Mental Illness

Is “mental illness” even PC?

We often take physical illnesses more seriously than mental illnesses, and the difference in treatment is often compared. However, many people in the disability community appear to not like having their disability compared to physical illnesses. Many disabled people do not want to be “cured” of their disability. The language around, stigma behind, and treatment of mental disorders seems to still be in a transitional period when it comes to disability acceptance and pride.

I do not “suffer from” autism or my learning disability. The deaf do not “suffer from” their deafness. The physically disabled do not “suffer from” their physical disabilities. That is because our disabilities are part of our identity, and our experience. It’s rude to say that our lives are just endless suffering, because these are our lives. Sure, there are hardships, but we live and grow with them as we develop as individuals, just as anyone else does. It’s society’s fault for not being accessible to the minds and bodies we actually have. With that being said, it is often said that a person suffers from anxiety or depression.

I have a history of anxiety and depression, but I do not identify with major depression or general anxiety disorder. They are diagnoses on a spectrum of severity. It’s hard for me to place emotional and mood disorders because our feelings play such a large role in our lives, and I can understand how draining and impactful these conditions can be.

Another thing that doesn’t sit well with me is how people with mental illnesses have gone about joining the disability community and claiming neurodivergence. To me, it seems they have co-opted the disability and neurodiversity movements without proper acknowledgement to the origins of those movements. By claiming disability, they must understand how they can still perpetuate ableism towards other kinds of disabilities, and by claiming neurodivergence, they must acknowledge the struggles of the autism community.

My feelings about people with mental illnesses co-opting the neurodiversity movement come from personal experiences. This one time I was talking to a friend about how our university lacks neurodiversity friendly counselors, and they replied that they would think that people who go see counselors are neurodivergent. While I understand what my friend was trying to say, it sat uneasy with me. I felt like I was forgotten in the movement that was made originally for people with me in mind. I also don’t think that all people who pursue psychological counseling or therapy are neurodivergent. Going through a bout of depression or anxiety is not the same as having major depression or general anxiety disorder. Everyone is capable of experiencing stress and sadness, as our environments are a major factor in our development. It is also true that neurotypical people can become neurodivergent, such as in the example of PTSD, just as anyone can become physically disabled. After this interaction with my friend, I felt like at a loss of words for explaining my experience, and a bit of frustration with neurodivergence being equated as mental illness rather than autism or other mental disorders that are not mental illness. I guess I now have to say there isn’t any counseling that is friendly for people with neurodevelopmental disorders.

The next incident that left me feeling uneasy about people with mental illnesses claiming neurodivergence was when I attended a mental health conference at my university. At the conference, there was a closed neurodivergence caucus, meaning that only neurodivergent folks could attend the caucus. The caucus seemed to only have people with mental illnesses there, which make sense because the conference was about mental health and mental illness, but the conversation was centered on mental illness. It wasn’t a very great caucus, to be honest. Not many people talked, and people were on different pages about accepting and understanding disability, neurodivergence, and mental illness. But because the caucus centered on the voices of mentally ill folks, it wasn’t really a neurodivergence caucus. There wasn’t space or a topic point for the experiences of people with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, Tourette’s syndrome, etc. The caucus wasn’t about neurodivergence; it was about mental illness, and that is fine, but let’s not claim it was for the entire neurodivergent community.

 

Disability, Abortion, Eugenics, Pity

Here is a compilation of posts and messages I’ve made on stuff related to disability, abortion, eugenics, capitalism, and pity. Many are responses to articles.

Response 1: Ableism at its finest. I am pro-choice, but I am extremely critical of choosing abortion based on ableist reasoning. Where this was posted on Facebook, many people made comments that supported the doctor, saying he was doing his job, that raising a downs baby is hard and he was being realistic with her. But this mentality is part of the problem. Disability is defined by society as “burdensome” and “pitiful”, and eugenics becomes disguised as compassion. Many people also said that not everyone is emotionally, financially, or physically able to take care of a special needs child. I pity people who justify their pity towards disabled people. Your heart not being big enough to love and have a disabled child is due to two possibilities: 1) society brainwashed you into thinking disability is a bad thing, or 2) you’re just a shitty human being to begin with. Both of those options should require you to reevaluate your priorities. It is true that it won’t be easy, but no parenting is. And even if you have a child with typical development, there is no guarantee that your child won’t become disabled in the future. And it shows where society needs to be more accessible. I know it’s financially expensive, but this is a human rights issue, and I think a healthy society should have all the support systems for its disabled members. A life should not be seen as a financial burden. Perhaps another strike against capitalism, in my book. I commend this mother for recognizing her child’s humanity, and disabled lives matter and deserve to exist, and that the medical system needs to change its attitude about disabled lives and disabled babies. People can claim she’s just attention hungry and looking for her fourteen minutes of fame, but this is a bigger issue than that. It’s not about her. It’s about the fact that disabled lives are seen as inferior and that people think disabled lives shouldn’t exist.

