I Can’t Even Fucking Listen to Music

Content/trigger warning: cursing, slurs (censored), disordered eating mention

So I have a new job.

It’s actually great. Well, mostly great. I’m doing something I love and that I’m good at, the location is fantastic, and most of the people are nice. Unfortunately, there’s always food around the office, which TFED (The Fucking Eating Disorder) is not pleased with. But anyway, I was at my new job and needing an afternoon caffeine fix, so I headed to Dunkin for their $2-latte-after-2-PM promotion. (I’m weak for espresso and deals. I admit it.)The music was too loud in Dunkin, which was almost an accessibility issue for me, and I was struggling to tune it out while I waited for my latte. A pop song was playing. I don’t like pop, so there was nothing remarkable about the song to me, but it was so damn loud it bored into my head. A generic female pop voice was singing some laterally misogynist sounding crap about another woman, and I barely had time to be annoyed by that before the song called this other woman “sweet but ps*cho”.

I swear.

For those of you who don’t know, I also curate two YouTube series, one about asexuality and one about my special interest in rock music. So you’d think this is the part where I say “well, pop songs may have saneist slurs in the chorus, but you wouldn’t find that in rock, metal, or punk!” Yeah, I fucking wish. There is ableism out the ass in those genres. In metal, vidist expressions are extremely common, right up to and including Trivium having a song literally called “Blind Leading the Blind”. Punk music loves to use ableist slurs and terms to refer to oppressors and/or bigots, with even bands like Bad Cop/Bad Cop that are usually aware of intersecting oppressions dropping “l*natic” and “ins*ne”. Rock music in general uses ableist language like it’s going out of style; I could name you several rock songs that have “ps*cho” in the title.

And it gets worse. Punk music has a tendency to med shame in the name of going after “Big Pharma”. “OxyM*r*nic” (which also has an ableist slur against ID/DD/LD people in the title, would you look at that?) by NOFX and “Limiter” by Descendents (which is on an album called Hypercaffium Sp*zzinate WHY DO I LISTEN TO ANY PUNK MUSIC EVER AODSHUAASDOBASDAFFFF) come to mind. It’s not only punk music, either; Delain, a Dutch symphonic metal outfit and one of my favorite bands of all time, has a song called “Your Body Is a Battleground” that not only med shames, but implies that psychiatric disabilities aren’t real.

It’s not only the music itself, either. People who are into the rock scene, especially the reviewer sphere, also love their ableism. I recently watched a popular YouTube music reviewer I don’t ordinarily watch trash the Nostalgia Cockstain’s The Wall album, and the reviewer joked about losing his sanity and having a panic attack as the result of the badness of the album. Another YouTube music reviewer I like and respect and even support on Patreon is fond of calling 2edgy4u musicians “p*****paths” and “s****paths”. Pitchfork Media’s website contains album reviews that straight up use the fucking r-slur.

I’m not sure what the point of all this whining is. I guess everything I have discussed here is a good example of just how entrenched ableism is. Not just entrenched, either, but terrifyingly normalized. And the pervasiveness of ableism in punk is a good example of how even leftist spaces condone ableism.Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to Emilie Autumn, who writes about mental illness from the perspective of “wow, misogynableism sucks”.

I Did an Activism for Autism Hell Month

Content/trigger warning: filicide, Autism $peaks mention, fucking April

I fucking hate April.

April drains the Autistic community. I keep hearing stories of burnout, depression, more frequent meltdowns and shutdowns, and completely shot executive function.

I feel that. I’ve been pretty damn useless this month.

But I did do something for April as a middle finger to Autism $peaks. I went to an open mic and sang a song in Katie McCarron’s memory, prefacing it with the story of her murder. My amazing fiancee—she proposed after my performance, and yes, I’m incandescently happy about that, and of course I said yes—filmed it. So here it is, with a transcript. Before the filming started, I introduced myself with my stage name, Valkyrja, which is Old Norse for “valkyrie”. Even before that, I asked if I could take the mic off the stand; the MC jokingly gave me a hard time and my Autistic ass thought he was being serious. Anyway, here’s the video and the transcript.

