(I have to get something off my chest. I kind of dreaded posting this, because it might irk or offend some, especially some on social media such as Twitter, but I don’t have the energy to be too concerned about it. That may sound bad, but I’ve reached the point where I figure that people either like me for who I am, or they don’t. Out of courtesy, I’ll issue a Content Advisory for some of the words I use in this post, and also for those for whom verbal/emotional child abuse or profane language could be a trigger. There are a couple of F-bombs in this one, although they’re used in memory recall, not anger. No part of this post is meant in anger, for that matter.)
It’s not anyone’s imagination: I actually have been pretty quiet on social media lately. I used to check in on Twitter for 5-20 minutes at a time, about 5-6 times a day.
Now I’m lucky if I can check in 2-3 times a week, for about 5 minutes at a time.
It’s OK if you didn’t notice; after all, it’s not your responsibility to keep close tabs on every single follower. And I’m certainly not one to crave constant attention and then get butthurt when I don’t get it.
I promise this is not a wallowing, “poor me” post.
It’s actually a mental health post.
(I’m really OK with the drifting away, and I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings in the process. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m ignoring anyone or dumping anyone, because I’m not. I’m not even leaving Twitter, just repositioning it in a way that results in less stress for me.)
It’s more like a semi-apology for anyone who feels I’ve deserted them (which I never mean to do), and an explanation.
I’m sorry that it may seem like I’ve fallen off the planet lately. Truthfully, I’m still here. I’m just here from a distance. And I still care for everyone in the community. Really and truly, I do.
Now for the explanation (please bear with me while I write; I’ve been more than a little alexithymic (yet emotionally fragile) lately)…
I’ve been slowly dropping back, realizing that there are side effects to a sudden large crowd of newfound friends.
One such side effect is that with so many people connected in one large web, falling-outs (or would that be fallings-out?) are inevitable. I’ve been getting impatient with myself in the process of processing, recovering, and letting go. The two-month-long conflict from earlier this year has been like a sticky substance on my hand; I can whip my fingers and try to fling it into the sink, but it’s more viscous than I thought, and its remnants remain stubbornly adhered.
In short, maybe I never really recovered, at least not 100%. I thought I would have by now, and I’m not one to keep dredging up negative shizz for months (which makes this situation all the more surprising, baffling, and frustrating for me).
Or maybe I did make a full recovery, but perhaps not without scar tissue? I gradually realized that Twitter, once a coffee house full of friends and a bastion of endless support, had become a slightly-smaller-but-more-compatible and tighter-knit booth in a coffee house that has otherwise become too loud and too intense.
That’s not anyone’s fault, really. It’s more of a lack of common ground and too divergent a combination of mindsets. From my own perspective, it has become a place that is too public, where I no longer feel safe to be myself, for fear of facing a new round of objection and rejection.
Not from everyone, mind you. I’m not trying to paint with a broad brush. But enough to make me start to think twice before tweeting.
I’ve discovered (the very hard way) that I have still felt the need to contort myself into a persona that people will like and accept. The details have changed, such as who I was contorting myself for, and the specific dimensions of space in which I felt the need to fit into, and the contortions I felt I had to make, but I was eager to please, eager to fit in somewhere, and I still found myself contorting just the same.
I think that part of the stress comes from a difference in outlook. I’m not going to say that one is superior to another. I’m simply going to say that one mirrors where I am at this point in my journey, whereas the other, less so.
I never did feel all that strongly about certain commonly used words that are considered ableist. Maybe it’s just that I never had a bad experience with them.
Oh wait–I did have an emotionally traumatic experience with a word that is considered ableist. When I was–what–four? Five? Six? My father flew off the handle, into a rage, at me, and he looked directly at me, pointed his finger at me, and managed to holler, “shut the fuck up, stupid!” before my mom could tackle him to shut him up.
Any one of those words “shut up”, “fuck”, “shut the fuck up”, or “stupid” could have become an emotionally raw trigger for me.
I’m still not sure why those words don’t pose a trigger for me, but they don’t–unless my dad were to say them to me again, especially under similar pretenses.
For me, it’s all about intent, not the words themselves. Others may hold a different viewpoint, based on experiences that are similar or different from my own, and I totally respect that.
However, I’ve decided that I’m not going to be offended by the use of common, non-obscene, non-profane words just because of what they used to (but no longer) mean 50 to 100 years ago. I support the idea that it’s beneficial to know the historical origins and contexts of the words in our language, but I was starting to fall into a trap of hollering “ableist!” at the TV screen, or the radio, or the computer screen, etc, during every TV show I watched, radio exchange or conversation I overheard, or internet article/post I read (respectively).
