Wednesday 8 May 2024

"Faking It"


For nearly my entire life, since early childhood, when I was punished for many of my "odd behaviours", as though I was making weird noises, fidgeting, losing track of what I was doing, not maintaining eye contact, not showing emotions "properly", speaking in the wrong - or no - "tone", not understanding others' feelings, shaking my head (neural tic), and any number of other quirks, for the sole purpose of upsetting, annoying, inconveniencing, or embarrassing my parents, and later, when I was old enough to understand that I was "different" from other kids, and, of course, mercilessly bullied for it, I have devoted a huge portion of my energy and efforts toward appearing "normal". 

I have been scolded, advised, taught, and otherwise encouraged to do so by all manner of people claiming to be on my side - who were simply "trying to help me navigate" my sensory disabilities.

None of this "navigation" has ever included simply informing others of said diagnoses and expecting reasonable accommodation. 

Reasonable accommodation, for this stuff mainly consists of just not punishing me in any way for not being or appearing "normal". 

No having to move things around, provide a chair, make sure ramps and doorways are up to code and clear, make a normally freight or employees only elevator available, assign an employee to help me with things. Nope. Nothing requiring as much effort as that. JUST not insisting I try harder to "be normal", and/or punishing me when I fail. That's all. 

Well, I recently realised that when any other, more visible, and/or physical disabilities are treated like that, it results in public shaming of the offender at the very least, not to mention the legal remedies available: Lawsuits, firing, requiring diversity education, fines, etc. Cause it's AGAINST THE LAW to discriminate against people based on their disabilities, and that includes denying reasonable accommodation and/or trying to force the disabled person to pretend they don't have a disability and just "act like everyone else", or penalising them because their disabilities are "upsetting" people or "making people uncomfortable". 

Imagine a college instructor telling someone unable to vocally speak that they needed to stop using their text to speech device because it was freaking out the other students. Or having an amputee removed from a restaurant because the other diners were disgusted. Maybe forcing a wheelchair bound person to only shop during certain hours  because their slow progress and taking up extra space in the aisles were inconvenient for other shoppers. None of that is legal in the USA, nor in most other developed countries in this day and age, and, actually, neither is the equivalent behaviour legal regarding other types of disabilities.

So, I decided to stop faking it.

It hasn't been a very popular decision for a lot of people who had gotten accustomed to my constant bending over backward to try and make sure my oddities don't discomfit them in any way. 

Too bad.

It's not on me to use up all my mental/emotional, and sometimes physical resources on just trying to appear "normal", often leaving little or no energy for much of anything else, so my disabilities don't inconvenience others or make them uncomfortable. 

Again, if anyone tried to force someone with an obvious, physical disability to work harder to not seem disabled, in order to avoid inconveniencing or upsetting anyone, depending on the setting, they would be judged harshly, fired, sued, banned from a place, etc. So why should this be any different?

I'm not saying I don't try to mitigate some of the way others can be legitimately affected. I do. I make sure I have quiet fidget toys so I'm less likely to click my pen incessantly and drive everyone nuts. I try really hard to take notes so I don't forget what I was going to say, rather than jumping in and  interrupting someone, and when I accidentally do, I apologise and hush. I try to sit somewhere that my chronic neural tic isn't TOO front and centre and distracting people, as long as it isn't going to keep me from having equal access to whatever. I'm not a selfish, entitled douchebag. I just no longer care to accommodate those who are.

 I am taking my fucking life back, thank you very much!

And, let me tell you; Since making that decision and following through on it, I've been SO much more mentally and emotionally healthy and less stressed. When I just be my normal, quirks and all, explaining what I meant, or that I have sensory processing and neurological issues that can cause X, Y, and Z, I don't have to exhaust myself trying to second guess everything I am going to do or say, trying to figure out if it is "normal", or whether it might be taken the wrong way. 

It's a lot like how I felt when I finally got and started using my mobility scooter to get around, instead of trying to act like I wasn't disabled, and subsequently missing out a huge amount of life, cause I couldn't actually be mobility typical (Did I just make up a new term?), and trying to walk around like I was meant I could not do most things or go most places, cause I ran out of standing up or walking time. With the scooter, I can go nearly anywhere, since ADA laws guarantee my right to do so, even if my scooter takes up extra space, causes people to have to wait for the lift or ramp before they can get on a bus, train, etc, wait for an employee to assist me with something, or the law prevents them from being allowed to block ramps, park in the closer (handicapped) spaces, or other things that might inconvenience them for a few seconds or minutes of their life. 

And, as I began, rather snarkily, I admit, saying things like, "I'm so sorry my disability is such a terrible inconvenience to you. Imagine if you had to deal with it every moment of every day of your life!", to people who bitched, sighed heavily, tapped their feet, or made it otherwise plain that my disabilities were cramping their style, several years ago, I have decided to use similar tactics for those who are unwilling to have a little patience for my less obvious disabilities. 

I feel great about this plan!

Do you?

If so, AWESOME! Welcome to this part of my journey, fellow traveller! Maybe you will even choose to make it yours as well.

If not, oh well. I will care exactly as much about accommodating you as you care about accommodating me. That seems fair.