Response 2: Abortion rights, eugenics, and disability have an intersection I wish didn’t exist. Pro-choice advocates often use eugenics-based arguments to get people to understand disability. Because, “who would want to be disabled?” “Having a disabled child is hard, for the parents and the child.” But it’s more of a societal problem. Society uses eugenics, pity, evolution, etc. to stigmatize disabled people. Society doesn’t provide the resources for disabled people, of all severities and kinds, and that’s what’s actually hard about taking care of a disabled child. Worrying about medical bills (because we don’t have universal healthcare), worrying about your child’s ability to be independent (because being independent is part of the American Dream we are brainwashed with, and is related to the idea of being “a productive member of society”), and so many other things. Society doesn’t provide the resources that would make it possible for parents to “have the heart” to care for a disabled child. There are articles and videos going around about the zika virus and other similar disabilities, and they’re about abortion. Whether it’s trying to show that most people support aborting these disabled individuals, or trying to show how “hard” it is to have such a child, the point is saying disability is a valid reason to abort a fetus. I’m pro-choice, but when disability is brought in, I can’t fall for that. I’d be a hypocrite. I’d be saying some lives are worth more than others. I’d be saying some lives are worth living more than others. It’s shameful that supposedly feminist circles bring disability into their pro-choice argument. That’s not getting at the real problem. The problem isn’t disabled children, but the ableist and capitalist society we live in.

Response 3, I wrote a response to this article last December, and it touches a little on abortion of “non-viable” fetuses, such as life-threatening variations: This article goes over some of the history of how disabled people have been (and are) treated, from sterilization to extermination. But it’s not just history with Nazis killing disabled children, but in recent history too. As mentioned in the first part of this article, a mother (and godmother as an accomplice) pled guilty for involuntary manslaughter for killing her autistic son, even though her actions were premeditated. That event occurred in 2013. In 2014, a mother in the U.K. was granted the right to end her disabled daughter’s life. One thing I’ve noticed with disability is the pity that non-disabled (and disabled) people experience towards disabled people. Pity in extreme form is deadly for disabled people, because instead of just pitying their livelihoods, they pity society for the “burden” the disabled person apparently places on it. Instead of feeling disgust about how disabled lives are being treated, there are more people who feel sympathy for these mothers who wanted to kill their children. Believing these mothers, and society, are better off with these individuals dead is eugenics. Eugenics-based practices also include trying to find cures for non-life-threatening disabilities and aborting fetuses found to have a high probability of being disabled (again, for non-life-threatening ones, like Downs Syndrome, where the child is not expected to die in womb or in the first year of life). People most affected by these practices are those with intellectual disabilities, developmental disorders, mental disorders and mental illness, and visible physical disabilities. Please think twice about how you feel and react towards disabled folks. Because discomfort and pity can lead to more extreme forms (of oppression).

Response 4, in response to an AJ+ video: I think the French lack the word “ableism”. There are too many layers to this, and French culture and translation might be off, but by saying the two are incomparable, the message still seems to be that it’s worse to have Down’s Syndrome than to be black. Comparing two groups’ oppression maybe shouldn’t be done, but I don’t know the best way to make a group’s oppression be understood without the language that comes out of other oppressed groups. Borrowing, co-opting, and appropriating are quite common, even in activist circles. It’s considered unfathomable to consider aborting a fetus because the child will be black, as that is racist and fucked up, but it’s considered reasonable to abort a fetus because the child will have Down’s Syndrome, because disability is bad. I think that’s the message the reporter was getting at. Also, eugenics affects people of color and the disability community, and abortion is one of eugenics’ tools. —> More thoughts: Disabled black people are who we should be listening to on this topic due to their intersecting identities in this conversation. I am white, so I can’t speak to this too much. What I see with this video is that the reporter was trying to say it’s ableist to abort a fetus because the child will have Down’s Syndrome, with lack of appropriate language, and AJ+ oversimplified and dramatized the situation and perpetuated the message that disability is bad and worthy of abortion.

Ableism & Coercion

Here’s a rant on some bullshit I experienced the weekend before finals.