Transcript:

…and you can call me Valkyrie if you can’t flip the “r”, or if you aren’t interested in Old Norse, or whatever. And the song I have chosen to perform tonight is actually…[sigh] in memoriam, so I’d like to give a little context before I start, if that’s okay. I cannot see jack with these lights; I don’t know if I’m getting a nod, so I’m just going to go ahead.

Okay, I need you all to imagine something for me. I need you to imagine that you have a condition that causes you to perceive and interact with the world differently from most people. And yes, it’s certainly a disability, but it’s mostly so because of the way society treats you. Got that so far? Okay. Now, I need you to imagine that a MASSIVE charity—supposedly—gets the director of the third Harry Potter movie to make a short film about what it’s like to live with this condition…and they don’t get anyone with the condition to be involved. What the fuck, right? They got the director of The Prisoner of fucking Azkaban to direct the thing and couldn’t get anyone with the condition to even be interviewed? What the hell, right?

Now…this is where it starts getting fucked up. Trigger warning for ableism and murder. So, I want you to imagine that a board member on the charity who does not have the condition says in front of her daughter who does, in this film, she wishes she could kill her daughter and then herself.

[Crowd “oooh”s]

But she can’t, because she has a normal child to take care of. Stay with me.

[Someone in crowd says “all right”]

Now imagine this film premieres. A woman who doesn’t have the condition but has a child who does sees it. Three days later, this woman murders her young daughter who has the condition. You’d make some connections in your head about this series of events, wouldn’t you?

THEY HAPPENED. The “charity” is Autism Speaks. The film is Autism Every Day, which premiered in 2006, and yes, they got Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to direct, and yes, his name is fucking mud in the Autistic community right now. We hate that guy. And if you couldn’t tell by the way I couldn’t tell he [indicates MC, who was being an asshole earlier] was being an asshole, I’m Autistic as fuck.

So the young woman who was unfortunately murdered. Her name was Katie McCarron, and I would like to dedicate this performance of “We Are the Others” by Delain to her, may she rest in power.

[sigh] Okay, if I’m not gonna cry, I’m ready to sing.

I’m walking with Katie tonight,
She lives in the air that I breathe;
I can’t get it out of my mind
How you were left to bleed
Was it how you stim?
Or how you act?
I can’t believe
How she could act so violently,
Without regret,
But we will not forget

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

As simple as air in your lungs
As simple as words on your lips
And no one should take that away
No one should argue this
Now with our heads up high
We’ll carry on,
And carry out,
And we won’t let them get us down,
Wear us out,
‘Cause we are not alone

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)

Normal is not the norm,
It’s just a uniform
(We are the others)
Forget about the norm,
(We’re the outsiders)
Take off your uniform,
(We are the others)
We are all beautiful,
(We are the others)

We are the others,
We are the cast outs,
We’re the outsiders
But you can’t hide us,
We are the others,
Black-eyed and battered,
You’re not out there on your own
If you feel mistreated,
Torn and cheated,
You’re not alone,
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others (we are the others)
We are the others

 

Many thanks to my sole patron, Karina! If you would like to be as awesome as Karina, enjoy my work, and would like to support me, please consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ARZinzani

I Have Another Project!

I started a YouTube series about my special interest in music! The first video is about my favorite songs of 2018, and it HAS CAPTIONS! I also talk about being Autistic a little bit, seeing as the series is called Rock, Roll, ‘n’ Stim.

I will be getting rid of my Mara Lee Patreon account soon and updating the one under my real name, Amaranthe Zinzani. After that, I will be giving Patrons early access to any videos in the future. Stay tuned.

Several Things…

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, including common emotional abuse techniques, cursing (do I always warn for cursing? I should, seeing as I curse like I just discovered the words)

Hey! Guess who did NaNoWriMo and didn’t blog for a whole month because she was busy trying to hit 50k? This lady! (I did finish NaNo, though.)

