Conformity (Trigger Warning)

I have learned to conform. I am an adult woman with Autism. I am a public speaker. I am a writer. I seem social. I can be the social butterfly. I learned to be a chameleon through abuse. You adapt to survive, at least I did. My name is Kat and I am guilty of self abuse and the perpetuation of the normalacy stereotype.

I realized it today, it is a revelation I have had several times. I do things to blend in, when it hurts me. I am learning how to stop. I avoided using a wheelchair for two years too long because I wanted to blend in. I wanted to pass for normal. I remember the first time I was told by my mother that I was not normal, she did it first you see. She told me I was weird first. I had a date, it was Valentines day and I was four years old. My neighbor Jeremy asked me to the dance. I remember my mother curling my hair, I remember the texture of my dress, it was a silky satin with velvet dots. Red and white of course. I went and pulled on a red sock and a white stock, and then put on my white shoes and proudly went to wait for my date. She even let me put on some lipgloss.

She shamed me. She used my full name, something that my mother only does if you are in trouble, and she said, “Only a stupid person would wear their socks that way.” It may not be word for word, the memory is filtered through damaged moments and is fractured. It’s just a flash amid other flashes. I can remember the dance more clearly. I remember she asked why I was wearing them that way. She jokes about it now but leaves out that she first shamed me, I replied with, “One sock is red and it matches the spots the other is white and matches the white.” I wore my mismatched socks to the dance. My date brought me flowers, he even kissed me on the cheek when I came home. His mother of course drove us, and we even got to go have pizza for dinner. It was sweet, yet also reflected two children trying to mirror the hetero-normitive behaviors of their parents.

By the time the weekend was over I knew to never wear mismatched socks. The rest of the weekend is melted away into a blitz of abuse, pain, the normalacy of my then home. I remember my neighbor Mr.Chang watching. I remember just crying in his arms. I remember his wife saying she thought it was a good idea, but the damage was done. I did my best to always match. You must never mismatch. The result is that I dropped color from my clothes, starting with my socks. They all had to be the same color. The older I got the less color variation existed until for the last decade all I wore is black. You can’t be made fun of for being fat if you wear black and no one can tell you that you are stupid for not having things match to their tastes. I like color, I like to wear what feels good. I still think my outfit was damned good but now, if I like something and want to buy it and it is not black I have to fight with myself, and usually I lose. Mother’s Perfect Person wins.

MPP is the one that knows you always make eye contact. I hate eye contact. I can’t put into words why but your eyes are creepy, so I don’t want to see them. Mine too for some I am sure. I can’t remember if it was Mother or HIM (this HIM is my biological tissue donor aka Daddy). I was bad for something, it was a small something but I couldn’t look at him. Him was loud, him was angry, and his eyes were bad. “Look me in the eye young lady.” I tried, but I couldn’t do it. There was bright light too, and I was small and he was big. He was close so looking into his eyes meant standing funny. If I did that he’d hurt me. It was another line of pain. Some of these weekends of abuse probably are just a montage my mind has made up of suppressed memory particles, as for flashes I am different ages or not in the same clothes. Still I was slapped and pinched and punched until I could look him in the eye. MPP kicks in with every conversation. “You can’t get too close,d on’t be too quiet, don’t be too loud, don’t fidget, don’t breathe too much, don’t eat where people can see you, you are too fat anyway.” There is a check list for how I interact. I try to avoid using it now.

The more stressed I am the harder it is to not use the MPP check list of Perfect Person. Even if I do it all right I am still the weird kid. I will always be on the outside. Sometimes I wonder if the MPP list is what beauty pagent children learn, those girls with the big hair and horribly terrifying make up. They are what MPP is in my head. Stand up straight, smile, make eye conact but don’t stare. It hurts to waste energy on this. Most of the list is gone but eye contact? Nope, I still stare at the forehead or behind you slightly, or just over you. I can’t look away, I can’t blink sometimes. I get told I am so intense, but it’s just because I am trying to multi task. Remembering when to pivot slightly so I don’t look like I am ignoring you and staring over your head. Saying the right things back…

I never could afford the actual right clothes, I never could manage to truly pass but I mastered normal behavior. Normal means to me suppressing what you feel, not speaking out when someone does something wrong, always admitting you are imperfect IE you must be humble, don’t admit you are smart because the men may feel bad, after all a good wife is humble, quiet, and like a child only speaks when spoken to. I think I married the wrong man because of MPP. I didn’t realize I could tell him that his sex was god awful. I didn’t realize that he was wrong for me even because I just didn’t have the skills.

