02 March 2016

Please remember


In these days when spring struggles to overcome winter, please remember:

To be kind
That we all struggle
That we are all different
Even if our battles seem the same, 
they are different and can be so very, very different
so please, please, please be kind.
To yourself
To others
To all

Please remember, that your battle does not = someone else's battle. Even if you fight something with the same name, it will not, and does not appear the same from person to person.

Just because you fight something called depression or anxiety or anything else, and you meet someone else that does as well, you can't get mad at them or disappointed in them, when what worked for you doesn't work for them. Its great to share stories and offer advice, but the best thing you can do is stand by them. And let them know that you care. Even in the darkest moments when all seems lost, just sit with them.

Please don't tell them that they are cowards if they talking of giving up. Please don't insult them & hope that it shocks them into getting well. Don't try to point out all of the things they have that other people don't. Don't give up on them. Please, PLEASE, just stand by them. Their journey is dark and cold and lonely. And offering a spark in the dark, no matter how small you think it is, can help. 

And if they leave this world, by their own choice or not, remember that they fought a hard battle, even if you don't see the scars. Remember their fight, remember that they did their best to be brave, even in the darkest of nights.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you ever, and I MEAN EVER, tell someone battling depression that they aren't solving it fast enough for you, or still struggling with it after so many months when it should be over, then I hope you are never put into the same spot. And I hope that if you are, the people you belittled with your comments show you mercy that you never gave them.

postscript: Just to reassure people before they ask I'm fine. I'm in a better place mentally than I was a year ago. And I'm writing this about things I've learned in my battle. Things that didn't help. Things that did. Yes all of these happened, mostly from well meaning people. And yes the last one really did happen by someone that wasn't so well meaning, despite calling themselves a Christian, and was in a position of power. I can only hope that one day she is shown more kindness than she ever gave me or many others.

21 January 2016

Autism and the Media

Please be forewarned this is a ranty post.  All because I heard a radio program today. That made me want to go to the radio station and smack the crap out of the hosts. But I can't do that without getting into trouble. So...I write this post instead.

Dear media hosts, please stop talking about autism. Because you're doing way more harm to those of us on the spectrum than helping. Seriously. Unless you're talking to Dr. Temple Grandin, someone with autism, or people with ACTUAL credentials (and I mean advanced degrees that haven't been discredited) just...stop. Don't talk.

Because every time you talk about the increase in the number of people diagnosed and how something in the world changed, whether it be vaccines or food or f'ing space aliens mucking about with our DNA, you make things a thousand times worse for those trying to help people on the spectrum and 10,000 times worse for those on the spectrum. Because all of those things that you say, whether you mean it or not, make it sound like we're less of a person. That we're an accident caused by something that our parents or doctors should have controlled. And that those of us on the spectrum...we shouldn't be alive.

Maybe you don't say that last thing. Maybe you don't support it. But you keep talking to people that do. That treat those of us on the spectrum like we're some type of disease that shouldn't exist. The anti-vaccers basically say it. They would rather have dead children or children with debilitating diseases like polio, than a child on the spectrum. And I get it. They want the "normal" happy child everyone does...but "normal" is bullshit horrible term that doesn't exist.  You treat us like we're a mental illness that can be wiped out. That can be solved. But that isn't us.

Maybe some real facts will help you understand why all of this is a dangerous thing for non-experts (and even for experts) to talk about. Take a look at modern medicine in relation to "mental health" care that many people with autism fell into.

  • We didn't really understand germs and washing hands until well into the 1900's. 
  • Gave mental health patients typhoid fever in the 1920's to rid them of the illness. They won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for that theory.
  • Put people with mental health issues into diabetic comas in the 1930's
  • Didn't understand that x-rays could give radiation poisoning until the 1950's. 
  • Preformed electric shock therapy and lobotomies into the 1960's
  • Well into the 2000's many people on the spectrum were misdiagnosed as ADHD, bipolar, shy, anti-social behavior, etc.
  • and this doesn't include the numerous other theories or institutions that people were shoved into in order to "help them" disappear from "polite society." 
People on the spectrum are not a mental illness. People on the spectrum are people. We've been around since the beginning of time.The reason you see an increase in numbers? That's because people finally stopped trying to shove us out of sight or diagnosing us incorrectly because god forbid we use the label autism, and went "Oh...oh. They are real people."

It's not that we need treatment "to get better." It's that we need understanding. Why does that matter you ask? Because it changes how people treat us. Because more than anything, it changes how we treat ourselves.

