoring the pretty virulent misogyny inherent in the discourse around the trial.

This blog entry is not about any of that. Let me be very clear: I am protecting my mental health by not getting embroiled in the details of a trial about an abusive relationship, and I do not care about the verdict or even whether or not Amber Heard was abusive. (I’m starting to think that a lot of Depp’s accusations about her are false, especially since I saw a debunking of the story about Heard cutting Depp’s finger. But again, that isn’t what this blog entry is about.)

But while I am trying to ignore the trial and the surrounding circus, by the virtue of existing online, I have seen SO FUCKING MUCH anti-cluster B saneism, espcially specific anti-BPD bias. So that’s what I’m going to be discussing. I’ve written about anti-cluster B saneism before and to be honest, I’m not fully satisfied with that entry, so I will be revisiting some of the same points in this one as I try to improve on my old work. Also, I’m going to be focusing mostly on anti-BPD bias in this entry.

With that in mind, what is BPD, actually? BPD, or borderline personality disorder, is an extremely poorly named neurodivergent condition that is sometimes also called emotionally unstable personality disorder. It is characterized by nine traits:

  1. Fear of abandonment
  2. Unstable relationships (to be honest, I don’t like this one because it’s too reliant on external factors, not what’s in a person’s head, but it’s in the DSM, so…[sigh])
  3. Unclear or shifting self-image
  4. Impulsive and/or self-destructive behaviors
  5. Self-harm
  6. Extreme mood swings
  7. Explosive anger
  8. Feeling suspicious of or out of touch with reality
  9. Chronic feelings of emptiness

In order to receive a diagnosis of BPD under the latest DSM, a person has to have at least 5 of these traits. I personally have fear of abandonment, unclear self-image, self-harm, extreme mood swings, and chronic feelings of emptiness. I’m bad at math in general (yes, really; not all Autistic people are good at math) and even worse at calculating combinations, but I think it’s pretty obvious that there are a ton of different combinations of traits that could be found in a person with BPD. You could meet 10 people with BPD and they could all have extremely different experiences with the disorder. 

Considering how many different ways there are to have BPD, is it starting to seem like a bad idea to paint people with this disorder with such a broad brush as “all people with BPD are abusive,” especially since “abusive behavior” is not among the nine traits? Not to mention the fact that accusing a person of being abusive due to their diagnosis is ableist.

Yes, really.

“But Amaranthe,” you might say, “BPD can affect a person’s behavior! BPD-related behaviors need to be changed! Surely a disorder that affects a person’s behavior could make them abusive!” Well, you’re absolutely right that BPD can affect a person’s behavior, and that BPD-related behaviors often need to be changed. BPD is an illness that causes the people with it to suffer. Seriously, BPD is hell. And yeah, changing ourselves can help people with BPD be happier. A core tenet of dialectical behavioral therapy, which is a treatment that can help people with BPD suffer less, is “You are a person of great value and you need to change.” 

HOWEVER. No disorder causes a person to be abusive. I’ve talked about this before. I call it Amaranthe’s Theory of Neurodivergence and Suckitude. I will reiterate it here:

“Unfortunately, it seems to be a sad truth that people of all populations are capable of sucking; no matter how many (or how few) marginalized groups a person belongs to, it is still possible for them to be disrespectful, toxic, etc. Anyone can have character flaws that cause them to suck. Sometimes, people who suck are neurodivergent. Since neurodivergence (often) affects who a person is on a fundamental level, a sucky person’s neurodivergence may lead them to suck in a particular way. As such, sucky people who share a particular neurodivergent condition may show patterns in their suckitude. However, they do not suck because they are neurodivergent; they suck because they suck. Neurodivergence simply informs how they go about sucking.

A corollary (is that the right word? I haven’t done advanced math since college) to Amaranthe’s Theory of Neurodivergence and Suckitude is that if a neurodivergent person abuses someone, their neurodivergence may have informed what kind of abusive actions they took, but it did not make them abusive. My abuser, for instance, told me that I could not have depression because she had depression and she would have recognized it. If she hadn’t been depressed, she wouldn’t have said that, but she certainly would have said some other gaslighting bullshit. (In fact, she has, multiple times; my favorite is that I lied to all 20something of the psych professionals I have seen about having depression symptoms because I think being depressed is ~*~cool~*~.)”

Let’s look at the Theory of Suckitude through a BPD lens. Let’s say a person with BPD is afraid their romantic partner is going to abandon them. If they were to say “I’m scared you’ll abandon me. Please, reassure me that you’re not going to leave me,” to their partner, that’s not abusive. Sometimes we need reassurance that we won’t be abandoned, even if we’re working on that negative cognition in therapy. (It is helpful for our partners, though, if we can tack on “I know this is my brain being a douchebag” to the request for reassurance.) If the person with BPD were to say “I’m scared you’ll abandon me. I’m going to kill myself if you leave me,” as a manipulation tactic to get their partner to stay, then that would be abusive, because using the threat of suicide to coerce someone into doing something is abusive. However, the person didn’t threaten suicide as a manipulation technique because they have BPD. They’re afraid of abandonment because they have BPD, and there are ways to be afraid of abandonment without being abusive about it; they threatened suicide as a manipulation technique because, well, they suck. Manipulation isn’t one of the nine BPD traits. Hell, I planned to die by suicide after my first-ever partner left me and I didn’t tell her. I even planned to wait a few months after the breakup so she wouldn’t blame herself. So yeah, it’s even possible to have BPD and feel like you’d kill yourself if you were abandoned and not be abusive about it!

So what does any of this have to do with the Heard v. Depp trial? In case you haven’t heard, a psychologist named Dr. Shannon Curry, who was hired by Johnny Depp’s legal team to evaluate Amber Heard, revealed to the court that she had diagnosed Heard with BPD. Here’s something you may not know about BPD: it’s so fucking stigmatized that even some healthcare providers in psychology and psychiatry know it’s stigmatized. Do you have any idea how bad saneism has to be before a group of people who tend to perpetuate saneism agree that it’s bad? I mean, my current therapist won’t diagnose me with BPD even though it’s painfully obvious I’m borderline because “[BPD] is a fraught diagnosis,” i.e., she doesn’t want doctors to see BPD in my medical records and not take the various other medical problems I have seriously.

Where am I going with this?

