Monday, 19 August 2013

A Crisis of Faith

I haven’t been doing much writing on this blog lately, for several reasons. I went to an autism conference, and then suffered a prolonged post-conference recovery, and just haven’t been at my best physically. Plus, my financial dire straits mean I’ve been feeling pressure to get on with other projects that might bring in some money. But I’ve also been having a bit of a ‘crisis of faith’. I felt like I was ‘preaching to the choir’, in that I seemed to have a very small audience who seemed to be already aware of the issues I raised, even if they couldn’t put it into words, and/or to pretty much agree with me. So I didn’t feel like I was actually ‘raising anyone’s consciousness’. But even more importantly, I’ve been getting more and more conscious of just how bad autism’s public image is, and how urgent it is to reach out to the general public and/or the media to get our viewpoint across, and change that image. So my blog seemed like a sort of distraction from that, a self-indulgent place where I raved on about my favourite hobby-horses, but not anything, I felt, that was really going to change the world for autistic people. As a result I didn’t feel much like writing any posts, and even wondered if I should let it go altogether.

But I’ve changed my mind on that, as a result of quite a few posts I’ve read recently in several autistic Facebook groups, which have left me feeling both saddened and alarmed. It seems there are still far more autistics out there who hate their autism than I realised, and who almost invariably hint that they hate themselves as well, for having it. Moreover, they don’t feel there is anything good about being autistic/aspie. Suffering from chronic depression, anxiety, or executive functioning issues, they are confused, overwhelmed, and miserable. Sometimes they’re not aware of the neurodiversity movement, or the concept of ‘autistic rights’, especially if they’re new to the scene, but even when they are aware, they frequently don’t see its relevance to them and their daily struggles.

But I most whole-heartedly believe it is extremely relevant – to all aspies/auties, no matter where they are, or what they’re doing, or what their ‘functioning level’ is. There’s so much that needs changing in autistic lives, and the first step in that change has to be changing our attitudes towards ourselves. We need to end the self-loathing and the impossible attempts to force ourselves into NT patterns which cause us so much misery. I do understand why we feel that way and do that to ourselves, but truly, it’s nonsense that we are not good enough as we are. It’s a set of mental shackles, and it’s time to break out of them and be free.
And the best way to do this, is with the support and companionship of other autistics – who can say “yes, I feel like that too, and no, you’re not crazy for thinking that”, who have had similar experiences, who can offer advice that actually works, who can accept us just as we are, in all our genuine, eccentric, autistic glory. We can value each other, support each other, break those mental shackles… but only if we first have the concept that we have worth as autistics.

Which is exactly how the ‘autism rights’ or ‘neurodiverse’ movement started – by a few autistics getting together, offering support to each other, and in the process realising, hey, you’re not so bad, we’re not so bad, we’re not the terrible, useless, mentally crippled beings that we’ve been told we are… So how come they treat us like that? And – how can we change things? And so it all began, with just a few, and has grown and grown from there. (That’s really how any social movement begins actually.) The concepts of ‘autistic pride’ or ‘autistic rights’ are really about accepting and valuing ourselves as autistics, and then striving to ensure others do the same. These concepts can be communicated from one autie to another, spread wholesale through communities, spoken of at conferences, written about in the media, discussed on social network sites, and developed in our daily lives. And thus, the principles of the neurodiversity movement can have an effect even on those not directly involved in it – much the same as the principles of other social movements, eg feminism, have spread to those who have never taken any part in them.

And yet, as I’ve said, there are so many who seem to be isolated from all this, alone, lost, hating themselves and their autism. So, in feeling the need to communicate with them, to show them that being autistic is not All Bad News, I’ve experienced a renewal of the impetus to write on my blog, because that seems the best way to reach out to ALL autistics, to tell them that they are not alone, that they are not worthless, that there are good things about being autistic, and that it is possible to change our lives for the better. I want them to know that even if they feel that no-one else values them, I value them, feel for them and their struggles, and want to do all I can to change things for them.

Of course I’m not thinking I can do this single-handedly – there are, happily, plenty of other fine autistic writers and advocates out there, all doing their bit, and more coming forward all the time. However I hope to do my bit, to add my rivulet to what is becoming a flood, to help swing the scales to positive with my few ounces, all in the hope that my words will have an impact, will make a difference. I certainly hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this blog. I do not relate and I'm here to learn. The number of posts I've read on your blog have been very helpful, and as someone who wants to know more about the way you and others who relate to you feel, thank you! Keep up the good work.