Tag Archives: autism

Let’s be more understanding

There is a thing that people do that I do not like. And by “people” I mean “everyone.” Me, you, that random stranger down the street, your friends, your family, everyone. EVERYONE. In my general efforts to increase my compassion, I am trying to be more aware of it and to stop doing it. Refraining from doing so takes effort and can even be uncomfortable, but I believe that it is worth it.

That thing being – when seeing people do a thing that we do not understand, deciding that the thing is stupid or worthless.

Yeah, this isn’t really an autism thing (though I do plan to relate it back to autism, of course. this is part of my speaking out). It’s an everyone thing. I talked about it a little when I spoke of social rituals. I see autistic people looking at unfamiliar social rituals and deciding that the ritual they are looking at must have no meaning, simply because we cannot see the meaning. I see it so often. I’ve done it myself. It’s such an easy way to think.

I’ve known people who thought that simple “thank you’s” had no meaning, because they could not see the meaning, so they did not say “thank you.”

Many people have declared the “how are you?” ritual stupid and meaningless, because they could not see the meaning (to reiterate – it is a way to ritually acknowledge a person’s humanity if we are not otherwise strongly connected).

I’ve seen people declare the fast-paced chattering of teen girls meaningless, because they could see no meaning.

And that’s so easy to do. Such an easy thing to think. But think about the times when it is turned against autistic people.

When people cannot see why we flap our hands, so decide it must be meaningless.

When people cannot understand why we may need to escape from sensory overload, so decide that the best idea is to just force us to stay in the situation.

Or, going a slightly different direction, when people cannot understand why we cannot understand some social formula, and so assume malevolence in a simple mistake.

It becomes easy to see the problem when we see it used against us. However, the problems are not single, isolated things. They are part of an overarching behavior set that is entirely pervasive in society (at least American society. I cannot speak to other countries or cultures). I mean, even the sentence “I don’t understand why people do that” is code for “that thing people are doing is bad.” It’s used even when the thing in question isn’t harming anyone. When the action in question is just *strange* to our eyes, in some way.

I want to advocate for acceptance of our autism. This means that society needs to learn to accept how we are different. People need to learn that just because we look or act differently, that doesn’t mean the things we do have no meaning. A neurotypical may not find any meaning in flapping their hands, but that is not adequate reason to conclude that no one can find meaning in flapping their hands.

The thing, though, is that because I think it is a part of this overall failure to accept differences just in general, it is that overall failure that needs to be addressed. So if I don’t understand a thing that a person is doing, I make an active effort to conclude that the problem is on my end and not theirs. It is my failure to understand, not their failure to make sense. As I mentioned above, this can be uncomfortable. It is easier to blame other people so that I do not have to see shortcomings in myself. Especially when society at large is so quick to shove all my shortcomings in my face and blame me for every misunderstanding, every cruelty someone perpetuates on me, every awkward moment that happens between me and anyone else. People blame autism far too often, but that is a rant for another time. The point is, we want people to accept their failure to understand and not shove it onto us. We want people to accept us, and realize that if they want to understand they will need to take the time to do so.

This means that we need to be willing to do the same. It is not ok to ask others to do a thing that we are not willing to do ourselves. So when I see something I do not understand, I assume that the fault is mine. I do my best to accept, regardless of my level of understanding.

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Making a point with pictures

The following is a picture-heavy post. All images are either creative commons licensed or mine.

These are facial expressions.

Image is of me in pigtails, with a happy expression on my face.

They are a way that people use their faces to express themselves.

Black and white image of a smiling elderly man. Image by alvbarito on flickr.

They are frequently involuntary – for NTs, at least, facial expressions just seem to happen on their own.

Image is of a man with an expression of pain on his face. Image by chrisjl on flickr.

Even babies have expressions, and they certainly aren’t thinking about exactly how to arrange their face.

Image is of a baby looking mischievous. Image by philscoville on flickr.

We also express ourselves through our bodies.

Image is of me going in for a handshake.

Much of this is also involuntary or unconscious.

Image is of two men – one standing and one sitting. Image by mr_physics on flickr.