In my cooperative house, we switch rooms every school term, so as to switch things up and keep things heterogenous and whatnot. We have a new term coming up, so we discussed room assignments at our last house meeting. I wanted this particular room that is a single occupant room and I know I feel comfortable in. It’s a downstairs bedroom, decently quiet, and generally cooler due to its location in the northeast corner of the house and its lack of air circulation (the room can also get really hot if the heater is turned on). Having a cooler room is preferable in the upcoming hotter months, and I go to a university that is in a hot area during the summer. We experience a dry heat that is usually in the high 90s to 100s during the late spring and summer. I was in a hot upstairs bedroom last school year during spring quarter, and ended up being quite uncomfortable and sleeping on the couch. It’s my last term in college, and I want a break from practicing “flexibility,” to try and maintain my mental health, some consistency in my life, and to prevent myself from sleeping on the living room couch. Living in a co-op, it can be a tense thing to take up common room space, which I have done when I am uncomfortable in a bedroom. Luckily, during our house meeting, I was given the room. That seemed like a load off my back, that I wouldn’t have to try and fight for it.

Then a housemate, who I will call A, came to me asking if I’d be willing to switch to this other upstairs single so another housemate could take my room. That other housemate, who we will call B, has been having mental health struggles throughout the year, and recently this school term, and a single would be useful to process what she’s going through, and she can’t take the upstairs single for particular reasons. I said I would think about it, as I have my own needs to consider. I kind of knew then that I didn’t want to give up the room, but I needed to think about my needs and if I felt capable of taking the upstairs single. I want to be supportive of B and her needs, but I also need to look out for myself, especially in my last quarter. I mentioned to A that I needed to think of my comfort and needs, and mentioned the heat aspect of living in an upstairs room and that I have concerns over my comfort with that. I have other reasons too, but that was just something I mentioned in passing. My housemate said that my needs are important too, and was fine with me taking time to think about it.

Several days later, A messaged me and was pushing me to make a decision, which in the end was something she felt I didn’t get to actually decide on but should just do. I kept telling her that I still needed time to think about it, and I didn’t have to disclose what I was going through that makes that single important for me. But she kept pushing. She at one point said, “I am calling you in on being selfish.” This statement alone is hilariously disgusting. She is a prime example of white people in our co-op community who prefer “call ins” over “call outs” because white people hate conflict and aggression. She was trying to call me out, and unjustifiably so. She even threatened to take the situation to the conflict resolution committee. At this point, she has crossed boundaries with me, continued to be intrusive, tried to coerce me into a decision, and gauged my needs against B’s. Also, mind you, if I did take that upstairs single, I would then be in a room next door to A. I can’t be okay with that, now.

I eventually confronted B about the rooming situation, cutting out the middle man. We talked, and it turned out that she didn’t care that much about having the room. It would be nice, but she was compassionate about my needs and wasn’t interested in taking the room if I didn’t want to hand it over. Our housemate A overstepped boundaries for both of us, as she was being intrusive, disclosed personal information about B to me, compared my needs to B’s needs, tried to be B’s advocate without her consent or input, and made a judgment call that was never hers to make. It’s never appropriate for someone to gauge someone’s needs, let alone compare the needs of two people. I am extremely angry with A, and I am disgusted and uncomfortable with her.

B confronted A about the situation, and B said that A seemed to be receptive and understand. B also told A to apologize to me. The next morning, I received this message: “B made me aware that her need was not as strong as she had presented it to me originally. I apologize for my brashness and severity. To me, it seemed like it was a serious need that we have always accommodated, which is why I was upset that you seemed to be avoiding that.” What a bullshit “apology”! She obviously doesn’t get it.

My response:

“Even if it was [that severe], your behavior was inappropriate. You overstepped a boundary with both B and me. It is never your place to to gauge a person’s needs, compare two people’s needs, and make such a judgment call. Telling me I was being selfish was insensitive and completely lacking in compassion. You were being coercive and ableist. You have a tendency to be insensitive unless you know all the details, but it is never required for you to be given full or partial disclosure on a situation, and it’s especially not required to practice compassion. You justify your inappropriate behavior in the name of accountability, but you need to be accountable for your actions. I am angry and disgusted and uncomfortable with you now, and I expect you to provide me space for the rest of the school year. It’s especially disturbing that you expected me to move into a room next door to you after what you said and did to me. Your apology lacks sincerity, as to be expected because you’re not sorry. Notice that you are not apologizing for verbally attacking me. I’m glad I went directly to B to confirm just how ridiculous you were being.”

A just likes to keep going! A replied with, “At this point, I’ve apologized for what I felt I did wrong, and any further explanation is probably going to exasperate your anger. This is obviously going nowhere. I will gladly give you all the space you need, within reason.”

I told her she did not apologize for what she actually did wrong. The space will be gladly taken, though, and I look forward to no longer having to deal with you, A! A’s refusal to understand what she did wrong is beyond actions now, and is on her for being arrogant, and I can’t help her become a better and more understanding person. Her behavior was problematic, she lost my respect, and I don’t have to practice compassion towards my coercive attacker. Calling A out on her bullshit was not enough, and it’s unfortunate that I still have to live with her.

