4 min read

Internalised ableism

A stressful situation caused me to announce that I'm autistic. Should I have worn a lanyard?
A few bikes are parked outside someones house. There is a large rose bush growing by their front door.

hello camera

This week’s photo are self portraits from the Leiden in the Netherlands back in 2015.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.


A family boat travels down a canal with trees lining and homes either side.


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.


A bike is secured to a fence. There are trees lining the sides of the street.


2 parked cars outside homes in Leiden. The canal is empty and there are big green trees either side of the houses.


Boats travelling along a canal in Leiden during summer.