We even have a phrase for it. “body language”

Image is of me, looking very tired on a horse.

It’s not considered bad or wrong or something to get rid of.

Image is of a man and woman acting flirtatious towards each other. Image by junkchest on flickr.

This is body language too.

Image is a drawing of a person smiling and flapping their hands.

We shouldn’t treat it any differently from all the rest of the body language out there. Ultimately, it’s really no different.

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Autism Awareness

So there is a lot of talk about how we need to go beyond autism awareness and into autism acceptance and autism respect. I TOTALLY AGREE with all that. So much. Acceptance is super important.

But then I see people spreading all sorts of misinformation and I realized that being aware that there is a thing called autism does not mean being aware of what autism actually is. I see parents talking about their difficult experiences with their autistic children, and then they cite a bunch of things that are not autism. So here is my quick, messy, off-the-cuff post for autism awareness, talking about what autism is and isn’t.

Autism IS a developmental disability. It involves all sorts of things that are difficult and challenging. When I speak of autism acceptance, I want people to accept that we need help and accommodations, and I want people to work towards helping us. Autism is primarily defined by social difficulty – that is the common factor. It can also include clumsiness, developmental delays, executive dysfunction, and other things.

That said, there are many things that autism is NOT. Autism IS NOT anxiety. Autism IS NOT depression. Autism IS NOT epilepsy. When autistic people are abused, it is the fault of the abuser, not the autism. When autistic people are bullied, it is the fault of the bully, not the autism. Yet somehow, over and over and over again, people talk about these Not Autism things when they are trying to explain why autism is bad.

So just to be totally clear, STOP BLAMING AUTISM FOR TOTALLY SEPARATE THINGS.

Now, to look at this more personally, I am autistic. I have fairly serious depression and anxiety. It is true that depression and anxiety often have a higher incidence rate among autistic people. Of course, they also have a higher incidence rate among people who are female, which I also am. It would be utterly and completely absurd to blame “femaleness” for depression and anxiety, or seek a cure for “femaleness” because things like depression, anxiety, abuse, sexual assault, etc all have a higher incident rate among said female persons. Yet somehow, so many people do exactly that when it’s autism. Then they wonder why we say they are demonizing autism. Just to be clear, it’s because they are blaming autism for things that are not autism, and are not the fault of autism.

Finally, I have seen people say we are terrible for trying to focus on the strength of autism. On things like ability to focus, ability to take in large quantities of information and process that information over time, ability to identify patterns, high memory recall, ability to notice details, etc. Yet people try to silence us for speaking of that, insisting the conversation focus only on how broken we are. THEN, of course, they will go on to talk about how we have a low employment rate.

Which is true, we do. Except it seems to me that getting word out that we have strengths and convincing employers that autistic people are worth hiring is a great way to address the employment problem. As such, I can see no sense whatsoever in all these attempts to silence conversation about our strengths. Unless, of course, your goal is to shame autism, spread misinformation about autism, and generally talk about autism as some terrible, horrible thing. Usually bringing up all those things that are Not Autism in the process.

So yeah, let’s have a little more autism awareness. Including awareness of what it is NOT, and awareness of what we can contribute when our difficulties are accommodated.

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Being Like Me

Image is of a polio ward full of iron lungs, 1953

I am autistic. On the autism spectrum. An apie. Has Asperger’s. Pick your wordage.

There is an ongoing debate that Will. Not. Die. regarding whether or not vaccines cause autism. The usual response to the anti-vaxxers is that there is no evidence that this is the case, and studies indicating that vaccines do not, in fact, case autism. There there was that video by Penn & Teller showing probabilities in a very visual way, basically saying that the risks associated with not vaccinating are far higher than the risk of vaccinating, even IF vaccines do cause autism.

Thing is, both of these responses are ignoring one key piece. A piece that is, from my perspective, absolutely and completely vital. It is taking the argument on the anti-vaxxers terms, not questioning their implicit assumptions, and that is dangerous. We MUST call out implicit assumptions, and challenge them if necessary.

