Daily Archives: April 6, 2007

Autistic people and suicide.

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I have heard of two autistic people, one I know, and one I don’t, attempting or thinking of attempting suicide recently.

I remember a few years ago hearing that an autistic woman had included my article — written at the age of 19, with a lot I’d have changed by now — The World I Want to Live In, in a suicide note. I can’t remember if she actually attempted suicide, and I can’t remember, if so, whether she survived. I think she disappeared at some point. I hope she’s still around.

And I remember way too well thinking that death was better than anything life had to offer. Thinking that I wanted things better but that they couldn’t possibly really be better.

And then being astounded when I survived a bunch of inept attempts on my own life, a couple inept attempts by others on my life, and several gradations of hell, to find myself in a situation that is a lot better (and a lot different) than anything I could have thought up when I was in the worst of my despair (or frankly anything I could have thought up even when I wasn’t despairing). Not that I’m living any kind of fairy tale, or that my life isn’t difficult, but it’s better than it ever was before.

But even besides that.

I’m thinking of a post I read on Women of Color Blog called The Women the World Requires.

And a quote from it, “Which means that for our communities, death is not the ultimate fuck you–living is.”

And despite the immense differences between our communities and the communities talked about in that blog entry, that one statement is also true for the autistic community, and the disability community in general. People expect us to die off. A lot of them even want us to die off. The pressure to die is far greater at times than the pressure to live.

I’ll never condemn a suicidal person, because I’ve been there, but I’ll hope and pray that from somewhere they will get the strength to keep living in spite of, even in defiance of, a world that too often says we’re better off dead and forgotten as quickly as possible. Even if it’s just dragging through one nanosecond after another, each one seeming like hell to try to get through, even if you’re sticking around for something that you think would seem stupid and trivial to anyone else, even if you’re only sticking around because you can’t get up the energy to follow through with suicide… that’s how it goes sometimes. Things can get better. But (and no matter what some asshats may tell you in contradiction of this — and by definition anyone who tells you the opposite of this is being an asshat) even at that point where you’re totally convinced things can never get better and that my words here are meaningless and so on, the world is better off with you in it than out of it. That’ll be true whether you can manage to believe it or not, and the rest of us know it.

Edit: Can anyone, especially anyone in the UK who knows Danni, please let us know if Danni is okay?

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“Be more afraid if you find yourself writing and writing and never changing your mind!”

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At Rational Longevity right now there is the post Mini-Review and Miscellany, which addresses something I’ve noticed as a writer myself:

I was discussing the whole phenomenon of online writing with a friend recently. One of the concerns she expressed was the fact that if she writes something now and posts it publicly, what happens if she changes her mind later on about something she wrote? I responded by stating that if I were following the course of someone’s developing opinion set and self-concept over time, it would look a lot weirder if nothing about that person’s opinions or interpretations of events changed over time, than if their later writing and apparent mindset didn’t resemble their earlier material in the least.

People are not static entities, and as each of us encounters and integrates new information about ourselves and about the world, it’s perfectly valid and undeniably sane for our expressed opinions and observations to change in terms of their tone and content. Existence is Wonderful is barely a year old at this point, and already I can look in the archives and find examples of statements that sound both awkward and ignorant in comparison to my present understanding of things. I expect that to be the case for years to come, (and, more than likely, so should you if you’re in the habit of writing and posting your writing online). Though there’s nothing wrong with holding principles, and there are certainly points at which any person is likely to encounter a “best possible fit” explanation or an undeniable fact that continues to be true into the indefinite future, viewpoint evolution is part and parcel of existence as a dynamic entity, as a mind equipped with a feedback system.

So, in other words, don’t be afraid to write because you think you might change your mind later. Be more afraid if you find yourself writing and writing and never changing your mind!

I have noticed a lot of changes in my opinions and writing over time. Many of the articles I still have up on autistics.org, I don’t entirely believe in the ideas anymore, or have a more complex view on the topic than I used to have. But I leave them up because I think they have some idea that might be useful to someone, and because it’s a futile task to deny that I am in some cases eight years older and have eight years more experience and ideas, and eight years from now my views will have grown into something else entirely. If I wanted to decide not to write anything that I would later disagree with, I wouldn’t write anything at all, because I really hope a person would change their views as their experiences change and their perspective broadens.

I’ve written things that, frankly, I’m loath to even read for fear of what I’ll see, but I keep them published because if I didn’t I might as well not write any of what I’m writing now. Language is a crude approximation to begin with, it seems arrogant to assume that I have (and will then write) the absolute truth right now and will never find something more truthful, and arrogant to deny that humans are always in a process of learning and discovering new things, and never comprehending the whole of things with these little brains of ours. But the whole act of looking for the truth and communicating what we’re finding can be extremely useful.

Quakers (at least of the unprogrammed variety) hold our religious services by seeking the truth together, not one minister preaching to everyone else, but everyone coming together to pray. If we believe that the Holy Spirit has given us ministry to share with the rest of the meeting, we share it, where the entire meeting is supposed to, while also praying, test the ministry to see if it seems to hold part of the truth. It’s basically a collective search for spiritual truth (and I’m sure there are less clumsy ways of expressing it than I just did).

I view a lot of online writing as a secular version of something similar. A lot of people writing a lot of things, and influencing and being influenced by each other (and the rest of their environments) as everyone looks for the truth. Our version can (because of some fairly big differences between online discussions and the Religious Society of Friends ;-) ) take a lot of other forms, but I see the same sort of dynamic at times of people sincerely looking for what is true, and saying what they find to the best of their knowledge, while that is tested against other people’s knowledge, and it all gets refined (or not) as things go on.

I agree with the author of Rational Longevity when she says it’d be really weird, in this context, if someone never changed at all.