To get back into the swing of things, this seemed like the perfect blog entry to talk about a few small things that don’t really need an entire standard Mara length blog entry to cover. This is going to be a list-heavy entry: I’m going to talk about common lines of advice that are actually ableist (and some are just dickweed things to say), laterally ableist behaviors that I often see, and why it’s ableist to mock “weird” triggers. (The last one will be a list because I’m going to share some of my more “weird” CPTSD triggers.) That said, let’s get started.

“Helpful” advice that’s ableist:

  • “You can overcome anything!” The whole idea of “overcoming” disability is ableist because it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how disability works. If someone can do something that another Disabled person with the same condition can’t do, the first person didn’t “overcome” anything, they just experience the condition differently. Also, sometimes Disabled people can’t do things because of our disabilities. That’s why it’s called a DISability. Sometimes we can’t do shit. Deal with it. And by “deal with it” I mean “don’t tell us that we can do something we actually can’t, because that’s tremendously invalidating”.
  • “You HAVE to try yoga/dieting/exercise/acai suppositories/etc.” This one is rather conditional. Unsolicited advice is usually a No. Disability Etiquette 101: if a Disabled person is venting to you about debilitating symptoms, do not offer suggestions on how to fix the symptom unless asked, especially if you don’t know the person that well. You don’t know what the person has tried and if your potential solution is accessible to them. If someone is asking you what you did to address a particular symptom or if you have any ideas, go ahead and share away, but if someone is venting about their disability-related traits or symptoms, don’t try to fix them. Yes, even if XYZ thing worked on your same traits or symptoms. (If you really feel strongly about a suggestion, you can ask if the person talking to you is interested in hearing suggestions.)
  • “Don’t let it get to you.” This one is invalidating in general, but it’s especially shitty for neurodivergent people who are highly emotionally sensitive. Can people control how they react to feeling like shit? Sure, sometimes. But it’s a rare person indeed who can simply decide to not feel like shit in response to something that makes them feel like shit. Even if someone is ND and their condition makes them sensitive to something that makes them feel like shit that doesn’t make you feel like shit, that doesn’t mean that the ND person is doing feelings wrong or shouldn’t “let it get to them”. Asking people how you can help them feel better because you want them to feel better is great. Telling people to change their innate emotional responses, especially if those responses are due to neurodivergence, is an asshole move. Policing people’s more specific emotional symptoms (e.g. “it’s not that scary” in response to anxiety”) is also an asshole move.
  • “Be grateful it’s not worse.”/”You don’t have it that bad.” Unless you are the single most unlucky motherfucker in the world, someone will have it worse,  but suffering isn’t a contest. Telling someone to be grateful for their suffering not being worse is invalidating. Fuck this one. Don’t do it.

Common forms of lateral ableism that I’ve seen is up next. Some of these have been discussed on this blog before, but I wanted to compile them. The following are sucky things that shouldn’t happen:

  • Physically Disabled people insisting that their physical disability doesn’t mean they are ID/DD/LD and implying that there’s something wrong with being ID/DD/LD. If you want to clear up someone’s misconceptions about your disability, great! That’s fine! Just make sure you’re not implying that you’re a “good” Disabled person because you’re not like one of those other gross Disabled people with a condition you’re throwing under the bus.
  • Autistic people insisting that autism isn’t a mental illness and implying there’s something wrong with being mentally ill. Okay, yes, I will acknowledge that being mentally ill can be a towering goblet of suck, but again, this can fall into the acting like you’re a “good” Disabled person because you don’t have [insert other disability here].
  • Physically abled MI people describing their mental illnesses as “cr*ppling”. No, you don’t get to use a slur that isn’t yours to describe your brain’s bullshit. There are so many other words to describe brain bullshit. “Debilitating” is a good one.
  • Neurodivergent people saying that physically Disabled people don’t get gaslit about how their disabilities aren’t real, or don’t experience medical ableism, or generally have it better than neurodivergent people. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. Bad Oppression Olympics participant. Stop it.
  • People with mood disorders insisting they aren’t scary, dangerous, or likely to be violent like people with PDs or psychotic people. And we’re back to throwing other disabilities under the bus in order to make oneself look better.
  • People with abuse-related PTSD blaming their abusers’ harmful behavior on their abusers being mentally ill. Armchair diagnosing emotional abusers with cluster B disorders has become especially trendy these days, and abuse survivors have blamed their abusers’ behavior on addiction for ages now.
  • People with BPD acting like they’re the “good” cluster B illness that isn’t selfish or abusive or whatever. Man, throwing other disabilities under the bus is really popular on this list.

