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.”

“Scary” Mental Illnesses

Trigger warning: sexual abuse mention, emotional abuse mention, reclaimed slur

On several occasions, especially when trying to hammer home the point that no mental illness makes a person evil, I have referred to “scary” mental illnesses. I feel like I should spell out what I mean by that. On one level, a “scary” mental illness is any mental illness besides anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder. On another level, a “scary” mental illness is a mental illness that includes at least one of the following:

  • Unreality or psychosis
  • Mania, hypomania, or mixed affective states
  • Low or no empathy (cognitive or affective*)
  • Dissociation
  • Unstable sense of self
  • Impulse control problems
  • Rigid and “extreme” thought patterns
  • A pattern of deviation from cultural/social norms
  • Self-talk
  • “Abnormal” (too close or too distant) attachment to others
  • Unusual body movements
  • (Supposed) tendency toward violence
  • Hypersexuality

I’m not entirely okay with further discussing mental illness and tendency toward violence, because I truly believe that saneism is so pervasive that it may affect even scientific studies on violent behavior in mentally ill people. (This is coming from someone with a master’s in biomedical sciences who just got her name on her first abstract.) So I won’t be talking about number twelve, partly because I already addressed it as much as I’m comfortable with in my entry on mass shootings and neurotypicalism. But as far as the others, I think you can see where I’m coming from, although I may have forgotten a few “scary” traits/symptoms. I would also like to point out that this list doesn’t only apply to mental illnesses; autism is often considered a “scary” disability due to our rigid thought patterns, deviation from social norms, low empathy (although many of us, myself included, have hyperempathy for affective empathy—which is what neurotypicals usually mean when they say “empathy”—some of us do have low affective empathy and that’s okay), stims, tendency to self-talk, and (completely bullshit) supposed tendency toward violence. If that list wasn’t helpful, here’s another list, this one of “scary” mental illnesses:

  • Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders
  • Any personality disorder, especially cluster B (narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, antisocial)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dissociative disorders, especially DID (this is where I flip off M. Night Shyamalan)
  • PTSD

Yeah, I put PTSD on there. As a CPTSD sufferer, I have noticed that many neurotypicals don’t seem to understand PTSD triggers and think we may just flip out at any second. And CPTSD shares many “scary” characteristics with borderline, especially the unstable sense of self and odd attachment patterns. I would know; I’m also borderline. Sometimes I have trouble identifying whether the shit my brain is pulling at any particular time is a borderline thing or a CPTSD thing.

You might be asking, “Mara, what’s the point of this?” The point–aside from the idea that mentally ill people are not inherently cruel or abusive, which I’ve mentioned before–is that “scary” ND conditions are treated differently from non-“scary” ND conditions. (I say “ND conditions” here because I am also referring to neurodevelopmental disabilities that aren’t mental illnesses. Remember what I said about autism?) This does not mean that people with “scary” disorders have it worse than ND people without “scary” disorders. But what it does mean is that many so-called allies are willing to support only mentally ill people who don’t have “scary” disorders. I have seen NTs reassuring their friends with depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder that they aren’t like those other mentally ill people. I especially see this when the NTs have just said something crappy about mental illness and the person with depression or anxiety says “you realize I’m mentally ill, right?”. I’ve also seen neurotypicals on Twitter or Tumblr rhapsodize about how mental health is just as important as physical health and then turn around and post in #diagnoseTrump. I see this shit often, okay? And it’s frustrating. Neurotypical allies have to know that they should support all of us neurodivergent people, not just those of us who wouldn’t be villains in terrible horror movies. (I’m still mad about Split. I will probably always be mad about Split.) Either you’re with all of us or you’re with none of us.

It isn’t just terrible horror movies. I watch a lot of Law and Order: SVU. I can identify the season by Olivia Benson’s hairstyle. And it seems like every damn female perpetrator of abuse or violence is borderline. Dr. Huang, SVU’s resident psychiatrist for much of the show’s runtime, even said in one episode (I think it was season nine, episode three, “Impulsive”) that many female teachers who get caught sexually abusing their students are borderline. In the season eighteen episode “Motherly Love”, a woman who was raping two fifteen-year-old boys was described in horrified tones as “having no true sense of self” and “no empathy”. These traits were said to be a result of her borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. (I have no sense of self and garbage cognitive empathy. It doesn’t make me a sexual abuser. Also, the SVU writers seem to hate NPD as much as they hate BPD, and even as a person who doesn’t have NPD, that’s a towering pile of Not Okay.) The woman’s abuse of minors was then said to be a result of her mental illnesses, which led her to have a need to control, manipulate, and hurt vulnerable people. The season five episode “Home” used to be one of my all-time favorites before I accepted my borderline diagnosis; Dr. Huang blames a woman’s emotional abuse of her sons on her BPD.

