Friday, November 1, 2013

Autistics speaking day: Truth to power part 4

This Autistics Speaking Day, I am going to speak truth that certain folks with power in the larger Autistic community would rather I kept to myself. An access fail went down at Autreat 2013. The official incident report is a) not an incident report and b) utterly devoid of "having consulted with the person it actually happened to". Now it's my turn to report on the incident, and the ugly underbelly that was revealed in the immediate and distant aftermath.
 When we last left, I was on my bed with my weighted blanket, unable to really word coherently or stop bursting into tears. Any question that required much thought was greeted with "I don't know!" or "I want to go home!" and a torrent of tears. Several friends were in the room with me, soggy lunch was in the room with me, folks had offered to bring me not so soggy lunch and that did happen at one point.

And this is where I start having nothing but snapshots. My incidental memory is very very good but the order in which the photos go? Not so good. This is what I remember. This is the last part of Autreat where I was connected enough to remember things.

Jim came in. I don't think xe was accompanied by anyone but Sharon and/or Beth may have walked in with xem--I know they had talked to Jim earlier. This, again, was like 10-15 minutes before I was expected to give a presentation, a presentation I was actually very excited about, one I had worked hard on, one that was relevant to the audience, and one that I was in no condition to give.

The first thing Jim said was that xe wasn't going to apologize. And I am all stocked up on bullshit, so that's fine, don't fucking lie to me. But there were and are things that are not ok and that needs to be acknowledged in a way that isn't "poor precious Cara".

And xe said poor precious Cara is in a bad way and understands that it was unfortunate, and that Hannah understands as much as she can. This particular bit was odd to me-"where is Hannah? why aren't you holding Hannah responsible?" (on the couch and because she was utterly passive except for whining about not being able to hear the tv?) was such a big thing on Wednesday night. But now the emphasis on how she couldn't really understand was odd to me. And I remember processing that it was odd.

There were a lot of words. I wasn't processing words really, not all of them. Walls of verbal text. I needed my cognitive interpreter, but my cognitive interpreter lives in Oregon and is allistic and has a day job and that was just not feasible.

So Shaun stepped in. Shaun seemed to be the only person processing what was going on in those walls of words, and Shaun is at least conversational in Stressed Out K, and was at that moment able and willing to try to straighten things out and make sure everyone understood what was going on.

This is where the official report diverges a lot from the reality I experienced. Shaun was not aggressive. Shaun was polite. I statements. Clarifying questions. Trying to make sure that I understood what was going on. Ibby was on the bed giving me hugs, and Shaun was processing for everyone and trying to make sure things were understood. And I gained some understanding and part of that understanding was that attitudes seemed to still be mightily fucked up.

Jim stated that xe felt Shaun was hostile and aggressive and announced that either Shaun left or xe did. So Shaun asked if I wanted him to leave. I burst into tears and yet another top of lungs "I don't know!" and crying because I hadn't cried enough.

Another person said to Shaun "it might be best if you leave". And I do not hold that against this person at all, she thought she was doing what was best & wasn't processing--no one was really processing--but at that point Shaun left & there was no one who could translate for me. Or possibly, who even knew how little I was processing.

I was in no shape to do that presentation. But words and "there are 50 people waiting to hear your presentation" came up several times.

Let's think on "there are 50 people waiting to hear your presentation". That is a declarative statement. That is not remotely "are you able to do your presentation?" That is a statement that induces guilt about inability, it is a statement that makes sure you know what a colossal failure and disappointment you are if you fail to deliver.

That statement tells. That statement does not ask. That statement is very concerned about 50 people. That statement gives no fucks about the person sitting on the bed unable to stop crying or figure out wants and needs.

It is not a secret that I have an abusive upbringing. It is not a secret that I had compliance training. My brain shut down. It shut off. Everything needed to end and the right answer was not "do what you need to do, everyone else will suck it up". The right answer was "go to your little fort inside your head and let autopilot do the damn presentation". And it was not going to end until I did the fucking presentation.

I don't know what the final thing was that made it happen. I know that I gave that damn presentation. I know that I was shut down, because I do not remember my presentation at all. I do not remember Alyssa's 5A at all, and I was her first witness. I do not remember the dance (which I made a set for) or dinner that night or anything. Nothing. It's gone gone gone.

Going from sobbing to Stepford is a bigass problem. It was obvious and abrupt and it is not right. Shutting someone down does not mean the problem went away. It means the problem got bigger.

And it continued to get bigger, as I will write about in the next installment.