Part 36: Something Wrong

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I hope you’re all healthy, happy and in a good place. If you’re not; if you’re actually in a bad place, if things are not good for you right now, then I just want you to bear in mind this:

I’m no particular fan of Winston Churchill. To say the man had shortcomings would be a huge understatement. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this well-known thought from Churchill will never stop being inspirational.

If we’re going to talk about bad times – which, incidentally, is not the sole focus of today’s blog – let me share something mildly amusing about my difficult time this week. There is a phenomenon, which there is probably a name for, wherein whenever I post or tweet anything about literacy, grammar, or writing, I will inevitably leave an error or typo in there that I haven’t spotted. Every thyme*. Well get this: In my last couple of blog posts, I’ve spoken about how positively things have been going for me, and how my physical fitness is on an upward swing, and I’ve even cut out alcohol to try to help lose some weight. I spoke about my issues with my body image, and how I once worried I might be heading for an alcohol problem until I realised I had just often used alcohol to cope with autistic anxiety, but had usually found it easy to rein in my alcohol consumption when I focused on it. Well, a bit like pontificating on grammar while missing my own typos, I should have realised that while talking about all this positive stuff, something awful would probably be looming.

Sure enough, there was something wrong in my life, that I probably should have considered. Actually, I knew the problem was there, but I hadn’t understood the severity and immediacy of it, and thought I was moving toward a gradual resolution of it, anyway. I was wrong.

I’m not able to state exactly what the problem is, right now. There are reasons for that, and you’ll have to trust me. But the impact on me has been profound. It has resulted in a significant amount of anxiety, although not, interestingly, any sense of depression, which is often a risk for me when facing severe difficulties in my life. Due to these trying circumstances, I’ve had to miss a couple of gym visits, although I should be back on track with that in the next day or so. More troubling is the fact that the anxiety I’ve experienced has been bad enough to stop me sleeping, and to prompt me to take action. Different people have different methods for resolving anxiety. Some people meditate. Some people seek therapy. Some people exercise. Some people take prescription meds. Some people pray. Some turn to alcohol.

  • I’ve tried meditation, many years ago, and found it utterly useless.
  • I’ve tried CBT before I knew I was autistic and, like many people, found that any benefits are minor and short-lived.
  • As you know, I love my exercise, and it helps with long-term depression, but for me it has no mitigating effect on a sudden and unexpected onset of severe anxiety.
  • I’ve tried many different prescription meds over the last thirty years or so. Any benefits have proven to be short-lived, and I can’t deal with the side effects, anyway.
  • I tried religion as a teenager, but eventually saw through the lies, trickery, and horror. I’m passionately atheist and anti-theist now, so prayer is not applicable.

You can guess where this is going. The current problems kicked off not long after posting last Saturday’s blog. As a result, I couldn’t sleep that night. So, on Sunday night I had two glasses of wine. It did the trick. I was then dry again for a few days, but went three nights; Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, with almost no sleep. By Thursday afternoon, I was barely functioning. My several decades’ experience of autistic masking came in useful as I was somehow able to get through the day with, hopefully, not too many people around me realising what state I was in. I had a glass and a half of wine Thursday night, and slept like a log.

Some people would say that my use of alcohol in this way is a classic sign of alcoholism. I don’t think so. I am not recommending self-medicating with alcohol by any means – especially as consistent long-term drinking can cause depression and a host of physical health problems. But for someone like me who is painfully aware of the pitfalls, the careful and judicious use of small-to-reasonable amounts of alcohol as an ad-hoc anxiety reliever works. Some people will claim this is self-justification and also a classic sign of alcoholism. My answer to that will be my behaviour and alcohol consumption going forward. We’ll see, I guess. For now, there’s something wrong, and the solution to this life-changing problem I’m experiencing is unclear. I have no regrets about a couple of glasses of wine helping me sleep. Incidentally, insomnia is very common among autistic people. There has been a recent report unhelpfully looking at this problem through the lens of the medical paradigm, but honestly, it seems obvious to me that the stress of trying to operate in the neurotypical world is enough to give any autistic person sleep problems.

One thing I have to be happy about is that even while I’ve been undergoing this stressful experience, I have been able to continue writing. The work on my third novel, Aberrations, has continued, and I have now completed the second draft. In a recent blog, I spoke about how the chapter count might change, as I thought the final two scenes needed some surgery, and I was also planning on inserting a flashback chapter. Well, two things happened as I went over the finish line this week. First of all, those final two chapters were more solid than I remembered; the necessary surgery could be done under local anaesthetic as it were, and they have survived intact, with no scar tissue. Secondly, once I started planning out the flashback chapter in detail I realised it would be a huge mistake, adding little to the story but acting as a massive spoiler for Aberrations‘ sister novel, Abominations. I scrapped it. So the second draft is done. Next, I file the story away for a few weeks to get some mental distance from it, before coming back for a third and final draft, which will basically be a polishing process. The intention is to publish in the autumn.

