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!

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!

Autistic and Other ND Masking

Content/trigger warning: mention of murder by police, discussion of ableism

I’m so fucking tired.

I actually have an accomodation at work that allows me to turn my Zoom camera off whenever I want. This is because performing neuronormative facial expressions is fucking exhausting and I can’t do it for long. Performing neuronormative facial expressions is a part of what Autistic people call “masking,” which is a word for “pretending to be neurotypical.” Not all Autistic people are able to mask, and masking has recently become something of a hot topic on Autistic Twitter and TikTok. Despite being neck deep in the online Autistic community, I’m only just becoming familiar with masking and how I mask. I mean, during Zoom meetings, I still have to modulate my vocal cadences to sound neurotypical even with my camera off, and I only realized when writing this blog entry that that was a form of masking. Other forms of Autistic masking can include:

-Suppressing stimming
-Forcing eye contact
-Standing differently/mimicking neurotypical body language
-Learning and following social scripts, some or all of which may not align with actual views
-Using pre-prepared jokes or phrases
-Engaging in popular activities, especially social ones, that we don’t want to engage in
-Refraining from infodumping

Honestly, learning some of what constitutes masking made me a little bit surprised at how much I mask. And it makes me wonder if masking so much is why I’m so fucking exhausted all the fucking time. Because what happens when you force an Autistic person to mask?

Exhaustion.

Meltdowns.

Burnout.

Masking is hell. It’s draining. It’s concealing the essence of who you are. It’s like expecting a person to hack off parts of themselves in order to fit into a designated space. And yet it wasn’t even widely discussed enough for a lot of Autistic people (HI) to know what the fuck it was until recently. We destroy ourselves in the name of ablenormativity and I’d be willing to bet most psychologists wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I tried to talk with them about “Autistic masking.”

You might be thinking “it sounds like society forces Autistic people to mask.” If you’re not thinking that, you should be. Masking is a safety issue, especially if you’re also part of a different marginalized group that’s at higher risk of, say, having the police called on you (and then being subsequently murdered) for acting “strange.”

Also, while masking is primarily discussed in relation to Autistic people, we’re not the only neurodivergent people who mask. I would say that any neurodivergent person suppressing themselves in order to appear neurotypical is masking. For example, an ADHDer who was masking might:

-Suppress stims/fidgets
-Get good grades through good memory despite poor organizational and study skills
-Overcompensate/try harder at tasks and activities to make up for developmental difficulties
-Joke or kid about ADHD-related mistakes
-Pretend to be incompetent to avoid high expectations
-Conceal that they’re experiencing RSD

I could continue making lists for how different neurodivergencies are usually masked, but we’d be here all day.

There also are a lot of conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. Or at least, there are two conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. These two conversations are:

  1. Autistic women and girls mask more than Autistic men and boys because women and girls are expected to be more pacifying and unobtrusive
  2. Whether or not being able to mask is a privilege

The first conversation often erases non-binary people and involves second-wave bullshit about being ~*~socialized female~*~ and I, a cis binary woman, am not qualified to address that particular stripe of bullshit. As for the second conversation, having been in situations when I was able vs. unable to mask, it mystifies me that there’s even a debate here. Of course being able to mask is a privilege. The fact that masking sucks to the degree that it leads to mental health breakdowns doesn’t mean it’s not a privilege to be safer and treated better than Autistic people who can’t mask. (And no, able to mask vs. unable to mask isn’t in any way the new “high functioning vs. low functioning,” don’t @ me.) But that’s not what I want to focus on here; I’m trying to give more general information about masking, not drop hot takes.

So what do we do about masking? At some point during the arc of me keeping this blog (it’s been over FOUR YEARS!? WHAT!?), I would have said “Take the mask off! Be yourself! That’s the only way to normalize Autistic behavior!”