To be fair, I probably went too far at certain moments, but only later in the conversation, after she refused to be accountable and recognize how her apology was insincere and for the wrong thing. At this point, I’m pissed, and want to see her dragged. I’ve known her for nearly two years, so I have a feel for her personality traits, and I knew I didn’t like her that much early on, but this finalizes my intuition.

The point of this post was to rant and vent, but also to show how it’s ableist to judge someone’s needs and compare two people’s needs, and how complicated “compassion” is.

UPDATE: My housemate A said she would continue thinking about my words and get back to me later. Let’s hope she understands later.

I wrote this yesterday on a friend’s post because she shared something about disability:

“Today is Ed Roberts Day!

“I went for part of the Women’s March in Sac, and there were two disabled activists who spoke (one is a stuttering comedian), and they told some truth bombs. So at one point, they were like, “And we are going to empower our disabled friends, right?” And we are all like, “Yeah! Woo!” They respond back, “No, ’empower’ is a colonialist word. Disabled people don’t need to be empowered, because they already have that power! It’s up to the rest of you to step aside.” WE WERE ALL CALLED OUT IT WAS GREAT. I identify as being part of the disability community, but I recognize how vast the community is. I cannot talk for wheelchair users because I am able-bodied. I can still be ableist towards certain kinds of disabilities, and the same goes for other people with different kinds of disabilities towards other types of disabled people. Also, check yourself! Check your privilege in an able-bodied and neurotypical world. Check your potential pity towards disabled lives. Check your inspiration meter, because disabled people are not here to inspire you or make you feel better about yourself. Don’t applaud people for doing typical life things.”

Also, someone commented below me and said they were stealing my comment. I went to their page to find that they actually did steal my comment. Didn’t use quotation marks, and didn’t say they took these words from somewhere else, let alone reference me. Annoying…

I am currently taking a number of classes related to disability this term at my school: a disability activism seminar, a psychology class on developmental disorders, an education class on students with disabilities, and a neurobiology class on addictive drugs. The psychology and education classes are proving to be problematic in nearly opposite ways, which is interesting. It’s part of why I am taking them, to understand how “the system” (in this case, psychology/science and education) treats disability. Apparently disabled students are called “children with exceptionalities” these days? I find that off-putting. I would have hated to be called that in school, just as I hated the push to call learning disabilities “learning differences.” It’s too soft, and it’s more than just a “difference”. Then in my disability activism class we (of course) watched the late Stella Young’s TED talk, “I am not your inspiration, thank you very much,” which states how painful and ridiculous it is for non-disabled people to treat disabled folks as “exceptional” and “inspirational” simply for existing with bodies and minds that differ from what society thinks is “normal” and “good.”

Then of course there is the Trump thing… With the ACA repealed, there will be many disabled lives at risk, with potentially nearly 43,000 people dying each year. Healthcare should NEVER have been a profitable business. People’s health and lives should not be profited on, which is why I am for socialized medicine. Much like living in my housing co-op, the point is to pool together resources so we can take care of each other. Let money go towards helping others in need, and then money can come back to you when you need it. “To each according to their needs.” Isn’t the point of taxes to pool money together for government programs, which theoretically are supposed to be for the people’s benefit? However with so much of our taxes going towards military and defense, we do not have proper representation. Also, I will be critical about how Medicare works. It’s supposed to be there for poor people, which is nice and all, but let’s not forget that poverty exists because capitalism exists. People who receive Medicare, including disabled people, cannot make more than a certain amount of money if they want to keep their health insurance. For disabled people, they NEED that healthcare coverage to survive. This keeps disabled people stuck at the poverty level, perpetuating poverty in the disability community. I would argue that this is a form of systematic oppression. Remember, y’all, “Trump is the Symptom, Capitalism is the Disease”. If poverty doesn’t exist, and everyone gets healthcare, people wouldn’t have to worry about forcing themselves to work less or not look at other jobs just to get life-saving healthcare.

I also want to go back to the part in my comment where I mentioned the disabled activists who called out the use of the word “empower.” Again, IT WAS SO GOOD. I love being challenged, and expanding on my sociopolitical consciousness. Reminds me of the “empowered woman”, which is usually a woman who is a scientist or business owner, and sometimes a “sex-positive” feminist that centers around the idea that being empowered means having lots of sex. Like, no. Even though I do not identify as a woman, I am read as one. I never felt comfortable calling myself “empowered”. Something seemed weird about it. It doesn’t mean I can’t have power, but empowered? And it brings us to the idea of the ally theater (performative allyship), the white saviors, and whatnot. “Making space” when really one should step aside. White saviors and acting like an ally to get brownie points is problematic, because one is trying to help in a way that still centers one’s own privilege and entitlement. Colonialism has this history, of taking land and power, then white people going back to “help the poor third world countries,” even though it was white people who put them in those conditions in the first place. “Empower” means to give power, or to help cultivate power in the people who are in need. But it’s not up to privileged people to do this. As stated, they already have this power. It’s up to privileged people to step aside, take a seat, give up privilege and entitlement, and allow the already present power of marginalized folks to prosper.