And finally, something a little different. It’s all too common to mock mental illness triggers, especially PTSD triggers, these days. PTSD is a constellation of symptoms that result from the brain dealing with trauma, and one of the things brains try to do in response to trauma is keep a person from experiencing trauma again. The devastating effects of flashbacks, hypervigilance, and other PTSD symptoms in response to triggers are the brain trying way too hard to tell the brain’s owner “SHIT SHIT SHIT YOU’RE IN DANGER RUN AWAY”. (This is all very scientific, I know.) Because of this, literally anything that was involved in the trauma may become a trigger. A smell, a sound, a word, anything. I was abused for over a decade, so my CPTSD has had plenty of opportunities to pick up triggers that some might think are silly but will grab me by the collar and fling me back in time to relive the abuse if I hear them. For example, here are some of my more “ridiculous” triggers:

  • The sound of heavy/running footfalls
  • British spellings
  • The phrases “this little [noun]”, “you’re too sensitive”, “black pit”, “I don’t believe you”, and “capitalist values”
  • The word “stroke”
  • The words “at all” being used at the end of a sentence
  • The song “Carousel” by SJ Tucker
  • The taste of hazelnut coffee creamer
  • My given name spoken out loud

Yep. My given name is a trigger. Last night someone called me by it and I couldn’t stop shaking for hours. Why yes, that is fucking annoying.

I think that’s all I have for now. Oh, right! I’m also working on setting up a Facebook page. I feel like I’m not all that well suited to Twitter. I’m going to stay on Twitter, but Mara Lee is also getting a Facebook page soon. I’ll share the link when it’s ready.

Time Won’t Heal This Damage Anymore

Content/trigger warning: disordered eating, self-harm, discussion of suicide

Today’s entry is primarily inspired by Chester Bennington’s death, and as such, I will be covering suicidal ideation and the ableism inherent in mocking music that expresses feelings of angst or anguish.

I know about self-harm, self-hatred, and suicidal ideation. I’ve experienced all three thanks to my depression, and I suspect my BPD and CPTSD also have contributed to those. Even now, there are spots on my shirt that are still wet from my Tide To-Go pen, which I fortunately had on hand to clean up after throwing up in a Panera restroom after I felt like I ate too much. (Disordered eating is another fun borderline trait.) And yes, purging or depriving oneself of food can be a form of self-harm. Self-harm isn’t just angsty white teenage girls cutting their wrists. Here’s a list of other forms of self-harm:

-depriving oneself of food or other necessary things like medication
-unsafe participation in extreme sports
-scalding/burning oneself
-banging or hitting body parts
-ingestion of toxic substances
-dermatillomania (skin picking) or trichotillomania (hair pulling) (these aren’t always self-harm, though)

I was angsty white teenage girl who cut her hipbones because she didn’t want anyone seeing her wrists. I also used to scald myself. I haven’t cut in almost a decade, but I still self-harm with disordered eating and purging, and occasionally trichotillomania. But I have coping mechanisms that exorcise my feelings of self-hatred without taking it out on myself. One of those coping mechanisms is music.

I listen to music that is often mocked for being “wangsty”, “emo”, or my personal favorite, “bullshit-sad”. Some groups that have helped me work through self-hatred or desire to self-harm include Evanescence, Smile Empty Soul, A Static Lullaby, The Amity Affliction, Escape the Fate, Beartooth, Papa Roach, and of course, Linkin Park (well, their early work, anyway; I’m lukewarm on Living Things and The Hunting Party, and I don’t care at all for One More Light). “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence (frequently and incorrectly referred to as “Wake Me Up Inside”) has become a meme. Linkin Park and Papa Roach songs (especially “Crawling” by Linkin Park and “Last Resort” by Papa Roach) are also frequently mocked in memes and similar jokes.