I’m going here: I cannot emphasize enough that Depp’s legal team sought a BPD diagnosis for Heard as a way to weaponize anti-BPD saneism, specifically the lie that all borderline people are abusive. This is unethical as all fuck. Not to mention that psychological diagnoses are supposed to be used to help people understand themselves and work to improve their lives, and using a diagnosis for any reason besides this, especially if it’s a healthcare professional doing it, is also extremely unethical. (This is also why armchair diagnosis is unethical, for the record.) Also…well, you know how I’m always talking about how other people are more eloquent than I am? Tumblr user spectroscopes had this to say about Heard’s supposed BPD diagnosis: “…none of the people writing these threads about the importance of not letting this color your perception of people with BPD have stopped to question why his team even considers whether she has it or not of any relevance and how this relates to the way he could be trying to exercise power and privilege in order to silence her.” So yeah, Depp’s legal team is weaponizing saneism to smear Heard, and there’s probably also some misogyny in there too, seeing as BPD is stereotyped as a disorder that almost exclusively happens in women.

News of the “diagnosis” also brought anti-BPD saneists out of the woodwork like acemisic jackasses during Pride month. There have been so many threads and posts on social media, particularly Twitter, about how evil and abusive borderlines are and how the BPD diagnosis explains why Heard was (supposedly) abusive. Many of these posts come from abuse survivors, and I want to say this: look, I get it. I get the desire to explain why you were abused. Because when you’re an abuse survivor, it can take years to stop internalizing the idea that you were abused because you deserved it, and you want an explanation. So you glom onto the idea that your abuser was abusive to you because they had a particular mental illness. That way it wasn’t your fault, it was the mental illness’s fault.

I get the temptation. It’s still saneist. Don’t do it.

My only cluster B condition is BPD, but I want to point out something that was pointed out by several people with ASPD when #AmberHeardIsAPs*ch*p*th trended on Twitter. Said “something” is that many saneists don’t understand the differences between the different cluster B conditions, so when one is attacked, all are attacked. “Ps*ch*p*th” is an anti-ASPD slur, and Amber Heard hasn’t been diagnosed with ASPD, but misogynableists love to go after any woman they see as “cr*zy” and who has any cluster B condition.

I think that’s all I have for now. I’m just…I’m tired. I’m so fucking tired of saneism, especially when it comes coupled with misogyny. I hate it.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to all my blog entries AND free copies of every song from my album Escape. Oh, right, my album; I have two songs from it on Bandcamp so far: https://amaranthezinzani.bandcamp.com/album/escape Please check it out 🙂

Healing From Trauma for the Sake of Others

Content/trigger warning: ableism (especially saneism and autmisia), abuse discussion, detailed description of DARVO, saneist slur (censored) used to make a point

So. Healing from trauma for the sake of others. I’m going to do something a little unusual for this entry: I’m going to start by talking about something that happened to me. It happened months ago and has been really weighing on my mind ever since. I have to get it off my chest.

I was on a Discord server for a music YouTuber for a long time. I was even a moderator. Until the day I was DARVO’d and bullied off of the server.

It was mostly a good time there, but I noticed a lot of ableism. Autistic people were tolerated unless we were too socially awkward, in which case we were mocked in the mod chat (and I am pretty sure at least one of the other mods was also Autistic; just goes to show you how lateral autmisia sucks). Granted, some of the Autistic people who were eventually banned from the server did behave inappropriately, but the mods didn’t behave appropriately towards some of them either. Because autmisia.

I was a Good Autistic™, which enabled me to become a mod. I butted heads with the other mods frequently, especially one who I will call D and one who I will call U. U was frequently mean to people who behaved inappropriately on the server and sometimes to people who were just going about their business; U had experienced significant trauma and had cultivated a tough, badass attitude in order to cope. (I’m not speculating here; they basically said as much.) I frequently reported U to the server owner for their inappropriate behavior. U had no sense for healing for the sake of others either; once, they inboxed me to tell me to stop mentioning my trauma even though everything I said was spoliered and warned for appropriately. (But they could talk about their trauma all they wanted. Funny, that.)

I argued with D a lot, but the worst part/biggest red flag was when I got in a fight with him when he defended Awkwafina’s anti-Blackness and accused me of manipulative behavior when I argued with him.

So the day I got DARVO’d. What happened?Another server user (I will call her J) said something totally innocuous that was uncharitably interpreted by D and U. U bullied J off the server with D’s help. U’s bullying was extremely triggering for me to see because it reminded me of how my abuser used language (ostensibly asking a question, but actually making an accusation). I went into the mod chat against my better judgement–I was triggered and should have stepped away, but I wanted to do the right thing for J–and called out U (not D) for bullying. I said U’s behavior was triggering to me and that U had used language in a similar way to my abuser. However, I did specify that I didn’t think U meant it that way.

U and D went OFF. D said I was acting like his abuser and accused me of gaslighting and playing the victim. U trotted out their traumas–including shit that should have been trigger warned for but wasn’t–like that automatically made them right and me wrong. I kept trying to explain my perspective and U and D kept misinterpreting me and calling me abusive.

The term for when an abuser is called out and accuses the person calling them out of being the real abuser is DARVO, which stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender. (Ironically, D also accused me of “calling [him] the real abuser” even though I said fuckall about his behavior; U had been way worse, so I only called them out.)

Another mod stepped in and accused me of making assumptions about U’s motivations even though, again, I had specifically said that I didn’t think U meant to bully J or trigger me. The dogpile was too much. I sent a note to the server owner and left the server permanently.

I later sent another note to the server owner explaining what had happened and detailing U’s and D’s abusive behavior toward me. (I didn’t use the words “abuse” or “DARVO,” but I did call it bullying.) I also apologized for the mess; it was partially my fault, as I should have gone directly to him, not the mod chat, since I knew U was an incorrigible bully, and I should have waited til I wasn’t triggered. I also admitted that I shouldn’t have said anything about how U had triggered me. I also said to the server owner that I hoped the whole thing hadn’t triggered his anxiety, which he had been open about. Instead of replying to me and telling me that D and U would be dealt with appropriately, the server owner ignored my message and blocked me on YouTube and Discord.

Why did this happen? Why was I treated this way by not only D and U, but the server owner?

My guess, for a while, was lateral saneism.

“But Amaranthe,” you might be saying, “your bullies had PTSD! The YouTuber had anxiety! How could they be saneist?”

Well, that’s why I said laterally saneist. Also, they had PTSD and anxiety; I was the only one who had CPTSD. I was the only one with alters. I was the only one with a personality disorder. And I was open about all of those things.

They were mentally ill; I was cr*zy.

See, as hard as I fought against ableism on that server, people who had been banned or people who (on or off the server) had exhibited abusive behavior were called saneist slurs and terms (especially ones targeting unreality and/or PDs) by…basically everyone but me in the mods only chat on a regular basis. There was an inextricable link between abusive behavior and severe mental illness in their minds. I’m pretty sure that that’s why I was the one who was ignored and blocked despite the fact that I was the one who was DARVO’d and bullied by the other mods.

Sucks.

