It rankles me, but I give in. Let the neurodiversity movement keep their identity first autism. While I’m at it, they can take my secondhand autism and I’ll go back to being a full-on allipstick.
My Version of Backing Down
Besides, I’ve decided the comorbidities that come with autism are what we talk about when we talk about autism. Maybe this will appease the neurodiversity rockstars who have no clue what the rest of the world means when autists are decried as eternally triggering personalities. We all see the same statistics, right? Ahem. 85% of autistics are alexithymic, 80% have a personality disorder, 40% have at least two mental health impairments.
The differentials for autism are usually Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, ADHD, and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. None of these are ASD but to an untrained eye they can look and function like ASD. Even professionals acknowledge their diagnostic precision is not very high. To further complicate matters, any personality disorder can develop in tandem with ASD. As can an anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or subclinical disorder, for starters. That’s a big plate of spaghetti for anyone to untangle. So, if it’s not autism neurotypicals are clashing with, what, comorbidity? We don’t hear much about this in the community. It does have a musty, gothic clang to it, no superpower connotations, alas.
Be not scandalized. Anyone can meet the diagnostic criteria for some DSM psychopathology at certain times in their lives, whether or not they know it. Chances are you’re mentally ill right now!
This brings us to the brouhaha self-advocates started over person-first vs. identity-first language. Those of us who prefer psychiatric PFL over IFL come from the old school of humanistic psychology, in which the chief tenet is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t take my psychiatric label seriously, and neither should you. People are not their DSM labels — we are vast, we contain multitudes; we are mentally interesting, indescribably delicious. The autistic rights movement turned all that on its head, with its identity first prissiness.
I’m glad I fought, I only wish we’d won
Those who want people living with psych disabilities to be treated gently refer to labeling theory the way neurodiversity advocates point to ableism. We really want you to pay attention to its pernicious impact.
Identifying others by their psych label has been shown in multiple studies and countries to create psychological distancing (stigma) between the public and those diagnosed a schizophrenic, a depressive, a borderline, a bi-polar, a narcissist etc. That’s right, we’ve been down the identity-first road already and it sucked big fat donkey balls. People openly sneered these slurs around disabled people, keeping them in their place. Categorizing human beings in reductive, hopeless identities will lock them inside a box. It creates self-fulfilling prophecies, sick patient identities, and deviance where there was no deviance before, as the person has no internal motivation to defeat their stereotype.
Let’s now gloss over the appalling, systemic prejudice women identified borderline bear by the mental health wreckers under their supervision: A hasty glance at her notes says all they need about the patient before ordering a questionable treatment protocol before they’ve met her.
“A System in Shambles”
In 2003 George Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to address this mess. I hung out at my state’s Transformation Committee. It was mostly window dressing and paperwork, as these things go. You might have noticed a few changes from that era. Psychiatric patients became psychiatric consumers. Your local Mental Health Authority became a godforsaken Behavioral Health Clinic. Peer specialists, self-determination and people-first language became part of the conversation. Above all, the Decade of the Brain ushered in the rise of Big Pharma. Cut to 2018:
“Different communities of actually-disabled people or people with disabilities have different preferences,” Brown said. And while we might try to look to other communities grappling with identity and personhood, for example, it’s the autism community that “seems to be the most passionate about this.”News@Northeastern
True that. Next to the color of puzzle pieces, you’d think the eradication of PFL is the most debilitating issue facing autistic folks. Anything to distract from working on their relational problems (they “struggle” in connecting with their loved ones). But to be fair, who wouldn’t want to step back from an identity named after Hans Asperger?
Nazi Race Hygienists Fuck Off
The self-diagnosed, left-leaning artisan autists of today who call neurotypicals other-directed owe their epoxied identity to a construct, drummed up by the patriarchy. A construct identified not by medical tests, but by a constellation of observable behaviors. How much looser does an identity get?
The nature of brain differences between autistic and non-autistic people is not well-established or well-replicated, and many neuroscientific studies of ADHD, Tourette, autism, and other neurodevelopmental conditions have mixed results that are not well-replicated. The reality is that most of these conditions are diagnosed via observation, cognitive testing, or self-report, and not via neurological anatomy or physiology. Not many diagnoses involve brain scans, so the neurological differences of neurodivergent people are not seen but inferred.Critiques of the Neurodiversity Movement | SpringerLink
No corporate Human Resources manager is going to read critical texts before setting out diversity policy in anxious, neoliberal America where trendy marginalized identities are sacrosanct. A key difference about the groover’s claim of autistic selfhood, unlike most marginalized identities — it is imperiled, it can be removed. In courts of law, on one diagnostic chart after another, professional opinions disagree — one says NPD, another says ASD. I imagine the uncertainty brings drama and heroism to the battle when your cherished identity could go up in smoke just like that. Can an Aspie back me up on this? No? You don’t say.
