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Neuroqueer theory and the Self

When considering our potential, we often think in finite terms. Normativity has dictated that which a human can be. We are also bound, in principle, by the finite nature of our mortality. Thus, we are limited by both cultural and biological variables. However, the limits of what a human, a person, can be are not what we were taught as children.

By consistently queering ourselves, we break down the walls that neuronormative society has built around it’s definition of humanness. To be authentically neurodivergent and neuroqueer to boot, we create infinite potentialities of our person(s).

To be neurologically queer, is to cast off the chains that are used to bind the Self to cultural standards and normative society. This is the first step towards a neurocosmopolitan society. When we realise that the Self can be more than divergent, we open ourselves up to endless possibilities.

The entelechy of my Self is one of growth and change. I speak often of the transitions I have been through; child to adult, innocence to trauma, addiction to recovery, recovery to psychotic. To queer the Self, one must look inwardly at the experiences that have shaped us, and then to the outward expression of those experiences. To freely express the Self is to have the loudest hands in the most quiet room.

Let us queer society and unlock infinite potential.

I am my Self, I am human, and we all have infinite potential within us.

More on Zeno’s Paradoxes and the issues with Autistic to non-Autistic communication

As you may have noticed from my most recent blog post, I am somewhat down a rabbit hole at the moment. In my previous article I discussed Zeno’s paradox of plurality and how it applies to the dehumanisation of Autistic people and the double empathy problem.

Today I would like to consider another of Zeno’s paradoxes and how it applies to the double empathy problem.

This particular paradox was known as the Dichotomy Paradox. Essentially, it explains that when travelling from point A to point B, one must first travel to the halfway point between the two. To then travel from that point to the destination, you must travel half way again. This continues infinitely when travelling towards a fixed destination and thus Zeno argued that you can never reach point B.

When considering communication across different neurocognitive styles, one must also consider what the goal is. If we presume that the goal is “successful communication” then the double empathy problem tells us that this is very difficult due to the different styles of communication. Despite this, Autistic people are always expected to be the ones to put the emotional labour into communicating. This has been discussed by Rachel Cullen, a recording of a livestream with Aucademy featuring them can be found here and here).

We then encounter the dichotomy paradox. Neurotypicals remain a fixed point in the goal of successful communication, while we as Autistics are constantly expected to move towards the goal by accommodating their preferred communication styles. It is as if we are constantly reaching the halfway point, and never reaching our destination. No matter how well we accommodate neurotypical preferences, we are caught in an infinite regression of distance, not achieving the aim.

This to me, highlights the deeper issue of dehumanisation and objectification of Autistics. Neurotypicals (perhaps subconsciously, sometimes consciously) consider themselves the pinnacle of humanity, a goal that all should be striving for. We know from the existence of the various compliance based behavioural interventions, that Neurotypicals do believe this in many cases. Evidenced by the fact that it is considered “gold-standard” to teach Autistic people to hide their Autistic nature.

As Dr. Monique Botha mentioned in their recent seminar, there is a reason why researchers and professionals insist on person-first language. “I want to eradicate autism” sounds much less like genocide than “I want to eradicate Autistic people”. However, both of those statements mean the same thing. This is justified because whether or not they overtly see it, neurologically queer behaviour and experience is seen as non-human. Remi Yergeau argued this dehumanisation was due (at least in part) to a perceived lack of rhetoricity in their book Authoring Autism.

Autistic people are viewed as husks, mindlessly performing nothing, controlled by an abstract spectre called autism. This then is perhaps why so many neurotypical people insist on person-first language, and ignore our preference of identity -first language. Why would they take a step towards the all consuming spectre? Surely it is better to leave such a thing trapped in that infinite journey towards a goal that is never to be reached.

This, then, is the appeal of neuroqueering to me. When I embrace my neuroqueer self, I no longer have to be trapped in the infinite journey towards performative neurotypicality. I escape the dichotomy paradox by abandoning societal expectations, and being true to myself. True to what nature intended for me. I am Autistic, I am divergent, and that divergence is a thing of beauty.

We need to raise up our fellow Autistics, high above the dichotomy of neurotypicality and neurodivergence. We need to embrace a world in which these words are redundant in meaning because no one group has the power to oppress another; and when our fellow Autistics are lost in the dark, we need to shine our own light, and guide them back to the daylight.

The Zeno paradox of autism: Is this the root of the double empathy problem?

This was inspired by the book “Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness” by Remi Yergeau.

The double empathy problem, so named, is the title given to the seeming appearance of deficits in communication in Autistic people. The double empathy problem states that Autistic people do not have a deficit in communication, but instead a different style of communication. Effectively, communication breaks down when attempting to communicate across neurocognitive styles. The different communicative styles do not combine well, and the predominant neurocognitive style oppresses the neurodivergent person by assuming a deficit.

Could this breakdown in communicative style arise from something called Zeno’s paradox?

Zeno’s paradox, more specifically, Zeno’s paradox of plurality, states that if two objects have the same attribute in common then we must assume them to be the same thing. In the same way, we can reverse this and say that if two similar objects have any difference, then we must assume them to be different things. Essentially, there is no such thing as the many, only the singular.

If we apply this to Autism and the double empathy problem, you can start to see where the problem arises. Non-Autistic people observe important differences between themselves and us as Autistic people. They then assume that we must be entirely different from themselves.