The implicit assumption here, rarely stated explicitly but present in every “vaccines cause autism!” argument is that it is better to die from a preventable illness than it is to be autistic.

It is better to be dead than to be like me, according to these people.

And you know what? There have been times where I actually believed that. I thought that yeah, being dead would be better. And that is so, so dangerous. Is that the implicit message we want to send to autistic people, of any age? Because when we fail to challenge that implicit belief, that understatement that is so easy to overlook in favor of arguing whether or not vaccines really do cause autism, that is the message we are sending. That yeah, it’s better to be dead that to be autistic, we just need to know whether or not vaccines are involved here.

If it were proved that yeah, vaccines cause autism, would that make refusing to vaccinate ok? Because when we exclusive focus our argument on that, to the exclusion of “it’s ok to be me” which yes, is totally an important part of this discussion, we are still saying that death is preferable to autism.

Let’s not send that message to ourselves, our children, our community, or ANYONE. Being like me is most definitely not worse than being dead. If I had a choice between being autistic, and being neurotypical but unprotected against measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), HiB disease, and chickenpox, I would pick autistic any day.

Being like me is challenging and frustrating and sometimes painful, and it is also wonderful and interesting and ok.

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Recognizing Faces

Retrospective

I’m pondering recognizing faces today. Or rather, not recognizing faces.

See, I’m not so good at recognizing people by their face’s. It’s a fairly common thing in Asperger’s. It actually has a name – prosopagnosia, and I have it, if only relatively mildly. I mean, I can recognize some faces, some of the time, but really not consistently and often cannot tell people apart even if everyone else thinks those people look totally different. Case in point – remember those Lord of the Ring movies? And two of the characters were Aragorn and Boromir? I had to watch the entire trilogy through three times before I could even begin to tell them apart, and even now it’s tricky. To me, one brown-hair-and-a-goatee looks like any other brown-hair-and-a-goatee. High school was rough, let me tell you.

This actually popped to mind because I was pondering my cat. Tarball knows me quite well at this point. Probably mostly by scent, but my face seems to have some meaning for him as well. While I stop recognizing someone if they change their hair in some significant way, Tarball seems to have no trouble. I cut off all my hair a while back, and he never even blinked. I find myself wondering – does he notice at all? Does he recognize my face? If so, what about my face is it that he notices? Or is it more my scent, my posture, my voice (those being the things I myself can more consistently recognize people by)?

Then I got to wondering if he does have some form of facial recognition, what does it go by. What does he look at? When I look at faces, I never see a whole face. At least, not in the way I’ve heard it described. I see pieces. Chin, nose, cheeks, forehead, hair. I actually cannot recall whole face in my memory or visualize a face in my mind. Only pieces. I suspect I miss a lot of nuance in faces.

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to just see a whole face. Apparently for NTs, that’s now it works – whole faces. Not pieces and parts seen a bit at a time, but just… an entire face. I feel like I am not describing this particularly well, but I doubt I can do any better given how foreign it is to me.

I’m not sure why, but it is a bit easier for me when I’m looking at a photograph of a person, rather than the person themself. Though that gets into the trickiness that pictures of the same person photographed from different angles or with different facial expressions will look like entirely different people to me. That’s a little weird.

A face only becomes even vaguely unified once I get to know a person, or at least once I see them enough for their features to become distinctly *them* rather than just a collection of features that could be anyone. I still don’t see whole faces exactly, but I can recognize them against other people with similar features, and their pictures all look like them.

This is another post without much point. I just felt like exploring the concept, since my cat seems to have no troubles here and it popped to mind. Faces are just such strange, tricky things. It’s hard to know what to make of them.

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Justice

I’ve been thinking about the concept of justice a lot lately. About what it is, what it means, and the best way to achieve it. It’s an interesting subject to me, but I don’t have any easy answers.

