I write against ableism so frequently that I thought I would do something different for Blogging Against Disableism Day. This is a post on life as a neurodiversity blogger. I will be more frank than usual. There is a consequent trigger warning for almost everything, abuse, ableism, violence, killings, trolls, mental health issues, strong feelings of all kinds, bitterness, suicide, burnout, isolation, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
I am an autistic adult, part of the cohort finding success. I am not a nice one. Unlike a high school acquaintance and college classmates, I did not escape special education with no desire but a peaceful life. I am the neurodiversity person your parents warned you about. I was in the same lecture as the neighborhood shoplifter, your conspiracy theorist uncle at the reunion, the classmate with the pierced tongue and spiked, blue hair. I am an unapologetic fanatic. I learned about my diagnosis years after it occurred, found the autistic community, took to it as a starving person does food. My life up until that moment had been a search for someone like me. On the darkest days, I assumed I was a lone freak of nature. Knowing this, one can understand why I would care for this now that I have it.
This blog is what I see first in the morning and last at night. I have comforted the panic of newly-diagnosed people and their parents, offered advice, responded to the murders of children while trying not to break down, called out ableism, offered support on others’ bad days, penned manifestos, and asked others to take risks. I have confronted abuse, called it what it is. I sat through the recent JRC clips because I will not pass on what I have not seen. I have disseminated information about issues of concern to the disability community. I have fretted about how to convince people to stand up for themselves. I win and loose faith in humanity with social media tides of compassion and barbarism. I have tried to find the words to make strangers believe someone would care if they died, prayed with every fiber of my being, learned to sleep through knowing I will not know until morning. I have told stories.
I have drawn the attention of trolls from vulnerable members of this community, engaged them long enough to know them, found the one insult that would make an impact, and sent them slinking back from whence they came. I hate to use the whack-a-mole cliche; it works. Trolls expect tirades, not icy rhetoric that ends in a single point of calculated cruelty. It catches them off guard. To me, it is like breathing. I grew up debating a University of Chicago Ph. D. who never pulled a verbal punch because his sparring partner was four, ten, or twelve. Dad taught me the use of insults with equal intentionality when I told him I was being bullied in elementary school. Texans have strange ideas of appropriate gifts for a child. Neither of us knew it, but he raised me for this. I was surprised at the ease of learning callousness. I hope the day never comes when I do this without guilt. Once, I wrote poetry every day. Now, I quarrel.
Dad never expected me to take on the antithesis of his profession, either. He raises funds. I block them. Every New Year’s Eve day, he asks one subordinate to work. While one of his people waits for year-end gifts to the college in an empty office, I beg potential Autism Speaks donors to reconsider. I have been known to poach gifts on their own Facebook page. I can only dream of annual totals as grand as my father’s but have seen some success. I have called others to this kind of confrontation.
I think I fulfill this self-made role well. I take it seriously. I work hard. That is the problem with this time of semester. It is not the courses, Internet, three musical endeavors, friends, family, or disability rights volunteering IRL. It is no single thing that leaves me feeling wretched, though this commitment takes more time and intellectual and emotional effort than the others. Slightly feverish, up too late, unable to position myself comfortably from sousaphone-related pain, I feel anything but nineteen. This is not how society thinks one should be young, but this is an area of life in which I have no regrets.
I need a few days off. I will take them soon. I am still glad to do this. I am pleased that our community has grown, proud to see it thrive. We are in a position to make long-term plans. Parents are coming around to the idea of neurodiversity. Eventually, professionals will have no choice but to follow. Allistic allies harassed Autism Speaks with us on April second. There are days when there is little egregious ableism in the autism-related tags, more of our criticism than their propaganda in #autismspeaks.
Two or three years ago, I assumed our future extinction was nearly inevitable. Now, I have hope. We did that. We constructed the alternate narrative on which I keep harping, the better story of what autism is and can be. Together, we are turning the tide. Ableism still wrecks havoc on some lives and cuts others short, but we are making progress. If you read this, you probably participated. Congratulate yourself. You deserve it. Sudden change is obvious, gradual shifts less so. Do not fail to notice just because the pace is glacial. Being a neurodiversity blogger makes for better years than days. I will continue for the foreseeable future. I hope you will, too. Every word of self-approval, self-value, self-love is an act of resistance. It is an honor to be in the midst of this. I will watch and help as what I am, a tuba player trained to take care of my own. I want to see you make it through the night.