(Guess what: the TV doesn’t care. Neither does the radio. Neither do the TV/radio stations. Neither do the programmers/producers. Neither does the internet site being visited or the author of the article being read. Neither do the general public whose conversations are being eavesdropped.)
And I was tired of the feelings of the alienation I was bringing upon myself. Because the only people who did care (i.e., support/applaud these efforts) were a tiny sliver of the populace who was doing the same thing. And their support of me seemed to extend only as far as my indignation and self-alienation went on any given day. Everybody else lived their lives while I became more isolated and indignant and hyper-sensitive, all in the name of “awareness” and “progress”. Heh.
Some would nod vigorously and say, “yes, that’s what ableism awareness is; you start to notice–and criticize–a lot more, because it becomes more apparent just how embedded ableism is in our society.”
The people who say this are probably right. Good for them.
But here’s the problem: I would be more sympathetic to that argument if those words still held their historical meanings. But times change, and society changes. If I’m going to get riled up about something, it’s got to be something that’s relevant (to me) here in the 2010s.
I don’t want to live my life having to make the never-ending choice between 1) living an angry life because every website I visit or every House MD episode I watch rubs me raw, or 2) having to withdraw from those things altogether and avoid them because they don’t contain trigger warnings other than the mandated generic “might not be suitable for all ages; viewer discretion is advised” formality.
The truth is, I want to watch Family Guy without getting offended. I want to have a good belly laugh and derive the same pleasure that I did from watching it in my pre-ableism-awareness days. I want to be able to hold a conversation with someone without stumbling to find the “right” words or struggling against the newly-acquired visceral desire to police theirs.
I’m tired. Awareness is good, but sometimes it goes too far for my abilities and it overstretches my brain. My brain needs a break. It needs to be accepted for what it is, even if that means not living up to someone else’s standards. I’ve been trying to please others by measuring up to their benchmarks my whole life, and part of the mental health gifts that my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery has given me includes the freedom to be myself and break away from the standards and yardsticks of one world; I’m sure not in a hurry to replace those futile attempts by trying to live up to the demands of another world, even if that world is made of people with the same diagnosis as mine.
And to attempt to constantly gut my vocabulary and mentally search for a suitable replacement several times throughout every blog post has proven to consume too much energy and cause too much stress.
I’ve made the personal decision for myself that I’m not going to let a whole list of everyday vocabulary words run my life or my writing, or dictate my emotions. And I’m not going to let myself start kowtowing to the fear of criticism from those who do. Other people may see it differently and disagree with me; that’s fine. I’m not trying to make any decisions for them or for society as a whole. This pertains to no one but myself. But I’m going to decide for myself, and after more than half a year of serious contemplation, weighing the pros the cons, that’s what I’ve come up with, for me.
I speak only for myself, as usual, but I get the feeling that I’m not alone.
It’s been said (on Twitter, by someone else) that to continuously call someone out and ostracize them for using ableist language could itself be considered a form of ableism. After all, not everyone has the mental energy to keep coming up with activism-correct alternatives, and not everyone has the time or energy to keep googling suitable synonyms for what they want to say. For those of us to whom that applies/happens, it very realistically becomes a choice between writing a post that is potentially semi-offensive (to some) and at least being able to speak, or succumbing to the fear of the backlash against them and deciding not to post at all.
I agree with–and can relate to–this sentiment very strongly.
No one consciously did this to me. I’m going to step up and own it, and I’m going to do something about it.
I’ve decided that I’m not going to do that anymore. I won’t (read: will not) suddenly start using overtly offensive words (the R-word comes to mind as an example), but sometimes someone really is acting like an “idiot”, in my view, and from my perspective, I’ve decided that I’m going to call a spade a spade. Maybe not so much on Twitter, where the environment is more public, but perhaps on here. It may not be the perfect strategy; it may not be the best, the healthiest, or the most popular. But it’s where I’m at.
I’ll keep making the adjustments for the egregious violations; I won’t take any steps back. I may not make much further progress, but I’ll do my best not to regress, either.
But the browser tabs open to the Google thesaurus and webpages of comprehensive (damn near endless) lists of “forbidden” terms are closing. I’ve made as much of an effort as I can spare right now, and I’m finding that the vast majority of people who visit and interact with me regularly don’t seem to mind what I say. The vast majority of people know that I’m not being cruel or overly judgmental, and they’re perceptive and tolerant enough to see that. (Thank you!! 🙂 )
My own spoons are finite, too. I can’t be all things to all people, and as of today, in order to preserve my own sanity, I have to stop trying to be.
The words of Dr Seuss pop into my head: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”
From here on, I’m just going to be me. The real me, sans self-censorship (which applies not only to certain words, but also to a few ideas for posts that I’ve been sitting on). Take me or leave me. I don’t think that most of the people who read this (or have read other posts I’ve written) are going to notice much difference anyway. 🙂
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