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Thoughts about something wrong in my life have been on my mind a lot this week. Here’s a question: Is there something wrong with autistic people?

I’ve had a funny relationship with Twitter over the years. At first, I loved it. Then I suffered some abusive pile-ons, and came off the platform for a while. I’ve been back on there for some time now; older, wiser, and more able to look after myself in what can sometimes be a scary, toxic environment. One thing I can always rely on Twitter for is a fiery debate about autism issues. Wednesday night did not disappoint. Oh boy. Have a look at this:

I came across a war of words and ideas on Twitter, of which the above screenshot shows a small part. It’s difficult to know where to start in explaining how wrong the person I have identified as “1” is about everything she is saying. I decided to have a look at her bio:

Not too much to draw on here, although “psych major” is interesting, and might explain some of her views. Next, I had a look at her pinned tweet:

I’m aware some people will find the image on this tweet provocative, and an example of objectification. But remember, this person made this her publicly available pinned tweet, which can be seen by anyone visiting her Twitter profile, and I have done what I can to protect her identity, here. But why have I even included a shot of her pinned tweet? Well, tweets are generally pinned because the person thinks they are important, or say something especially relevant for the person tweeting it. And since this is a neurotypical person who is telling autistic people how they should refer to themselves, I wanted some context about what she stands for. To be honest, though, I’m no wiser. She is a self-identified “psych major”, tweeting about autism and autistic people in a way that totally undermines autistic people, and ignores their opinions. Her pinned tweet says she sets the bar, and that she’s a star, (kind of smacks of a rap lyric, maybe?) and her clothing says she’s “killin it”, so she’s certainly not short of self-confidence. Does she have any justification for her position on person-first language? What else, if anything, does she have to say about it?

From this exchange, we see that because the “psych major” hasn’t met anyone other than those in this thread who reject person-first language, then they must be wrong. However, even the tiniest amount of online research would have shown her error. There have been countless polls of autistic people, invariably showing huge majorities rejecting person-first language, and embracing terms such as “autistic person”, “autistic,” and even “autist” and “autie”. But it’s easy to see how someone could get confused, too. The National Autistic Society is definitely an ally of autistic people, and correctly advises against person-first language such as, “has autism,” and, “with autism,” but then muddies the waters by advising people not to use some of the newer terms that many autistic people are embracing, not to mention perpetuating use of the “Asperger” term, and maintaining the medical paradigm of autism:

From The National Autistic Society

I’ve tweeted to the National Autistic Society, @Autism, to ask them about this. I’ll let you know their reply when and if it appears.

Could things get any worse for the person who was spouting her opinions on Twitter, Wednesday night? Well yes, it could. You might be aware of Godwin’s Law, which states that the longer an online discussion lasts, the more likely it is that someone will reference Hitler and the Nazis. We’ve already seen an example of that in an earlier screenshot. But there is another phenomenon that occurs in online debates, and if there is a name for it, I’d like to know: The longer a debate goes on around anything remotely related to health, disability, and in particular autism, the more likely it is a comparison will be made with cancer. Guess what?

So we can see the person I have named “1” is not just satisfied with telling autistic people how they should refer to themselves. Yes, she is in favour of person-first language, which means she prefers terms such as “person with autism”, or “has autism”. But she also sees autism as a disorder, and says the person is not the disorder, just like the person is not cancer. This equates autism with cancer; it claims a similarity, simultaneously portraying autism as something bad, or something wrong with the autistic person, and maintaining the medical paradigm! The portrayal of autism as something wrong, as a disorder, is dangerous. Autistic people, including extremely vulnerable children, are being subjected to traumatic ABA therapy, fake cures, and damaging interventions. They are being led to believe they are lesser humans, and suffering psychological harm as a result. It has to stop. The fight to bring about autism acceptance is all about removing the harmful, false ideas about autism like the ones we’ve seen from “1” on Twitter.

I might not get a holiday this year, but hopefully I’ll spend some sunny time in my garden on one of these.

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I’ll make a point I’ve made before, just to be really clear on this. I do not have autism, and I am not with autism. I am autistic. Autism is not something grafted onto me, it is not something wrong with me, it is not something absent from me. It is me.

That’s all for this week. If, like me, you’ve been having a difficult time, I hope things improve. Remember to keep going. Remember to care for yourself. Remember to do the things that make you feel good, even if you’ve stopped believing they will make you feel good. I’ll see you here next week.

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but if you want to chip in, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

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