Self-diagnosed hipsters aside, once the kiss of autism is bestowed upon an asscheek by the external authority his work is done as activists argue its meaning amongst themselves and educate the rest of us. Autism is not a disability, disease or disorder, it’s a difference, a gift, a superpower, it’s an identity, it’s a blank check.
What can’t be cured must be endured
It might be fun to remember this should you ever get into a smackdown with an ND self-advocate hellbent on convincing you couple’s counseling is equivalent to gay conversion therapy. That you’re coercing your autistic partner into changing his identity to suit your trifling demands. All relationships require work? Nope, not if he’s on the spectrum. This is an argument from essentialism. Essentialism is the view that every entity has a set of attributes that are necessary to its identity and function. To deny an organism its essence upsets the natural order and is doomed to fail. Accommodate, Cassandra!
Sorry, no. You don’t use transparent, self-serving antifeminist Realpolitik to demand everyone else cater to your normal human flaws while you alone are under no obligation to better yourself for the sake of getting on with others. This is the thoroughly unwarranted arrogance behind the 80% divorce rate in autistic marriages.
They’ve declared war on neurotypicals who they assume pathologize autistics. They’ve called for an internet-wide moratorium on the mention of autism by anyone not themselves diagnosed. Their rogue’s gallery of oppressors include international experts who have yet to say a harsh word against autistics, such as Maxine Aston, who gave us Affective Deprivation Disorder, and Tony Attwood, who wrote an advocacy textbook to enlighten the general public. These same people unironically embrace what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has to say about them, a guidebook about as humane as Mein Kampf. Seriously, if we’re going to fetishize a DSM psychopathology, I’d make it the bone they threw us with the PTSD.
Let’s make sure I got this. Autism is essentially a neurological developmental disorder that leads to meltdowns, and Pathological Demand Avoidance is a stress reaction that leads to punching holes in the drywall. Is everybody happy?
Saved by the comorbidity.
We once thought of people who misuse alcohol as low-lifes and bad characters until the disease model of alcoholism became the accepted norm in the late 1980s. The idea was to provide proper treatment for substance abuse disorders, and for society to regard an individual’s characteristic destructive acts with compassion instead of condemnation. It was his disease that made him crash the car through the plate-glass window, his disease that spent his paycheck on bourbon, his disease that passed out in the middle of the street. Change the concept of “disease” to bold “identity” and where would our alcoholics be today? In recovery from what?
Humility: elevates the spirit and keeps humanity from rubbing itself out.
Causation is not Justification
There are reasons to learn why we do the batshit things we do. To have an excuse to keep doing them is not on my list. Sometimes we need to re-wind a chain of unfortunate events to gain understanding of what set the clusterfuck in motion. This doesn’t mean anyone is on trial or under attack. These shed no light: excuses, explanations, blame, correcting “misperceptions,” persuasive tactics, winning the argument, “proving” who is right and who is wrong, one person trying to repair the connection while the other aims to repair his image in his own mind. Triumphalism.
Causation is very hard to establish in human behavior. To reckon with your own drives and motives takes excruciating courage and meticulous self-inquiry, and no one ever gets to absolute certainty. People have their reasons, we can count on that. Discovering them is a lonely pursuit, and it never ends. Do not poison my mind with glib and ready justifications. Let us get to the heart of it and accept that the common cause of all interpersonal pain is trauma.
Beginners Mind is Go!
The groupthink is everywhere, thick, categorical mud minds stuck in the facebook gropes. Sisters are so supportive until I start a thread about tentative new growth within the relationship. Nope, unpossible, our Aspies are incapable of understanding us, they might hit the mark once in a blue moon, if so, it’s a fluke. Wow, guess I needed to hear that. Fuck you very much.
How disorienting is it to be put on the spot when your partner can detect an emotion Simon Baron-Cohen says he shouldn’t be capable of seeing?
At the other extreme you’ll see someone told she’s prolly in the wrong grope, autistics don’t have the Theory of Mind it takes to trap their partners into coercive control strategies. So if your man put tin foil on the bedroom windows, hid your phone, and has a spreadsheet of house rules to follow, he is a sociopath or has a childlike way of reducing anxieties.
I suppose it’s too much to ask we quit going meta, which seems inevitable but bound to mess up your head. Living in a chaotic environment where aggravation is imminent and resolution elusive it just makes sense to shut it all down and intellectualize your way through, comfortably numb, the way people do to avoid the actual, lived experience they don’t know what to make of. Which doesn’t mean it goes away. The body keeps the score. How does it feel, below the neck, to hang out with this individual? What’s it feel like when he walks into the room? How do you feel when he walks out of it? Spoiler alert: You shouldn’t feel worse.
Few get so caught up in PC debates about identity politics and grammatical structure that divide people and solve nothing. As a stickler for my preference I had to make a stand for People First, now that the autistic self advocates have so forcefully seized the moment in favor of theirs.
I will make my peace with modernity and start using both styles for variety and to keep from looking unreasonable. Just please don’t ask us to slap stickers on schizophrenic foreheads.
And with that, this subject is dead to me now.