Yeah, past self? That’s not fucking safe. Dismantling ableism is the name of the game, of course, but ableism is a structural issue that is inextricable from other forms of oppression. Actually, I don’t think I’ve shared the updated definition of ableism with my readers! This is the latest definition of ableism, modified this year, from activist Talila “TL” Lewis:

“Ableism: A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normality, intelligence, excellence, desirability, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism.

“This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s language, appearance, religion, and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel, and ‘behave.’”

So unmasking is not going to pull out the evil ableism tree at its roots; it might only pull off some of the leaves, or it might backfire spectacularly and put someone in danger. Do I want a society in which nobody has to mask? Absofuckinglutely. Do I think we should take off our masks whenever possible, because masking is so detrimental to health and well-being? Yes. Do I think that we should stay masked when it isn’t safe to unmask? Until the revolution, sadly, yes.

Hey, it’s complicated.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Empathy

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism

Hello, dear readers! This is going to be a fairly short entry, but it’s what my Patreon supporters voted on. So, here we go: empathy.

First off, please don’t Merriam-Webster at me with what empathy ~actually is. Dictionary definitions are okay starting points, but they certainly don’t encompass the entire meaning of every word. I mean, look at the dictionary definition of “sexism;” dictionary.com has you slog through two outdated definitions about discrimination based on gender before you get to the correct definition, “ingrained or institutionalized prejudice against women.”

With that out of the way, what the hell actually is empathy? Empathy is the ability to experience what another person is experiencing. Not to understand what another person is experiencing or to know that another person is to experience something, but to perceive that another person is experiencing something and experience it as well. This is part of why I get miffed when people say “empathy” when what they really mean is “compassion.” The other part is–you guessed it–ableism, which I’ll go into a little later.

So, types of empathy. Yes, there are types of empathy! I learned this from Eb Brandeberry (@ebthen on Twitter). The three types are cognitive, emotional (also called affective), and compassionate. Compassionate empathy is the closest to what most people mean when they say “empathy;” it’s when you literally feel someone else’s suffering when you know they’re suffering. Emotional empathy is like compassionate empathy, but for other people’s emotions instead of their suffering. Cognitive empathy is when you can put yourself into someone’s shoes in regards to their perspective without necessarily engaging with their emotions.

So what does any of this have to do with ableism? Various disabling neurodivergent conditions can involve inability to experience or difficulty experiencing the three types of empathy. Interestingly, sometimes being ND can lead to hyperempathy; because I’m Autistic, my emotional empathy is off the charts. However, my cognitive empathy is next to nonexistent, and my compassionate empathy depends on whether or not I can identify that someone is suffering. Because people misuse “empathy” so much, it’s hard to do research on which neurodivergent conditions actually involve low or none of whatever kind of empathy, but some personality disorders also are associated with low empathy (BPD, which I have, is associated with low cognitive empathy.) So saying things like “empathy is required to be a moral person” is ableist (specifically neurotypicalist, I guess), not only because you actually mean compassion but because not everyone is capable of empathy. You also want to be careful with how you discuss neurodivergence and empathy, because, for instance, Autisticness can be associated with high or low empathy of various kinds, not to mention symptoms can vary between individuals with the same condition. So just be careful to say exactly what you mean when discussing empathy.

And…wow, short entry. But I did say it would be short. Go forth and use words correctly!

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Also, if you can, please help my ESA, who needs another surgery to prevent her cancer from coming back: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-an-esa-kitty-beat-mammary-cancer?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR1rIjjoSEGOFR2arvpbtfmXzVPM_dZWG7_-nQl1vBaJaY79U76Nlyih_PM

Cringe Culture Is Neurotypicalist

Content/trigger warning: ABA, ableism (especially extreme autmisia), neurotypicalism

I write fanfiction.

No, I’m not giving you my LJ (yes, I’m that old) or ff.net or AO3 name. But I write fanfiction. I have written fanfiction since the age of four, when I saw The Lion King and immediately wrote fix fic to rectify Mufasa’s death. I had an OC, Kelsey the Good (read: was exclusively a scavenger and did not present a threat to living lion cubs) Hyena, who saved Simba from drowning in a river. Yeah, Kelsey was a self-insert to the degree that I thought of myself as Kelsey. I used to picture myself as a bipedal hyena walking into my kindergarten class. As recently as…well…now, while I don’t write self-inserts anymore, I still write fanfiction about characters that I over-identify with.

