Self-advocacy is hard
This isn’t for sympathy. [Hate that I have to even think to counter this].
Being honest about who you are is hard. Being able to truly own your failures and missteps is hard. Realising that a lot of the time in your life you’ve been trying to do this and have been told not to is even harder.
Shame used to define me. I lived my entire life in shame. I hid my bisexuality from people. I hid my feelings of discomfort of ‘being a man’ from people. I hid the realities of my Crohn’s disease from people. I hid my mental health conditions from people.
Hiding these things ended up making people dislike me more – because when I was sick due to Crohn’s disease – they thought I was letting the team down. When I struggled with my mental health – I was “unproductive”. My moral scrupulosity OCD went into overdrive about hiding my bisexuality from people.
I’ll never stop self-advocating about my lived experience – but it took me a long time to have the mental fortitude to do so.
A selection of abuse – CW: biphobia, homophobia, racism, transphobia, ableism
[Skip to the next section if you don’t want to look at this stuff]
At some point I heard a quote somewhere “Don’t take criticism from people you wouldn’t go to for advice”. That really resonated with me so I can just discount stuff. But that took a few years for me to realize fully – and I can do it now very easily.
I think it’s important for people to know – I always get abused whenever I speak about anything related to social justice – most of it’s in DMs. I will give you a selection of quotes I’ve heard from complete strangers on the internet since starting – I’ve corrected their often poor english to make it readable:
- When I came out as bisexual:
- “Shut the fuck up nancy boy”
- “Oh great another person pretending to be bisexual to dilute gay and lesbian issues”
- “Why do you hate transgender people?”
- “Does your wife know you constantly want to sleep with other men? How does she feel about that? You’re sick”
- “I hope you’re never around children”
- When I talk about race issues:
- “So you’re a n***** loving cuck”
- “Why do you hate yourself?”
- “White boy talking about race issues. STFU”
- When I talk about transphobia or trans issues:
- “Another misogynist”
- “Oh great a rapist man who wants to abuse women”
- “I feel sorry for your wife”
- “You’re brainwashing teenagers”
- When I talk about my mental health:
- “You belong in an institution”
- “You’re crazy”
- “You seem like a psychopath”
- “I hate you”
- “Making excuses for everything”
- When I talk about substance use struggles in my past:
- “Another fucked in the head druggie”
- “No wonder you’re brain damaged”
- “Drug users like you are scum – my family was ruined by drug takers like you with no conscience”
- “You’ll use again”
- “You’re promoting drug use”
Elusive Judgement in Neurotypical Society
The stuff above is awful – but it pales in comparison to the often unearned criticism I’ve taken from people I WOULD go to for advice.
Pretty much all of my thoughts have been posted on Twitter at some stage, in a series of not well connected threads.
The main takeaway from this – is stop judging people. Just stop doing it.
Mental Illness/Neurodivergent differences as “sickness”
Some things that I consider good about myself are called a deficit. Everything has always been framed as a symptom. I even made this error when making a popular thread on ADHD and Autistic differences. I have bought into the language of pathologizing myself.
When I go to therapy – there’s an implicit underlying association that I am defective. That I am broken. That I need help from people to become more neurotypical. Therapy has tried to teach me to compromise with my morality, to care less about things, to limit my natural behaviour.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have challenges – some are my own issues that I actually need help with, but often they are trying to fix things about me that I actually don’t need help with.
What a lot of neurodivergent people need in therapy is to be heard and understood, and validated for having completely rational feelings. We’re so often gaslight about who we are because we have fixed moral codes, because we have justice sensitivity. We are made to feel bad for trying to uphold rules that society has set, and then refuses to abide by.
“Don’t Speak” – The Ableism Behind the Concepts of Oversharing, Too Much Information, and Trauma Dumping
I saw an artists cartoon shared about this. Which was the basis for starting this blog:
There is a caveat to what I am about to say. There are certain situations where this is not appropriate, and there are times where you should absolutely try and limit discussion of certain things. Examples: talking about explicit sexual abuse/sexual contact without checking to see if it’s ok first, discussing anyone behind their backs in a negative framing is never ok with ND people as a general rule – we will lower our value of you instantly (“gossiping” is bullying), or when you have a strict time limit for a specific purpose.
Oversharing/TMI – Substance Use, Disability, Mental Health Struggles
This is the worst offence – saying this when people share things about any of the above. This one is the reason that people are silent. I actually have no issue saying this – you are contributing to killing people if you do this.
Stigmatization is rife in the neurotypical world, and we are not immune from lateral ableism in this regard either.
I’ve seen many otherwise reasonable people stigmatize people with substance use backgrounds, or actively dealing with substance use problems. When you do this – you are confirming for them that they should feel like garbage. Don’t even get me started on “interventions” that could be a whole other blog. [They made a TV show of this and you all watched and meme’d it?]
Shame isn’t a great motivator for change, it causes isolation. It also ruins mental health.
While you might get someone into rehab by telling them how their drug use affects you – they will already know in nearly all cases – and it will compound their guilt. They might make it into rehab – but they’ll hate themselves for a long time/permanently, and could potentially end up in a worse state due to it.
When people share things – you need to try and understand – sympathise, empathise, and you need to validate them as a person.
Neurotypical therapists especially are awful at this – your job is not to reframe our valid struggles as our fault, telling us we need to fix them with your methods. Just don’t do this – I hated a lot of therapy I’ve been in – because they just tried to give me “tools” to change my perception rather than acknowledging it. I came out worse off than when I went in.
