I wanted to blog about some self analysis I’ve been tossing around ideas and stories about. I am currently homeless/couch-surfing in NYC after a fire code issue affected my housing in Salem. I do not have the money saved or income available to get a new place so I came back to the NYC job market for a bit.
That lead me to think about how I am a person who has developed a stress disorder involving money, employment, and housing. (Join the club, right?) It is particularly difficult to leave situations in housing and employment that I loved. And under these conditions is when my autistic behavior becomes much more prevalent.
From the outside I seem incapable of making decisions on nearly anything. This is because I am mentally processing every decision presented to me in extremely detailed and lengthy ways while also compulsively trying to gather more data to help make the most sustainable decision. For things that are simple or enjoyable to other people, like food, being presented with a decision of what to eat can even become stressful when I am already experiencing a meditative depth of analysis over my current stress and hardship.
Because my brain is busy background running data on more pressing issues I have difficulty feeling any enthusiasm at all to try and process a decision such as “what do you want to eat?” For me, this can then be worsened by feeling pressured to make a decision on a topic I’ve specifically expressed no wish to be responsible for. This can then be compunded when I do make a decision on the subject just to avoid more questioning and that is met with anything less than the encouragement my decision-under-duress deserves. I.e. if you’re one of those people who asks “where do you want to eat?” And keeps asking for more input from me than I’m expressing consent to give, and then balks at whatever choice you force me to make you’re an asshole if you do it again after reading this.
Feeling as if your mind is already hyper processing decisions important to you , it’s very difficult to be responsible for petty decisions that affect others too. This is where, as an atypical person, I have to set boundaries that aren’t socially typical. After I’ve set those boundaries clearly and expressed my non-consent to negotiate them at that time further prodding feels like an attack. Yes, even to something such as a discussion about where to eat. I find that some people, despite the narrative they tell themselves, instinctually intentionally antagonize or trigger these feelings in me over simple decisions because then they can use my “irrational” threat response as an example of my social incompetence. They also then get to indulge in gaslighting me for my threat response to such a “small” boundary being pushed. Rest assured, if I seem to break down over a seemingly small and inconsequential decision it says more about the unseen motivations and intentions I’ve been experiencing and often with that specific person or situation than my ability to cope with life or stabilize shortly.
This leads me into the foundation of what I think is wrong with mental health therapy and approaches to autism. When we approach behavioral traits solely as pathologies we open the door to abusive people who seek to control people whose talents may otherwise be undiscovered and behaviors that are otherwise easily accommodated.
As a Queer Satanist obviously my philosophical approach to accommodating difference is to enthusiastically encourage autonomy even and perhaps especially when it makes people socially uncomfortable but is otherwise personal and doesn’t realistically affect anyone negatively. This includes the behavioral traits of atypical people. If I ask a “friend” to refrain from physical contact even though they are used to hugging me it is not “weird ” and it is not “antisocial”. It is simply a different social structure, one that I would like to advocate for, where stigma is not attached to atypical social interaction. When you understand that someone is a Queer Spectrum Satanist you expect them to perhaps be different from you, correct? Stating concise boundaries and preferences that aren’t socially expected or normalized yet would then logically be a part of that. Respectful people, people who I enjoy, appreciate and accommodate my “quirks” and learn how to challenge me without using shame or punishment as motivators towards “normalcy”. If our mental health care culture were more focused on this approach I believe that anxiety and depression along with symptoms of PTSD among atypical people would be much lower.
When I am experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression I tend to auto-pilot. I experience depersonalization which is the experience of “watching yourself” from without. I experience life like a program I am running or watching while I am trying to work out equations that I need to solve. Disrupting the program I am running repeatedly or with minutia leads to feeling like I am under siege and my threat levels raise beyond what others find appropriate or socially acceptable for a situation. Note that I never agree with notions of what is “appropriate ” or “socially acceptable” unless I’ve myself concluded that those notions serve a reasonable mutually beneficial purpose. This is all a very long way to remind you that I’m not one for respectability politics no matter what banner they hide behind.
I’ll leave you with a couple of scenarios to think about your reaction to;
If a friend tells you to stop hugging or touching them and explains that they can’t deal with the contact. Stop. Do not argue, do not guilt, do not shame. If the circumstances change in the future they will let you know, if they don’t it is still their right to refuse physical contact. Do not touch or hug them anyway.
If a colleague tells you they are experiencing high anxiety and emotional responses and need concise professional communication from you for a while it is not an invitation to respond as if their statement of boundaries were a personal attack. It’s not time to say “I’m under a lot of stress too” and behave as if they’ve done something wrong in expressing that. It is simply time to honor a reasonable request.
We’ve normalized social conformity autocratically dictated by a very specific kind of personality type, one type over others. I find this unacceptable.