Unfortunately, much to my chagrin, it isn’t just neurotypical screenwriters who pull this crap. People with non-“scary” ND conditions often exhibit lateral neurotypicalism toward “scary” ND conditions. I once watched in horror as a Facebook acquaintance who is Autistic and has anxiety ranted against “p*****pathic liars” and exhorted her friends to “run from anyone with that personality”. I had to unfollow a friend on Twitter who has suffered from major depression but won’t stop retweeting articles about Trump having NPD or being [saneist word of choice]. And don’t get me started on who I’ve seen posting “autistic screeching” memes. It’s not like I don’t understand the impulse to distance oneself from what society deems dangerous. I’m sure many ND people with non-“scary” illnesses or disabilities take comfort in the fact that they’re not like those other ND people. But this is still a form of bigotry. It is important to confront such biases. Being neurodivergent in one way does not preclude one from being neurotypicalist toward certain other neurodivergent people. I mean, look at me; I used to believe I suffered from “n*rc*ss*st*c abuse syndrome” before I realized that that “syndrome” was really a way to conflate NPD with being an abuser. Fortunately, I was open enough to the idea of supporting all of my ND siblings that I was able to realize I was being laterally neurotypicalist.

So, long story short: If you’re neurotypical, ally yourself with all ND people, not just the seemingly non-threatening of us. And if you’re neurodivergent, you should know better than to not support all your fellow ND folks. No matter who you are, check your assumptions and preconceived notions about people with “scary” neurodivergent conditions, because they’re probably wrong and discriminatory. And for the love of chocolate, stop saying “p*****path” and “s****path”. Cluster B gets enough shit.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “I’ve always been quite sane about being insane.” (See, that’s how you use a neurotypicalist slur. Way to reclaim, Carrie.)

 

 

*Affective empathy is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. Cognitive empathy is the ability to think what someone else is thinking.

Thoughts on Carrie Fisher’s Cause of Death Being Released

Content/trigger warning: death, addition

“My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases. She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom; she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress.” –Billie Lourd

So the coroner’s report is in. Kind of. (Manner of death is still undetermined.) But essentially, Carrie Fisher died of her mental illnesses.

I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to think about how I’m on an atypical antipsychotic that’s known to cause heart problems, but damn does it help with unreality and mood swings. I don’t want to think about how, considering I have found the idea of suicide comforting since I was 10, there’s still a high chance that I will die of my illnesses too. I don’t want to think about how I have hyperempathy and a master’s in biomedical sciences, so it feels like I know exactly what Carrie was experiencing when she died.

But as long as I am thinking about it–can’t exactly help it; fucking hyperempathy–I’m not wild about how Billie went on to talk about “a cure” for mental illness. I could see that for addiction and bipolar, sure, but some mental illnesses aren’t curable. I will always be borderline. I will never know the person I might have been had I not experienced trauma. But I do think Billie is right that Carrie would want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.

Well, right now I’m on the struggle bus. Part of me wishes I were dead so I could be with Carrie. (Look, mental illness causes irrational thoughts. Get over it. My brain will latch on to anything that makes me want to die.) I also know that my idolizing of Carrie probably is because I’m borderline, and I genuinely have zero idea how I feel about that. When Carrie first died, I couldn’t help but feel that it was unbelievably unfair that so many disgustingly saneist people were still out there and Carrie, who was so famously open about dismantling saneism, was gone. That’s hitting me again.

I’m also dealing with some residual suicidal ideation because my CPTSD got triggered to hell and back last weekend when someone I was trying to protect myself from told me my attempts to protect myself made her suicidal. I also got gaslit about my sexual orientation and some important personal choices I’ve made. I had hella suicidal ideation on Sunday and Monday, and I’ve been sort of fragile since. I also am going through a career change; I’m going from [redacted because I have a cyberstalker, but it has to do with improving the human condition] to [redacted because I have a cyberstalker, but it isn’t so impactful]. When I was younger, I decided to devote myself to [redacted] because I used to believe that my existence was a cosmic mistake and that I had to contribute to humanity in a major way in order to make up for the fact that I’m alive. So I’m having Feelings about that.

So for the most part, I agree with Billie. Be open about your struggles. Find coping mechanisms that work for you. Donate to mental illness advocacy organizations. Take care of yourself.

Especially if you think you might relapse.

Yes, I heard about the drugs found in Carrie’s system after her death. I think she would be okay with me saying that that means it’s important to know that with many illnesses, relapse is always possible. Recovery is a lifelong process. There will never not be a possibility of relapse. In this case, it looks like Carrie may have paid the ultimate price for her relapse (even though it looks like she was sober when she died). It’s not fair. And it hurts. But it happens. And I think she’d be okay with me saying to my fellow MI people that there is no shame in relapsing, but if you think you might, seek help. I may be reaching, but I would think she would want other to learn from her death, and to know that while relapses do happen, it is always best to try to prevent them with every resource available to you.

I miss you so much, Carrie. It hurts so badly that you died of the illnesses you fought so hard against. I’m trying to keep my head up. For you, Carrie. I miss you. And I swear I will smack the living shit out of anyone who shames you for relapsing.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “The only lesson for me, or anybody, is that you have to get help. It’s not a neat illness. It doesn’t go away.” (To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean therapy and meds; it means whatever works for you. But yeah, it doesn’t go away.)