But lateral saneism doesn’t explain everything, now, does it? Especially what U and D did. Why did U trot out their traumas like the fact that they were so traumatized was proof that they were right? Why did D accuse me of acting like his abuser?

They hadn’t healed sufficiently. Like I mentioned earlier, U had no sense of healing for the sake of others. They were still as raw as an open wound and had built their entire personality around protecting that wound. Part of that personality included lashing out at anyone who threatened their persona, or…well, even disagreed with them. Obviously not everyone who has unresolved trauma lashes out at people they perceive as threatening, but it can happen. I used to be like that too, until I started EMDR.

D, too, was quick to accuse me of acting like his abuser because he felt threatened that I called out his friend. I’m pretty sure that if he had confronted and processed his trauma, he wouldn’t have perceived me rightfully accusing his friend of bullying as threatening to him. When you’re highly traumatized, you’re very sensitive to threats, sometimes when they’re not there. (This is another thing I know from personal experience.)

And I’ve noticed that people with trauma who really need to heal for the sake of others are really…uh…well, I see this a lot online. It’s common to find Discord servers where you’re expected to spoiler and trigger warn for shit like the anime that someone’s toxic ex liked, and there are dozens of these obscure triggers that you’re expected to keep track of; that in and of itself can be an accessibility issue. I had to leave one server because literally any mention of mental illness had to be spoilered and warned for, which was de facto saneist. I mean, do these people who demand their obscure triggers be accommodated online go up to people in real life and say “Don’t use the words ‘at all’ at the end of a sentence, that’s triggering to me”? Probably not! I mean, the words “at all” at the end of a sentence used to be one of my actual fucking triggers until I worked through it in EMDR, and I didn’t ask people in real life or online to not do that, because that would have been fucking silly.

You can’t expect the entire world to conform to your trauma. The world isn’t responsible for that. Trigger warnings are critical, of course, and there may be shit that you may never get over, and it’s still a good idea to trigger warn for really common triggers like sexual abuse, murder, child abuse, etc. But if you have a shitload of obscure triggers like I did, you’re going to be fucking miserable and full of fear all your life if you don’t process your trauma in addition to imposing on people who aren’t responsible for the fact that the UK spelling of “behavior” is one of your triggers. (If you guessed that that also used to be one of my triggers, you’re right.)

So how do you heal for the sake of others (and yourself)?

EMDR was the ideal solution for me and I can’t recommend it enough. (I’m actually currently reprocessing the Discord DARVO with my therapist, funnily enough.) And if therapy isn’t accessible to you for whatever reason, learn meditation/deep breathing. Find coping mechanisms. Learn what self-care looks like for you. Take up a new hobby that doesn’t involve the Internet/media consumption so much, like cooking or knitting. Hell, Google “how to deal with PTSD triggers” and you might find some good information. (Note: there are “DIY EMDR” videos out there, and I don’t recommend those; EMDR needs to be handled by a trained professional.)

Just don’t fucking DARVO people because your own trauma makes it hard to handle being called out when you fucked up. Okay?

And with that…holy shit, this blog has been around for FIVE FUCKING YEARS. I can hardly believe it! Thank you so much to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

Favorite Quotes About Mental Illness

Content/trigger warning: mention of addiction, reclaimed slur, discussion of ableism, disordered eating

Hello, dear readers! Sorry there were no entries in November; I was NaNoing. But I am back with an entry on my top 10 favorite quotes about mental illness. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory, so I’m going to go ahead and start.

10) “Mental health is something that we all need to talk about, and we need to take the stigma away from it. So let’s raise the awareness. Let’s let everybody know it’s OK to have a mental illness and addiction problem.” –Demi Lovato

Quick note: if you haven’t listened to any of Demi’s songs post-eating disorder recovery, I recommend you do so (especially “Confident”). Few things will fuck up your voice like an ED (I would know). They sound so much better now. I’m glad they’re in recovery.

Anyway, yeah, Demi Lovato knows their shit. They are multiply neurodivergent, including being bipolar and in recovery for cocaine addiction. I like how open and honest Demi is about their struggles and the work they’re trying to do to destigmatize mental illness, including addiction, which too often is not seen as a mental health issue. However, this quote is only number 10 because “destigmatizing mental illness” isn’t the whole picture. Mentally ill people will always suffer from saneism in an ableist society. We have to dismantle the ableist society before “destigmatizing” can actually happen. Still, good for Demi. I’m glad they’re out there frankly discussing addiction and other mental illnesses.

9) “You have good days and bad days, and depression’s something that…is always with you.” –Winona Ryder

Ooof. Accurate, Winona. Depression can be completely dormant one day and completely fuck up your next day. You have good days and bad days, but no matter how many good days in a row you have, you still have depression. (Note: that’s why it’s important for people who take antidepressants to not go off the antidepressants if you feel better; if you feel better, that means you need to keep taking them.) There’s not a lot to this quote, but it’s still accurate as hell, so it got on the list.

8) “I found that with depression, one of the most important things you can realize is that you’re not alone. You’re not the first to go through it, you’re not gonna be the last to go through it.” –Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Good for Dwayne Johnson for speaking out about depression. Society needs to allow men to talk about their feelings more, seriously…especially when those feelings are about mental illness. And I relate to this quote because the worst times of my life (mental illness-wise, anyway) happened when I felt like I was the only person who was putting up with so much bullshit from my brain. When I was finally diagnosed with depression in college, one of the reasons just having a diagnosis helped was my understanding that many people suffer from depression; it wasn’t just me going through hell. I think the simple fact that I knew I wasn’t alone helped a lot. Thanks for the reminder, The Rock.

7) “Healing takes time, and asking for help is a courageous step.” –Mariska Hargitay

Mariska Hargitay is talented (and gorgeous), founded the Joyful Heart Foundation to help sexual assault survivors, and became a trained rape crisis counselor. If only her biggest role weren’t on a mainstay of copaganda. Sigh.

All that aside, this is a very true quote. Seeking any kind of constructive help with a mental illness is way harder than mentally healthy people can ever comprehend. You see, if you don’t ask for help, it’s easy to pretend nothing is wrong. In order to ask for help, you have to realize you need help, and that takes a lot of soul-searching and a lot of courage. Asking for help is also a damn near mandatory step in healing from trauma or making strides to improve from any mental illness, and Mariska is also right that healing takes time. I’ve been working on my mental illnesses since 2009 and I still have work to do.

6) “Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. It also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.” –Pete Davidson

Full disclosure, I wish that the main real-life representation we got for borderline personality disorder weren’t…y’know, Pete fucking Davidson, but this is still a very important quote, especially for people with PDs. There is such a thing as being too mentally ill to have the wherewithal for a romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic relationship–trust me, I’ve been that mentally ill, and I have been in a relationship with someone who was that mentally ill–but it is also certainly true that a person having a mental illness does not necessarily preclude them from being in a romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic relationship.