The kids these days call this kind of thing “cringe.”

SuperWhoLocks (fans of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock) have been a fairly recent target of being called “cringe.” People who are enthusiastically fannish about their favorite TV show are often called “cringe,” especially if their favorite show is nerdy—have you ever heard someone say it’s “cringe” that grown zedcishet Statesian men are obsessed with football?—and especially if they’re high school age or older.

Stop me if you get where I’m going with this.

Actually, don’t, because this is a blog entry and you literally are unable to stop me from writing unless you have a TARDIS to go back in time and slap my hands away from my keyboard. A high schooler being obsessively interested in something the mainstream considers silly and unpopular…what does that sound like?

By chance, does that sound like an Autistic person with a special interest that’s considered “developmentally inappropriate”? Or an ADHDer with a hyperfixation? Or a person with depression engaging in escapism?

Now do you get where I’m going with this?

Despite or perhaps because of the fact that “cringey” interests tend to be those of ND people–and sometimes the neurotypicalism is more overt (i.e., calling hand spinners “cringe”)–douchezeppelins seem to think that shaming people with these interests is going to somehow help them. Apparently, said douchezeppelins think that shaming people will make them realize that they’re being “socially inappropriate” and that they need to “grow up” or whatever complete bullshit excuse they have for bullying. The bullying involved in cringe culture is not only condoned, it is celebrated. If I may quote a popular Tumblr post about cringe culture, “[fans] are degenerates that deserve to be shamed and we absolutley (sic) need cringe culture.”

Look, behavior shaming is just bullying, and if you are bullying someone for liking a thing, you’re being an absolute shitheel. I shouldn’t have to say that cringe culture is neurotypicalist to get people to stop bullying, but I’ve seen Autistic disability justice advocates say that cringe culture is crowdsourced ABA, and I agree with that to some degree, so let me go into that more.

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.”

So the tl;dr of ABA is that it’s an abusive practice that is aimed at forcing Autistic people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. While it isn’t only Autistic people who are targeted by cringe culture and its neurotypicalist bullying, I agree that cringe culture is an abusive practice aimed at forcing neurodivergent people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. I don’t think cringe culture shares the impressive rate of producing PTSD in ND people the way ABA does in Autistic people (yes, really https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf), but bullying is certainly traumatic. Cringe culture is socially sanctioned abuse that primarily targets neurodivergent people, and if you see someone on the Internet who still plays Undertale or who writes self-insert Pokemon fanfiction or who draws Bowsette fanart or what the fuck ever, please, let them enjoy things.

Thanks so much to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! To become as cool as them, or to see my blog entries 2 days early and get a thank-you in every blog entry, you can support me for $1 a month on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani

Ableism in the Workplace

Content/trigger warning: discussion of ableism, ableist slurs (censored), cursing

Hello, dear readers! As I probably forgot to tell all of you, I’m working full time now as a medical editor. And if you have to sell your body, soul, and labor to a bastion of late-stage capitalism to survive–which you pretty much do have to do if you live in the United States–I’ve found a pretty good place to do that. My workplace has a group called DiversiTeam, founded and led by two women of color, aimed at increasing diversity, inclusion, and justice in our workplace. And one of the things I offered to do with DiversiTeam (along with checking our agency style guide for cissexist, heterosexist, and intersexist language) was a presentation on ableism in the workplace.

I work 50-hour weeks, so I’m not keen on doing too much other work outside of that, and since I’m already making this presentation, I thought I would do a blog entry on the same topic: ableism in the workplace. (Note: since this entry came originally from a presentation I’m writing for my workplace, which is an ad agency, this entry is going to be mostly geared toward offices. I could write an entirely different entry on ableism in laboratory environments and, knowing me, probably will at some point.)