I’m going to tell you a story

Content/trigger warning: brief mention of suicide attempt

So I’m the lead singer for a metal band.

Yeah. It’s pretty cool. (Well, it was until they posted on Craigslist about looking for a new singer behind my back. I left.)

I recently wrote a song about anxiety. I called it “Stay Afraid, But Do It Anyway” after Carrie Fisher’s quote about following one’s dreams while mentally ill. The lead guitarist, who is really the creative force behind the group (although I hope to have more input on the lyrics soon), asked me what the title of the song was after I sang it for the first time. I told him, and I said it was a Carrie quote.

And the drummer–let’s call him Jimmy–said he didn’t like Carrie Fisher.

Fucking excuse me, dude!?

He proceeded to insult her for sleeping with Harrison Ford (yeah, if you were a 19-year-old undiagnosed, mentally ill, insecure young woman who had been drinking when a movie star fifteen years older than you came onto you, I bet you would have said no, right, dude? And don’t we all do ill-advised shit at 19? Especially MI people? I mean, I tried to drink bleach), not aging well (you better pray you still look as good as she did at 60, not that it fucking matters), and, to top it off, he said some bullshit about her being “bitter and angry” and “hating Star Wars“. Um…what? She had every right to be bitter about the shit that her brain and Hollywood put her through, and the thing was, she wasn’t. She had an amazing sense of humor about it. She didn’t only have an adaptive attitude, she made the rest of us laugh with her. And she didn’t hate Star Wars; her home was decorated with tons of Princess Leia paraphernalia. Harrison Ford hates Star Wars.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the saneism. He said his reaction to Carrie’s books was “stop bitching”. M O T H E R F U C K E R have you ever been bipolar?? No? Then you stop bitching about someone whose experiences you can’t begin to understand. I have four and a half mental illnesses, and I still don’t know what it’s like to be bipolar (although I do understand what it’s like to have your brain betray you, and to resort to wry humor and glitter to deal with it). And as for her relationship with her parents (touched on in Postcards From the Edge), she had every right to bitch about her dad, and she ended up having a good relationship with her mom. (Let me guess, Jimmy, you haven’t seen Bright Lights.) And trust me, having a good relationship with your parents when you’re mentally ill? PFFFF. Yeah, right.

I. Went. Off.

Politely.

The lead guitarist backed me up, fortunately, but Jimmy was still being a dick, so I said “if we’re done pissing on one of my favorite human beings ever, can we rehearse?”

So we started up the song I wrote inspired by Carrie. I mentally said to myself “fuck you, Jimmy; this is for you, Carrie” as the first notes played. I proceeded to sing the ever-loving crap out of the song. I actually wrote a pretty difficult piece (apparently I hate myself…well, actually, we know I hate myself…depression and all that), but I did it perfectly.

When we were done playing, the lead guitarist said I sounded the most confident on that song, as opposed to the three others we had rehearsed that night. I mentally laughed and verbally said some only half-untrue crap about how that song was the easiest for me because I wrote the lyrics and melody, which I hadn’t done for the other three songs. But I wasn’t singing with confidence.

I was singing with “fuck you, Jimmy”.

Carrie used to say “resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. I know, Carrie, but the difference between poison and medicine can be the dose. From now on, if I’m having trouble getting into a song for the band, I’m not going to sing with confidence; I’m going to sing with “fuck you, Jimmy”.

For you, Carrie.

And fuck you, Jimmy.

You Are Not a Little Neurodivergent

Content/trigger warning: discussion of saneism

Let’s talk about what it doesn’t mean to normalize mental illness. Or rather, let’s talk about one thing I see from neurotypicals that seems aimed at normalizing mental illness, or at least familiarizing themselves with mental illness, but is actually misguided and neurotypicalist.

This is going to be a short entry because I can only keep up unbridled rage and disgust for so long.

I am so fucking fucking sick of neurotypicals* saying they are “a little [psychiatric or neurological disability]” in reference to one trait or mindset.

You might be saying: Sheesh, Mara. Isn’t that an overreaction? No. Not to me. Because it is a sign of an underlying issue: neurotypicalism due to the lack of understanding of psychiatric and neurological disabilities. Yes, mental illnesses are constellations of traits, and some people without the illnesses can have those traits. The same is true for neurodevelopmental disabilities like ADHD and autism. However, a mental illness is an ILLNESS, not a name for one trait or mood. A neurodevelopmental disability is a DISABILITY, not a descriptor for being awkward or flighty. No one says “I’m feeling a little pneumonia-ish”; they either have pneumonia or they don’t. So why do neurodivergent conditions get the “I’m a little [blank]” treatment?

