Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Response to Toni Braxtion

This article came up on my news feed. It provoked some interesting discussion when I shared it. I got involved in the discussion on two of my friend's pages where they had shared the same article. This is my response to the article.

Autism is not a tragedy. My issue with this article is that because she's a celeb she's spouting ableist crap about autism and people who don't think critically and research about autism themselves with believe it and take it as gospel, because you know, a celebrity said it! This kind of rhetoric hurts the autism community. It divides us, adds to the hatred, exclusion and discrimination that many of us experience already. I do not agree with functioning labels either. I am what some would class as high functioning, but no one sees me at my worst and how often that happens. Most people only see a snapshot of me at my best and wrongly assume I'm always like that. I'm not. E.g. I can't drive due to dyspraxia and anxiety. I had a nervous breakdown last year. My son went to daycare almost full time as I need lots if solitude to recover. He now goes 3 days a week. I have meltdowns almost weekly, sometimes more than once a week. I don't work. My anxiety is quite high. I'm very sensitive and easily triggered. I have many times felt like a burden and that I'm useless. That is less now. I'm starting to get back on my feet and cope a bit better. I manage my sensory issues and anxiety as best I can. I've accepted that I will likely never be able to drive. I make an effort to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't. If I continued to believe the many harmful messages I internalized growing up, undiagnosed I might add, I would easily fall in a heap and want to die. I don't though. I make an effort to be the change I want to see in the world. This is why I'm so disgusted that this very clearly ignorant woman would spout such harmful ableist crap for anyone to read. The ignorant (about ASD) masses will likely believe it and it further feeds negative stereotypes and adds to the us versus them language! Overall it's disgusting.

Further thoughts on functioning labels. 
Low functioning means your strengths are ignored and your issues focused on. High functioning means your very real struggles are ignored and your strengths focused on. From Autism Women's Network.

I have been told my whole life how talented and capable I am. Due to my executive function issues, attention and concentration issues, my anxiety, my lower levels of energy it means I struggle to achieve what I've been led to believe I should be achieving. This meant I hated myself a lot for awhile. I don't any more. I get frustrated with the negative language used to describe us on the spectrum and point harmful language and attitudes when I see it.
I make an effort to parent my son (likely on the spectrum somewhere) differently and not tell him that because he's not doing xyz by a certain age that he's delayed and never will. I don't believe in timelines for children or adults to reach milestones or achieve things by. Some of us take longer to develop than others (me included) and that's okay.
I'm using myself as an example and what I've read in terms of a positive non-ableist view of ASD to help illustrate what I mean.

The real tragedy is the harmful ableist view mainstream media and a lot of people have (including many professionals) about ASD. They are missing out on really getting to know us and our potential. We may not fit in with their small idea of how person should behave, talk and interact/connect with others, but we do find our own path and ways of forming community and connection. There is no one way of being human.

I struggle with religion. I was raised religious, my father is a pastor. I saw a lot of hypocritical abusive crap behind the scenes. One thing I have learnt is that we are all hypocrites (myself) included. It is so important to think before we judge others and check that we ourselves do not have the same issue, only bigger. It says this clearly in the Bible. I will stand up and say something about injustice and harmful language, which this ridiculous article clearly is. Yes, there is freedom of speech but that does not mean that your opinion is right and helpful to others. This Toni woman clearly has very little understanding of what Autism really is, she has gotten her info from misguided organisations and individuals. The best people to educate people about autism are people on the spectrum, we have lived it! Others have not and can only assume what it is like.

The other issue I have in terms of the religious aspect of this article is the idea that God punishes us for our mistakes and choices. I do not agree with this at all. Yes, there is consequences for our choices, note, natural consequences. A bit like karma, I suppose. God is not up there looking out for people who make mistakes and bad choices to smite them. I do not believe in a God like that. That is hateful and harmful. I believe in a God that loves unconditionally and forgives. He is not hateful of us. He hates what many humans choose to do with their free choice, but he ultimately loves us. I feel sorry for Toni in terms of how much self-hate she has towards herself and her choices because of her religious view. The self-flagellation will only serve to hurt her and her son.

I have read ridiculous harmful crap written by religious people spouting that those who are depressed and/or mentally ill are not praying enough, do not have a close enough relationship with God, are not Christian enough. I cannot stand that attitude, the you are not good enough, pull yourself up by your boot straps crap. It is so out-dated, harmful and self-hating. This is a lot of why I have walked away from religion. I am too fragile and easily triggered by this harmful thinking. I am on my own spiritual journey with God.

