Just writing the title of this blog post is sending my skin crawling. It’s a physical effort to type.
But I can’t not. I can’t not say something about being neurodiverse now while its fresh, clear and concise in my head, even if this blog post might not be – not if you’re neurotypical.
On Friday night I had a meltdown.
I’ve spoken about having a meltdown before but I need you, if you are neurotypical, to understand something.
We talk about it like its some sort of toddler fit, like infantizing our reactions is helpful. How difficult it is to control extreme anxiety, depression, and feeling wholly overwhelmed is something we have a choice about. We don’t. Even as adults.
If you’re ND, please be careful, this may be triggering. I’ve marked the section with two astericks.
I could sense it behind the walls, it had to get out, and it was made of more than a good crying session or pacified with TLC, junk food and wine. It wasn’t going to go away. It was going to be big and ugly and I’ve learned over years to see those coming.
I knew from experience exactly what I needed to do to weather the storm about to be unleashed by my own mind. That for a little while… I’d have no control.
I grabbed my headphones, I put on Flume’s ‘Never Be Like You’ I grabbed the teddy bear I’ve had since I was three, went into the bedroom, closed the door and screamed my heart out into its little soft stomach.
The one constant since I was a toddler was that bear. I cried and screamed until I blacked out.
Shame is trying to stay my hand but I need you to understand what is like as an ND person how hard this is, but also as an adult. Because after everything was over I tried to do what a toddler can not.
Why did I just have a meltdown?
As an adult you can identify the cause and triggers, and try avoiding it in future, or put the emotional distance you need between you and the thing that’s going to set you off. Because a meltdown on that scale is mentally and physically exhausting. As a kid people do care for you; they make sure you eat and sleep and hopefully put them in an environment that’s supportive. As an adult you don’t always self care like that. You have to figure out what caused it so it doesn’t happen again in a space that isn’t in your control, because I’ve had meltdowns in public and its extraordinary debilitating.
We can’t afford to do it; we can lose jobs, alienate people, and cause irreparable damage.
What triggered my meltdown?
Nobody liked my pitch for pitmad.
Before you wonder at how vain and stupid it was to have a meltdown over whether or not an agent liked the pitch of my book, let me tell you about it.
Up for execution
Islae’s life is worth space garbage
But not to Moira
Islae can hack code into VR worlds where she can do anything until Moira’s enemies turn VR into reality, a nightmare Islae must face to save Moira’s life
#Pitmad #A #SF #ND
Why would I be terrified or stress myself out so much over acceptance for something so small as a single tweet?
Because it wasn’t just a tweet to me.
This is my first ND book, openly and unapologetic. I’ve hidden that part of myself, masked who I was, how I feel, to fit in, because that’s what all ND people do, especially before their diagnosis.
In the last two years on Twitter and in some social circles recently I’ve become confident enough in my thoughts and expressions to tell people that I’m on the autism spectrum. I’ve learned so much about my diagnosis from the courage of others.
I thought, just for a while, I could be that brave.
Except bravery doesn’t come without fear, and as ND all I do is fear rejection.
Fear what I’m doing is wrong.
I’ve put off doing the needed developmental work on this ND script because I’d been questioning it. Not just the story, whether or not someone would want gods in space, or hackers creating virtual realities that became real. Whether I was just a crap writer who wasn’t expressing themselves and trying hard enough to make this writing as polished as it could be.
Those thoughts were true; I am a crap writer who’s work needs polishing but so are most authors. We all draft a story that needs various stages of polishing and critique to make it really shine and be a story others can read without falling over inconsistencies, plot holes, char development, the works. As writers, we all need that feedback to improve the story because writing a draft is full of errors.
What was the difference?
As ND you are used to being wrong.
As a writer you are used to needing your work corrected and polished.
I lost the difference between what was my ND voice and what was just flawed writing. I can’t tell because I’m so used to being wrong that its all wrong, both the ND parts of me and the writing, and I can’t change that in my head. It wasn’t just the feedback from my wonderful and sympathetic CP who understands disability. It wasn’t just the betas who weren’t ND, but were sympathetic to an ND character. But trying to relate to an NT audience without realizing all the things you do as an ND person may just come across as simply being wrong writing.
When an ND person is listening to others, in a new social circumstances, we can feel anxious or nervous but do you know what else is there? A blank slate.
We’re waiting for someone else to give us the social cue and insert the appropriate social response.
We’re holding back what we feel because we spend all our lives waiting for others emotions to fit in.
We’re masking what we’d instinctively feel because after years of hiding, we don’t know how not to.
Identifying what behavior was ND, and what was poor writing, has driven me to an idea that the single tweet I put out that didn’t get liked wasn’t just about the world not wanting my weird ND self.
It was about putting the person I’d hidden away all my life out there.
Our sense of identity, who we are, what we think, how we react, when we’re being true to ourselves, comes with more than thoughts. It’s what we wear, what we look like, who we love and how we hate all the parts of ourselves we’ll never be able to be accept because nobody else does.
We write from the heart of ourselves and then we try to do what everyone does when they’ve written a book. You polish away the mistakes. Except who you are is the mistake. The soul of yourself is in more than the pages, its down to the fragments of what you do or don’t do or why you’ve reacted the way you have.
How are we supposed to market all that to an agent who isn’t ND?
We’re supposed to present a true an accurate account of ourselves to make it as original as possible to our true voices but how do we separate that from writing… wrong?
From having genuine reactions and thoughts that simply aren’t giving the reader enough to connect with if they aren’t ND?
To having a story, a fabrication of gods in space, alongside a story of self-acceptance?
I started erasing myself from the story. I returned and put it back in and then explained what I was doing for the NT audience. I’m navigating Islae’s fat, bi, ND story of self acceptance against gods in space, aware that every word change is me questioning whether anyone will see her, see me, in the end.
That tweet that didn’t get any likes wasn’t just about pitching my story, it was about putting all of my wrongness out there for someone, maybe, to think that such a story, my story, might not be wrong.
And I’m going to keep doing it. I’m going to keep having meltdowns. I’m going to keep questioning every nuance of this story’s “wrongness” until it gets an agent, until it’s published and in book form, because one of the key elements about it’s lesson is that this won’t change until we change what we think about ourselves.
And that we can’t do this alone. That what others think matter, because when we’ve spent our whole lives trying to ensure we aren’t wrong, to put that wrongness forward for someone else to judge is a terrifying, debilitating journey of freedom of self expression I refuse to give up.
I wont ever not be ‘wrong’. This story will never not be ‘wrong’. Islae will never not be ‘wrong’.
The story about self acceptance isn’t just that we’re ND. It’s that what people define as wrong isn’t right. It’s that in the end Islae isn’t wrong, in fact her wrongness is what makes the world right again.
And that maybe, one day, someone who’s struggled being ND, will be Ok being who they are, even if it’s wrong. Maybe, one day, I will be too.
This experience speaks to me as an ND author. I don’t know how much it helps to know you’re not alone. Thank you for persevering. Meltdowns are the worst.
They are, but I think sharing my experiences, awful as it can be, might help another ND author
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It helped me