Look, I know perfectly well that some of this music may not be technically proficient, may have lyrics that rhyme clumsily or seem cheesy, and may employ overwrought vocal delivery. (Papa Roach’s early work is particularly guilty of cheesy lyrics and hammy delivery; too bad I don’t care.) These are legitimate criticisms of the art form. The mocking for expressing feelings of anguish, especially suicidality (like in “Last Resort”), is ableist.

Don’t think that because depression isn’t a “scary” mental illness (see my last entry) doesn’t mean it’s any less serious. Psychiatric disabilities are serious conditions that can cause suffering. When it comes to depression, I like to refer to it as “my brain is trying to kill me”. “Angsty” music makes me feel less alone, like I’m not the only person whose own mind is betraying them, like I’m not the only person feeling those things. It helps put things in perspective; just like the song will end, so the suicidal or self-harm impulses will pass. Sometimes just listening to—or singing—a particular song over and over is catharsis enough to calm me down.

I used to not understand why the music that helped me so much was met with jeering and mockery by healthy people. I was naïve then. The reason is ableism, specifically saneism. Mentally healthy people don’t understand the suffering mental illness can bring, and our suffering is funny to them. They think less of us because of how our brains work, and they think that makes us acceptable targets. The appropriate response for a mentally healthy person hearing “angsty” lyrics that they can’t relate to shouldn’t be “ha, ha, mentally ill people’s pain is hilarious”, it should be “I’m lucky I’ve never had to deal with this”.

Back to “my brain is trying to kill me”. That’s not an exaggeration. I experience suicidal ideation–hell, I once ended up in a psych ward for it–which is why I want to talk about the saneism surrounding suicide when it is actually carried out, not just sung about. First of all, there is no shame in dying by suicide. Suicidal ideation is a symptom of an illness. People who died by suicide died of their illness. It is no more shameful than dying of an infection. Depression can be a lifelong illness—it is for me, since I have a serotonin imbalance—and for many of us, there is no such thing as recovery from self-harm or suicidal ideation. One of my friends likes to call such symptoms “dormant”. They lie sleeping, lurking, ready to erupt like a volcano with the right provocation. They will never fully go away. I’m having trouble dealing with Chester Bennington’s death for the same reason I had trouble dealing with learning about Carrie’s drug relapse: I’m afraid of dying of my symptoms.

Second of all, dying by suicide is not “selfish”, “cowardly”, or “immoral”. The framing of suicide as being “selfish” burdens people struggling with suicidal ideation with guilt, which may make them hate themselves even more. As someone with trauma from emotional abuse that included guilt tripping, the framing of suicide as “selfish” is actually triggering to me. People who are experiencing suicidal ideation may be incapable of conceptualizing the fact that people will miss them and likely believe that the people in their lives would be better off without them. Adding to their suffering with a guilt trip only makes things worse.

Third, saneism contributes to suicide. How? People who are struggling with their symptoms may not seek help (no, I don’t just mean professional help, I am always quick to say that therapy and medication aren’t right for everyone; sometimes all a depressed person needs is for a friend to listen to their feelings) because of the stigma associated with experiencing mental illness symptoms. They’re afraid of being judged or rejected. Or they have internalized toxic messages such as “you can’t be depressed because there are starving children in Africa; you don’t have any REAL problems” (a line my abuser likes to try to feed me). If you’re doing battle with suicidal thoughts, there is no shame in talking about it. If you know someone who is doing battle with suicidal thoughts, make sure to reassure those people that they are not alone, that they are loved, and that their experiences with psychiatric disability are valid.

Fourth, people whose lives appear easy can experience suicidal ideation. Like I said, this entry came out of Chester Bennington’s death, and he was a successful musician. “But he was famous! What did he have to be depressed about?” is something that I am hearing far too much. Wealth and fame aren’t cures for mental illness. Depression lies. Depression tells you that life isn’t worth living even if your life has a lot of good in it. My serotonin levels would be the same if I were rich and famous, even if I didn’t “have anything to be depressed about”.

Okay, I think that’s about all I have for now. I’m going to go listen to Meteora and wish I had enough extra money to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “It creates community when you talk about private things.”