Linkspam Friday: September 21

I wish psychologists and therapists didn’t give me the “we will work together to find options but you will have to work to have to implement them” speech. It wasn’t so bad before I had horrific therapeutic experiences, but now, when I struggle to trust medical professionals generally and have little reason to do so, I feel unseen right from the beginning.

That speech has always been the basis of why therapists pushed me towards traumatising-to-me things, like mindfulness meditation. (I will admit that most people won’t have my trauma around mindfulness, but explaining this often didn’t stop psychologists from making me try it for the umpteenth time.) When something wasn’t working for me, I wasn’t working hard enough to implement it. If I couldn’t do something, I wasn’t giving it a fair try. My not trying became the reason describing the failure for all the standard tricks pulled from the therapeutic grab-bag, and that’s now all I hear in that speech. A ready-made excuse that the therapist won’t look past.

I want help with making and sticking to routines, and I’m saying this as someone who has alarms on my iPad, who writes lists, who has tried all the conventional ways to make one work. Like many autistics, I do well with externally-imposed routines, like school, while severely floundering without its supporting structures. (No, the answer isn’t pretend I go to school, because I’ve been trying to do that for over a year!) I don’t know how to make myself not distracted; I don’t know how to stop writing and go to bed like I should. Obnoxiously-loud, jarring thrash metal alarms do not work. Getting up to turn off the iPad several feet away from my desk does not work. Now I’m afraid, because of that cursed speech one session in, that my failure to get a routine going will be my fault. Again. Or that, when I’ve dismissed every single pain-management strategy suggested because they do not work for me, I’ll be branded as difficult. Again.

When I’m constantly trying my hardest against a brain that isn’t and never will be made for an allistic universe, to encourage me to work without recognising my efforts now only makes me feel already a failure. After so many frustrating, bad, terrible and downright traumatic experiences with therapists, such a speech takes my suspicious tendencies and lets them run riot with distrust. After all her reassurances, I already feel like I’m too difficult for her.

If you work in mental health, especially if you’re handling people with more complex diagnoses and disabilities, cut the “you need to work hard to get better” line from your spiel. Start looking instead at the ways we’re already working hard. Because we are. And sometimes it takes all our strength and courage just to get out of bed, and we need the world to see it.

Header text: Aro Worlds: Connecting aro creatives and aro audiences. Header is in antique black type above an ornate divider.

Reblog – The Aromantic Icon Game: I reblog a post about aro-coded or aro-headcanoned characters to talk about Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax, who is to my mind the ultimate aro-ace-and-autistic-coded non-amory witch woman, although I don’t need much prompting to talk about Discworld. It isn’t as romance-free as I’d ideally like, but it’s much friendlier–as friendlier as forty-one stories with a massive leading and supporting cast can be–to aro-specs than most settings.

(Also, I will go to my grave insisting that Tiffany Aching is autistic. I don’t know how you can read The Wee Free Men and not see her as autistic.)

Ask – Branding Fascists as A-Spec: It’s a common Tumblr “discourse” technique to make moodboards proudly proclaiming Trump as asexual or to change Wikipedia entries proclaiming that other fascists and tyrants are asexual, and this context should have been mentioned in last week’s ask (referencing that Hitler has been named ace). I do not believe this sort of absurdity is worth the time and spoons of refuting, since anyone with a dash of reason and good faith will realise that one dangerous person being of a marginalised community does not tarnish the identity itself. If you want to seriously talk the merits of a-spec antagonism and exclusionism to me, come at with me with a reasoned argument and not a childish tantrum.

Ask – Emotion, Reaction and Feeling: However, I didn’t mean to imply that the anon who sent in that ask didn’t have any right to be upset about behaviours that are meant to cause harm, because they absolutely do. I just believe that, if and where it’s possible to dismiss hatred as absurdity, we’re better off to do so for our own sake, because drowning in rage at each thing that provokes it will hurt us long before it hurts them. We will all have subjects, though, where we are just the emotions, and that’s okay, too.

Ask – My Punch To The Gut Activism: In which an anon asks me about my activist responses where I am 100% emotional and less able to implement de-fusion ACT techniques. For me, it’s ableism and amatonormativity, quite often because these things are so unrecognised even by fellow activists. Two examples most of my followers will recognise are “a-spec is an autistic term!” and “-phobia terms aren’t ableist”, the latter of which I have been talking about on Tumblr for several years.