I live in the US, and in the US it seems to be taken as a given that justice = punishment. It is a highly binary society, steeped in ideas of good vs. bad and punishment vs. reward. When someone is bad, we get justice by punishing them, and this seems to be very rarely questioned. And, honestly, having been raised in this culture, in a family that fully embraced the punishment ideals, I am not immune to this idea. I also think that this punishment thing taps into the desire to *hurt them back.* This is something else that I am not at all immune to – when someone hurts me, often my very first desire is to hurt them back. So if I have been hurt by someone’s actions in some way, the idea of them enduring some form of punishment can be very appealing. And, honestly, when a person does a terrible thing, particularly a terrible thing that ends in the death of an innocent person, punishment should definitely be a consequence of their actions.

However, is that justice? If I want justice, is that how to get it? Are consequences for the perpetrators enough?

This is not simply an academic question. The autism community seems to be rocked by tragedy entirely too often. A type of tragedy that I keep hearing over and over and over again, and I’m sure you have too. It’s the one where the headline goes, more or less, “Parent kills autistic child.” And everyone blogs about it and we try to make enough noise to be heard above all the people acting like killing an autistic child is maybe less bad than killing a “normal” child and we cry out for justice. Over and over, we want justice.

Eventually in my life I learned that their are other ways of looking at justice than simply punishment. One way is restitution. There are plenty of cases where I like this idea, but in the kinds of tragedies we deal with, is restitution really a thing? Nothing can ever undo the damage done when a child is murdered. This is not an act that anyone or anything can make up for. It’s done, it’s over, that’s it. What kind of justice can we have in this sort of situation?

Increasingly I think I want to look at justice as bettering the world in some way. Hurting the parents who do things like this certainly makes me feel better, but does it make the world better? Does it make it so that these things don’t happen anymore? Not really.

Crying for better services is certainly something important, but it carries the dangerous subtext that lack of services somehow makes killing one’s child a reasonable decision, which is not the case. So while we need better services, no doubt about that, I’m not so sure they are part of justice.

Want to know one thing I think would be just? Something that would make these situations ever so slightly less terrible? If, when something like this happened, the headline simply read “Parent kills child.” If we didn’t need to add in that “autistic” thing. If a child could simply be a child, and the world reacted to a parent killing their autistic child the same way it reacts to a parent killing their neurotypical child – as opposed to how it is now, when so many people seem to believe that the loss of an autistic life is less terrible and more understandable than the loss of a neurotypical life.

That would be a step towards justice. A small step, but at least it would be something.

I’m not sure what other conclusion I can draw here. I don’t know how to achieve justice for murdered children, autistic or otherwise. All I know is that I don’t want it to happen anymore.

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Labels (pictures)

Nee got a label maker. It’s lots of fun. It also means I get to take pictures like this one:

<image is of me with a label that says “autistic” across my forehead>

I can label myself if I want to! No one gets to tell me that I can’t.

People like to say things about how we shouldn’t define ourselves with labels or labels are boxes or whatever else, but usually they only mean some labels. The labels they have decided are bad. I have lots of labels. No one but me gets to dictate which ones stay and which ones don’t.

<image is of me, this time with many labels scattered across my face>

There’s nothing wrong with labels. Only with trying to tell me that some labels are bad and I should get rid of them.

Also, now my face feels funny.

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Why are scripts so bad?

Ok first, let’s talk terms. In the autism world “scripting” generally refers to the practice of taking chunks of dialogue from places like tv shows or movies, and replaying them out (often over and over and over again) in real life. Sometimes it involves wanting other people to play a role in the script, to make a dialogue.

Frequently when I see people (particularly therapist types) talking about scripts, it is in terms of how you shouldn’t engage, shouldn’t participate, because that just encourages the behavior. Which, of course, carries the implicit assumption that there is something wrong with the behavior and we should ignore it until it goes away.

To which I ask – WHY??? What is so awful about scripts that we should just ignore them, regardless of the reason a person may be engaging in them, regardless of what may be communicated by them? It is because it looks autistic and we gotta look normal? Is it because neurotypicals get exasperated by lots of repetition? Seriously, what?

