Categories
Navigating

Stitches (Part 2)

Life ‘with’ autism becomes life, death, almost living, mostly dead.
Why must I always cherish symptoms and meaning?

Autism advocacy that narrates autism as some ‘thing’ that is ‘in’ and not ‘of’ some people functions to shape life as having autism as (one of) its condition(s).

As autism is made (and kept) separate from life itself, and as living people’s bodies are split into vital and nonvital parts, life ‘with’ (the condition of) autism becomes life along a vital spectrum […] that inaugurates new, possible categories of life (and death): ‘almost living’ as well as ‘mostly dead’; […] a necessary precognition for acts of violence that are normalized as necessary.

Anne McGuire

Ways in which diagnosis is useful […] It extends the reach of genocide and saves lives.

Eli Clare

Symptoms only take us so far.

My hands create and transform space as much as they occupy it. […] Sometimes I am the only person who knows what my hands are meaning. Sometimes even I don’t know what my hands mean – but why must I always cherish or privilege meaning?

Melanie Yergeau

Categories
Navigating

Stitches (Part 1)

Mental disability always leaves something behind.
And, in leaving something behind, mental disability takes over.

A diagnosis does not add information. Rather, it removes information.

A diagnosis reveals a hidden entity.

The entity turns into a named actor, and the diagnosed symptoms dissolve into signs of its presence.

Out of context; Monika Dos Santos, Jean-François Pelletier, John Mirowski, Catherine E. Ross

Stories often make neurodivergent people without stories. In those stories, neurodivergence is residual.

When I invoke the term residual, I mean to suggest that mental disability always leaves something behind. And, in leaving something behind, mental disability takes over.

When one is schizophrenic, for example, she does things without meaning to: schizophrenia causes the person to act. She does things not because she did them but because the schizophrenia made her. The schizophrenic person doesn’t do anything, or whatever she does is because of the schizophrenia.

Whatever is mental disability – whether schizophrenia, autism, depression, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and bipolar is mental disability – mental disability means doing things without meaning to. Mental disability decides things more than mentally disabled people.

Stories about neurodivergent people are often stories of being without stories. We are made to believe that who we are is not really someone because disability forever stops us from really being someone.

Based on writings by Melanie Yergeau

Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Rays (Part 3)

When I say things like “I don’t believe in the diagnoses in the DSM,”

that does not mean I think people are faking it, or making their experiences up. […] Their experiences are absolutely, definitely real.

[…]

I agree that we need a language,

but I disagree that the DSM provides a good one. […]

Out of context, Sarah K Reece

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Diagnosis recognizes reality; it doesn’t create it.

The way medical diagnosis works can often make disabled people feel fake. (Any kind of disabled people, including people with mental illness or chronic illness). There’s a widespread culture misperception that real disabled people have a clear professional diagnosis, and that everyone else is just faking it for attention or something. It doesn’t actually work that way. Diagnosis is more complicated than that.

People with disabilities are disabled whether or not anyone has diagnosed their disability. […] But it doesn’t change the reality. Someone diagnosed today was already disabled yesterday. Many people are disabled for years or decades before they get access to accurate diagnosis. […]

In addition, some conditions aren’t currently diagnosable, because they have not yet been identified and named by doctors. If a condition was discovered for the first time today, someone had probably already had it yesterday. And last year. And back and back and back. […]

Ruti Regan

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Words, like the chisel of the carver, can create what never existed before rather than simply describe what already exists.

Martin Heidegger

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Was There an Autism Before the Name?

Were we here before the world called us ‘autistics’?

Was there an ‘us’ or a ‘we’ before we and the world called ourselves so?

How were we, autistic people, autistic, before we actually were autistic?

Adapted from writings by Dallyce Potess

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Rays (Part 2)

Before, I was me and autism was autism.

After learning that I have autism, I was no longer me and autism was no longer a label applied to others.

Suddenly, I was autism and autism was me.