Before the Election – On Voting Hillary

To me, Donald Trump represents what’s culturally wrong with the United States, and Hillary Clinton represents what’s systematically wrong with the United States.

Hillary Clinton is pretty much like every other presidential candidate, but for some reason, she is seen as more evil and corrupt. It may be because she is a woman, it may be because she isn’t as personable, or it may be because she is. But I’m under the impression she isn’t much better than the other mainstream Democrat candidates, including Obama. Her neoliberalism and centrist policies are the result of a political system that is being tugged to the right.

Donald Trump was born out of reactionary politics. Because parts of society have made racism, sexism, and blatant oppressive behavior taboo, and in other places, ideas of political correctness and safe spaces have entered academia and intellectual circles, which is the result of liberal diversity fronts. (I am all for political correctness and safe spaces, and I acknowledge that “diversity” is a term that came out of white liberalism that doesn’t do marginalized groups justice because simply having more marginalized people around doesn’t speak to the systematic oppression they face that still make society hard for them to navigate because it wasn’t designed with them in mind.) Donald Trump is a “business man”, born rich, and a TV personality that got him fame from saying outlandish things. His popularity comes from him being able to say what so many people have become too afraid to say.

I think it’s silly to say that it’s a privilege to vote for Hillary or Trump. It’s only a privilege depending on why you are voting for them. If the reasoning for voting for Hillary is because “she is not as bad as Trump, she is not as much of a threat to marginalized groups,” it may be out of privilege. But there are many people with marginalized identities who will be voting for Hillary or Trump, and are you going to say they are privileged for doing so? Some of those people don’t have the educational background to know how those individuals are systematically against them, and many of those people feel stuck in our country’s political system. It’s like a toxic relationship. And you don’t judge someone for not leaving their toxic relationship right away, because not everyone has the ability to leave just yet.

I live in California, which is bound to vote for Hillary because she is the Democratic nominee, and California votes for Democrats. So, in certain ways, I have the privilege to vote for whoever I want, because my vote won’t make a difference (until enough people swing the vote). Some may say voting third party is a privilege, and others say it’s a moral duty. Depending on your reasoning, where you live, and your background, it could be either or, or even both.

Even if it goes against someone’s morals to vote for Hillary, I won’t judge them for it if they do. Voting for Hillary doesn’t mean you are 100% with her, nor does it mean you can’t criticize her.

A Facebook friend of friends (Sam Alavi, who made this a public post) posted this: “Yes, go vote for Hillary so that Trump doesn’t win, in the name of compassion, equality, and anti-bigotry. But when Hillary destroys the lives of many Iranians and deports undocumented families and is racist towards Black folks and harms the civilians of Syria and supports big Wall Street banks instead of poor folks, I hope that you get out and support those communities in the name of compassion, equality, and anti-bigotry too. Your ‘moral obligation to end hate’ doesn’t magically end after November.”

You can vote for Hillary, and recognize how dangerous and problematic she is.

(This was written before the election results. Now that I’ve published this about a month after the results, there is a lot more to be said. But I figured I should publish what I had for now. My solidarity is with my friends, peers, and fellow members of society who are less likely to survive a Trump presidency.)

The Label Debate

It’s interesting how humans love categorizing and labeling things. Having things in common can create bonds and encourage empathy. They make people feel not alone, and helps them explain themselves to others in an easy way. 

However, this phenomenon is at odds with our desires to be special snowflakes, where we see diversity and acceptance of differences as what creates beauty in the world. This side hates labels and categorizing, because those things are seen as limitations to ourselves and limiting to our ability to have a deeper understanding of varied human experience. 

It’s also important to note that for some people, the label makes them feel like a special snowflake. As we get older, we keep asking ourselves, “What is normal?” We sort of conclude that normal doesn’t exist, but we still use the word to generalize to large populations, like its the average or median. It also becomes questionable on what typicality is. Is there a typical? Is our current idea of what is typical the actual typical? Or does society have a standard that we consider to be the typical, but is actually nowhere close? 

People who are anti-label are also inclined to hate the idea of normal and typical. While it isn’t good to compare yourself to others for everything (as I tend to do), does that mean we shouldn’t compare on certain things? Sometimes it’s that comparison that makes us realize something is up and we need help. 