Luckily, there are also lots of people out there explaining about how scripts are communication. When we can’t put together words on our own, scripts provide words that are already put together. Now, I was not a scripter in that way, so I do not feel qualified to explain extensively about how scripting is communication. Instead, I will refer you to other sources who have explained it all excellently.

https://adiaryofamom.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/she-gets-it/
http://emmashopebook.com/2014/10/09/scripts-a-communication-bridge/
http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2012/03/scripted-language-and-authenticity.html

That said, I AM someone who was verbally precocious (I started speaking at 6 months) but who also finds that the connections between words, sentences, and conversations to be tenuous at best.

See, I like words. Words are pretty cool. I knew words at a *very* young age. Go me. However, putting words together into sentences is challenging. My mom, well before we figured out what was going on with me, would sometimes tell me about how, as an infant, I would “practice” talking. My mom and I would also practice conversations before I could talk. She would say something, I would babble, she would reply as though I had said something that made sense, I would babble more, and so on and so forth. I practiced a lot.

Now let’s talk about when I was older. I can remember as a child, needing to spend time before I was going to talk to someone making sentences. I needed to figure out what I was going to say and how I was going to say it, because figuring that stuff out on the fly is incredibly hard. I also tried to predict what they would say in reply and formulate my responses ahead of time, so that I could do the conversation thing. That one tended to not go very well because people did not follow my scripts, and then I would flounder around trying to think of what I want to say, why I want to say it, how I should say it as fast as possible, all while they looked at me funny for taking so long. If I explained that it was because they didn’t follow the script, they would laugh at me for trying to script out my conversations. You’re just supposed to “go with the flow” don’t ya know.

As I’m sure I’ve expressed before, it still can take me a long time (up to months, sometimes) to put together my words into a way that conveys what I want it to convey. I have to think really hard about what I want to say, why I want to say it, what words to use and what order to put them in. And then if someone asks a question I’m not prepared for or responds in a surprising way? I have to do it all over again, and it takes time.

Most people don’t want to give that time. ESPECIALLY to someone who can pass for normal on the surface. What I do now is usually stumble around with a few of my rote responses, trying to pick one that sort of applies to the conversation so that they’ll stop looking at me expectantly and I can work through my words later.

This is not actually a fabulous solution. My rote responses are limited and people can usually tell that there is something a little … off … about my reply to them. It can also mean that I sometimes unintentionally give people the wrong impression about what I actually think or feel, which can make things really awkward later. Then, when I do finally have my words, they’ll be all “but we had that conversation days/weeks/months ago! And you said [something else]! Why are you only now telling me this, and why did you not tell me then?” And trying to explain all this, about how long it takes me to find words, about how much I think through before I can put my words together, is not an easy thing to do. I have not found many people want to listen, or understand at all. I’m “high functioning” so people can get really surprised when they learn I have very real challenges. Sometimes they get angry. People are strange.

I’m trying to find a better solution, but it’s tricky. Sometimes, when I think I won’t need more than a few minutes, I’ll just say “processing.” I got that one from Data on Star Trek:TNG. But when I need more time then that I just don’t know. (any ideas? I could use them)

So getting back to what started all this exploration – let’s imagine someone who has much more trouble that I do with making sentences. Who *really* struggles to make sentences fast enough to have conversations, or maybe just can’t make sentences that fast. Scripts provide pre-made sentences and conversations that make communication possible. *Talking* communication, which so many people value so highly.

It does not make sense to me to insist on talking, on sentences and conversation, and then reject an incredibly useful tool for having those sentences and conversations. If you want conversations, maybe let us have our stepping stones. You are asking something very challenging of us; yeah, it’s cool to be able to converse, but I can’t do it as easily as you do.
So I gotta ask – what is so bad about scripts? I just don’t see it.

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Self-Diagnosed

This is a topic I am still learning about, but I am very slow at it because it is often seen the most in communities, and I am not very good about participating in communities. I don’t actually expose myself to many communities, and those that I do, I tend to lurk in.

However, despite all that, I do see things now and then, and there’s one trend in particular I want to comment on. That being – the apparent friction between those who are officially diagnosed, and those who are self-diagnosed.