After, everything I do, say, think, feel, and experience is autisticized. […]

Out of context, Cynthia Kim

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The problem lies not in the pervasiveness of autism in me as an individual, but in the pervasiveness of its use as an ‘explanation’ at the level of specific, observable behaviour – an account for everything that I am and everything that I do.

Gill Loomes

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They were conferring any and all agency to my supposed disembodiment, or my supposed disenmindment. I didn’t want this because I was autistic. I didn’t want that because I was autistic.

This is, to the best of my memory, when their ventriloquism started.

Suddenly, the experts claimed, I wasn’t talking. God, no.

“That’s your depression talking,” they explained. “That’s your autism talking. That’s your anxiety talking.

Really, it’s anything but you talking.”

Regardless of what I said, it was my autism saying it. My body became site for ventriloquist rhetoric, spewings that never were.

What did they write in their charts? I imagined […] that they mapped the ebbs and flows of my echolalia, in echolalia.

“That’s just her autism talking,” the clipboard repeats, like a running toilet. “That’s just her autism talking, talking, talking. That’s just her – autism talking.

Melanie Yergeau

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1

Whenever we talk about ourselves we tell stories.

Without these stories, our experiences would sit, unconnected.  They would be like a thousand tiny beads.  Telling our story helps us to weave connections between these beads.  It helps us link them together with different threads, to create a tapestry full of meaning.

This is a fluid and continually evolving process.

Each new experience, interaction or connection reveals new aspects of the picture we are continually creating.  It shifts and changes as we, ourselves, shift and change.

Reflecting our experience of the world, this process can be terrifying and confusing, as well as beautiful and rewarding.

***

In some settings, something profound happens to these stories.

It’s as if someone takes your tapestry, and labels it as defective.  Then, they give you the pattern you need to rectify your mistakes.

Unquestioningly, you unpick your tapestry.  You weave, instead, the beads of your tapestry together to form the pattern they gave you.  You weave their pattern, and you form the picture they showed you.

With each stitch, those around you nod and praise your keen insight.

After a while you forget you ever had a story of your own.

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2

For a very long time, you had been weaving your story your entire life.

At a point in your journey in life, this story overwhelmed you.

At this point, you were given an alternative – a new pattern to help impose some order on the chaos.  You were offered new, independently created stories that would explain your sometimes difficult, challenging experiences.

You met many kind people who gently reassured you that they knew exactly how to tell your story.

On adopting their perspective you felt relief.  It stripped your experiences of their power; it removed any need to further explore their meaning.

Content that your tapestry was complete, you put down your needle.

You focused on living with the picture you now knew you had.

***

Of all the beliefs that you have had about you experiences, the belief that has replaced your previous tapestry was the most damaging.

In adopting the story that others told about you, and abandoning your own sense-making process, you held on to a belief that rendered your experiences irrelevant.

As a reader, one may feel this was the lesser of two evils.  After all, the story you weaved for yourself overwhelmed you, to great extents.

Still, this belief was woven from the beads of your experience.  It contained truths of things you were unable to face.  It was something that, with the right support, you could work through and understand.

The perspective they gave you, however, led to a dead end.

***

You sometimes reflect on what it was that allowed their story to replace yours.

Every person that spoke to you about the picture of your tapestry only served to reinforce that which you were already primed to accept.  That, among other things, you were flawed, and vulnerable, and that your experience of the world was mistaken.

Their story offered you both condemnation and salvation.

It gave you validating answers and explanations for some of your unsolved beliefs and experiences.  It promised you the gift of living well with your reality, as long as you weaved and stitched your story and your experiences only in the ways they – wisely, unmistakably, reliably – pictured and weaved those (your) experiences.

It’s a powerful and seductive story, and one that has taken you a very long time to untangle.

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Adapted from a post by Rachel Waddingham

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iatrogenic effects […] power imbalances, vulnerability, adaptation, and living to labels.

[R]esearch consistently shows that people live to their labels – children treated as smart do great in tests, those treated as truants act out, those treated as caring are kind.

We know this, and have demonstrated [over and over again] the powerful effects of labels, obedience, authority, and adaptation […]

Sarah K Reece

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