I hear so often that autistic people can learn to blend in. I am proof we can but I also know the cost. If I had been allowed to be myself, I wouldn’t have become a criminal. I assaulted someone in school because I couldn’t deal with what she was doing and I couldn’t be PERFECT anymore. This person was my “best friend” as well. I nearly killed her because of a culmination of break down, because I learned to blend in. It made the news again recently, some poor autistic person being forced to endure water being dripped on them until they stop freaking out, their body scrubbed with a brush until they don’t want to tear their clothes off, loud sounds until they learn to not cry when they hear them.

Learning behaviors to hide the things that are wrong to us is not CURING Autism. It is abuse. The cure for autism is child abuse. I remember birthdays. My family lumps all the birthdays in September into one party. We always went to Pistol Pete’s Pizza. I never remember having fun, I remember always being driven to tears because it was too over whelming. No one ever bothered to ask why I was over stimulated every time, it was instead something I was mocked for, beaten over and punished. I still cannot go into those places but at least my food allergies protect me. Loud crowded places are torture but I was not allowed to not go, and when I had a melt down I was beaten publically. Never once did anyone say a word, because I was an awful child for being upset when I should just have fun with sirens wailing in my ears.

I am writing this while triggered, because you trying to cure my Autism is a trigger. I can self advocate but I think I could have done that if I wasn’t abused much more freely. When you touch me and I punch you, that is a side effect of the abuse. I wouldn’t hit if I wasn’t tortured. All the bad smells, the bad textures, the torture, it wasn’t just my parents either. Nor did any of us know I am a person with Autism. Other children mimicked their parents and did things that hurt, the parents who weren’t mine but were strangers did so, principles did so, though one of them actually tried to help me. Teachers did so, though again there were those that tried to help me.

I have survived an onslaught of violence against my identity. I have given up my birthname because if I use it, I cannot be me. That is a different person that you and your kind murdered long ago. Some of you may say “If you were diagnosed you would be dead”. You are wrong. If i was diagnosed I would probably have had some kind of HELP. I am twenty five years old and until two years ago I had no HELP. I was just ‘eccentric’. I am unable to stop crying right now because of your cures.

Without being beaten into conformity I wouldn’t be trapped by my wheelchair which is broken again. I wouldn’t NEED it. Without being beaten into conformity I wouldn’t have lost my job, the one that lead me to more pain and suffering. I wouldn’t have been broken and not known it. Without being beaten into conformity I would not be afraid to create.

My Autism was never cured. My independance was, my identity was, my ability to dream was, my hope was, I was cured of being able to make friends, I was cured of hope, I was cured of self confidence, I was cured of any vestige of peace. I have had to find a cure for the cures and that is a life time in the making. I know that many punishments I faced would not have been torture if I wasn’t Autistic. If the demons that you see Autism as were accepted, if I was an equal citizen I would have been able to be helped.

As an adult looking back I can see countless people who should have done something, some who knew. I remember the moment each one of them turned away and chose to do nothing. Each and every child that has their autism cured through violence, sensory torture, and other forms of “cure” that are advertised is a child that you are guilty of murdering. The body can live on but the soul rots from the pain. Every child that learns to act the part of Perfect Person, every single one of them is a child that learns that their own dreams, life, and what makes them who they are is evil. Every one of us is a child that grows up and either perpetuates your cycle of violence or must break it. You set us back from evolution. You set us back into prisons.

My mother apologized for not protecting me as a child. She said the words in December, and as I learn who I am each day as I try and come back from another round of attempted murder? All I can think of is… what if she had even tried once? What made me so bad that I wasn’t worth protecting or saving? The answer is nothing. There is nothing wrong with your Autistic child, they merely are unable to see the world through your eyes. Can you see exactly what another “normal” person does anyway?

What I really want is my mother to realize that it wasn’t a lack of protection that hurt me so much as the actions on her part that also are abuse. I want her to see that doing nothing isn’t all she did. Every time she couldn’t get out of bed and I had to compensate for her, most of the time poorly by her standards, and she yelled at me for failing? That was abuse. Every time she tried to make me seem normal, every time she hid my bruises, every time she ignored the fact that maybe my wanting to kill her husband meant he was bad not me? Abuse.

Some of my rage at her has to do with what she did to make me conform. She never once apologized for forcing me to take drugs. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti individuality. Yes some people need them but she never considered that the problems weren’t in my head. I was given drugs that weren’t legal for children to take, some weren’t FDA approved, and many were recalled because of liver damage or other DANGEROUS side effects. Now that I need something like that, there is nothing I can take because my body already has a reaction to everything. The cost of conformity was trying to suppress any feeling. If I felt any anger it meant they upped the meds. If that didn’t work they added meds. I dealt with drug interactions. I was her child. All she wanted was for me to be perfect, was that too much to ask of me?

Is it any wonder I thought she didn’t love me? I still don’t think she does. I do not know if I can love her. I didn’t even know I could love until HIM (exhusband Him not the other HIM). When I did love it turned into something so horrible. The only reason I know I can love is someone else but if I mentioned that person to her she would just belittle my friendship. Is it any wonder I thought that I should kill her? Maybe it would stop hurting then.