Even more important than the idea that someone having a mental illness doesn’t mean they can’t be in a relationship, though, is the idea that mentally ill people are NOT necessarily toxic to romantic, sexual, or queerplatonic partners. “Being a toxic asshole to your partner” is not a symptom of any mental illness. It’s possible for a mentally ill people to be a toxic asshole, of course, but they’re not a toxic asshole because they’re mentally ill. (They might try to explain their toxic assholery away by saying they’re mentally ill, but that’s bullshit.)

5) “There’s something freeing about realizing you have a mental health issue. ‘There’s nothing wrong with me! There’s just something wrong with me!’” –Jordan Raskopolous

Jordan Raskopolous is hilarious, isn’t she? For those of you who don’t know (and who don’t read my Rock, Roll, ‘n’ Stim blog), Jordan Raskopolous is an Australian comedian who is also the lead singer for the comedy band Axis of Awesome. She’s both funny and musically talented. She also gave a great TED talk from whence came this quote. She has an anxiety disorder and describes herself as getting “not stage fright, but life fright” [sic]. (See, I told you she was hilarious.) And she absolutely nailed why getting a diagnosis of a mental illness can be a huge relief. It makes you feel like there’s nothing wrong with you even though something technically is, because there’s a name, explanation, and (hopefully) treatment plan for what you’re experiencing now. Most importantly, now you can understand what’s going on, whereas before you were probably like “THE FUCK IS HAPPENING IN MY BRAIN.” Thanks for being pithy, accurate, and funny, Jordan!

4) “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” –Fred Rogers

I feel like this quote may not be explicitly about mental illness, but it does apply to mental illness. There’s currently a huge taboo around discussing the bullshit our mentally ill brains pull. Of course, working on that taboo alone is a Band-Aid solution to systemic neurotypicalism, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all need to get more comfortable talking about mental illness symptoms. This is partly because Mr. Rogers is right; voicing your feelings about mental illness can make them seem less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. For instance, when I’m catastrophizing, I need to bounce what I’m thinking off of someone so they can tell me “Yeah, that’s out of proportion.” Also, if neurotypicals get more used to hearing about mental illness symptoms (especially ones experienced by people with ~scary mental illnesses, as I discussed here https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/scary-mental-illnesses/), maybe they’ll get some practice not being saneist cockwaffles. I know, unlikely, but a woman can dream.

3) “Using mental illness as a punchline reinforces the idea that it is okay to treat people with mental illnesses or any mental disability with mockery or pity, instead of as real people who deserve respect for self-determination and bodily autonomy.” –Lydia X. Z. Brown

Absolutely critical quote from the legendary Lydia X. Z. Brown (if you don’t follow their blog or their Twitter, go change that after you finish reading this entry) about how using mental illness as a punchline in comedy is saneist. I’ve written about this (here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2017/10/08/im-triggered/) and Lydia managed to say something more eloquent and more precise than that entire entry in one sitting. This is a big part of why Lydia is a huge inspiration to me. I also don’t feel like this quote requires any more explanation. It’s just a very accurate truth bomb about ableism in comedy. Don’t make mentally ill people the butt of your unfunny jokes.

2) “When you are insane, you are busy being insane–all the time.” –Sylvia Plath

Here we have Sylvia Plath landing at number 2 with a painfully accurate statement. Being mentally ill is a full-time job. You spend way too much time dealing with your brain’s shit, going to doctor’s appointments, dealing with your brain’s shit, fighting with insurance companies (if you’re USian), dealing with your brain’s shit, and dealing with the fallout of your brain being shitty. Being mentally ill can be so all-consuming that you don’t have the fuel/spoons/wherewithal to do anything else besides being mentally ill.

Hell, sometimes your brain is the one convincing you that you can’t do anything but stay in bed. Even if you outwardly appear to be a Functioning Member of Society™ like me, you may still have to deal with–to use an example that applies to me–constant intrusive thoughts and the sheer exhaustion of having to try to focus at work while dealing with constant intrusive thoughts. Is it any wonder I’m totally wiped when I get home? When you are insane, you are busy being insane–all the time.

1) “One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls…At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.” –Carrie Fisher

Could anyone besides Carrie land at number 1 on this list? I mean, this blog is called “This Is for You, Carrie.” Honestly, she has so many great quotes about mental illness that it was hard to pick just one. And yeah, this one is specifically about bipolar, but I feel like it can apply to pretty much any mental illness. If you’re mentally ill, you need stamina and courage, and you should be proud of yourself for living with that shit. Being mentally ill isn’t something to be ashamed of, so fuck the saneist stigma that says you should be ashamed.

Like I’ve said before, stigma is not its own discrete problem but a manifestation of systemic saneism, but Carrie is still right about stigma making no sense. Stigma makes no sense not only because mental illness does not make us immoral or wrong, but because you have to be a badass to put up with being mentally ill. They really should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication (if medication is right for you, of course).

And that’s the list! Thanks for reading! And thank you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

Ableism in Horror

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, injury mention 

When I was in graduate school, I visited my then-girlfriend, who had recently graduated from the college where we met, around Halloween. She and her friends were extremely into LARPing, to the degree that she prioritized LARPing over spending time with me (which is a big part of why the relationship ended). One of Then-Girlfriend’s housemates was running a Halloween one-shot LARP. It was set in the housemate’s old high school, which had–I swear this is actually true–been used as a psychiatric institution before it was a high school. I thought, “Okay, these are people I trust; they’ll probably make it scary due to the horrific human rights abuses that occurred there, not because mentally ill people are scary, right?”

Nope.

I was wrong.

So let’s talk about ableism in horror.

I don’t game much (except for the fact that I used to play DnD, I was a hardcore WoW player for a long time, and I’d be playing Guild Wars 2 if I could get it to install on my shitty Chromebook), but when I was doing research for this entry, I found an entire fuckening Wikipedia article on video games that are set in psychiatric institutions. I didn’t have time to research each one, but I would be willing to bet that all of them have some element of saneism in them.

I am more familiar with movies, though, so let’s talk about ableism in horror movies. I’ve mentioned that I used to be a huge Phantom of the Opera fan, right? (That may have been in my Rock, Roll, ‘n’ Stim blog, come to think of it.) Well, I used to be a TOWERING phan. And in one of the many cases of ableism overlapping with disfiguremisia, the Phantom is portrayed as becoming evil because he was the victim of violent ableism and disfiguremisia. Somewhat understandable, true, but the kidnapping and stalking? Not so much. Another classic, the Friday the 13th franchise, plays the “disabled villain” trope straight as well; Jason Voorhees is developmentally disabled and has hydrocephalus. Nightmare on Elm Street, overlapping with disfiguremisia again, also plays the “disabled villain” trope straight; Freddy Krueger has disfiguring burns all over his body.