I was a misdiagnosed as being ADHD in the 1980's during the boom of, if a kid is weird, different, can't pay attention, seems shy, it must be ADHD. I took medication all the way up until college when I decided to stop. That it wasn't really helping. That often times...it seemed to hurt. It killed my creativity. It stopped my imagination. 

I was told I was shy, that I'd grow out of it. That when I was turned down on dates that I was a nice guy and one day girls would magically mature and fall for the nice guy. They didn't. And I didn't stop being shy.  

Things didn't get better when I got into the "real world." Things that had been over looked when I was younger, the way I worded things, the way I would approach things, suddenly stopped being acceptable and I couldn't understand why. I still had trouble making friends. I alienated people. I put them off because I did things that weren't "normal." And I had trouble to keep going. I had trouble to understand the point of life and where I fit in. Because maybe since I wasn't "normal" I didn't fit in anywhere. And my life wasn't worth living.

It wasn't until a conversation with a friend whose daughter was on the spectrum. When she described her I kept thinking..."that's me. I do that. Maybe I'm on the spectrum." And when I was diagnosed it helped. It didn't magically change the world. But it made me know that I wasn't stupid or abnormal or whatever else popped into my head. That the things I did, the way I behaved, the who I am, was ok. That the things that I needed to change to fit into "polite society" I could at least figure out. But more than anything it helped me know that I wasn't alone. And that my life was worth living.

So please. Stop talking about Autism. Please stop spreading the lies and inaccurate facts about how "we can be cured" or that this is a disease that needs to be stopped. It isn't. We aren't. Please. Let the world know that we're real people too. And that we deserve respect and understanding. We deserve to live as ourselves.

30 December 2015

The Aspie's "I don't understand"

This is going to run of those rambling type posts, because right now...well the subject is still an open wound for me. Raw and hurting over some things from this past year.

But I have to post about it. In part, because, well not talking about it is a horrid thing, but also I want to help people stop and think for a moment about some interactions they've had. Even if it's just for a moment, to think about how it might be from the other person's perspective.

I try to talk openly about what its like for me being on the Asperger's spectrum. In part to better understand myself, but also to help others understand what it's like. A big one for me has been, that I don't always interpret/understand/read social cues or social norms well.  I'll say things that, well....other people would know or just read the situation and know not to say. Me...not so much. I had three great friends in college (Michelle, Michelle, & Vanessa) that were really good about poking me and nudging me and helping me learn the basics of relationships/close friendships...everything that I missed out on from not having a lot of people to hang out with growing up. I don't think they knew just how much they helped, but they did. They also helped a lot, by just accepting me for being me.

Since I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, I try to tell people upfront about these issues and say "Hey, I'm probably going to say something at some point that comes off the wrong way. I really don't mean it that way, so just let me know so I can learn from it and not do it again." And the reactions have been...well mixed. Some people will say "You're putting the onus on other people! You can't do that! It's up to you to know!" To which my response is...How? I mean, there's not a manual for me to read and study called "Living with people" or a movie, or a TV show, or anything like that. And one thing I have learned is, its different for everyone. I can learn the broad guidelines, which I do know, but for individuals? Man...its rough to pick up nuances without someone saying "Hey, I know you can do that with other people, but please don't do it with me." So I do try to ask people "Hey, let me know that this is the line I can't cross with you." I can only learn from experience.

The worst one for me though, is people that say "Oh sure, I love being honest! And I have no problem telling you." But when it comes time...they  don't. They think one thing isn't going to matter, so they let it go. But then a second thing comes along, and a third...and a fourth. And they still say nothing until it explodes out of them! Like a bomb falling. And it ends things. Because while things can be rebuilt after a bomb explodes...its hard. And the foundation is rocky and rough. And I get it, really I do. Its hard for people to say that to someone, because they don't wanna hurt them. But I can tell you from experience that not saying it...its so, so much harder. Because when that end comes, the bomb can be big and the shockwaves can spread.

And that's part of what happened to me this year. A bomb dropped. And it was an atomic size one. Because this person and I shared secrets with each other. They first, and then I second. I said things that I would say to a close friend, because that's what I took us as. They trusted me and I trusted them. I said things that made them uncomfortable. They said things that made me uncomfortable, but I didn't say anything because it wasn't a big deal to me because they were a friend (and still isn't a big deal.) But they didn't tell me when they were uncomfortable by things that I said. And while I could tell something was wrong, when I asked they would say no. Then the bomb dropped. And the shockwaves went far. And are still spreading as best as I can tell.