Further reading:

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Boundaries and being autistic

I have struggled with boundaries my whole life, I thought I had to put up more than I could cope with and then ended up drained. It takes too much out of me and I am left emotionally drained, upset, perseverating, anxious, and triggered. It takes me time to regain my sense of calm and balance being a highly sensitive person

I find it difficult to know where to draw the line of caring and supporting a person and then having to withdraw to self-protect. I am erring on the side of potentially harsh to keep myself safe.

I have had friendships erupt over toxic drama. I feel sad that it ended badly but there is nothing I can do about it. I often do not know how to fix the broken friendship without me getting more hurt and upset, which I simply cannot afford to have happen.

I have toxic (extended) family members, thankfully not all of them and have had to limit my interactions as I find them very draining and oblivious to their issues.

I tend to feel sorry for people who are stuck, try to help them, then get caught up in their pattern of behaviour and end up their projecting/abuse target.

After several upsetting and abusive situations I have experienced online with other people, I have written myself some personal boundaries. These are for all interactions I have on-line and off-line. I simply do not have the emotional or mental energy to cope with abusive behaviour. I will put up boundaries and remove myself from the situation. 

I will not be helping or supporting people who are not somewhat self-aware, wanting to be more self-aware. Who do not own their issues and want to work on them. I will not be helping people who do not want help or advice the first time I offer it. I have no interest in getting sucked into other people's drama and toxicity. I've got enough of my own issues to work through, and own, of which I am very much aware (my limitations, issues). I'm happy to share my knowledge and story, what's worked for me (which may not work for others) and encourage others in their life journey. I am not interested in being around people who want to stay stuck in their misery.

I will not tolerate people expecting more from me than I can give and then getting abusive or passive aggressive about it when I put up my boundary.

I am working on setting stronger boundaries, sticking to them and focusing on living my life. People can interact with me on my own terms, or not at all. I don't have energy to cater to everyone.

I choose to keep myself safe by sticking to my boundaries.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Contentment with Neurodiversity

I wrote this poem a few weeks ago after I had a traumatic experience with a professional I am seeing. It was not intended to be traumatic, it is just how it happened and how sensitive/fragile I am. It stemmed from a clashing of views about pathologising from the professional and neurodiversity (my view). 

Contentment with Neurodiversity.

I'm actually quite happy
living my life
in a way which suits me
I don't need a box
to fit me in, to hold me

I've often been told
to change who I am
to fit in
to stop being me
to be another
who ticks off the right boxes

I'm actually quite happy
being imperfect me
I don't need a set of boxes
to tick off
to hold me captive
to mould me into another creature

I know who I am
I am quite aware
of my limits and differences
that set me apart
I like it that way
it is who I am
who I've come to accept and love

I've tried being normal
whatever that means
it made my brain hurt
I wanted to die
I had no hope

then I found out
there's a reason I'm me
a reason I do things
the way that I do

relief and hope fills me
I am not alone
in being this way
there are many others

I connect and learn
all that I can
form many friendships
learn from others
lead others
encourage others

I'm neurodiverse
I like it that way
I don't need fixing
I am not broken
I am who I am
I like who I am
finally, at long last.

Kerrilynn Harris (c) 2014

Further reading:

Throwing away the Master's tools: Liberating ourselves from the pathology paradigm by Nick Walker.

Neurotypical psychotherapists and neurodiverse clients. by Nick Walker.

Shouting voices

There are many voices shouting to be heard
I am only one

I do not have the energy to shout loud enough or long enough

I am tired
I am overwhelmed
There are so many voices shouting to be heard
I am only one
My story is quite similar to many stories I have read
I do not think my story is anything different, special or unique
so I think, why bother?
yet I feel a need to share my story,
yet it is not that different or unique

There are many shouting voices
hoping to be heard

I cannot keep up with it

I cannot shout loud enough
I do not have the energy
I do not have the spoons
My internal voice is hoarse
I want to share my story
others encourage me to share
I feel joy at times
I feel overwhelmed and sad at others

but also pressure,

pressure to share

pressure to keep up
pressure to shout loud enough
There are too many shouting voices
fighting to be heard
I cannot shout loud enough
I do not have the energy
I do not have the spoons

I will continue to share my story
when and where I can

I will not shout to be heard above the many voices

I will not try to make myself heard
I will only speak in my strong yet shaky voice
as I write my story out
and hope that some may hear me
above the roar of voices