Because, again, neurotypicals don’t understand. Specifically, they don’t understand the difference between variations in experiences among those with neurodivergent conditions and the fact that ND and NT people can share traits. Worse, NTs think of these traits in themselves—perfectionism (“I’m a little OCD”), flightiness (“I’m a little ADHD”), social awkwardness (“I’m a little Autistic”)—and they often think of how they can deal with those traits or how they can be trained out of those traits to the degree that they don’t cause serious difficulty. This is not the case for neurodivergent people. Oh, neurodivergent people can learn coping mechanisms. We can recover from some disorders and lessen our symptoms of other disorders. But we wouldn’t be ill or disabled if we didn’t have serious negative impacts on our lives either from our brains malfunctioning or society not being set up to accommodate us. (I specifically mention the latter because I don’t suffer from autism, I suffer from allistics and allistic society.)

Oh, and there are also the people who think being mentally ill is cute and quirky, which is why they refer to themselves as using saneist slurs or as having certain mental illnesses. This is so beyond the realm of making sense to me that I have nothing more to say about besides the fact that these people clearly also don’t understand mental illness. There are probably also people who think having certain neurodevelopmental disabilities is cute or quirky too—I’ve seen “lol I’m so ADD” way too many times—and that similarly befuddles me. Just. Just stop, people. (I think this is fetishization, which is not entirely the same as believing oneself to be “a little [ND condition]”, but it’s similar enough that I wanted to bring it up. I will probably tackle fetishization of mental illness in depth some other time, if I can summon any thoughts on the topic beyond incoherent keyboard-smashing.)

So why it so insulting for a neurotypical to say things like “I’m a little schizophrenic” or, worse, “I’m a little cr*zy”? Because like I mentioned, being neurodivergent comes with suffering. This suffering may come exclusively or almost exclusively from being marginalized by society—as a proud Autistic person, I could never say that being neurodivergent in and of itself causes suffering—or it may come from our brains doing horrible things that have a profound negative effect on our lives. Saying you’re “a little” neurodivergent is saying that you have experience with being neurodivergent, thereby appropriating how we live with society’s boot on our necks and are thrown under the proverbial bus even by progressives. It is not only appropriating our suffering from neurotypicalism, but our difficulties existing with our disabilities. If you’re “a little PTSD” after seeing a terrible film, will you have flashbacks that reduce you to a shaking, weeping wreck when you’re reminded of the film? If you’re “a little Autistic” because you’re not particularly socially adept, will you be unable to accomplish anything for the rest of the day after a difficult social interaction? (Not that all PTSD sufferers have murderous flashbacks or all Autistic people have no spoons after a difficult social situation, but I’m trying to make a point here: ND people have experiences that NTs do not.)

So when an allistic who is a little shy says they’re “a little Autistic” or a neurotypical who had an unpleasant experience says they’re “a little PTSD”, how my reaction be anything but “How dare you”?

The Carrie Fisher quote of the day has to do with how damn hard it can be to function while neurodivergent. This quote is specifically about bipolar disorder, but I think she would be okay with some of us other ND people taking inspiration from it too: “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.”

 

*I am not referring to ND people with internalized neurotypicalism who say they’re “a little [condition]” as part of their path to accepting who they are. I’m referring to neurotypicals who think it’s completely acceptable to describe themselves as “a little [condition]”.

No, Neurodivergent People Are Not More Likely to Shoot Up Schools

Content/trigger warning: discussion of mass murder, slurs (censored), violent neurotypicalism

Every time a (white) person commits mass murder, a collective thought bubble appears over the neurodivergent community, or at least over the heads of those of us with “scary” ND conditions. The thought bubble reads: “oh, shit”. (No, I’m not saying we don’t care about the victims. We do. We just also think “oh, shit”.) We plan to lay low, stay inside, and/or try to pass for neurotypical as much as possible for the next few weeks. Because we know that, despite the fact that Murderous Bastard Syndrome is not in the DSM, brains like ours will be blamed for the tragic, violent act that took place.

We dread news reports that use neurotypicalist insults and slurs—“l*natic” seemed to be a favorite for the UCSB shooter—to refer to the murderer. We hear our friends and family members repeat those words when discussing the tragedy and feel that we can no longer trust those people. We glance around us in public, thinking about strangers “Does he know? Does she? Do they? Am I safe from these people?” because someone might figure out we’re neurodivergent and we will be labeled as dangerous. But we’re not dangerous. Our brains do not predispose us to cruelty toward others.

“But Mara, what about ASPD?” you might be asking. Well, sorry, but I’m not going to throw ASPD under the bus. (Actually, no, I’m not sorry. People with ASPD are my ND siblings. Oh, and “s****path” and “p*****path” are slurs, by the way.) If a person who happens to have ASPD commits murder, they didn’t do it because they were neurodivergent, they did it because they were an evil person. A diagnosis of ASPD does not mark a person as evil. No diagnosis marks a person as evil.