A particularly strange (and, if you think about it, egregious) example of ableism–specifically saneism–in a horror franchise is the Halloween series. The villain, Michael Myers, is repeatedly institutionalized in a psychiatric facility despite never being given a psych diagnosis. His doctor instead chooses to describe him as “pure evil.” So the best place for someone who is “pure evil” to be is an institution for people with psychiatric disabilities?

Excuse me? 

What are you trying to say here, John Carpenter, that evil is a mental illness!? I know a lot of people think that!

Another example of ableism in horror is found in Jacob’s Ladder. While not a horror “classic” per se, it was popular enough to get a 2019 remake, and seems to be pretty accessible to non-horror fans. It was also directed by Adrian Lyne, who is a pretty big name; he also directed Fatal Attraction, Flashdance, and Indecent Proposal. Now, I haven’t seen all of Jacob’s Ladder, but I have seen the disgustingly ableist hospital scene. It’s a sequence that is meant to be terrifying that includes a person banging their head against a door, an amputee, and a person in a straight jacket. The disabled people in the scene are meant to scare the audience by being visibly disabled. Not cool, Adrian Lyne.

It’s not just classic horror films that pull this shit, either. As someone with OSDD-1, don’t get me the fuck started on Split, which came out in 2016. The dissociative community on Twitter was in an uproar when that shit came out. For those who aren’t familiar, Split is about a man with DID whose alters kidnap three young women. This is fucked up because people with alters aren’t your g-ddamn boogeyman of the week; alters are almost never violent, and certainly don’t go around kidnapping conventionally attractive teenage girls. Yeah, fine, my alter Em can be a passive-aggressive asshole and my alter Valkyrja is always ready to fight in the face of ableism, but in reality, Valkyrja has never so much as hit someone.

Jacob’s Ladder was brought to my attention by my amazing wife, who watches way more horror than I do (with the exception of me introducing her to Get Out). She also told me about May, a film about a shy veterinary assistant who becomes a serial killer, which I wanted to discuss because it involves unusually bad representation of children. In one scene, there is a doll behind a pane of glass, which breaks. There are blind children in the scene who, wanting to feel the doll behind the glass, start feeling around in the glass and end up getting cut. The scene is remarkable in that it’s quite inaccurate to how Blind children would actually act in such a situation; they continue touching the glass and worsening their injuries after initially getting cut. Did…did the director think that Blind people don’t know how to react to pain? Anyway, it was weird.

I think that’s all I have for now. Happy Halloween!

Many thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

Anti-Cluster B Saneism

Content/trigger warning: saneist slurs (censored), discussion of anti-cluster B saneism (as you might have guessed :P)

I’m browsing Facebook. I see a post in a group for writers who attended my alma mater; it’s a Medium piece that the writer is proud of. The Medium piece is about “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse syndrome.”

I’m on YouTube. I’m listening to a rock cover of a well-known pop song. The singer lambasts her ex for being “a g-ddamn s****path.”

I’m on songmeanings.net. I’m looking for the meaning of the lyrics of a punk song I like that sounds like it might be about a toxic relationship. One of the suggested meanings is that the singer suffered abuse at the hands of a borderline partner.

If you’re thinking I should just stay off the Internet, well, I probably do spend too much time watching cat rescue livestreams, but you’re missing the point. I’m talking about anti-cluster B saneism.

Cluster B personality disorders include borderline, histrionic, antisocial, and narcissistic personality disorders. (Note: I know more about BPD than the other 3 because I myself am borderline. Just to get my bias on the record.) All of these disorders are characterized by intense suffering, but most people–even some ND people–know them as ~scary mental illnesses that are untreatable, involve total lack of empathy, and cause people who have those illnesses to be abusers or worse.

So…whew. Lots to unpack here.

Let’s start with the “untreatable” myth. It’s true that medication is usually pretty ineffective at treating cluster B PDs (although borderlines like me often suffer from depression, and antidepressants can help with that). PDs are also lifelong illnesses because they’re ,well, personality disorders. However, there is a kind of therapy called DBT, or dialectical behavioral therapy, that can be effective at alleviating the suffering caused by cluster B PDs. If a cluster B person is prone to destructive behaviors due to their PD, DBT can also help with that. The core dialectic of DBT is “you are a person of great worth and you have to change.” (I once saw someone call this “victim-blaming.” I wonder what it’s like on their planet.) Some people with cluster B PDs do act in ways that should be changed due to their illness. DBT is effective at helping with those changes. (Note: I don’t believe for a damn second that PDs are the only illnesses that predispose people to behavior that needs changing. Just look at eating disorders, for example.)

Now on to the empathy…thing. I’ve talked about empathy here (https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/empathy/) and the lack of comprehension of what empathy actually is makes it hard to know what saneists actually mean when they say that people with cluster B disorders have no empathy. What it probably means to saneists is that people with cluster B disorders have no compassion or concept of human suffering. This is, of course, not what “empathy” even fucking means, but that’s not the key point here. The key point is that the idea that people with cluster B PDs have no compassion is totally false. Some cluster B people do have low or no empathy–and I do mean empathy, not compassion–and that’s okay. The ability to think or feel what somebody else is thinking or feeling is not required to be a moral person.

And now we get to my least favorite myth about people with cluster B disorders: that we’re all abusers or worse. Look, that’s just plain not true. As I’ve said before, no mental illness makes a person an abuser (although abusive people’s choice of shitty actions can be informed by a mental illness that they happen to have). So why are people with cluster B disorders considered automatically abusive? Sing along if you know the words: ABLEISM! 

Okay, specifically it’s saneism. But just look at the idea of “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse.” According to people who think that’s a thing, it consists of using language to manipulate, harm, and control people. This can take the form of gaslighting, lying, withholding, and/or emotional neglect. As you might have guessed, none of these actions are symptoms of NPD (or ASPD, which also gets blamed for “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse”). All of these things were also done to me by my abusive mother constantly, and she definitely does not have NPD or ASPD. I’ve talked more about how “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse” is not a thing here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/blaming-abuse-on-neurodivergence-and-why-not-to-do-that/, but in case you don’t feel like reading that whole thing and are thinking “Well, what do we call ‘n*rc*ss*st*c abuse,’ then?,” I suggest calling it “self-serving emotional abuse” or just “emotional abuse.” 

I also want to mention that it particularly pisses me off when other trauma survivors try to explain their abuse by claiming that their abuser had a cluster B PD, especially since cluster B PDs can be caused by–you guessed it–childhood trauma. Part of me gets it–you want to find an explanation for why you were treated like shit, especially any explanation besides “I deserved it”–but lateral ableism is never okay.