Ask – The Aro Hope of No Romance: In which we talk about the desperate hope of praying that a story ends without romantic attraction or relationships–something familiar, I think, to most if not all aro-specs. The review for the book series I mentioned here went up on @aroworlds today!

I also had these incredibly wonderful messages of kindness from an anon and from writer of aro awesomeness @fluffyllamacorn, which I’m mentioning here because I think it’s important to remember and value the awesome that happens, even though this week has been in all other respects a disaster. And while it isn’t always easy for me to run this blog, the people I’m getting to know have enriched my life no end. And to have someone dedicate a work to me is beyond astonishing!

Ask – I’ve Changed, So Why Can’t You Try: In response to my post on the activism that most hurts me, blogger @herefortheacenaro, who has been valiantly fighting at my back on the subject of moving away from -phobia language, sends a message of support. I talk about the realisation that chronic pain is a factor in what I find distressing about activism–that I never get to stop being disabled–and we end up talking about the frustration, as autistic people, that so many allistics are so unwilling to try to move away from using an ableist term. Citing “it’s too hard” feels like a cop-out to both of us, and I use the many changes in how I talk about things as an example of why I’m so intolerant of it.

Reblog – If Only Tiring Myself Out Worked: In which, after a night of insomnia, I reblog a post talking about the frustration of medical professionals championing neurotypical solutions for sleep. I’ve tried it all; nothing but medication allows me to turn my brain off enough to fall asleep. It’s not even anxiety, since I was that night thinking about book plots, a desperate want for more stories about LGBTQIA+ characters that aren’t romantic, my own writing and a random song I heard from my parents’ 60s mix cassette tape! It’s just that my brain didn’t come installed with an off-switch, so I need a chemical hack to enable a function abled neurotypicals take for granted.

Header image comprising layer of two pieces of clear tape stuck in a row. Grey pencil text reading "writing and fiction" has been drawn over the tape, with a rainbow underline in crayon beneath the text.

Birds of a Feather: I ended up writing another section, one I didn’t plan on, and I’m part-way through another. We’re now in novella-meets-short-novel territory at a little over 50k words. Part of the problem is that Kit and Amelia aren’t meant to be characters of significance here, just enablers, but I really wanted to see Ein connecting with other autistics. It was my plan that Kit would send a couple of former/graduated students to Ihrne to begin building a local community, and I felt that not seeing this on the page undermined the importance of it. The more I’m writing the aftermath of Darius’s having been a lone autistic in the East, the more I want to emphasise autistic community as empowering, healing and fundamental. It’s nice to have Ein talking with the Marches, but it’s more important to have him doing the same with characters who aren’t going to return back to the plot of Erondil, three suspicious eldritch objects and the Greensward the College.

(When I look at The Good Doctor, with an autistic protagonist who has no sense of autistic community, I want to cry. It’s realistic, yes, but that’s not the world I want to show to other autistics. Allistics rarely show us connecting to and bonding with each other; our character “development” is our connecting to other allistics. Hardly coincidental, given that the neurotypical world is so set on erasing autism; autistic pride and community is antithetical to our learning to behave more like allistics.)

So I wrote a scene where Alijah and Frederique have arrived at Ihrne, for Ein as a tutor/bodyguard and for Paide as a technician/bodyguard, on the understanding that Ein will make Ihrne a safer place for trans autistics (ableism and cissexism being the undercurrent of various political actions is a running theme throughout). Which, because this series is also about found family, has resulted in another scene showing how all these people come together, and I think I want to end it with a sense of something like The Avengers. Does it sound sappy? Probably. But I can’t think of too many stories that have a crew numbering several autistic, trans, aro, mentally-ill, physically-disabled and otherwise-queer characters set on using their privileges and supernatural/extra-human abilities to combat their injustices.

It’s also given me the chance to write Ein in a context where, even though the world without is dangerous, we get to see who he is when he isn’t (quite so) anxious. There’s a bubbly, rambling soul in him who craves learning, asks questions, thinks about everything and even seeks out touch, just waiting for a place safe enough to be himself. It matters to me (as someone with severe anxiety who isn’t always seen as anything but my anxiety) to show what he’ll become given that space–the person the world hasn’t given him the chance to explore.