Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Which I Embark On Something New

I have a hard time with this blog, because I talk too much. It's the exact same problem I have with Vampires. It's TOO LONG. I cannot possibly get it all right. So I decided, about a month ago, to chop it into smaller pieces, and then publish those pieces independently. It's working out really well. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot, but Book 1 is almost finished. So I think I will try to do that with this blog. Chop up longer posts into more manageable pieces.

To that end, I begin a series of blog entries.

I've been thinking a lot about Asperger's syndrome. Specifically, I've been thinking a lot about the fact that I don't have it.

I think.

I mean, I think I don't have Asperger's syndrome, if it's a syndrome in and of itself, but it's entirely possible my Cerebral Palsy is masking Aspergers syndrome, or I have a more severe form of Asperger's, which explains how I am able to do things most people with Cerebral Palsy cannot do. I am thinking about the fact that Cerebral Palsy is a catch-all term for brain damage causing muscular spasms and limited movement, and though it is considered to be a single thing, it is actually a collection of symptoms as many and varied as the ndividuals who embody it, not so much a condition but a symptom of a condition, in and of itself, and that we did not know that for years, and that Asperger's is similar, and also has similar symptoms, and it may be that I have Cerebral Palsy that behaves as Asperger's does, because similar parts of the brain are affected. And much of the time, I am thinking about the fact that I have an obsessive personality, and I will never never never know for sure who and what I am, and how, and sometimes, that has the ability to drive me more crazy than I am. I mean that literally, I sometimes sit and have panic attacks, not because there are things I can't fix, but because there are things I will never know for sure are actually broken. Sometimes.

But not all the time. Now that I can, with comfort and confidence, write about people with disabilities (I flatter myself to think that it is comfort and confidence that I am writing with, when it is, actually, simply the age-old "writing what you know"), I tend to write about nonspecific disabilities. Christine, for example, in the Damn Vampires, believes she has a rare sleep disorder called narcolepsy, when what she has is a strange virus, which is slowly turning her into a vampire. Last year's Nano, which I may or may not work with later on, featured twins, one of whom was decidedly not neurotypical, though no specific diagnosis was ever presented. I thought, particularly when writing this character, that might be considerably problematic. Part of the problem of being a person with a disability, is legitimizing that disability for other people. But the fact is, there is still a person under every diagnosis. And while I can appreciate the importance of a diagnosis in a medical sense, or in the sense of knowing what to do and what to expect, and certainly in the sense that society will hate us if there is no discernable reason to pity us, in a sense of intergration with wider society, a specific label does more harm than good.

This is what has me thinking about Asperger's. Because lately, it has been showing up a lot in the media, and usually, it's under the guise of "A guy who is a complete asshole but doesn't mean to be, and is totally antisocial/doesn't feel anything." And I feel, not only offended, as we're coming to the realization that it is not just a "man's condition" and also not that simple, but I feel a bit like we're all jumping the gun here. Nice as it is to see Asperger's portrayed at all (though generally by neurotypical people, which is. Oh, I could rage for several pages), it's a bit like what happened when psychiatrists uncovered schizophrenia and dissisociative identity disorder, and thought for years they were the same condition; we suddenly had a bunch of movies about the poor little crazy people, who killed because "the voices told them to do it," as if "voices" was, not only the defining characteristic of a person with the condition, but the only characteristic. Same with OCD. Until very, very recently, like, in the last five or so years, any film or television show, or vague mention in the media of a character or person with OCD, that person's only two symptoms were repeated handwashing, or repeating himself or herself (usually himself. For some reason, crazy women fail to illicit sympathy. Funny, that.) In fact, I had a friend with OCD who was germophobic, and as sensitive as I tried to be to her condition, whenever I had an issue of my own, she simply refused to believe I had OCD, because as "everyone knows" all OCD patients are germophobic. So all this saturation in Asperger's is a two-fold thing for me: Firstly, I think it's lovely that we are being shown non-neurotypically, but, as with most disability portrayals, they're not at all accurate, and I think, in about ten or fifteen years, we're going to be a bit embarrassed by them. At least I hope so.
So, as far as I know, I don't have Asperger's, and I'm not going to claim that I do. But I am not neurotypical, and I have many friends who are not neurotypical, and some of them have Asperger's, and some of them don't. And some of them have a diagnosis they will share, and some don't. But I did want to write a few helpful tips about the incredibly wrong assumptions neurotypical people tend to make about "others." So here goes.

1. Myth: Non-neurotypical people will say rude things, but it's okay because they don't mean it.

Fact: There are three parts to correct in this little untruth. Non-neurotypical people are not rude by nature. It's just our brains are wired differently than yours, and it's a bit exhausting for us keeping a filter all the time, and so sometimes, things slip out. Once, after a fight with a friend, where I told her I would not accept her apology, since I knew it was just an excuse to never talk about the argument again, I was proud to tell my mother I had not been rude. She told me I had been rude. I was absolutely flummoxed. I insisted could
not possibly be rude, since I hadn't actually said anything insulting, and what I had said, was true. She said, "Just because something is true, doesn't mean it's okay to say." To put this in perspective, I was not five years old at the time. I was 27. Further, apart from while I am having a panic attack, I never say anything I don't absolutely mean, and from what I have learned from friends, and from reading, that is fairly normal. Also, you should know, that some people who are not neurotypical can still be assholes. We are people. Each one is different. It's okay to dislike someone, even if they have a disability. It is not okay to dislike someone because of their disability, but is also not okay to like them for it.

Does anyone else get really annoyed at the fact that people think you don't mean what you say? Is anyone else getting a bit sick of the cliche "guy who says random rude things" under the excuse of Aspergers, in the media?

More later!

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