dropping the other shoe

for my entire life, the rule has been that if i make a mistake or have trouble with something, the consequences for that involve me losing something i want, or not getting to do something i was looking forward to. this might not seem too unusual or medieval a punishment to some people. unfortunately, the long-term effects of this are wreaking havoc on my life and schoolwork.

every single assignment, every responsibility, ever chore, every interaction, ever finals period, becomes an opportunity for me to stumble, mess up, or fail to meet expectations. which wouldn’t be a problem, except that when i stumble, mess up, or fail to meet expectations, people frequently impose serious consequences. like when i was in middle and high school, and every late or missed assignment could get me disallowed from doing theatre, or disqualified from moving up into the honors classes i wanted to be in next year (this happened three years in a row). and even if the consequences weren’t this severe, there would almost always be a lecture, a frustrated argument, a “family meeting.”

it’s not that i think consequences in general are bad. it’s just that i had no control over my ability to meet the expectations that others had for me, and they assumed that i did. i was punished for not doing things i wasn’t able to do.

i don’t think it’s possible to explain what this feels like now that it’s part of my body. it’s…terror. i turned in a paper very late for the first time in a college class during my sophomore year, and when i went to talk to the professor, i told her about how i’d only slept one hour a night for five nights trying to get it done and study for an organic chemistry final but i’d eventually just gotten so exhausted that i couldn’t keep writing and had to take a break. she said that she wouldn’t take any points off for lateness, because she felt i’d already “punished myself enough.” i almost burst into tears. i didn’t understand what that meant, actually. nobody had ever said something like that to me.

when it comes to autistic people, diagnosed or otherwise, people are constantly turning small events, individual assignments, tiny milestones into reasons for shutting off entire avenues of opportunity and chances to do things we enjoy. i’m a very intelligent person, and this kind of an attitude almost killed me. i’m not exaggerating. it runs my life.

it might seem scary, or even just unrealistic, to leave things open-ended. to throw most deadlines out the window.

i get that. trust me.

the consequences of not throwing this shit out the window, however, are incredibly dire.

scan0002

I’m like two years old and am naked with a towel-blanket on (it’s the kind that has a hood so you can wear it as a cape). There are various books and shoes and clothes scattered around the floor. As you do.

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