Labels can be limitations to some, and empowerment to others. It even goes so far sometimes that some individuals feel empowerment from limiting themselves to their label, and others feel limited because they feel like they are being told that the label is the only way for them to feel empowered, which is ultimately limiting how they get to feel empowered. 

We should not dictate how people should feel when it comes to their relationship with labels. We need to move in a direction that isn’t label oriented so that people who don’t like or identify with certain labels can still get the help they need. This means the ultimate goal of physicians and providers should not be to reach a diagnosis. It is especially important to at least make the goal not be to find a diagnosis as soon as possible. This problem is the result of the fact that we are living in a society that requires a label to access certain kinds of help or acceptance. 

Labels don’t usually explain everything about an individual, but those individuals may still identify with the label because it allows them to move forward and get help or easily explain themselves to others because that is how the current system works. Others do not want to label themselves with something they don’t think perfectly explains them, or they don’t want the stigma that may come with a particular label, or they don’t think the label fits them. This may be because of their personal outlook on life, which also may have been influenced by the part of society that dislikes labels. That is a perfectly valid understanding as well. It’s also important to understand how different parts of our society and culture(s) reflect and influence our personal understanding of the world. 

It seems that the “mainstream” disability activism is very pro-label. It also feels funny to call any disability activism “mainstream” because I think it’s only been very recent that disability awareness has become talked about. But from my experience with YLF (California Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities), there was a push for disability pride. The idea being that we should be proud of being disabled, of having a disability, of having this varied human experience so that we can diversify the world, of creating an identity as a disabled person. Disability awareness has an internal debate between person-first language and identity-first language. Historically, disabilities have been pitied, and society has tried to erase disabled people. This is why having people being okay with being disabled is kind of radical, because having a disability of any kind is not seen as something to be proud of by mainstream abled society, because it is seen as something that needs to be fixed and cured. Many parents advocate for people-first language with their disabled children. They say it’s because they want their child to be seen as a person first, and that their child’s disability shouldn’t define them. However, this may come out of these parents’ desire to separate the disability from the abled child they longed for. It’s painful for me to read about parents who cried when they first got their child’s diagnosis, because it comes from a place of pity, and a lot of that pity is towards themselves and how they know others will pity them, and how they are mourning for the abled child they thought they would have. But that child is still there. Mourning for what they could have been limits the celebration for the person that child is going to become. A lot of diagnoses were there beforehand too. For autistic people, they were always autistic. Mourning for the “normal” child that will never develop is cruel because that child was never at any point in their life that “normal” child. 

Language shapes the context of future conversations. I am now seeing how the current identity-first language and label-oriented reality leads to an interpretation of pro-labels and pro-medication. However, there are still realms where anti-labels and anti-medication and people-first language occur, and that side can’t help everyone either. 

Privilege and oppression are intertwined. They are not black and white occurrences in the world. What is privilege in one scenario is oppression in another. 

It is important for us to realize that we live in hypocrisy. Society gives mixed messages, and our biases reflect how we see the world and which messages we let in or are more sensitive to. 

(Written in December 2015)

Mindful Meltdown

My sacred space is my mind. Others find me reserved and introverted. I desperately want to let people in, but it feels like every time I do, I scare people away. But by not letting others in, or by not letting my feelings out, it becomes a pressure cooker of depression and anxiety. I don’t have panic attacks, I have meltdowns. 

Romantic Feelings and Rejection

Content warning: suicide, depression, suicidal thoughts/feelings, domestic violence, sexual assault

I found myself thinking about how sometimes people threaten to commit suicide when their partners leave them. This is seen as abusive and unhealthy behavior. And it is. But what about those intense feelings? Because it’s branded as “abusive and unhealthy”, there’s certainly a stigma around it, so does that mean you are an abusive and unhealthy person if you feel (at least somewhat) suicidal when rejected? I am certain this is a controversial topic, but I think it’s something that should be examined.

I was recently rejected by a crush. It’s brought a lot of pain into my life, and some pain into my crush’s life (which then brings me more pain at the thought of making someone I have feelings for feel pain). But even after months (over half a a year since the rejection, and nearing a year since my crush began), I have not recovered. I’m still attracted to my crush, and I long for their love that I will never receive. I simultaneous want to love them with all my heart and hate their guts. Unrequited love is awful. And right now, it’s unbearable. My depression took a turn for the worst in the spring. I was crying nearly every day for weeks. I still cry, but I can now go days, and sometimes weeks, without crying, but it’s still the same thoughts that creep into my mind, making me feel worthless.

