This week’s photo are self portraits from the Leiden in the Netherlands back in 2015.
Acknowledging internalised ableism
I recently had a bad experience at my local vet because I became overloaded by information and couldn’t make decisions. Oh hello autism. Let me stress that my vets are great people. I believe they are an all female team and they’ve been wonderful with our cats over the years. Highly recommended. However for some reason recently I did not click with one of them and during a recent visit we didn’t work well together.
I was tense, confused, stuck and unconsciously stimming by rubbing my head. I’m not one to physically stim but I was so tense it was happening. I had become overloaded by debate and confusion. It was my responsibility to get our cats the help they needed and I couldn’t make a decision because my brain was unable to process anything. I had to try and explain this to the vet so I didn’t look like an irate customer. I needed them to know I was struggling. I kept thinking “Should I tell them I’m autistic? Would it help? This isn’t going well.” So I did. It felt like a moment of weakness that I had to “resort” to revealing my hidden disability. Did it help? I don’t think so. I muddled through and we eventually got to a good place where I was able to make the decisions for the cats but it was stressful.
A few days later and I’m at the dentist. I’ve got a bad tooth that needs work. He quickly went through the options and I felt like I was being rushed out before the next patient started complaining. I asked for his advice, seeing as he was a trained dentist and I was simply someone who sucked sugar. His advice was “Well it’s up to you.” Yay? I was left to go home and google for information. Most of which said “A trained professional will be able to guide you through this.” … Sure… In his defense the NHS is massively underfunded and needs real help from the government. I understand he was busy but maybe if I was wearing a lanyard saying “I am autistic” maybe I could have got just a bit more breathing room to process the information?
These events got me thinking about buying a Hidden Disability lanyard with a card saying “I am autistic” on in an attempt to prevent future issues. I went to the website, popped a few in my basket and closed the tab. “I’m not that autistic.” I thought. “Do I want the world to see me that way?” I wear a patch on my jacket that says “Some disabilities are invisible”. I considered getting one that announced I was autistic but I didn’t. I think I was concerned with how people would see me. (They say while wearing makeup, a skirt and tights.)
Do I see autism as a bad thing? Am I not proud of the things I’ve achieved in my life which have come from being autistic? Am I being ableist in some way? It is complex to unpack. Maybe I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished but also ashamed at the times I’ve failed. Maybe I see times like those at the vet or dentist as failings and by walking around with a lanyard on I’m saying “Careful now. I’m likely to need help.” Is there a part of me that pities disabled people and doesn’t want to be seen in that way? Gosh. I don’t know. Brains are complex and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was old code in there screwing things up.
I decided that having support was more important than any unconscious fear I might have so I bought lanyards. They arrive next week. I need to be in a good place to make important decisions. If the people around me know I may struggle then hopefully we can work together to make things easier. I’m not shy about taking pride in my autism when I do interesting things. I shouldn’t be shy about asking for help.