I spent years having dangerously long nose bleeds from the drugs, but the drugs were more important to her than I was. I got off of them by trickery. I asked if I could try going off of them and she said no. I had missed a single dose and had felt better so I wanted to try at least lowering them. She told my doctor absolutely no. There was never discussion about what I wanted or even asking me if I felt it was working. If there was, I can’t remember. What if so many of my missing memories aren’t suppressed but I was too DRUGGED to remember?

My trick? I didn’t argue in the office. I just pretended to take them. I stepped down and didn’t go cold turkey aware that this was how you do it. I took a pill out of the bottle at each appropriate time and would let her see me take it, then coughed it back up. I never took them with food just in case. Three months passed and my mother complimented the doctor on his choice of medication. She had never seen me happier or so functional.

I told them then, I went off the meds anyway. My mother freaked out. She demanded I go back on, but I replied, “You said you haven’t seen me this healthy, so I don’t think so. I went off with in two weeks of the previous appointment and I am not going to take whatever he prescribes. Sorry I had to waste your money,” she’d complained of course that I cost her money. I walked out. That was the last time I took medication that I didn’t think I needed.

This is why I have suffered my pain, this is why for years I refused to take any pain medicine even though it made me mean and nonfunctional. I don’t know if I can ever forgive her. I don’t hate her… I just find I care less and less everyday. Yes if she dies I will cry but I suspect it will be about what might have been. I didn’t cry at all over the psychopath she married. I cried for my brother. Will I cry for her? Will it be out of love? Will I even want to go to her funeral? I know I will but I also know I will endure abuse by going… so maybe I won’t.

I am tired of conformity. I haven’t conformed for several years. Conformity is expensive anyway. I write, and that goes against my mother’s ideal of conformity. I wrote a novel once, and the computer, back ups, and even the monitor were all destroyed. By HER. I stopped writing for many years because of my mother. She expects that I will not recall perhaps? She expects me to love her unconditionally? I used to. I don’t believe in unconditional love over all, I think it is rare. I don’t know if I even love my older siblings. I loathe them, but I don’t know that I truly care about their successes or failings… after all, they were considered normal and were given everything.

I do love my younger siblings but, I find they grow more and more distant all the time… because no one wants a weird older sister. I am weird. I am Autistic. I am creative. I am default goth. I am the crazy cat lady. I am a person whose life story when shared with people is often told she lies. I am cured of my normalacy… I am cured of conformity. My dyed black hair with bright red roots? I can’t afford to dye it again… and I think I am starting to like it.

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12 Comments

  1. It’s so rare to find someone who writes with such honesty, clarity and intelligence as you have in this post.

    F*ck me, that sounds trite when written down but it was genuinely what I was thinking as I read.

    I saw your posts on the pendant yahoo lists so thought I would come across as my blog addiction is rarely sated and I was very happy to read your comments regarding Pendant’s attitude to disability in the shows.

    I was born without physical disability and the “non-normal”, “non-conformist” parts of me (bisexuality, cross-dressing, mental illness) are things I have sometimes chosen to hide away. Thus, I am filled with admiration when I read a blog such as yours where you are saying “here’s who I am, f*ck the haters”.

    I may be rambling so will bugger off now, just couldn’t read and not-comment.

    Great that you have joined the audioverse!

    CJ

  2. I am honored you came to my blog! I must admit at times when I start to write I am jumbled up and can’t see where I am going, which I believe shows in some of my posts here but the writing itself gives me the clarity to live; at times quite literally. I know it isn’t trite, either. I have come across others who inspired me to share who I am.

    It is nice to meet you CJ and you are welcome to ramble anytime. I have learned i am happiest when I am out of the various closets I was shoved into, but I also am aware that admitting sexuality, illness of any type (mental, physical, hidden, visible, emotional etc) can be extremely dangerous. I sometimes hide too, because there is an element of fear. Do not discount what you offer to the world when the world is often overt in it’s hatred of minorities, many of which you are a member by your own admission.

    I look forward to sharing the world of fiction with you as well as non fiction.

    Kat

  3. You don’t seem particularly strange to me.

  4. My perception of strange is based on my history of being considered an outsider. Being just accepted is something I may never get used to but i definately enjoy.

  5. Hello, friend. Sorry that I have been gone for so long but I do check in on you sometimes and actually have the time to comment for once. I’m always glad to see that you’re still writing, and writing so well.

    I think dealing with conformity like this might be a particular side effect of abuse. I know I feel like a complete freak sometimes, even when there are no labels to put on why. And then there are the times where my anxieties bubble up, in situations that are innocuous to anyone else but vaguely triggering to me, and part of what makes them worse if having to pretend like everything is fine when it’s really not; it feels like the same cage that my father put me in.