And I understand its hard. I wish we had both made different choices. I wish they could have been more honest with me before the bomb dropped and after, it might have made the shockwaves smaller. I wish I had gone with my gut and recognized signs that were there and listened to them. But I didn't.

The raw part of the wound though...that's come from after. People for spreading rumors, half truths, and outright lies. For shoving sharp objects into the gaping wounds I have, seemingly for their own enjoyment or cruelty for kicking someone when they're down. For continuing to not be honest about what they needed, wanted, or expected. Mostly though for not listening when I said "I didn't mean it" and "I don't understand."

And those are four hard words to say. I don't understand. Because I don't. I still don't. I understand parts of it, but not all of it. Not what caused the bomb, not what caused the shockwaves to be so huge, and not what caused the outright...hate that's come from it. And I didn't mean it. Whatever it was. I know a lot of people say it when they get caught doing something, but...really...I didn't. A lot of people may say these words when a relationship ends. Its part of normal life, I get it.

But for me? Being on the spectrum? Its 20 times worse. Because I don't know how to not make the same missteps next time. My brain instantly goes to wall up and close off mode. To stop making friends and to stop talking to people altogether. To not say anything. To go into deep depression of struggling just to survive and not ending my life. And that's where I've been.

I'm still here. I'm struggling everyday not to be overcome with emotions and memories. I'm struggling to keep standing. I've had friends, many of whom I only know online, that poke and prod and make sure I'm still there. That say "Hey, I'm worried about you. Please let me know you're ok." They've made having a pity party really fucking hard, because my brain goes "No one likes you" and then they show up saying "Hey, I like you." Best party crashers ever. And I'm learning just how much of myself I can keep putting out there without being destroyed by bombs. Its hard. Because my brain wants to do the all or nothing, there is no in between. But I'm trying.

But please, please, please for the love of the universe. Stop. Listen. Talk. Bombs go off everyday. Keep them small. Let the shockwaves be miniscule. Don't be a rumormonger. And be a good party crasher.

10 September 2015

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I'm still here

Today is world suicide prevention day.  The Bloggess writes about it far better than I ever will, but the post really resonated with me. Not only because the being a part of a group of people whose brains routinely turn against us is a comfort to keep me going and that I'm not alone, but also that I have things left to do in this world.  And one of them is part of my story.

I wrote last December how I wanted to end my own life, because of how bad things had gotten at my job....and earlier this summer I shared a comic that I was writing for an anthology where there was the possibility of me taking my own life. The first person that I showed it to asked me if I had seriously considered taking my own life, to which the response is yes.  Yes I did. Had that thought a lot of times the last few months.

These last few months have been some of the worst I've ever had.  Being in a small community of artists and creators has been great in many ways. But at the same time, extremely isolating. I've had trouble figuring out where I belong, what my steps were, and who I am. I never quite found my groove with most people.  I had made what I thought was a good friendship that would last a long time. Someone that I felt comfortable sharing things with, things I still haven't told other people.  But that friendship ended horribly through actions of both of us. I didn't handle it as well as I could have, affected by more feelings of isolation, not understanding what happened, and having left a horrid situation behind in Georgia to have this happen so soon again....

And then the summer got worse.  Rumors about me hurting my exfriend, lies and half truths running around, other rumors, being told that no one wanted me around and that people didn't feel comfortable around me, being accused of having a second twitter account to interact with people that didn't want to interact with me, and on and on.  I think some of it started for a sense of protection of the exfriend, concern for them. Which I get.  Some was because not a lot of people know me well. I don't make friends easily and I've confused people and made them uneasy because of things I've done or said, even when no harm was meant. And I get that too.

I write this post, because I need to write it.  Not to point fingers or blame, but because I've tweeted and posted about anxiety and depression, I haven't shared why really. I haven't shared what caused it, because I didn't want to act like I was pointing fingers or anything else.  This has been a horrible last few months and I'm not sure people realized that. Or maybe they did. Maybe they were trying to protect themselves. I don't know.

What I do know is things are much the same for me right now as they were a few months ago and I've realized its because I haven't talked. I haven't shared. So this is my story. I'm still here.  Battered, bruised, knife wounds dug deep, arrows in the side, and cuts that will never heal...but I'm still here. Somehow.