Kerrilynn Harris (c) 2014

Sensory Deprivation

When I was in high school I came across a book in the library quite by accident. I borrowed this book, it was called 'Wise Highs' by Alex J. Packer. It changed my life. I remember looking through it and coming across a section on sensory deprivation. I was intensely drawn to the idea of sensory deprivation. I longed to try it out, but did not have a wardrobe big enough and I couldn't figure out how else to do it with privacy with the rest of my family around. I put it away in my mind to refer to when I had a chance to try it out. Fast forward a couple of years and I'm in my first year of University. I'd left home for the first time. I was struggling to cope with all the changes, struggling to adapt and manage on my own. I had recently moved out of an abusive boarding situation into a house with other women my own age. The room I rented had a big roomy wardrobe. I remembered reading about sensory deprivation from 'Wise Highs,' and decided to set up the wardrobe as a sensory deprivation space. I got excited because now I was finally able to try it out for myself. I set myself up in my wardrobe with pillows, blankets and ear plugs. I forgot the world exists. I let go of everything. I let my mind drift and dream. It was a relief to hear and see nothing. To escape from the busyness of the world. It was very peaceful and calm. I stayed in my sensory deprivation space for a decent amount of time. I can't remember exactly how long. I emerged feeling peaceful and ready to face the world again.

Since that first time of trying sensory deprivation, I have set myself up a sensory deprivation chamber using various wardrobes wherever I have lived. I craved it. I longed for it. Since my diagnosis of Autism and fully understanding of myself, using sensory deprivation makes so much sense. I instinctively knew what I needed before I understood (I knew I was different, I just had no idea why) my neurology and did what was best for me. It helped me cope and face the world again many times. I am so grateful that I accidentally found 'Wise Highs' in my high school library all those years ago. I have now bought myself a copy of the book as it has other great stress relieving ideas.

I forgot all about sensory deprivation and the book after I became a mother. My mind became scattered and I regressed. I experienced burnout.
I am slowly regaining my sense of self and embracing who I am. I am starting to cope better, I am remembering things I used to do before I became a mother. I remembered my 'Wise highs,' book. I did remember a couple of years ago that I used to do sensory deprivation but I didn't fully comprehend it and couldn't bring it to the fore front of my mind in order to actually do it. I was too burnt out and inert then.
This afternoon after a busy week I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and overstimulated. I was trying to talk, trying to figure out what to do next, and I just couldn't do or speak that easily or well. Words were hard to get out. My husband Atrus could see I was struggling. He suggested I go and have some down time. I went and listened to a guided relaxation exercise which helped me feel a bit calmer but I could still hear a lot of noises over the top of the recording. I was anxious and stressed. I tried deep and slow breathing to calm my racing heart. I could not slow it down. I finished the relaxation exercise only mildly calmer than I when began.

While I was listening to the guided relaxation, I suddenly remembered doing sensory deprivation and my Wise Highs book. Soon after I had finished listening to my relaxation exercise, I looked through the book case for the book. I found it easily, thankfully. I read the section on sensory deprivation. I decided that I needed to set myself up a sensory deprivation space in our walk-in wardrobe, which I proceeded to do. I used my ear plugs, sleep mask, blankets and a pillow. I lay down, focusing on slowing my breathing and racing heart. It was so calm and peaceful. It was a relief to be free of the majority of noise and light. I let go. I rested. I forgot about time, expectations and responsibilities. Soon my heart stopped racing and I felt calm. I emerged 30 minutes or so later, feeling much better and able to cope better for the rest of the day. I am going to continue to use sensory deprivation regularly to help me cope with life stresses and wind down.

Dreamy stim mind

The world is too fast
I process slow
I need a lot of time to think
To process, to stim,
my mind thinks slow

It is all too fast for me
I'm on a merry go round
can't make it stop
way too fast for me

leave me be
let me process
think some more

Let me dream

Kerrilynn Harris (c) 2014


Welcome to my new blog. The name for my new blog came from one of the last few blog posts from my other blog. It is called 'I am resplendently autistic'. Soon after writing that post all of my motivation for being creative came back. It all started one day when I went to an art session at the mental health program I go to sporadically. I sat down and knew exactly what I wanted to create. The change in scenery and the getting away from the clutter of my life and home freed my mind to make a start on an idea I had been mulling over for several months. Once I drew my idea on paper I was freed creatively. All at once numerous ideas filled my mind and I have been fairly busy ever since writing down my ideas, working on art-works, sewing, writing, and drawing. I am working out a plan of how to integrate more creativity and art-making into my life. I am excited! I have lots of ideas and big plans. Welcome to my creative journey.