Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The cost of indistinguishability is unreasonable.

Comments are turned off on this. If I want to hear from you, you know how to contact me anyway.

With apologies/thanks to Beth of Love Explosions for the perfect title.

All below the cut because it's a) long and b) probably going to be triggery for things like suicidality and fake friends and emotional abuse. I already know this is a hard write & I don't know that I'll be able to go back through and ID the triggers.

But the cost of indistinguishability is unreasonable, as my past few weeks have kind of proven.

I don't even know where to start so I will start, I guess, at the beginning.

Once upon a time a small dark haired, dark eyed baby girl was born to a mom and a last name donor and a dad who wouldn't find out about her for a few years. As this baby grew into a little girl, her mom noticed she grew up differently from the little girls and boys. She didn't talk. She couldn't be seperated from books. She didn't look people in the face. She didn't respond as expected to things being said to her.

So this little girl was taken by her mother and last name donor to a doctor who diagnosed autism and proposed the parents sign her up for an exciting new therapy, one that might make children indistinguishable from peers. And they did.

And although the child shoved an MnM up a therapist's nose when they told her to touch nose (whose nose??), by kindergarten she was speaking, was plainly academically capable, had a rather large vocabulary from reading, and was "table ready". So they sent this little girl to Kindergarten with no supports.

But this little girl was still Autistic. She was just academically indistinguishable from peers, or even distinguishable in a socially acceptable way. So this little girl did not get nearly the help she needed.

Instead this little girl was told that every problem ever was her own choice because she chose to be strange. This little girl was told that everyone needs and wants friends, but was not told how "friends" works.

She was taught that friends works by when people want you to do things, she had do them for them. And then they will be your friend. But she doesn't get to ask things of them, they are tolerating her and that is their end of the deal. She is weird and loathsome and deserves every bad thing that ever could possibly happen to her because she cannot choose to be normal.

So she kind of almost made friends, ish, by doing things for people. Whatever they asked. At least they were telling her what they wanted. If people will ask, she can make them happy.

At least she can make them happy. In theory, at least. They tell her what they want, she does it, no one is angry.

That is easy compared to home. At home she has to guess to make people happy. They won't just tell her what she needs to do to be acceptable. If she doesn't do what they wanted, they hit her or yell at her or throw her into a wall or sexually assault her to make her "respectful". If she guesses right they shower love and affection and praise. If they didn't want anything, and she manages to not do something they actively didn't want, they leave her alone.

It goes way back to "LOOK AT ME": the way to make people not hurt her is to do what they want. The way to be safe is to do what they want. People show love or friendship by not hurting her. There is nothing more. Just the all encompassing "do what they want and I will be safe".

And as most small children do, this little girl grew up. She is 30 now. By all superficial accounts she won: she no longer has anything to do with her unpredictable parents. She lives alone. She works. She's going through college a second time in hopes of getting a degree that will allow her a dream job. She socializes. She has talents. She does activism-and is actually kind of known for it.

People know her name. This is the ultimate winning in our society. What didn't kill her made her strong, right?

Being strong means you can't be vulnerable. Being strong means you have no limits. Being strong means you can weather your own shit shower, and oh has there ever been one, and solve everyone else's things too. Save the world and everyone in it.

But she is metaphorically drowning. Her internal model of friends is "I do what they tell me to do". No one has to be nice to her, or put up with her, so she has to do what they ask. "No" isn't an option. And the few times she has tried, "no" has been interpreted as "keep begging and I will do it".

People ask, and she does. And when people don't ask? She doesn't know what to do. The guessing is impossible. Not knowing what they want is oh so anxiety provoking that she cannot breathe for hyperventilation. They can tell her they don't want anything, but that's never true. People always want something and the guessing game is not a thing she can do anymore.

People say they don't want anything. They always want something. Stand up, sit down, touch nose, good girl. Do my homework for me. Social media crisis this. Can you cover another shift at work? These, she understands. "Just be my friend" doesn't mean anything. She cannot deal with "just be my friend". Tell her what you want from her!

She can deal with people telling her what they want. But she can't, realistically, sustain it.

She is burned out and has nowhere to turn. Never anywhere to turn. She is who people call when the backup failed. She is strong. She isn't allowed to be burned out. That is a luxury for people who weren't tested by fire. And that is a luxury for people who can believe people don't always want something.

Her brain is telling her that people only tolerate her because she does things for them and the minute they realize she isn't the symbol of strength and endurance they built her into, they will react with hatred and violence. That is what they always do. She is not allowed a moment of weakness. The community needs her. They need her strength. They need her to be a symbol. Can't she do just this one more thing?

She never wants to hear again that she is strong. She doesn't know a way out.

Well, she knows one way out.

Because people can't demand things from you if you're dead. Not really. And when they react with hatred, what are they going to do to you? You're dead. They can't do anything to you.

And then there is no more guessing, there is no more guessing wrong, there are no more demands. There's no more "the common denominator in these problems is you" or "if you weren't so political you wouldn't care, the problem is that you want your rights" or "just this one thing". There's no more being shat upon because it's ok because she's "strong" and used to it and all the other justifications.

And she already won, right?

She's just too tired. She can't anymore. But she has to. Her worth, her right to exist, are pinned on what she does for other people to make up for being so detestably weird.

She can't do it anymore. So she is worthless. She can't she can't she can't.

This is the cost of indistinguishability. And she knows it's unreasonable intellectually, but she can't make herself believe it.