Oversharing/TMI – Special Interests talking
This is an ableist concept. This causes those of us with hyper fixations or hyper focused special interests a lot of anxiety.
When we get told this – it actually does cause massive anxiety – social anxiety comes from having to adhere to neurotypical expectations of what conversation should be.
This appears anecdotally based on my experience a uniquely neurotypical thing also – I’ve never seen anyone neurodivergent complain about learning about some random interest they don’t have at length from another neurodivergent person. We can talk about, engage and listen for hours provided there’s no external distractions.
TMI? Who has a limit on information they want to know? People who want to remain ignorant.
Ok so this is my most hated term. Neurotypicals do not understand that we tend to have tons of trauma, and to us airing this often helps. We do this often earlier than people expect in neurotypical friendship timelines – we don’t really have the same boundaries as you. Our lives have been far more difficult than yours – the world is made for you. It isn’t for us – as a result we have a lot of stuff we talk about that to your sensibilities is somehow bad or wrong.
Sorry – we had to experience this stuff – you could at least listen. The only time I’ve heard this term used outside of when I use it with other neurodivergent people is behind my back.
Trauma airing can be negative if it happens constantly – people can trap themselves in a trauma cycle if they air stuff repeatedly. But for me this was a sign that I hadn’t felt heard. As soon as I actually got listened to and not judged, and instead compassionately understood and had reciprocal sharing of trauma with another neurodivergent person I could let some of this go.
It’s harder in the case of PTSD or with OCD to actually prevent this from happening, but you need to be far more sympathetic. This stuff is in our minds constantly – we are haunted by it. It can take years of therapy to get past a lot of stuff. If you are hearing it for a small portion of your day – please just listen. I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s really hard to live with also.
Ableism in Christianity
Judge not, that you be not judged.Matthew 7:1
So I recently have been trying to pick apart why I left the Christian faith. I was baptized and I actually went into the Baptist Church at 13-14 years old, rather than being indoctrinated as a child against my will. I was majorly isolated at this time friendship wise, and it gave me a whole set of people who were really kind to me.
I was an avid student of The Bible (when I get hyper fixated on something I am obsessed with it – I broke my leg trying to get home faster to read The Bible at fourteen by jumping off a moving bus where the bus driver opened their doors before stopping – inattention and impulsivity suck). I had a particular love of the New Testament.
Theologically accurate Jesus is about the greatest socialist that ever lived if historically accurate. His philosophy of loving everyone was apparent, but it also allowed for thinly veiled ableism.
Some sects of the Christian faith took Jesus’ miracle healing and believed that they could channel it. Faith healing is an entire scam industry setup around Christianity. And it’s just ableism. I found a really good blog on ableist Christianity here if you want to read further.
The point I am trying to make with this particular section is that I left Christianity mainly due to the fact there was massive dissonance each week between what Jesus and the New Testament was trying to achieve – and the practice of giving sermons, and the goals of organised religion. I was told to judge everyone. The faith was perverted by false idols. There are some great church leaders who do not do this, but mainstream Christianity in it’s current form is problematic to put it mildly.
The lateral ableism of semantics debates for dysgraphic people
This is personal for me. I’ve been discussing on Twitter recently about how all of the debates around semantics are causing me to have massive anxiety. I talked to another dysgraphic person about this. Here’s the issue:
- person with autism
- autistic person
These look exactly the same to me. I don’t understand the semantic difference between the two – I’ve seen the arguments and I know your reasoning, but my brain cannot interpret this. I use identity-first language because I understand that’s what the community wants – but when people tear me up for making a mistake here – you are actually just doing ableism to me.
I struggle to acquire new terminology for things – LGBTQIA+ is an area where I am always behind in this regard – luckily I’ve had amazing people step me through ways to phrase things correctly. It takes me a while to actually integrate new vocabulary/rules into my writing. When I am having issues with executive function, have had justice sensitivity primed, or I am excited – rules for semantics and syntax go out the window.
I am not trying to shame this person – we’ve made amends and they are great – but I recently had an experience where I was hauled up for not using terminology that was less than two weeks old on a blog I’d never heard of when doing some advocacy work.
This has actually caused me a lot of stress. I have moral scrupulosity OCD. I have been affected by this my whole life – my life is hell due to it. Imagine having this and rejection sensitivity – critiqued on something I struggle with that causes me to hate myself on a core level. I constantly ruminate about things, get stressed, and have autoimmune pain from cortisol production due to Crohn’s disease.
The effects of all of this
It’s not unreasonable to say that this actually makes me consider never speaking about stuff in self-advocacy.
Maybe we could stop judging people please? I’ve had a lifetime full of it. I hid everything I knew about myself and internalized all my “moral failings” that were actually just from having ADHD and autism due to this ableist attitude. I hid my sexuality.
I can’t do it anymore. If I’m driven back to retreating about this stuff I’ll probably die. [This isn’t a guilt trip either – I’m stating facts here].
I’m a proud bisexual, non-binary, ex-substance using, disabled, neurodivergent, oversharing, trauma dumping, autistic and ADHD person who has too much information – but I’ve had to fight all of this for my entire life, and I still have internalized resentment that I need to work through.
Stop judging people. Start letting people in. Fix neurotypical society by showing us empathy – ditch these awful social norms that refuse us our experiences in life and make us feel awful.
We can all be better than we are now.