I am unloveable. No one likes me. No one will ever love me. I’m ugly. Will I be forever alone? Why haven’t I ever been in a relationship? What do people even think of me? Who would want to love me? I’m an emotional mess undeserving of love. No one would want to be with someone like me. I have too much emotional baggage. If I ever let anyone in, they will fear and resent me. My crush did. I want to be loved so bad. My touch brings pain to people. My love brings pain to people. If I’m incapable of being loved, what’s the point of all this? I never asked to be alive. I wish I was never born. I don’t like being alive. I hate myself. If I died, no one would actually care. Life goes on. Sure, some people would be hurt if I died, and maybe some people will come to my funeral, but then they will move on. I am no one’s best friend anyways. No one thinks of me first. No one invites me to do things. No one loves me. No one likes me. I hate being alive. All I want are great friends who love me intensely, and a romantic and emotional partner so I can love and be loved. I don’t have any of this. I don’t know if I ever will. If I never will, I see no point to being alive.

It’s a long chain of ugly, negative thoughts. I suppose this means I have suicidal thoughts and/or feelings, but in truth, I don’t have the agency to go through with it. Death scares me in the long run. I try and hold onto some hope that I will have that kind of love one day. But I hate having hope.

But the thing about these thoughts and feelings is that I can’t share them with anyone. They make me feel pathetic. People (in relationships, mind you) tell me I’m not missing out. They tell me I should try online dating (which comes with other emotional obstacles). You hear people say that you can never truly love until you love yourself. And sure, rejection hurts, but how long is it supposed to last? It shouldn’t bring a person deeper into their depression, and if that’s the case, then they have things to work on and shouldn’t be in a relationship anyways. If you have suicidal/depressed feelings, expressing them would make you abusive. But how is one supposed to get help unless they express these feelings? Also, having these feelings make me feel like I’d appear desperate and pathetic. No one wants to be with someone who is desperate and pathetic. No one wants to be around someone who is desperate and pathetic. And then I fall deeper into loneliness.

I tried DBT and seeing a therapist. I recently broke up with my therapist because she wasn’t helping. When I finally opened up about being afraid of never finding love, all she said was, “That must be really hard.” Another therapist I saw once said something similar. Why the fuck do they think saying that would help? That just makes me want to end everything sooner. Because as my negative thoughts indicate, If I’m incapable of being loved, what’s the point of all this? 

But besides me and my feelings, I was reading about Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and her lover/husband, Percy Shelley, on Wikipedia. Apparently Percy Shelley’s first wife threatened to commit suicide, and that’s around the time he decided to marry her (to save her). She eventually committed suicide when she thought her second lover abandoned her. Percy Shelley apparently threatened to commit suicide if Mary didn’t reciprocate his feelings. And apparently Mary’s step-sister, Fanny, was also in love with Percy, and she ended up committing suicide because she felt rejected when Percy and Mary fled on a trip with Mary’s other step-sister, Claire, without her. I guess that was a double-whammy of rejected feelings: love interest and friends/siblings leaving you behind.

What does all this mean? Even romantic literature makes out threats of suicide as indicators of passionate love, which feminism now criticizes. And I get that criticism. It’s not healthy, and people shouldn’t stay with a partner who threatens suicide if they don’t want to be with them, nor should they feel guilty if they actually do. A lot of feminist circles make out people who are the abusive one in the relationship as the bad person, and makes it black and white. But what I’ve realized is that they are a person too, and every one of us is capable of exuding abusive behavior. There’s an Everyday Feminism article that talks about how people sometime use social justice language in an abusive way in intimate relationships.

An example from the article: “A few years ago I took a deep breath, looked one of my closest friends in the eye, and told him that I thought he should stop beating up his boyfriend. He blinked at me in surprise. He shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe what I was saying. Then he said, ‘But it isn’t abuse if I hit him. I’m more oppressed than he is.'” Point is, one thing I’ve learned this past year (partly from my personal relationships, and partly from what I’ve seen by living in a co-op with leftist people with a variety of marginalized identities) is that even people we think aren’t capable of being abusive are capable of being abusive, and their identities do not excuse or justify abusive behavior. I mean, in the last year in my co-op, a black guy got kicked out for vandalizing another co-oper’s car, and a white girl got kicked out when she was accused of sexually assaulting many guys. I will say that both of these individuals made others in the community uncomfortable, but then we felt weird for kicking out a black guy and a white girl because of certain aspects of their identities and how it relates to their crimes (and how it made us appear). In the end, they needed to be kicked out.

And then as individuals, we don’t like to consider ourselves capable of being abusive. Here’s another Everyday Feminism article that talks about being accountable when you have been abusive. Because, as the article says at one point, “Nobody wants to be ‘an abuser.’ No one wants to admit that they have hurt someone, especially when so many of us have been hurt ourselves.” (Also, both of the articles I used are written by Kai Cheng Thom, so sending out appreciation for your articles.)