One more thing I wanted to mention briefly: anti-cluster B slurs. You’d honestly have to ask the NPD community when the use of “n*rc*ss*st*c” is considered a slur. I haven’t been able to find a consensus on when it is aside from when used in the phrase  “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse,” so I’m censoring it just to be safe. I also don’t know much about anti-HPD slurs (or HPD…I fail, sorry >.<), and there aren’t really any slurs specific to people with BPD, although the phrase “toxic borderline” can get fucked. What I do know is that “s****path” and “p****path” are both slurs used against people with ASPD, and they’re never appropriate to use. Okay, fine, some psych “experts” say that there’s a difference between one or both of those slurs and having ASPD. I don’t fucking care. They’re both slurs that imply that a mental illness makes a person a danger to society or others, and they’re never acceptable.

I think that’s all I have for now. I’m sorry I couldn’t say more about the PDs I don’t have, but I have to be really careful with what resources I can trust about cluster B PDs because of the hermeneutical injustice at play. If you’re interested in learning more about ASPD specifically, I can recommend the YouTuber Jessica Kent: https://www.youtube.com/c/JessicaKent  

Thank you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

Disability Pride

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, mention of eugenics, abuse discussion

Hello, dear readers!

So I pushed off the entry to cover #StopTheShock and am now writing about disability pride the month after Disability Pride Month. Oh well. Here we go anyway.

I was surprised to learn that some Disabled people don’t like Disability Pride Month because it was officially codified by former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not Disabled. I think this is silly, especially because Disability Pride Month was codified in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA. Still other Disabled people don’t like Disability Pride Month because they think it’s appropriative of queer Pride. As a queer Disabled person, this makes me roll my eyes so hard I’m afraid they’re going to get stuck looking at the back of my head. Look, in social justice movements, slogans often inspire other slogans. Did anyone scream “APPROPRIATION!!!1” at Frank Kameny when he was inspired by “Black Is Beautiful” to create “Gay is Good”? No. And if you don’t know who Frank Kameny is and aren’t familiar with “Gay Is Good,” you probably don’t know enough to be judging what is and isn’t appropriative of queer people.

With that out of the way, disability pride. A lot of abled people are shocked to their very cores at the idea that Disabled people might be–gasp!–PROUD of being Disabled. Well, in the words of Sigrid Ellis, “When you are accused of being a hated, vile thing, you can take two paths. You can deny being the thing and agree with your accuser that this thing is AWFUL. The WORST. Of course you are not that thing. Or. Or. You can INCREASE BEING THE MOTHERFUCKING THING.” That quote is actually about the word “queer,” but to me, it applies to being Disabled too. If you polled abled people, I bet the majority of them would say that they’d rather die than be Disabled. The anti-vax movement is predicated on the idea that it’s better to be dead than Autistic. Eugenic abortion of fetuses with trisomy 21 is common. So when abled people say they’d rather be dead than be like us…well, I obviously can’t speak for the entire Disabled community, but “INCREASE BEING THE MOTHERFUCKING THING” is awfully tempting, especially since the alternative is being horribly depressed. I’ve done a lot of being horribly depressed. -1000/10 do not recommend. (See: my blog entry on songs that saved my life.)

Some of you might be immensely puzzled by my comparison between queer pride and disability pride. You might be saying, “Queerness doesn’t cause suffering; queermisia does! But disability? That causes suffering! You just said that depression caused suffering for you!” Well, that’s a little reductive of you, but you’re right about the first part. And you have something of a point. Some disabilities do just suck. CPTSD, for instance. What didn’t kill me turned me into a clusterfuck of traumas in a trenchcoat. CPTSD can go fuck itself. You know how in X-Men 3 how Rogue wanted to be “cured” and Storm insisted that there was nothing wrong with mutants? If you want to see that as a metaphor for disabilities I have, Storm’s powers are Autisticness and Rogue’s powers are CPTSD. Still, I’m proud of surviving CPTSD (and my other mental illnesses that can get bent) and existing despite them. I’m also proud of putting up with ableism, despite the fact that nobody should fucking have to put up with ableism. What I’m trying to say here is that there are a lot of reasons a Disabled person might be proud of being Disabled, regardless of what kind of disabling condition they have.

Some Disabled people may have pride in the specific disabilities they have in addition to being proud of being Disabled in general. For instance, I’m very proud of being Autistic. In addition to the “INCREASE BEING THE MOTHERFUCKING THING” need to be proud of something that the vast majority of people see as a dreadful tragedy, I feel like there are some genuinely positive parts of my Autisticness. It gives me a strong sense of justice and makes me highly detail-oriented. I love my special interests and just how into them I can get, and how much joy they bring me. I love love LOVE stimming. Also, I’m proud of how I figured out I was Autistic despite my shitty abusive parents insisting throughout my entire childhood and teenagerhood that I was allistic while trying to abuse the Autisticness out of me.

Yeah, okay, this entry is a little focused on how I feel about disability pride. Well, that’s because I feel like disability pride can be very individual, and I don’t know if it’s possible for one Disabled person to cover all of the reasons Disabled people might be proud of being Disabled. This entry is also a little short. That’s because I’m in agonizing pain from cramps at the moment, and pain makes me bad at thinking (and writing). Sorry this entry is a little subpar, but I had to finish an entry this month and this is what I’m capable of right now.

Thank you to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, and that also gets you early access to my blog entries and access to polls about what I should write about next!

#StopTheShock

Content/trigger warning: torture, violent ableism

Electric shocks are dangerous. Even a child can tell you that. But when is a shock dangerous? Let’s talk about amperage for a moment. Milliamperes (mA) are a unit of measurement for electricity; mA refers to the amount of electrical current passing through an object. At 100 to 200 mA, shocks start becoming fatal; 2 seconds of 100 mA current can be deadly, even at low voltages (voltage being the pressure from an electrical circuit’s power source that pushes current through a conductor). Tasers and stun guns usually operate between 2 and 4 mA, and even cattle prods operate at less than 20 mA. So if there were an electrical device intended to shock humans at a maximum amperage of 90 mA, you’d think that would be illegal in the United States, right?

Right.

Unless you are Autistic or have a developmental or intellectual disability.

Yes, really.

The GED (graduated electronic decelerator) device was created by a despicable piece of shit named Matthew Israel in the early 90s to be used on his students at an institution called the Judge Rotenberg Center as part of the JRC’s “behavior modification program.” The Judge Rotenberg Center is a supposed school and residential treatment center in Canton, Massachusetts, and the students at the JRC are adults and children who are Autistic or have developmental or intellectual disabilities. Most of them are BIPOC.