I’m going to start with ableist barriers to entering a workplace. I know, not the same thing as ableism in the workplace, but it’s related. There are a couple of common barriers to workplace entry that I see, so I’m just going to list them:

  • Ability to lift 40 lbs
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Ability to stand for long periods of time
  • Driver’s license
  • Inaccessible applications (such as ones that require you to type out your entire fucking resume even though they also are asking for your resume, what in the chicken-fried fuck whyyyyyyyy)

Note: I’m talking about jobs that have nothing to do with lifting, standing, etc, requiring these things. Obviously, if you’re going to do a job that involves driving, it makes sense to require a driver’s license.

Other ableist policies I see that exclude Disabled people from a workplace are:

  • Poor sick day policies
  • Disallowing working from home
  • Timing bathroom breaks or disallowing long bathroom breaks

I actually worked at a place that timed how long you took in the bathroom. Yes, really. And how long it took you to get up and get coffee or a snack. It was fucking ridiculous.

Other ways to make a workplace inaccessible include:

  • Not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, desks, or a cool-down room
  • Allowing people to wear scents or use scent diffusers
  • Clapping during meetings
  • Having only non-plastic straws available
  • Not having hypoallergenic food options at work parties

I’m going to explain a few of these. The not having accessible bathrooms, elevators, or desks is pretty obvious, but it may be less obvious why not having a cool-down room is inaccessible. There are many Disabled people with sensory issues or who could go into sensory overload, and workplaces can get very hectic and overstimulating, and it may not always be feasible to go hide in the bathroom when overstimulated. Also, an overstimulated person shouldn’t have to hide in the bathroom. There should be a space where they can go to cool down and get their bearings.

Next topic: scents. Scents can be migraine or allergy triggers. I love olfactory stimming, but I also support workplaces not allowing perfume, scented beauty products, or essential oil diffusers for accessibility reasons.

Straws. We’ve been here before.

Food. Lots of people have food allergies or illnesses that prevent them from eating certain ingredients. If you’re organizing a work function where there will be food, make sure you ask everyone’s food restrictions. And no, I’m not just talking about people on shitty fad diets. Celiac disease exists.

The rest of my presentation on casual ableism in the workplace is about ableist language, and I give an overview of ableist language in general and offer alternatives. You know, like I did here: https://thisisforyoucarrie.blog/2018/01/07/less-well-known-ableist-language/. Well, more like Autistic Hoya did here: https://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html.I will also say that one thing I’ve noticed about ableist language in the workplace is that saneist language is frequently used to describe how busy people are. “It’s a m*dhouse,” “I’m cr*zy busy,” etc. My coworkers also frequently use saneist terms and expressions to discuss their reactions to work, i.e., “that job gave me PTSD,” “I need a Xanax after this week,” “this client is driving me ins*ne,” etc.

I think that’s all I have for now. Many thanks to my wonderful Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Kael, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean. Reminder that if you support me on Patreon, you get to see my blog entries early!

Mental Health and Social Justice Call-Outs

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of saneism and neurotypicalism, homomisia mention, suicidality mention, self-harm mention

I’ve had a really hard few days. Carrie’s yahrzeit and the anniversary of her death by the Western calendar, for one, and also December 26th is a traumaversary for me. Apparently Christmas is also terrible for my PTSD as well, as I spent half the day being violently sick for psychosomatic reasons. So if this blog entry is a little subpar, it’s because I’m operating at like a 35%.

I recently saw a semi-prominent YouTuber claim that a particular group of people had no consideration for mental health or respect for people with mental illness because they…drum roll please…were upset at him for using homomisic slurs. On the surface, this is bullshit. If you look deeper, it is still bullshit. However, it is still worth talking about mental health and call-outs, because call-outs can be triggering.

But first, I want to say that trying to defend your own bigoted behavior with “I don’t know any better, I’m neurodivergent” is neurotypicalist. Yes, really. Saying that neurodivergence makes a person incapable of understanding morality and justice is a particularly scary type of neurotypicalism and it needs to be stopped, especially if it has been internalized.

