Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. Thanks for coming. I hope you’re all as well as you can be. This is probably going to be a bit of a shorter blog post than normal. I’m low on spoons, and I’ve called lost property to see if anyone’s handed any in, but no luck. (Morgan Freeman voice: But he didn’t really phone lost property; it turned out he was joking, and how we laughed…)
I’m writing this on 11th September, and you can’t let that day pass without thinking of the horror of 9/11, and the victims. It’s also my son’s birthday. He turned 18 on the day the 9/11 attacks occurred, and he had plans to celebrate big time. He and his friends still got together, but it was a very different experience than expected. The world changed, and we changed, that day. My son is a grown man now, and I’m so proud of him, and I love him so much, I can’t put it into words.
Content warning: depression and suicide.
Lost property: I have this thing I do, a little joke when I’m bored or fed up, with people I know get me. It goes like this:
Me: “I’m just going to phone lost property.”
Person (eye-rolling, because they’ve heard it before): “Why?”
Me: “See if anyone’s handed in my will to live.”
Person: *polite chuckle*
I’m aware this is a fucking horrible joke. We’ve just had suicide prevention day, and suicide is one of the major causes of death in the autistic community. I survived one serious suicide attempt when I was younger. I took some pills, didn’t tell anyone, and took myself off to bed to die. No suicide note, no calls to anyone. I just did it. I got lucky. Many don’t. I was unwell for a long time after that attempt, but most people who knew me had no idea what had happened, or how unwell I was, or how long my suffering lasted. That happened roughly thirty years ago. About seven years ago, when I was at a very low ebb, I had some suicidal ideation, but I was able to ask for help, and got past it. Asking for help does not come easily to me. Even with the small-to-medium problems in life, I find it almost impossible to let people know I’m struggling. I don’t know why that is, although I suspect it has a lot to do with masking habits that became ingrained throughout my life before I knew I was autistic; having to behave a certain way in order to try to fit in. Fortunately, I have reached a place where, if someone makes it clear they are worried about me, I can say, things are not great, but honestly, I’m coping, don’t worry, and it’s true. There aren’t many people who know me well enough to say they are worried about me, so when they do, I need to give them an honest answer.
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are obviously closely related to depression. Many, many autistic people suffer horribly with depression, and the depression is seen as “co-morbid” (how I hate the term) with autism. And yet many of these autistic people are happy and proud to be autistic. So is it even fair to count depression as a co-morbidity of autism? Surely, something else must be at work in this situation. Every depressed autistic person is a unique individual, and the causes of their depression are likely to be correspondingly unique and complex. But there is also, almost certainly, plenty of commonality…
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Many, if not all, autistic people struggle to feel at home in the world; a world which seems by and large to have been made by neurotypical people, for neurotypical people. Between the sensory overloads that we experience daily, and the problematic nature of neurotypical interactions, there is plenty of depression fuel. Feeling like an alien in a place that should be your home is a difficult way to live. To blame an autistic person’s depression on the autism, by attributing it as a co-morbidity, is simply dishonest. The real driver behind the depression of many autistic people is simply the neurotypical world with its overwhelming array of triggers. You cannot treat this depression by attempting to treat autism; it simply doesn’t work like that.
There are many other health issues considered to be co-morbid with autism. And that sentence you have just read is hugely misleading and problematic, although you will see versions of it everywhere. To say that a health problem is co-morbid with autism is to suggest that autism is itself a health problem. But it isn’t. Every single health problem that is considered to be co-morbid with autism is also widely found in the non-autistic population, including Simon Baron-Cohen’s favourite, epilepsy. Autism is not a disease, but to continue to refer to co-morbidities perpetuates the view of autism as a disease. This is something that Simon Baron-Cohen, the malevolent face of autism research and dark overlord of Spectrum 10k, doesn’t seem to grasp…
Spectrum 10k, the autism eugenics movement haphazardly disguised as a research project, has announced a pause in its activities, in a typically misguided statement from Baron-Cohen. It’s tempting to see this as a small victory for the autistic community after the pressure we have exerted. But we should be wary. Baron-Cohen is clearly trying to mitigate against the justified anger of the autistic community, and nothing in the statement indicates the project has been permanently abandoned. No amount of wishy-washy consultation or tweaking will change the horrible flaws and potential for evil at the heart of the Spectrum 10k mission. Our fight continues. Meanwhile, the trauma experienced by autistic people as a result of Spectrum 10k continues to accumulate. We should not be having to engage in a fight for our existence and self-determination, but here we are. It’s hard. It’s upsetting. Remember what I said about the depression experienced by autistic people?
Interlude: A brief message
I will never put this blog behind a paywall. I want anyone, anywhere, to be able to access this content at any time. There are costs incurred running this website, however. So if you like what I’m trying to do here, please feel free to show your support with a small contribution via buymeacoffee.com. Okay, back to the blog.
If you are feeling depressed, or like you can’t cope, or if you’re having thoughts about taking your own life or hurting yourself, please just listen for a moment: I hear you, I feel you. I know, I’ve been through it. Please, please, talk to someone, because we don’t want to lose you. Even if I don’t know your name, I know you through this shared situation. If you don’t have someone you can trust to talk to, The Samaritans is a good place to start. I’m going to put some useful UK links here:
- The Samaritans
- National Suicide Prevention Alliance
- Campaign Against Living Miserably
- Papyrus – for people under 35
I know this blog isn’t only read in the UK. Here is a list of suicide prevention resources from around the world, via Twitter
I found out I was autistic partly as a result of a prolonged mental health crisis. Since then, I’ve found the autistic community on Twitter a great source of support. You can find us here.
We autistic people are very capable of having a good time, though, let’s not forget that. I enjoy hearing about the interests and activities of other autistic people. One of the things I love about the autistic community is our sense of humour. When we’re not poking fun at neurotypicals, we often gently poke fun at each other, too. With that, I want to finish this week’s blog with a little autistic in-joke…
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That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care, be good, stay proud.
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 running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, 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.