If Autistic people are assumed to be entirely different from non-Autistic people, then not only can we not have a commonality in the existence of our own culture, communities, minds, thoughts, feelings, and opinions, but essentially we can’t be people. This, I believe is where communication breaks down. Why we are assumed to have a communication deficit.

This paradox objectifies the Autistic person, and removes their agency. Therefore, why is it important to communicate on our level? Why learn our experiences and opinions? Does one listen to the opinions of a pencil? After all, if Autistics are reduced to an object, not part of the collective humanity due to our differences, then what can we possibly say that will be of importance to the human experience?

If we want to be listened to and heard, we need to escape Zeno’s paradox. We need to demonstrate our humanity. We need to demonstrate our personhood.

Until we succeed at such a cause, we will continue to be second-class citizens.

Coping with psychiatric medication when Autistic

For many of us, medication is a necessary part of life. For a huge portion of the Autistic population, that medication is prescribed by a psychiatrist.

Psychiatric medication can be a troublesome topic, psychiatry itself is a relatively young discipline, and can often be found to be neuronormative in nature. It relies on the idea that the human mind can become ill and require medicine to fix it, and yet no test can definitively prove the presence of this illness in the body. It seems logically absurd, and yet, mental health issues can cause immense suffering.

One of the most stressful parts of taking these kinds of medications is finding the right one. Each person brings a different neurology to the table, so when using psychiatric medications, which by their nature act on the brain, it is important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” approach. Each person will have a different experience with medication, and this issue is compounded when you consider the Autistic population, for whom little to know research is done on the efficacy and safety of medications.

This moves us neatly onto my next point, which is side effects. Autistic people often experience rare or paradoxical reactions to medications in my experience. A recent medication change for me actually turned the skin on my hands blue! This is why I always ask my psychiatrist to take the harm reduction approach of start low, go slow. In other words, start with the lowest reasonable dose, and very slowly titrate the dose up. I find that for me, this has helped me avoid many of the less tolerable side effects, and better tolerate the ones that I do get.

An interesting point raised by twitter user @lilririah is access to food. Many of these medications rely on the idea that people can eat regular, healthy meals. Something that prescribers should consider is that the world over is experiencing a huge rise in the cost of living which is having a huge impact on the disabled community at large. Telling someone they have to eat when they take their medicine can essentially be the same as telling people that they can not take the medicine. When the world is trying to decide between heating or eating, a life or death decision over important medications is not going to help their anxiety.

Once you have overcome all of this, there is the issue of maintaining the treatment. Medication comes with a lot of stigma that many of us internalise, and some people simply do not want the medication in the first place. While personal choice is important, and should come from an informed position, prescribers need to do more to help people maintain a healthy relationship with their medication. When you consider the Autistic and ADHD bodymind, it is easy to see how remembering to take a set dose at the same time every day could become problematic.

Assuming all of this isn’t an issue, there is one more problem I want to discuss. Sometimes medication just stops working. Sometimes we can be stable for years, and out of the blue, we fall apart. It is the unfortunate truth of psychiatric medication. This is why we have to be willing to go over this battle time and time again to stay balanced. I personally struggle with this part. I often wish for a magic pill that would make my psychosis go away forever, unfortunately, that does not exist. Besides, mental health is part of who we are, good or bad, it plays a role in our experience of the world.

Whether your mental health is in a good or bad place, we all have something to give to the world, we are all important in our own way. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you have grown up Autistic, constantly being invalidated and told that everything about you is wrong. I want to assure you that the world is better for having you in it, and the battle is worth it.

Stay strong.

Where psychosis and autism meet: The bitter pill to swallow

I am Autistic.

I also have a psychotic condition.

One might wonder why these two things are even related, and yet they share an intimate relationship.

As an Autistic person, I have a monotropic bodymind. I hyperfocus into a subject, and find it very difficult to switch tracks, even when those tracks are taking me barrelling towards those I love, or towards the cliff edge.

Some may have heard of the term “monotropic spiral”. This, to me, describes the way the Autistic bodymind can falk down a rabbit hole of looking into a topic, regardless of where that rabbit hole may lead.

In the same field of concept, the psychotic bodymind obsesses over it’s delusions and constructs a reality. It does this (in my experience) because it feels unsafe.

Why might an Autistic person feel unsafe? There are a million answers to this question, and I only have so much storage space on this website.

The psychotic bodymind uses something called “confirmation bias”. This is where it seeks out evidence to support a conclusion it has already reached, and then to avoid cognitive dissonance, effectively shreds all evidence to the contrary.

Throw away comments, subtle changes in body language and microexpressions, tone of voice. They all get twisted by the mind into something that is not real. This can be further complicated if you are the type of Autistic who struggles to read intent and emotion in other people.

The truth of the matter is, recovery is complicated for Autistic people. We are monotropucally focused on fine details, but when psychotic will often misinterpret them.

It is vital for this reason that early intervention psychosis teams have a good grounding in Autistic experience because it plays a huge role in the roadmap of the psychotic experience.

And, oof!

If you think that your executive function is bad as an Autistic, consider then tackling that while auditory and visual hallucinations are disrupting your reality.

It is not pleasant.

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