Content: Inernalized ableism, ABA, poor treatment of an autistic child and teenager, gaslighting, mentionings of meltdown and shutdown
Imagine growing up as a deviation. Everything that is you is considered pathological, bad and wrong. Your interests aren’t allowed to be interests, but are considered an expression of a disorder. You take interest in the wrong things, in an incorrect manner, with the wrong intensity. Your interest in butterflies, where you want to watch butterflies in nature, collect butterfly figurines, put them in a row, look at them and learn everything you possibly can about them, is called a disorder. People reward you when you stay away from your precious butterflies, but you don’t understand why. They are taken away from you when you have done something that apparently was wrong, despite the fact that you don’t understand what you did that was wrong and that it certainly didn’t have anything to do with your butterflies.
“Why can’t I have my butterflies if I don’t wear the itchy socks?”
“Because you’re not in charge here”
It’s all a mystery.
Your feelings aren’t allowed to be feelings, they are considered an expression of your disorder. You feel too little or too much, you feel the wrong feelings and your emotional expressions are a disturbance. When you feel happy from putting your beloved butterfly figurines in a perfect row, people aren’t happy with you. Your joy is a disorder that makes people bothered and worried. When you are scared of something that you don’t understand and that feels threatning, you get punished and pushed towards it instead of protected and validated. People around you seem more interested in fixing your disorder (fixing you) than making you safe.
Your perception and your sensory processing are called disordered. How you perceive and process information is considered wrong. However, you are not given any words to talk about or understand it. Your sensory processing is so obvious yet so incomprehensible to yourself, since it’s called behavior. When a roaring motorcycle passes you in the street and you feel like you are being thrown around from the sound and therefore cover your ears, a very important adult calls it avoidant behavior. It’s considered bad. It’s a problem. Your avoidance of the discomfort is a problem, but your very sensitive senses aren’t something worth mentioning. When you flap your hands and close your eyes in order to better focus, another very important adult tells you “quiet hands”, and “look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you”.
“How am I supposed to understand anything you say when I have to spend all my energy on focusing on your eyes?”
“Because normal people focus better when they look into my eyes. You should too.”
The world is a mystery.
When you’re overwhlemed by just existing in a classroom with so many other kids and it becomes too painful, you stand up and leave. You thought you were protecting yourself. You thought you were shielding your flooded senses but it turns out that you were displaying challenging behaviors. Your behavior is wrong, your sensory experiences don’t matter. Nobody can be as sensitive to lights and sounds as you.
You get stars of gold and gummy bears of sugar when you stay in your classroom, despite how painful it is. It’s important that you put yourself through pain, because otherwise you might exhibit challenging behaviors. If you do, somebody might take your dear butterflies away from you. Your butterflies, with the mesmerizing colors who can put you in a stimmy state of relaxation. Your butterflies, the only thing that can make you relax enough to actually recharge and recover, can be used as a weapon against you because you’re always under the threat of having them taken away from you. They tell you that it’s for your own good, because your feelings and the way you perceive the world cannot be like you are trying to communicate that it is. You are a disordered version of a human being. You learn that you can never indulge in being you, only give in to your basic needs of self validation in tiny portions when nobody can see you.
You get older and by the time you become a teenager, you know for sure that you are wrong. You don’t only do a lot of things wrong, you are faulty version of a person. Everything that is your personality is called a disorder and should be corrected. It’s for your own good, you are expected to show gratitude towards the people who are telling you that your perception of the world is incorrect and that you should never, ever trust yourself.
By the time you become an adult, you have melted away, shut down and almost extinct yourself so many times. Now it’s time to take yourself back.
Note: This story is based on my experiences but some details have been altered. I did for instance not get stars or gummy bears to stay in my classroom, I was just threatened into staying. My special interest wasn’t butterflies, but something that could make people recognize me. Details have been altered to protect my anonymity, but all depicted feelings and practices are things that happened.