Specifications on the GED device can be found here: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/04/25/2016-09433/banned-devices-proposal-to-ban-electrical-stimulation-devices-used-to-treat-self-injurious-orThis device is not legal to use on a pet, livestock, an abled child, or an abled adult. But the students at the JRC are subjected to excruciating and dangerous skin shocks from the GED device because they are Disabled and have “behavioral problems.” This despite the fact that the United Nations has disavowed GED device use as torture. Here is an incomplete list of reasons why students at the JRC have been shocked:

  • Breaking a Styrofoam cup
  • Not taking their coat off
  • Wetting the bed
  • Moaning in pain due to a broken tooth
  • Standing up out of their chair
  • Stimming
  • Not working for a duration of 10 seconds

(Thanks to @AutSciPerson on Twitter for compiling that list.) So if the JRC has been using these devices since the early 90s, why am I talking about it now? Because in 2020, the tireless efforts of activists like Lydia X. Z. Brown (who also maintains a repository of information about the JRC, which can be found here: https://autistichoya.net/judge-rotenberg-center/), the FDA banned the use of GED devices as part of “behavior modification.” On July 7, 2021, that ban was overturned due to a lawsuit levied by the JRC. The lawsuit was supported by not just credentialed BCBAs who work at the JRC (but BCBAs would never condone torture of Disabled people, noooooo) and JRC higher-ups, but the parents of current students. The Disabled community is devastated, stunned, and horrified. ASAN released a statement about this legal decision: https://autisticadvocacy.org/2021/07/asan-denounces-court-ruling-on-electric-skin-shock/ (Note: ASAN has a history of not representing Autistic people with intellectual disabilities and/or Autistic BIPOC well, and recently they were accused of plagiarizing an Indigenous activist and responded with a bucketload of litigious racist bullshit. Please don’t give them money even if you use their resources. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a better easy-to-read breakdown of the legal issues at hand.)

You can learn more about this horrific ableist human rights abuse by following the #StopTheShock hashtag on Twitter and also by following Disabled people like @autistictic and @autisticats who have been spreading information about the JRC’s human rights abuses, especially Disabled BIPOC like @queerdeaf and @autistichoya.There is a change.org petition to #StopTheShock: https://www.change.org/p/fda-ban-torture-of-people-with-disabilities-and-stoptheshock/u/22696808

Action items for #StopTheShock can be found here (credit to @AutSciPerson again): https://docs.google.com/document/d/13wOLYBZq7iq13M_KTFqJEwSkvf7ccdjY1vvx0ei3lak/edit

I don’t have any other words for this. Even curse words fail me.

Please share this information and the action items. #StopTheShock #ShutDownTheJRC

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Alternatives to Ableist Language

Content/trigger warning: cursing, ableist terms (most of which are censored)

Hello, dear readers! Time for an entry I’m surprised my Patreon supporters didn’t select earlier: alternatives to ableist language.

Now, ableism is not a list of words, it’s a system of oppression that disenfranchises, harms, and even kills Disabled people. But eliminating ableist language from one’s vocabulary is a good first step someone can take as an ally or as a Disabled person trying to unlearn internalized or lateral ableism. So, here are some common ableist terms (this is going to be a long list, but not an exhaustive one) and what you can say instead. Yes, some of my suggestions include curse words. It’s me; what else did you expect?

Autistic Hoya also already did something very like this here (https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html), and they’re better at writing than I am, so feel free to just check theirs out. Yes, I used Autistic Hoya’s post to write this entry and I credit them with not just the information in this blog entry but at least 30% of what I know about ableism.

  • Blind to/To turn a blind eye to: Ignorant of/To be willfully ignorant of
  • Confined to a wheelchair: Wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair, uses a wheelchair full-time (or some of the time, depending), requires a wheelchair
  • Cr*pple (referring to a person with a mobility disability): Person with a mobility disability, physically D/disabled
  • Cr*ppling (used metaphorically): Debilitating, insurmountable
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (referring to a mentally ill person): Mentally ill, psychiatrically D/disabled
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (used to insult a person): Wild, impulsive, impetuous, feckless, reckless, unpredictable, out of control
  • Cr*zy/Ins*ne^ (referring to something else, like a party): Busy, ridiculous, wild, unbelievable, weird
  • Deaf ears/To fall on deaf ears: Unwilling ears/To [talk to] someone unwilling to listen
  • Derp/Herp-derp/Duh/Doy/Durr (mimicking sounds that ID/DD/LD people supposedly make): That was obvious/Of course/Oh right, I knew that
  • Deluded/Delusional (referring to a person experiencing an altered state such as paranoia or hearing voices): Having intrusive thoughts, experiencing paranoia, hearing voices, experiencing a psychotic break, etc. (as appropriate for the situation)
  • Deluded/Delusional (used to insult a person): Ignorant, out of touch, has unrealistic expectations, believes things that aren’t true
  • Diffabled/Differently abled (referring to D/disabled people): D/disabled
  • Double-blind clinical trial: Doubly anonymous clinical trial/Neither participants nor researchers knew [who was receiving the placebo and who was receiving the real treatment]
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (referring to an action): Poorly thought-out, ill-advised, a terrible idea
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (referring to an ID/DD/LD person): Person with an intellectual disability, developmentally D/disabled, learning D/disabled (as appropriate for the situation)
  • D*mb/St*p*d^^ (used to insult a person): Unwise, foolish, inept, incompetent, impulsive, ignorant, impetuous, doesn’t think before they act
  • H*nd*c*pped/H*nd*c*p*ble (referring to a D/disabled person, usually physically D/disabled): D/disabled, physically D/disabled (if applicable)
  • Id**t/M*r*n/Imb*c*le: Fool, goofus, incompetent dingbat, fuck-knuckle
  • L*me (referring to person with a mobility disability): Person with a mobility disability, physically D/disabled
  • L*me (used as an insult): Uncool, insipid, boring, un-fun, crappy, shitty
  • Loony bin/Madhouse (referring to an actual institution): Institution for people with mental and/or psychiatric disabilities
  • Loony bin/Madhouse (used metaphorically): Disorganized, wild, confusing, unpredictable
  • [Name of neurodivergent condition, e.g., “Psychotic,” “Bipolar,” “Autistic,” “OCD”] (used metaphorically): Wild, impulsive, impetuous, feckless, reckless, unpredictable, out of control
  • Narcissistic/Borderline (referring to people who are supposedly evil/abusive due to NPD or BPD; not ableist if being used as neutral descriptors for people who actually have those conditions): Selfish, self-centered, egotistical, toxic, manipulative, abusive, impulsive, out of control, evil, mean, asshole, dickhead, motherfucker
  • -phobic (e.g., homophobic, Islamophobic): Bigoted against [oppressed group], -misic, -antagonistic
  • Ps*ch*path/S*c**path (referring to people who are supposedly evil/abusive due to ASPD): Evil, abusive, callous, heartless, soulless, toxic, manipulative, selfish, mean, asshole, dickhead, motherfucker
  • R*t*rd/R*t*rded (referring to a person with an intellectual disability): Person with an intellectual disability, has an intellectual disability (I know, this is PFL, which I often rail against, but that’s what the community prefers)
  • R*t*rd/R*t*rded/-tard as suffix (used as an insult): Ding-dong, assclown, dicksoiree, fuckstick
  • Sp*z (referring to a person with a neurological disability): Neurologically D/disabled or name the specific disability (e.g., cerebral palsy, epilepsy, etc.)
  • Sp*z (used as an insult): Out of control, aimless, reckless, feckless, clumsy, forgetful, klutzy, flighty
  • Special needs/Has special needs: D/disabled/Is D/disabled
  • Wheelchair bound: Wheelchair user, uses a wheelchair, uses a wheelchair full-time (or some of the time, depending), requires a wheelchair