In fact, most mass shooters are neurotypical, and neurodivergent people are far more likely to be the victims of neurotypicalist hate crimes than we are likely to be violent criminals. (Not-so-fun fact: the rate of sexual violence against developmentally disabled women is over 80%. Is it any wonder I’m an angry disabled bitch? No, I’m not exaggerating. http://www.uwosh.edu/ccdet/caregiver/Documents/Pinkston/Handouts/pamelastatcssex.pdf) I know that the prevalent neurotypicalist idea that someone has to be [slur of choice] in order to commit a violent crime dictates the opposite, so here are some more links.

https://news.ncsu.edu/2014/02/wms-desmarais-violence2014/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1525086/pdf/wpa020121.pdf

https://autistichoya.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/crime-victimization-in-adults-with-severe-mental-illness-lina-a-teplin-et-al.pdf

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/05/1375335/-American-tragedy-A-staggering-percentage-of-police-shooting-victims-struggled-with-mental-illness

Those links are about mental illness, but you may notice I have been saying “neurodivergent” and not “mentally ill” in this entry. You might be wondering why. Well, because autism is not a mental illness, and Autistic people are also subject to the neurotypicalist belief that we are more violent than allistics. After the Sandy Hook shooting, suddenly everyone and their dog wanted to know how many murders were committed by Autistic people. To my abject horror, one of my favorite TV shows, Law and Order: SVU, even ran an episode based on the UCSB shooter featuring a killer with a (terrible, unrealistic, no seriously what was the director thinking) neurodivergent affect and whose father said he was Autistic. But like mentally ill people, Autistic people are actually less likely than neurotypicals to be violent; in fact, we are more likely to be targeted for violence than the rest of the population. Here:

http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/16/1/37.short

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/325971/crime-victims-with-dd.pdf

This was a hard entry to write. But I can’t very well have a blog about destigmatizing mental illness (and other ND conditions, considering how incredibly Autistic I am) and neglect that we’re blamed for horrific violent crimes. Why am I bringing this up now? Barron Trump.

Twitter and other social media networks are littered with jokes about how Barron Trump is Autistic and going to be the next school shooter. First of all, he’s fucking TEN. Let up on the kid. He didn’t ask to be born into that family. Second of all, there’s nothing wrong with being Autistic and implying such is incredibly ableist. Third of all, Autistic people are less likely to commit violent crimes than allistic people. I think the neurotypicalist cockcheeses making these jokes are also thinking of Barron’s boredom during political proceedings as flat or blunted affect, which is associated not just with autism but several “scary” mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, ASPD, and bipolar disorder. So I’m not concerned only about anti-Autistic neurotypicalism when it comes to this issue.

I’m tired. I’m so damn tired. I’m so sick of my brain being blamed for horrific violent crimes. It needs to stop.

I would like to acknowledge Autistic Hoya for providing many of the links used in this entry.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “Shame is not something I aspire to”.

Leftist Ableism Bingo

leftist-ableism-bingo

What can I say? I hate it when supposedly “woke” people throw disabled people under the bus.

Image description: a five-by-five bingo board containing descriptions of ableist actions frequently taken by so-called liberals and/or progressives. The text is as follows.

First column:

  1. Telling disabled people that ableism is less important than [-ism of choice]
  2. Calling Trump or his policies “ins*ne”
  3. Lack of trigger warnings on political writings
  4. “Keyboard warrior/slacktivist”
  5. Insulting Barron Trump by calling him “autistic”

Second column:

  1. Vidist or audist descriptions of conservatives
  2. “I can’t be ableist! I’m woke!”
  3. “How r*****ed do you have to be to vote for Trump?”
  4. Conservatives should have some empathy!”
  5. Laughing at the “mentally, are you okay?” line from the SNL Spicer skit

Third column:

  1. Diagnosing Trump
  2. Organizing inaccessible activism events
  3. Free space
  4. Bashing self-diagnosis despite race, class, etc. barriers to diagnosis
  5. Calling bigots “emotionally h*ndic*pped”

Fourth column:

  1. Not talking about IDEA when criticizing Betsy DeVos
  2. Ignoring sheltered workshops while discussing the wage gap
  3. Calling bigotry a disease or mental illness
  4. “Can Trump be impeached for being a l*natic?”
  5. Insulting the intelligence of conservatives

Fifth column:

  1. “[Trump appointee] is cr*zy”
  2. “Triggered” jokes about Trump or his supporters
  3. Arguing against repeal of ACA while ignoring how many disabled people will die without it
  4. Tokenizing Serge Kovaleski
  5. Making videos about social justice without captions

 

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “I’ve learned to celebrate my life, to embrace it. If I have the problems, the problems don’t have me. They’re not something I’m ashamed of.” I’m not very articulate today, so I can’t really tell why, but this quote speaks to me.

