20 November, 2010

how an autism spectrum disability affects my life now

[the video hasn't processed yet, if it doesn't make it onto youtube I'm going to plotz though.


Hey um I tried to do this yesterday but the video was too long and it wouldn't post. Um, I made this video a year and a half ago which is called "How Asperger's Syndrome affects my life now." I, um, constantly want to delete this video because I don't identify as having Asperger's Syndrome anymore, and um the video also starts with me saying something like, "Well I guess I'm very high-functioning so you probably shouldn't judge Asperger's Syndrome from listening to me," and in retrospect I think that's a ridiculous thing to say. But I mean like everyone else I like when people talk to me on the Internet and I get a lot of comments on that video so I don't want to delete it. But I wanted to make a sequel.

Um, first of all, like, the whole Asperger's thing...kind of a stupid word, not going to be in the DSM anymore because it's not a concept that makes sense. Um, I mean it's not the only ASD diagnosis that I ever got, either, and I also um...the thing is that the reason I used that word about myself was not ever because I wanted to. Like, I used to use the word autistic when I was much younger. But um, from non-disabled people I would face you know criticism because I would be told, "You shouldn't be using that word about yourself because you're not severely disabled enough" or something like that. Um, I don't really think that this is a way of talking that makes sense, I mean there are lots of...pretty much every disability that I can think of, there are some people who are very severely affected and some people who are very mildly affected. I also don't think that people can just talk to me and decide that I am mildly affected when they don't live my life. Um, so, I guess, I'm no longer interested in feeling guilty about using the word Autistic about myself--I mean I consider myself part of Autistic culture, I consider people with severe disabilities to be people who I feel as much loyalty to as I do to people who have a disability experience very much like my own, I don't, um...I mean, I've known a lot of people with severe autism, and I mean it's more severe but it's not something else, and I don't...that doesn't really make sense to say it is.

Yeah, sorry, to actually talk about myself, um...I, like, I feel like, I mean before, I didn't know other people with autism so I was very um, my whole view of what stuff was was very much based in what I read in books by people who didn't have autism, so I was, I feel like I was always trying to fit myself into that kind of category and then when I didn't fit it I would just say, "oh well I must be so high-functioning that that's why I don't fit into that description." [note: but then there were other things I couldn't do that even people with "classic Asperger's" [i.e. worse than mine] were supposed to be able to do, so I didn't understand that.] But you know as I've gotten to meet other people with autism and other disabilities I've realized that you know I have stuff going on that's pretty classic sometimes but it hasn't been written about as much but it happens to most of the Autistic people that I know.

Um, okay, so, first of all, the whole social thing has been something that's really massively changed for me in the past year and a half since I made that video and since I became more involved in disability culture. I think the thing is that even though before I used to think of myself as being, like, "better" and "recovered" and "not really autistic anymore," like, because I was always judging by, because I was always judging myself by the standard of whether I looked like a normal person, I...it was very hard for me to relate to other people who didn't have disabilities because I always felt inferior to them.

Like, um, I guess um the way that I walk is kind of different from some people who don't have disabilities, so um, especially with other women--when I was friends with other girls, if we were both walking down the street I would become so conscious of the way that I walked and the way that it wasn't like the way the other person was walking that I would get like pretty upset, and um it really poisoned my relationships especially with other girls because I was very, I was always comparing myself to them and thinking how I couldn't move like them and stuff like that which is kind of stupid.

Um, another thing is that I was really really worried always that other people didn't really want to be around me and I was just like attaching myself to them, so it meant that it was hard for me to reach out to people and then when I did I felt really like upset about it and like they didn't really want me there and I mean...I think this has been a really...it was a really bad thing in a lot of my friendships because I couldn't help...I would always resent people as if they'd actually done something to me, when in fact like the only thing that was going on was that I thought that I was inferior to them so I just resented them. And um I guess all I can say is that since I've become more conscious of identifying as disabled and less upset about being disabled, it's pretty, like...you know if I'm walking along and I know that I'm walking differently from someone else it's like, surprise! I guess I'm disabled so I walk like I'm disabled. Shock! Not really a big deal. Um, I mean I figure that other people probably want to be around me just as much as they want to be around anyone else so I'm not afraid I guess of trying to reach out to people and talking to people and...