The rest of this blog entry is going to be about two things: how to call someone out while minimizing the chance of triggering someone and how to respond if a callout triggers you. Let’s start with minimizing the chance of triggering someone. Here are a few things you can do when calling people out to ensure that you don’t trigger any potential health issues of theirs:

  1. Discuss the person’s actions or words instead of making statements about them as a person. I know, I know, we are all everything-ist because oppression is built into our society and we’re all in the process of unlearning. I know. I’m not being sarcastic, either; I know. But saying “what you said was [blank]ist” instead of “you’re [blank]ist” may keep a person’s douchebag brain from latching onto “they said I’m [blank]ist, that means I don’t deserve to exist/I should self-harm/etc.” And of course, stay away from ad hominem attacks, which are bad social justice praxis in general.
  2. Don’t dogpile. Dogpiling can feel like a personal attack or be overwhelming to abuse survivors. If one or two people have the call-out handled, let them handle it. Only get involved if the person being called out is responding by being a belligerent asshole.
  3. If the call-out is happening online, don’t continually post lots of messages without giving the person being called out a chance to respond. A flood of messages, even from only one person, might be too much to process for the person being called out or might feel like an attack.
  4. This one is really specific, but I’ve seen it. Don’t mock the shitty thing the other person said using the Spongebob meme mixed-case text. That meme is disfiguremisic and ableist against ID/DD/LD people.
  5. If you did trigger someone with your call-out, don’t mock them for the symptoms they’re showing, including accusing them of “crytyping”. You should have seen how shot my fine motor control was after someone complaining about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk accused me of not agreeing with basic human decency because I suggested that more bike lanes might help. My PTSD was having a fit and a half.
  6. This is more of an accessibility thing, but still relevant. Don’t use sarcasm, especially in a text-only medium. If the person you’re calling out can understand sarcasm, it might feel like an attack. If the person you’re calling out can’t understand sarcasm due to neurodivergence…well, shit.

However, sometimes call-outs are triggering no matter what. I dissociate when I get an email from my boss, no matter the contents of the email. It’s annoying, but it’s not my boss’ fault. So if you’re triggered by a social justice call-out, here’s what to do.

  1. TAKE A BREAK. Disengage. Walk away. Count to ten. If you’re triggered, your ability to respond constructively is probably limited. Go engage in self-care, or do whatever you need to do to calm down.
  2. Only go back to the call-out when you’re ready. Evaluate whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, in which case you can–respectfully–tell the person who called you out how to change their praxis in the future. Also, if you can’t go back to the call-out for the sake of your health, don’t.
  3. Whether or not the call-out used any of the tactics in the previous list, evaluate whether or not you did the thing you were called out for. Maybe you did. Maybe you fucked up. We all fuck up. Nobody is a perfect bastion of social justice.
  4. If you did indeed fuck up, acknowledge your fuck-up. (But if you’re tempted to self-flagellate and be like “oh I’m terrible, I am just the worst person, I feel so awful I’m going to go cut myself,” you’re either being deliberately emotionally manipulative or you’re still feeling symptoms. Walk away until you can respond constructively.) Make a real apology, which consists of acknowledgement of wrongdoing and an indication of doing better in the future.
  5. Try to take the call-out to heart. This can be hard because if a call-out was triggering, even measured, respectful discussion of whatever -ism you were called out about can become a trigger or be retraumatic, and you just don’t want to think about it. (This has actually happened to me a few times.) Do whatever you have to process what happened so you don’t end up with a new trigger. If you have a therapist, you may want to talk about it with them.

I think that’s all I have for now. Happy (Western calendar) New Year!

BAD ME I have not been listing my Patreon supporters at the end of blog entries. Many thanks to Ace, Emily, Hannah, Karina, and Sean! To be as cool as these people, visit Patreon.com/arzinzani to pledge. Even a dollar a month is massively helpful!

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”.