Normalizing ND Symptoms & Traits

Content/trigger warning: mentions of abuse and police brutality, reclaimed slur

Today I want to talk about normalizing neurodivergent symptoms and traits.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have experienced a metric crapload of invalidation of my mental illness. (I don’t believe I gave an amount, but the correct technical term is “metric crapload”.) Thinking about invalidation made me wonder what could possibly motivate an asshole NT to tell someone they weren’t actually mentally ill. Could it be because they had never seen me being visibly mentally ill? A week or so later, I found myself ruminating on how I was born with a near-inability to lie. (It is a stereotype that Autistic people cannot lie. Also, I am an eight-foot tall ferret with purple stripes and opposable thumbs.) But at this point in my life, I can lie as easily as I can breathe. Many abuse survivors can do this—lying to our abusers could keep us safe—but even if I hadn’t been abused, I think I would have learned well to lie. Because I find myself telling small lies all the time. I get asked if I have a cold and I say yes, although the reason I am blowing my nose is because I was crying, not because I’m sick. I tell my supervisor I am physically sick and cannot come into work, but the organ that is misbehaving isn’t my stomach but my brain. Someone asks if I’m stressed or nervous, and I laugh and say “no” even though my spine feels as though it has turned to ice water because something has just tripped my PTSD and I’m a hair’s breadth from dissociating.

You might be asking, “Mara, why do you do that? You’re such a loudmouth about mental illness stuff.” Well, first of all, sometimes I have to lie to my abuser. (Yes, I’m still in contact with that person; it’s a long story about a lot of things I can’t change.) But also, I’m not as brave as I would like to be. I stay afraid, but can’t always do it anyway when I’m having a symptom and someone wants to know what’s happening. And sometimes I’m not even afraid; it’s just a reflex from the days before I was diagnosed but knew something was wrong with me, but I felt like it would be wrong to talk about what was really happening. Maybe, even at that young age, I was already afraid of invalidation. Maybe I knew enough to be afraid of saneism. But it became a habit that is hard to break. I catch myself lying about symptoms and then mentally kick myself.

I once had a combination flashback and meltdown—that’s my best description of it; I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it really sucked—on public transportation. Specifically, I was on a bus. I was already dissociated after finding out I had gotten on the bus going in the wrong direction, so I don’t remember what the bus driver said to me to set me off, but I ran to the back of the bus, screaming and pounding my fists and my head against the seats. I’m lucky the bus driver didn’t call the police. If she had, I might have been shot. (No, that’s not an exaggeration. The police are not properly trained to handle neurodivergent people.) One of the other passengers was a nurse who was able to identify what was happening to me; she talked to the bus driver, and thank the gods, I was left alone until I calmed down. This scenario could have gone very, very differently had there not been someone who knew what was happening to me, and I was nonverbal and too panicked to tell anyone what was going on or flash one of those (admittedly handy) apps on my phone saying I was having a meltdown.

Formal medical training shouldn’t have been necessary to know what was happening to me. Traits and symptoms of neurodivergence should be common knowledge. Perhaps they could be taught in middle and high school health classes, along with what to do to help (hint: ask if the person in distress needs anything, and if they do not respond, let them be, and for the love of chocolate don’t call the police unless they are actively threatening someone). Stigma against mentally ill and other ND people is a safety issue. (Note: this also means that if you feel safest hiding your symptoms, please hide all you want. Stay safe.) A society that doesn’t know how to handle neurodivergent people is literally dangerous to us. (More on that in another entry.)

I’m sure that having symptoms or talking about them in front of NTs makes those people uncomfortable. To be honest, sometimes I get a thrill watching them squirm because I hope they’re confronting their biases against neurodivergent people. It’s not a day if I haven’t made an NT uncomfortable. You might think that making so many people uncomfortable would be counterproductive and make NT people hate us ND people more. Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the root of stigma is NTs thinking of ND people as Other. If they could see or hear about people they know exhibiting symptoms, maybe they could understand that those symptoms happen in those they already think of as people. It’s easy to Other someone if you don’t know their name, their ambitions, their likes and dislikes, etc.

I try to do what I can to normalize being obviously neurodivergent. I make neurodivergent pride gear. I post pictures of my pill bottles on Instagram and tag them “#medicatedandmighty”. I tell my friends that I don’t have the spoons for a social event instead of faking sick. My Facebook profile picture reads: “I’m not neurotypical and that’s okay”. Unfortunately, sometimes I still balk at discussing symptoms during interpersonal interactions. When I insisted to a friend on the bus ride to work that yes, I am Autistic, and she would find that easier to believe if she had seen me melt down, my heart was beating so hard felt like it was trying to escape from my ribs. When I first told my girlfriend that I had been hospitalized for suicidal ideation, I thought I would start shaking. It’s hard to power through that fear sometimes.

I’m not going to ask every mentally ill person to start showing or talking about their symptoms more openly. That wouldn’t be practical or fair. The onus should never be on the oppressed to make their case to the oppressors, anyway. NTs need to learn to accept that neurodivergent people have neurodivergent traits that affect their lives. Yes, yes, I know that that sounds contradictory to how much I talk about what I, a neurodivergent as hell person, do to try to dismantle saneism and other forms of ableism. But I have to do something, because that’s who I am. I do what I can even though I know I shouldn’t have to. I dream of a world where neurodivergent people can freely discuss their symptoms and/or traits without fear, and in the meantime, I fight like hell.