Basically, there seems to be a lot of hostility from the officially diagnosed towards those who are self-diagnosed. Many people seem to think that if you are not officially diagnosed, that your contributions towards discussions or your experiences are less worthy to be shared.

The inspiration for this post actually came from this thread (warning – it’s a link to reddit). The OP honestly seemed to believe that officially diagnosed people were the ones who would know what they are talking about or have actually been through experiences, while self-diagnosed people have not.

Honestly, I find all that kind of sad and alarming. There are any number of reasons that I person may be “self-diagnosed” and not officially so, and a lack of official diagnosis does not inherently mean that the individual in question must not know what they are talking about or does not have anything of value to share.

So I have seen roughly three types of self-diagnosed people. These are rough generalities and I’m sure there are people I’m missing, but I can only speak to what I’ve seen and how I’ve categorized it all in the way that makes sense to me.

1. Those who have spent months or years researching Asperger’s/autism, looking at their own life, and seeing if it makes sense. There could be any number of reasons they do not have an official diagnosis – maybe they lack the money or support, maybe they cannot find a place that will diagnose adults, maybe they are scared, maybe they are old enough that they don’t see a point to an official diagnosis, and who knows what else. While the diagnosis may not be official, it still has a great deal of thought, effort, and research behind it.

2. Those who know that something is going on making them different, but aren’t sure what. They’ve stopped over in autism land and perhaps believe for a while that it is the best explanation for whatever is going on. From what I’ve seen in this group, they tend to continue to do research and trying to figure themselves out, and either migrate into group 1 or decide that autism is not the most likely explanation and look elsewhere.

3. Those who are socially awkward or rude or sometimes just jerks, who claim asperger’s as a convenient excuse for their behavior. It’s the “I can’t help it, I have aspergers!” line I’ve seen all too often when someone is called out for being an asshole.

The main problem is, obviously, group 3. Before my official diagnosis, I could have probably have been said to be in group 2 for a while, and eventually group 1. Or well, I could have if I had ever self-diagnosed. However, group 3 kept me away from that. Seeing the fad of Asperger’s come and go left me with a lot of anxiety around that label for quite a few years. I didn’t want to be in group 3, I was often repulsed by what I saw, so I just stayed away from everything for a long time.

Thing is, if I had spoken up for help and people had simply assumed I was in group 3 and treated me accordingly, it would have done a lot of damage. When we discount ALL who are self-diagnosed because of the actions of a few, we are throwing the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater. When we decide that being self-diagnosed means you don’t know what you’re talking about or you haven’t had similar experiences, we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves. We reject people who may need help or have need of community, and we deny ourselves the opportunity to hear more perspectives.

We reject the person in their 60’s who’s lived a life of difference and difficulty, who finally figured out why they are so different and why things are so difficult, but cannot get an official diagnosis due to age or income or whatever else.

We reject the teen who is struggling with unsupportive parents and an uncaring school system, desperately trying to learn how to manage autism without any supports in place.

And just to be clear, anyone who is diagnosed as an adult (and there are many of us) has a good chance of spending time in group 2 (or a similar place, regardless of whether or not we explicitly call ourselves “self-diagnosed”) for a while. We’re figuring this out largely on our own, and it can be tough when access to services almost exclusively focuses on children.

Yeah, I’ll agree that something needs to be done about that group 3, giving us all a bad name by offering up autism and “I can’t help it!” when they’re just plain being rude, but I seriously do not believe the solution is to reject all who self-diagnose.

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I’m not going to fight my own mind

Let’s talk a little about metaphors. Metaphors are pretty cool, and they are pervasive in our society. In fact, neurotypicals have a tendency to not even think about them or sometimes even be aware that they are speaking in metaphors. We are so surrounded and immersed in metaphor it’s like the air – something barely even thought about.

Unless something in the air doesn’t quite fit, or you can’t seem to breathe right. Suddenly the air is very much on your mind (talking about metaphors using a metaphor. yep). When you’re autistic, metaphors don’t flow as smoothly as they do for other people. I know that I tend to be more aware of them than many people around me.