    But people like you and I who have survived abuse, we know that “normal” can be such a huge lie, and even just knowing that can feel like the biggest secret in the world while everyone else is going about their business as if it weren’t true.

  6. Hi —

    Although I don’t read your blog every day, I do drop by once in a while.

    There is so much here that it seems wrong to pick out just one or two elements here to comment on, but the way that eye contact disturbs you reminds me of this post by Amanda Baggs, called “Eyeballs”; if you haven’t already read it I suspect you might relate to it:

    http://ballastexistenz.autistics.org/?p=110

    Re, overstimulation: Since I am not autistic I don’t experience this to nearly the same degree as you, Amanda Baggs, and other Autistic people I’ve read on-line. But reading about overstimulation from the Autistic perceptive has helped me realize recently that I do occasionally experience this when clothes shopping. As a general rule I really hate shopping for clothes, especially for long periods of time or in large department stores. I think it’s partly because clothes bore me so I have to force myself to pay attention to them in the first place. Plus, department stores are usually laid out in a confusing pattern that seem almost designed to force you to become lost … which is frustrating and annoying considering that I already tend to get lost easily anyway. Plus, clothing line ups, at least those targeted at women, change so very rapidly and frequently so there is never any hope of becoming accustomed to what is there and where to find things. And, clothing stores for women are not designed so you can come in, make a bee line for the specific type of items you want to find (three nice blouses with print pattern for work, or whatever it is), try on, buy, and get out. They’re designed to encourage women who enjoy shopping to do tons of browsing first. For women like me who hate shopping, it’s a nightmare!

    Take all of this confusion plus the usual stimulation of having tons of different colors and styles hitting your eyes at once plus all the noise stimulation and it sometimes overwhelms me — not as much as it might overwhelm an Autistic person, but enough that I have occasionally broken into tears while clothes shopping.

    One time I experimented with simply turning the volume on my hearing aid down, or even turning my hearing aid off, so that at least the noise part of the equation wouldn’t bombard me as much. And I found that it immediately helped.

    Granted, I know this isn’t very helpful for people who don’t wear hearing aids. But it was a personal revelation for me.

    Interestingly, grocery stores don’t bother me, even though certain elements (visual and auditory simulation) are shared in common. Maybe because they’re laid out in a far more predictable pattern, and because grocery products don’t turn over nearly as often as clothing products, and because grocery stores (since I shop in them far more often) are far more familiar to me.

  7. I have a lot of trouble shopping in general because of the people. I am most often stimulated by people more than colors, because most of what I see is blobby color. That helps with my eye contact issues considerably. My tactic is similar to yours. I take my MP3 player and headphones with a fresh battery for the noise cancelling circuit, then I play my most emotionally soothing music.

    Most often now I send my caregiver, but when I want to go out this cuts down on my terror of the cars and things like that. I do turn off the headphones at every road crossing however.

    The eyeballs post is dead on for what I feel. Even reading it I want to punch. I know now as an adult that part of my violence is related to a disunderstanding (not misunderstanding but a conscious and purposeful not understanding) of my needs. When people do that I often punch them. I try not to, so for me it is eyeballs do not hit eyeballs punch no wait no eyeballs…

    The other thing that happens is my brain superimposes an abuser’s face over theirs at times, usually they are similar physically in some way, but not always. The worst place for me is always the mall. Myriads of stores, tight spaces,and loud. They play noise, therea re screaming children (also don’t like those so much…)

  8. I know a large part of it is exactly what you say, but I suspect there is a component of my Autism. The sensory issues and the fits that I struggle to keep to myself are there. My reactions are there. I am exploring the fact that my disabilities and Autism may have added to the abuses I have suffered. So far the answer is a resounding yes.

    I would not have been punished for some things without the Autism there to cause my specific reactions. The autism and not just the random neighbors and horses is what shaped me into the adult that I am. The adult that functions in society and has a healthy grasp of reality and knows what abuse is and breaks the cycle.

    I agree that normal isn’t real, and is used to subject to people to pain for not fitting some imaginary ideal that no one actually meets. That is my issue with conformity. Conformity IS abuse. For some, more than others.

  9. Absolutely, and I didn’t mean to suggest that autism wasn’t a part of it. I definitely believe that you suffered far more than a non-autistic person in the same situation would have.

    You are a strong woman, my friend. Don’t forget that.

  10. I didn’t think you did, but I wanted to make sure the point was clear. I also try and keep in mind suffering is relative. I suspect that I have to be strong or I would go insane and start biting people, it’s always quite tempting.

  11. “We are researching a cure for social beings who engage in frequent sexual acts. Would you like to sign up for our study?”

  12. LOL that’s a funny joke but I suspect that somewhere someone is saying that in all seriousness.


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