Carrie Fisher quote of the day: “I’m what the psychology journals refer to as ‘batshit crazy’. It’s a delicate mix of bipolar disorder, which I’m able to control through serious medication, and a completely untreatable case of ‘I just don’t give a shit’.” Yeah, replace “bipolar disorder” with my cocktail of mental illnesses and you’ve got me too, Carrie.

Stop Calling Donald Trump Neurodivergent

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

Stop trying to diagnose Trump. Stop trying to diagnose Trump. Stop trying to diagnose Trump.

It is ableist, full stop. Specifically, it is saneist, unless you’re diagnosing him with a neurodevelopmental disability (or just calling him the r-slur) instead of a mental illness, in which case it is neurotypicalist. In any case, it is an act of bigotry. Donald Trump is currently one of the most famous ableists alive after his public ridicule of Pulizter-winning journalist Serge Kovaleski (except most people tokenize him as simply “that disabled reporter”, seeing him as a prop to use to insult Trump as opposed to an actual human being). So congratulations, you have put yourself on Trump’s level. Are you happy now?

Oh, and don’t just stop with the diagnoses; stop the ableist language, too. I’ve listened to Rachel Maddow call Trump “cr*zy”. I have heard interviewees on  criticizing Trump’s policies and beliefs call him a “l*natic”. I have seen articles written by mental health professionals pontificating on what symptoms Trump displays. And I am so fucking fucking tired of mental illness being shat on by so-called liberals and progressives in the name of social justice. Armchair diagnoses of Trump—yes, even those made by psych professionals—are rooted in the idea that such a morally reprehensible person must be mentally ill, thereby conflating evil and bigotry with mental illness. I don’t care if he is mentally ill. He may be; I’m not his shrink (although frankly, I don’t think he is; I think he’s just what you get when you have that level of privilege). Conflating evil and bigotry with mental illness is an act of bigotry that is morally wrong.

Every time I see an armchair diagnosis or hear Trump referred to by a neurotypicalist slur, I think, “this person hates me because of my brain” or “this person thinks I’m less than human”. And they don’t just think this of me, either. Under the bus with me are my best friend, an ADHDer with PTSD from a car accident; my found sibling, who has anxiety; a close friend from college, who has trypanophobia and bipolar 2; and my younger sister, who is recovering from an eating disorder. When anyone besides a mental health professional who is counseling Donald Trump—you know, people who aren’t actually qualified to diagnose him—calls Trump a “l*natic”, “cr*zy”, “ins*ane”, “s****path”, “p****path”, or even just “mentally ill”, they are actively harming the mentally ill community. “But Mara, what if I didn’t use that kind of language, or just referred to his entourage as mentally ill?” Then you’re still guilty. Referring to his campaign as “schizophrenic” or his supporters as “delusional” or “psychotic” are other examples of saneist bullshit.

Carrie Fisher hated Trump. She once Tweeted that if Trump were to become president, it would no longer be the highest office in the land. She, like me, chose to reclaim “cr*zy”. When you call Trump “cr*zy” or slap him with an armchair diagnosis of NPD or ASPD or what have you—and if you refer to his tendency to change his mind about policy as “bipolar”, I will hunt you down and beat you with my copy of Wishful Drinking—you are disrespecting the memory of a mentally ill icon. If you don’t care about some random blogger chick feeling dehumanized, fine. But I’m sure that if Carrie were alive, she’d not appreciate the demonization of mentally ill people in order to critique a repugnant, evil person. And she wouldn’t take that shit. Neither will I.

So what do you do instead? Call him what he is, accurately: a morally bankrupt asshole. A liar. Willfully ignorant of reality. Incredibly far up his own ass. A racist, ableist, homophobic, sexist bastard. See? There are ways to describe Trump’s execrable behavior without resorting to bigotry.

I’m too pissed off to keep going with this. Just stop engaging in bigotry in order to criticize a bigot. No quote today either because fuck everything.

 

 

What the Hell is a Microaggression?

Content/trigger warning: saneist slurs (censored)

It feels like an appropriate day to discuss a particular way in which saneism rears its ugly head. Let’s talk about microaggressions and how to deal with them.

What the hell is a microaggression? Simply put, a microaggression is the casual degradation of any socially maligned group. It’s a fairly new term, coined in 1970 by a psychiatrist and Harvard professor named Chester M. Pierce. “Microaggression” originally meant the crappy things that Pierce witnessed happening to Black Americans at the hands of non-Black Americans. The aforementioned crappy things were comparatively mild; not hate crimes, but obviously motivated by racism (intentional or unintentional). “Microaggression” has since been adopted as a term for small, casual acts that harm any oppressed group. While microaggressions can take several forms, in this post, I will be discussing one particular common microaggression against mentally ill people: saneist language.