It's funny because people, um, professionals always talk about "social skills" and they frame social skills as being able to look like you're normal, but I mean, what I would call my social skills have vastly improved now that I don't care about that anymore because you know when you're not thinking about trying to make yourself look like you're normal, you really are much more interested in other people and you have a lot more energy to spare on just caring about other people and listening to what they have to say.

Um, other stuff, the brain stuff, which is actually, like, the real problem. Um I've been watching The Walking Dead recently which is a TV show about zombies and I figured out that I'm basically a zombie. For example if a zombie was following a person that it wanted to eat, and the person leaves, the zombie will just keep going in the same direction, and um that's pretty much what I'm like. It's hard for zombies to like make new decisions or um figure things out, like they just see objects that they used to use when they were alive and they just get triggered into using them the same way 'cause they don't really, you know, get it. Um, it's very hard for me to think about anything in a new way or to switch myself into any kind of new task, which can be a really huge problem. It's, um, and I mean there's also a lot of stuff which I guess is probably a bit like having dementia which is just you know constantly forgetting what you're doing a lot--and I mean, I know all this stuff is the kind of stuff where people can be like, "oh that happens to everyone," which is totally true, but I mean the way that it happens to me is very pervasive and makes it hard to do things.

I also have pretty severe anxiety problems and um a problem is that I get such severe anxiety about my um (laughs) cognitive problems, which I guess are what you would call poor um central coherence and executive dysfunction, and stuff like that, if you like big words, um I get so upset about those things that I like will intentionally like block off like the part of my brain that tries to remember what I have to do and um will intentionally get myself stuck on like new ideas--or, not new ideas, I will intentionally get myself stuck on old ideas so I can just kind of stim out on them and not have to um do the actual work--which I mean, it's very hard, the only way...I mean, the good way for things to happen is for someone else to just sit down with me and like calmly explain to me what I have to do and help me like stay like emotionally stable during that.

But that doesn't always happen because I don't get disability services at school because I haven't been recently diagnosed enough, etc., and even if I was people would probably be like, "well, autism is just a social disability so why do you think you need help with mental stuff?" Um, yeah, not a lot of fun, that stuff.

Something that's interesting, I don't know how many people it happens to, but I, um, when things are very bad for me I have like dissociative and derealization symptoms which are um...it basically means that everything kind of looks and feels the same. So like talking to my mom and talking to my best friend and talking to a stranger all feel exactly the same. It's like um I mean intellectually I remember who people are but it's kind of as if I had just been fed the information and I didn't actually have like the lived experience of having them in my life. So it's just like when you're with people you don't feel the same click of recognition when you're having that kind of episode (I guess it's, I guess you could call it an episode) and I um I don't know. It can be really scary. Especially because you feel like you don't know them so it's kind of like a sense of stage fright, because you know it's as if you're performing a relationship with someone that you don't really have in your life. So um that can be really hard and I think that's a lot of why I try to avoid all my cognitive stuff and just end up fucking myself over by trying to ignore like the brain stuff, just because um when I look at things head-on I get a lot of anxiety and the results can be so unpleasant that I feel like it's almost worse not to do it.

Okay, I ran out of time, I hope this video is short enough that it'll actually post. But I just wanted to make this because the other video I don't like so much and I really think this is better and more in line with what I actually think about and believe now. Okay.


  1. Um, another thing is that I was really really worried always that other people didn't really want to be around me and I was just like attaching myself to them, so it meant that it was hard for me to reach out to people and then when I did I felt really like upset about it and like they didn't really want me there and I mean...

    I still have some issues with this, though for me it's less about worrying if I look normal and more that I can't tell insincerity from sincerity that well and I know people are insincere sometimes but I don't have confidence in my ability to detect it. So I go around not being sure a lot of the time if people are being really nice to me or if they're just 'being nice' to me.

  2. oh, yeah. for serious.

    I mean, it's complicated. it's always hard.

    but the truth is, I feel like most people like someone who reaches out to them and asks them to hang out and is nice to them. I feel like it generally isn't the case that you will be hanging out with someone a lot and inside their head they're just like "omg I wish fiona/amanda would leave me alooone."

    well, I hope.

  3. You're probably right.

    I'm a pretty neurotic person about certain things.