If we go back to the Shelleys and literature, history shows that thoughts and feelings of suicide and depression after being rejected by a lover are not exactly uncommon. To be clear, I’m not making this point because I’m trying to justify my feelings, or feel validated. I hate feeling this way. All I want is to love and be loved, not feel unloveable and pathetic. I want to talk about the possibility of these kinds of feelings as being potentially natural, learning ways to deal with such extreme feelings, and not feel guilty about it. I mean, there are a lot of feminist/mental health awareness articles out there that try to help suicidal people try and assuage feelings of guilt in regards to their suicidal feelings/attempts, so this shouldn’t be too different. But feeling such intense negative feelings due to rejection looks bad, and comes with stigmas associated with depression, suicide, and abusive behavior. Related to fears of being a “bad feminist” because you may have these feelings or behaviors.

I’m still trying to find a therapist and friends (and hopefully one day a romantic and emotional partner) that I can open up to about these intense feelings, not get replies that make me feel worse, and receive love and acceptance that can help me start to heal. As a depressed person, or a person experiencing depression (person/identity-first language, you decide), I’m trying to accept and put out there that sometimes you need the love of others to start loving yourself again, because depression makes you forget how to love yourself. I have to relearn it, but without any knowledge, that means I need to be taught.

Am I bad for having these intense feelings? Am I an awful person for not getting over my rejection quite yet? Would I be a bad person if I never do? I am trying to allow myself to be an emotional person. There’s work to be done. And I want anyone else out there who may have similar feelings as me to realize that you are not alone. Let’s try and let our hope last a little longer, and recognize suicidal thoughts and feelings as part of the complex human experience.

(Also, if you are feeling suicidal, or find that you may want to act on those feelings, please get help. Call someone you trust, or call a suicide prevention hotline.)

Popularity as a Privilege

I’ll admit to being the type to fall under the spell of charismatic, extroverted, loved-by-all types. I can’t help but find such people interesting, especially since I have always struggled to make connections. I always wondered how I am always alone, rarely ever being asked to hang out by other people. If it’s because people suck at asking people to hang out, then why do they all seem to still be hanging out with each other? I guess that means no one likes me. That just makes me feel more depressed and lonely.

I was spending time with one of these magnetic people, walking through campus, and we saw several people he knew in a short amount of time, all of whom called out to him to say hi, and whatnot. I don’t ever come across so many people I know, so I jokingly teased him, saying, “Wow, you know so many people. So popular.” He brushed this comment off, saying it was only because he’s been at our school for quite a while now. But I’m certain it’s not just that. He’s been at our school for two years longer than me, and I’m certain he knew more people than me when he was my year than I know now. He’s also so popular that people he knows recognize him before he sees them. Later, I saw one person I knew as we were walking, and we waved hi to each other. The person I was with teased me back, and said, “See? You know people. So popular.”

During future interactions with this person, I teased him about his popularity. He is also someone who has been thinking a lot about privilege, his own privilege, and being sensitive about it (but in a good way). He then asked me, “Is popularity a privilege?” I then realized it kind of was. We often may attribute popularity to personality type, and whatnot, but personality can be affected by a number of factors, such as opportunities and societal pressures. For example, the class clown tends to be a cis white guy. Think privilege, think white supremacy culture, think white beauty standards, think neurotypical, think gender roles, think cisheteropatriarchy.

Having privilege can foster an environment where an individual can develop a strong, charismatic personality. And then once popular, more opportunities arise, because others want to be around you and ask you to hang out. It’s a cycle of privilege and opportunity.

Society is geared towards likable and extroverted individuals. As an AFAB and anxious Aspie, my social skills are a bit off, and my weirdness is used against me because of how society thinks I should act due to my assigned gender. What is the end result? I don’t have many friends, I’m lonely, people think I’m strange, I’m introverted, I’m anxious, I’m depressed…

Whenever I do have the opportunity to hang out with someone, I never cancel my plans. Even if I’m feeling unwell, or sad, I try to keep that plan in action. Because I know that every opportunity for social interaction is vital. It could lead to that person asking me to hang out again, or me reaching out to them to hang out again. And if I’m sad, canceling plans and being alone isn’t going to make me happier.

I see people around me who cancel plans to hang out with others, or cancel their plans to hang out with me. I know I should be sympathetic, because they probably need that time alone, and you should put yourself first, and socializing can be draining. But I’m not empathetic, because they have the privilege to not worry about having a lack of future interactions because they chose to cancel. That’s what it means to be popular. People still want to be around you, even if you don’t want to be around them.

I’m a bit bitter. I hate having people cancel plans on me, and I hate people flaking on me. And it’s always ever privileged people. Does my company mean so little to you?