Now, I am here to talk about one particular metaphor. One that is rarely questioned (though it is sometimes, and the questioning is growing) but I think causes many problems. That being – the “battle” or “enemy” metaphor for illness. A friend shared this really great article going over many of the problems with the utterly pervasive battle/fighter/war/enemy metaphor that is used in medicine. Thing is, a metaphor is not simply a word thing, about helping us convey a concept. The metaphors we choose to use actually play a really deep role in how we conceptualize ourselves and the world around us. If you want to read more about that, read the book Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson.

With illness or disease, we push people to view the illness as an enemy to fight. We say the person who is sick is a fighter, and encourage them to view themselves this way. Medicine, doctors, tests, etc all become weapons in this fight. I think we hope that this metaphor will help people in dealing with their disease, but there is growing evidence that this is actually not helping. From the previously linked article:

“1970, Polish physician Zbigniew Lipowski introduced a framework for characterizing the meaning that patients ascribe to their illnesses. These categories include viewing illness as a challenge, value, enemy, or loss, among others. Since then, studies that have interviewed cancer patients around the time of diagnosis and followed them for years after have found that patients who view their disease as an “enemy” tend to have higher levels of depression and anxiety, and poorer quality of life than those who ascribe a more positive meaning. They also tend to report higher pain scores and lower coping scores.

Which basically means – this metaphor is not working.

However, I also want to look at it a bit in terms of the things I deal with – autism, depression, and anxiety. These are all things to do with my mind. Literally – my brain. They are all happening right here in my head. Now, with autism it is obvious. While some people out there still want to “fight” autism, I find it utterly bizarre. You cannot separate autism and me, so there can be no fighting autism without fighting myself. When you tell a child that autism is an enemy, you are telling them that their own brain is their enemy.

For me, this even extends to depression and anxiety. They’re in my brain. I don’t want to fight my brain. They’re part of the chemicals my body makes. I don’t want to fight my body. If I really, REALLY look at them, in the end if they are my enemy then so is my body. I am not interested in making my body my enemy.

On top of that, for me they are chronic conditions. In the war metaphor the best I can hope for is a stalemate. I will never truly win. What a terrible way to view my life. I don’t want to see myself as fighting a war I can never win.

So I’m not going to.

Not that it will be easy. It is SO easy to view my body as my enemy, my problems as my opponents to defeat. My culture is absolutely saturated in this metaphor and there is no getting away from it. This can only work as a conscious and deliberate choice on my part to reject my culture’s dominant metaphor and replace it with my own. It is a choice to accept myself, with all that it entails. It will be hard. It will take work. I believe it will be worth it.

Therefore, depression and anxiety are challenges. They are part of my mountain to climb. They are problems that I can find a solution for.

Ok, I actually want to look at that last one a little more closely. The book Metaphors We Live By that I mentioned before had something really interesting to say about the phrase “solution to my problems.” It involved a non-native english speaker hearing the phrase, and seeing an elegant metaphor in it. One that we don’t actually use, but I think is much better than the way we currently use the phrase.

What if by “solution” we meant it in the chemistry sense:

  1. the process by which a gas, liquid, or solid is dispersed homogeneously in a gas, liquid, or solid without chemical change.
  2. such a substance, as dissolved sugar or salt in solution.

So, for example, salt water is a solution. In this metaphor, the “solution” to our problems is the substance in which we can dissolve as many of our problems as possible, while precipitating out as few as possible. I want to dissolve my depression, my anxiety, my sensory problems, etc. Some of this is accomplished with medication, some with certain boundaries on what I do and how I do them, some with care of what I eat, and so on and so forth.

With the metaphor, it is presumed that these problems don’t actually go away. They are simply currently dissolved. It means that if something changes (and anything can cause a change), they might precipitate out of the solution, requiring us to tweak it. It does not mean we’ve done something wrong, it does not mean we lost, it does not mean we have to fight another battle. It’s just something that happens and that’s ok. We simply continue the process of finding the best solution at the time – and the best solution will definitely change over time. That’s life. It’s no big deal.

I like this metaphor much better. I may have enemies to fight, but they will not be my own body.

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