I used to have an even stronger reaction to saneist language than I do now, believe it or not. I’m Autistic as hell, so for the longest time, I had no sense of when it was appropriate to tell someone they had committed a microaggression or how extremely to react. (Black-and-white thinking. It makes life interesting.) This became awkward for me quickly, because microaggressions against mentally ill people are everywhere. I have songs in my iTunes with “ps*cho” in their titles. I constantly hear people describe viewpoints to which they do not ascribe as “cr*zy”. I check my Twitter and see people calling a certain immoral orange Cheeto politician a “l*natic”. I used to see this and, well, fly off the handle. I wouldn’t just call people out; I’d get furious. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with anger. I think I have every right to be pissed off at language that reminds me that my brain is used as a slight. And as much as certain factions crow that being angry will never solve anything when attempting to affect social change (even on a small scale), anger can be a powerful motivator. And if some NT isn’t going to listen to me because I’m upset at being reminded that I’m perceived as a subhuman insult, that’s their problem. What was my problem, you ask? It was that I would be too angry and I would let that anger cause me to insult the people I was trying to correct. That is never, ever okay. So key point one of reacting to microaggressions: don’t sink to the other person’s level and use insults. Yes, even if they’re being a saneist ass on purpose. It’s wrong.

Key point two: Like I said, it’s okay to get mad—anger can be a powerful motivator—but it’s not always effective to show as much anger as you feel, especially if you’re as much of a towering crankypants as I am. (Well, towering in the metaphorical sense only; I’m actually shorter than Carrie Fisher was. I used to laugh at how she would sit on chairs oddly because otherwise her feet would dangle, since I also sit funny to avoid foot-dangling. Gods I miss her. What were we talking about?) Recently, I have begun correcting saneist language in a small, tight voice that contains plenty of restrained anger. People tend to be intimidated by the fact that I’m upset, but also relieved I didn’t actually explode. Restrained anger tends to be the way to go in certain social situations, especially if the conversation is already quiet and low-key. And if my Autistic ass can figure that out, it must be really true, right?

Key point three: try to be brave. Even I, someone who is so motivated by rage that bravery doesn’t really come into the equation, know that pointing out when someone has hurt you can be absolutely terrifying. It can be especially terrifying if you feel like you have to reveal that you’re mentally ill in order to bolster your point that saneist language is unacceptable. You may be concerned about how they will react; it could be worse than the original microaggression. (Note: being brave doesn’t mean putting yourself in unsafe situations. If you can’t call someone out because it is dangerous to you, please, stay safe.) It can also be terrifying to ask a person acting saneist to stop if the person is someone you care about. You might fear losing them. You might fear them caring less about you. But consider this: if you ask someone saying unacceptable things to stop and explain your position, they also might listen. And if they don’t, you tried, and you did a good thing. And if the person really cares about you, then they will most likely listen.

Key point four: I mentioned this briefly during key point three. Try to explain why the microaggression is wrong. A good explanation for why saneist language is wrong is “it is used to deny rights and humanity to mentally ill people, so it’s hurtful”. Emphasize that while somebody may not intentionally be denying rights and humanity to mentally ill people, the use of the language is still harmful because words have power and meaning. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. If they keep hitting you with the intent argument, try the foot-stepping counter-argument: if you accidentally step on someone’s foot, you may not have done it intentionally, but you should still get off their foot, apologize, and try to avoid further foot-stepping.

Key point five: think about who it is you’re talking to when asking someone to stop it with the microaggressions. I’m absolutely terrible at this, but I’m trying to get better. Are they someone who will respond well to jargon? Would they prefer layman’s terms? Will they only listen if you get angry, or do they admire an argument delivered calmly and coolly? If you consider questions like these before asking someone to change their language, you may get a better response.

Key point six: some people are lost causes. They don’t want to listen and they never will, at least to you; they have to make a point of standing their ground. This doesn’t mean you should give up trying to spread the word on how saneist microaggressive language has an impact on how mentally ill people are perceived and treated, but it does mean that there might be times when you should conserve spoons and say “Well, I guess I’m not going to convince you” and disengage with someone who’s acting like a willfully ignorant douchenozzle.

Why does this matter? How will all of this help destigmatize mental illness and dismantle saneism? Shouldn’t you have bigger goals than getting people to stop using a few words, Mara? Well, I think correcting microaggressive language is a actually good place to start when it comes to my big goals. But what do I think will solve microaggressions? Well, first people have to know what words not to use. But my long-term hope is that once comparisons to mental illness are no longer used to describe things that are illogical or evil, mentally ill people will be seen as less immoral, less frightening, less Other. My most long-term goal would be that NTs see mentally ill people as people to the degree that it is repugnant to use a comparison to mental illness as an insult.

If you’re still with me after this fairly long entry, you might be wondering what exactly constitutes saneist language. On that front, I think I will defer to Autistic Hoya. They have covered saneist and other ableist language more eloquently than I could. http://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist-words-and-terms-to-avoid.html

Today’s Carrie Fisher quote is one I mentioned in my first entry, but it’s of great help to me when I’m scared to call out saneism even though I want to: “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I’m very, very afraid today. But I will do my best to keep my fear from halting my mental illness advocacy.