^Plus any number of saneist terms like deranged, cuckoo, nuts/nutso, daft, m*d, loony, lunatic, mental, maniac, ps*cho, wacko, unhinged

^^Yes, this is an ableist term. There are some Disabled people who aren’t ID/DD/LD who insist it isn’t, but how the fuck would they know, it doesn’t target them.

Another important thing to think about when eliminating ableist language from one’s vocabulary is to say what you mean. Is that person with a TBI st*p*d, or do they have memory difficulties? Is that abusive person a s*c**path, or are they cruel and uncaring? Is your schedule cr*zy, or is it busy as all fuck? It’s important to not associate disability with negative shit that actually doesn’t have anything to do with disability–for instance, armchair diagnosis of abusive people–and it’s also important to speak and think accurately and respectfully when you are talking about disability.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Mackenzie, Sam, and Sydney! Reminder that it’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them, see blog entries two days before everyone else, and vote in polls to help me choose blog entry topics!

Things You Didn’t Know Were Autmisic

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to my latest entry: things you didn’t know were autmisic, i.e., discriminatory towards Autistic people. Now, I’ve talked about many neurotypicalist things on this blog that are autmisic in addition to being neurotypicalist in general–labeling interests and behaviors as “cringe” comes to mind–so for this entry, I’m going to try to focus on things that are either primarily or only autmisic. Let’s dive in.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about autmisia is ABA. I’ve mentioned briefly why ABA is horrible before. In fact, what I said was “ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is an abusive practice in psychiatry that is a form of conversion therapy to force Autistic people to act allistic. ABA often uses aversives such as forcing Autistic children to taste Tabasco sauce, and the actual techniques for ABA were based on dog training. ABA misunderstands Autisticness; it is based on the idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and not a neurotype. The inventor of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, has said ‘Autistic children are severely disturbed…You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but l you (sic) have to build the person.’” I also referenced a paper (link here https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf) about how ABA causes PTSD.

But something I didn’t emphasize enough in my previous discussions of ABA is that no ABA is okay. Some ABA child-torturers providers insist that their ABA is play-based or reward-oriented. Use of aversives is more obviously evil than this, but even “play-based” or “reward-oriented” ABA is based on the flawed idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and that as such you can make a person not Autistic by changing their behavior. This is like saying that colored contacts permanently change a person’s eye color. An Autistic child who has been conditioned by ABA to act allistic by forcing eye contact, not playing in ways that are rewarding for them, not stimming, etc. is still Autistic; they’re just also suffering because they are no longer able to express themselves. In conclusion, #ABAIsNeverOkay, and ABA is extremely autmisic.

Something you may not know was autmisic is expecting people to know right and left on a dime. Yes, really. Many Autistic people, myself included, struggle with right and left. So the next time you’re out for a run and want to pass someone walking, don’t say “on your right” or “on your left” and expect the person to move right away; if they’re Autistic, they’ll probably get confused and either not move or move the wrong way, and you’ll run into them.

Antivaxxers represent another thing that people do tend to know is autmisic but may not know how bad of a problem it still is. In the actual fucking year 2021 (or 5781 if you’re Jewish like me) and there are still people who think vaccines cause autism. I’ve heard horror stories from teachers and daycare providers who have gotten sick because their young students’/clients’ parents are antivaxxers. I don’t think I have to spell this out, but thinking that you’d rather have a child who is dead from the mumps or measles or pertussis than an Autistic child is autmisic as all fuck.

What else…grabbing, otherwise touching, or making loud noises to get a person’s attention is also autmisic. I recently went to see my PCP and someone standing behind me in line tried to get my attention by clapping her hands right by my fucking ear. I nearly had a goddamn meltdown right there in the hospital atrium. Autistic people can’t stand being startled, grabbed, and/or touched without consent, and doing any of those to us can result in distress, pain, or both.

This next one isn’t only autmisic, but it is primarily autmisic, so here we go: acting like you don’t have to listen to an Autistic person who self-advocates because they “don’t speak for people with severe autism” is some bullshit. First of all, functioning labels are also autmisic…hmm, should have mentioned that earlier…but anyway functioning labels are arbitrary, useless, and dehumanizing, and any Autistic self-advocate speaking out against autmisia is speaking for every Autistic person who deserves to be accommodated and respected (which is all of us). The “you don’t speak for people with severe autism/people with autism who are non-speaking/people with autism who can’t work/people who are like my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate’s son with autism” line is just an excuse for allistic people to keep believing autmisic bullshit. Don’t fall for it.

You may notice that those bullshit lines about “you don’t speak for [x]” use person-first language. I’ve talked about why PFL is often ableist before, but I don’t think I have talked about why it is autmisic. Autisticness is a disability, sure, but it’s also an inherent part of how Autistic people experience the world. You can’t separate an Autistic person from their Autisticness the way you could from, say, a tuberculosis patient from the bacteria infecting them. “Person with autism” implies that the two can be separated when in reality, they can’t. There are people who identify as autigender, meaning their understanding of gender is so entwined with their Autisticness that the two can’t be separated; that’s how crucial Autisticness is to a person’s self. “Person with autism” implies a separation that, in reality, does not exist, so “Autistic” is the accurate and respectful term. Note: some Autistic people do, in fact, prefer “person with autism;” “Autistic” is overwhelmingly preferred by the Autistic community, but there are still people out there with enough internalized autmisia that they prefer “person with autism.” So default to “Autistic,” but if someone tells you that they prefer “person with autism” for themselves, respect that (until they figure out they’re wrong).

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Max, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them; this gets you early viewing of my blog entries and participation in polls to help me decide which topics to write about next!