My brain hasn’t wanted to make a post happen the past few days (I was helping on Twitter with the #FreeAvery shitstorm and that kinda soaked all my not-school energy), but I do want to signal-boost the Love, Not Fear flashblog, so I’ll try to make something worthwhile, though I don’t think it’ll be as good as, say, Kassiane’s Litany Against Fear / Litany For Love. Or Cynthia’s Love, Not Fear post (both of which are good and are recommended reading.
I’m writing this post for the kids like me. People who are going through what I went through ten to fifteen years ago. The autistic kids.
If I could give you all one piece of advice, it would be this: Love yourself. Don’t fear yourself.
What the allistic people – parents, teachers, siblings, what have you – don’t get about meltdowns is that they’re far scarier to experience than they are to watch. I say this as a person who’s been on both sides of meltdowns. I know how meltdowns can make you feel like you’re out of control, and how others’ reactions make you feel like your some sort of evil monster.
Love yourself. Love yourself enough to advocate for what you need. If classroom noise makes your ears feel like someone’s jabbing ice picks in them, communicate that however you communicate. If the sun makes your eyes feel like exploding, likewise. If those around love you, they will listen and help teach you to self-accommodate and self-advocate effectively. If they don’t, that is not your fault. But sooner or later, you will meet someone who does listen, and they will help you change your life. When you get what you need, meltdowns will mostly disappear on their own. You are not a monster. You do not want to melt down. I know that. I’ve been there. You’re not a monster. You’re not a monster. You’re not a monster.
I repeat it so much in hopes that emphasis will help you remember. It’s hard to believe you’re not a monster when others are telling you that you are, when you feel out of control, when you hurt people and break things and don’t want to. So once more, with feeling: You are not a monster.
Don’t fear yourself. Love yourself. I won’t say that it’s all easy and simple after that. It’s not. But loving yourself makes everything else easier as you grow up.
Loving yourself is a radically defiant act when people around you are telling you that you’re bad and violent and rude and obnoxious and [insert other negative adjectives here]. It is a radical act when, if you’re bullied, adults assume it’s your fault. It is a radical act when you’re different. When you stick out. When you’re disabled.
That allistics think you shouldn’t love yourself as you are, that they can’t even comprehend the concept of an autistic person who is happy with who they are, is the most important reason to love yourself. Because those people would change who you are to suit them. People who would try to change the core of you don’t love you. They love who they think you should be. And there is a difference. You need to love you because you will never be who they think you should be.
Don’t get me wrong: You can become a better you. You can learn new skills and coping methods and ways of expressing yourself. But you can’t change who you are. You can’t become someone else. And you will destroy yourself trying to be them. I know. I tried. For years and years and years I tried, and I don’t want you to have to do that.
You don’t need to become someone else. You need to love yourself, where you are now, for who you are now, so that when they tell you something to the effect of, “If you’d just not be you, you’d fit in more,” you know that the problem does not lie with you. It lies with your bullies and the adults who decide it’s easier to cut off the corners of the square peg than to find a square hole.
You can improve your abilities – you can learn new coping skills and new communication methods and new strategies to manage sensory overload – but you cannot change who you are. Who you are is many things, but autistic is part of that. Love yourself. Love who you are. And, as you grow up, grow into the best you possible by loving yourself, rather than growing into a second-rate emulation of an allistic person, like they want you to, by fearing yourself.
Grow up with love, not fear.