Damaged as We Are, We Must Be Heroes
Damaged as we are, we must be heroes.
The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism runs Kate Ryan's incisive description of the scars most autistic people have:
We were teased, taunted, bullied, punished. Verbal abuse was routine. We learned that we were Other very young, and that Other was bad. We started thinking about suicide before we knew what the word was. We kept swimming as hard as we could, but it seemed like it would be so much easier to just give up and let ourselves drown. The waves were always over our heads, always crashing down on any small gains we made.
Autistics on a whole have long memories. Too long. We remember standing in the fifth-grade lunch line and feeling that the world was crashing down. We remember running through the middle-school hallways and trying to avoid getting kicked. Our post-traumatic stress disorder, so common as to be almost routine in adults, wasn’t caused by any specific incident. It was caused by life, life itself, the endless routine of falling down and getting up and trying again only to fail again.
We are used to ignoring our own bodies. "These carrots are too spicy" we complained as a child, only to be told no, they were sweet, that the music wasn’t too loud, nobody can hear lights, what you are experiencing is invalid. We heard: you are invalid. You do not experience the world the same way as everyone else, and therefore, your experience is wrong. You learn to ignore the ever-present pain because nothing can be done about it, but then you have a kidney infection and others get mad at you for not noticing sooner. But why should you trust your body when it is always wrong?
This is exactly what I meant by the first word of the thAut at the top of this post. This is the damage I was referring to. Of course, many people thought I was referring to autism itself as damage and went on the attack. But, no-- I was talking about the damage that inevitably comes with being neurologically different from those around you, and, even though I explained that when I posted it on January 22, someone used this as recently as last week to claim that I am "confused."
And that made me think about this interview with Dan Harmon about how when he got fired from his own show Community, the negative things people said about him could mostly be traced back to things he had said about himself:
Asked on the podcast about rumours that he is difficult to work with, Harmon said his own self-critical remarks helped fuel that impression.
"I think I started them," he said. "I think that I'm a self-effacing, self-destructive person, and I think that every speech I made to my own crew and to the people above me was, 'Sorry, I'm not good at this.' Because I'm from Wisconsin."
He said his critics "just went with my own words."