Enduring bullying – one of my heroes

This post has been moved from my book-blog to this one

Hans Petter som liten

Man, I’ve re-written this article so many times. Who knew something like this could be so difficult.

My little brother. The baby of the family. A baby who is 195 cms worth of length. I think that translates to about 6’4″ for those of you who have not yet advanced to the metric system.

We go back a long way. In fact all the way back to the time when I was about 6,5 years old. I have no memory of him being born. In fact I have very few memories of him as a very small child other than the fact that he was really cute, I wanted to bite the top of his head and we would swing him between us down the long hill from church. He loved that.

My memories of my youngest brother do not really amount to much until the time our family moved to the US. He was around 7 years old at that time and his life was about to get really tough.

You know how some kids take to bullying like ducklings take to water. Well my baby brother had the great misfortune of meeting up with some of those kids. As a seven-year old boy my brother had three things that made him stand out. The first was that he was a gentle kid (he is now a gentle man) who did his best to avoid trouble. The second was that his English was poor due to us just arriving in the US. Finally, he has dyslexia. Three gifts for a bullier. Some kids and their parents I just want to beat to a pulp.

Five years of hell ensued. How did he respond to the bullying? For one thing he never changed from being a gentle person. He just wouldn’t give in and give up. He was fiercely protective of those he loved. At one time he even took on another kid for something that kid said to me. I didn’t stop the fight. In fact I figured it would probably give him credit with the other kids. But that was and is the kind of brave person he is. If someone he loves is being hurt, he will do his best to protect that person even if it means getting hurt himself.

It’s one thing to do something like that if you are good at it – whether you fight with words or physically. But my brother has never been one who has quick come-backs or been a good fighter. Granted, all he has to do is sit on you now and he’ll probably win, but still. Fighting with words and body has never been his strength. He has paid for that a great many times.

Why would that make him my hero? It’s all about love. His love for people is so great that he is willing to risk himself (and he knows he is risking himself) for them so they might hurt less.

2015 Jul 05: Annie: Aspergers – My feelings

Confusion by Lichtmann-hh | Source: deviantart.com
Confusion by Lichtmann-hh | Source: deviantart.com

This post by Annie describes perfectly how my life was before medication. The past five years, have brought amazing changes to my life and that is due to the right combination of medicines. Annie’s post helped me see how the symptoms I that are part of my life are also part of my aspergers/autism-depression combo (learned two years ago that I was one). People who post how the inside of their heads work are an aid in understanding myself.

The trouble with autism/aspergers is that often we struggle to recognize emotions, often we outwardly display common signs, and will even wonder aloud, “why is everything so irritating? Why am I so on edge? I don’t know why I feel so irritable about everything, I can’t pinpoint a reason why, I have no patience for anything.” Not realizing the power of the emotional storm surging underneath. We become more aspie in a way, displaying flat emotional reactions, and even a perceived general disinterest in others, or even a feigned interest because that is all we ‘can’ do in that moment because anything else will send us over the edge. Stress, even over little things that may seem like nothing, is enough to shut us down completely. Verbally silent and unresponsive, it takes every effort just to mutter the words, “I can’t right now.” Feeling exhausted, yet charged with emotions, every sound is a jab, yet a distant fog. It hurts, like a slice deep into the soul.

Depression, it sneaks up on us, usually from doing too much and feeling overwhelmed, combined with feeling like we are not doing enough. Feeling maxed out, and yet not wanting to let anyone down. Doing our best, but failing to meet even our own expectations because we simply can’t ‘do it all’, as much as we really do want to. Trying to take some downtime and feeling guilty all the while. That’s not downtime at all. Constantly riddled with anxiety, social anxiety, anxiety about food, about routine and breaking out of routine. Anxiety about unexpected changes in plans with no time to mentally prepare for it. It’s exhausting. Yet, we are extremely resilient. We take the emotional roller coaster in stride because this is everyday life for us.

We get knocked down and bounce back time and time again because what else is there to do? Sometimes we get knocked down a little longer than usual, and sometimes we need help to get out of the hole we managed to get stuck in, without even knowing how or when we got in that hole. Sometimes we don’t even know that we are in a hole at all. Add social order to everything, trying to navigate relationships and all of those subtle and confusing social rules, it’s difficult and a lot of pressure. We sigh in relief when we finally find someone who allows us to be our true selves, when we can relax and just be. But, that never seems to last long…………

Please read the rest of the post at Beautiful Random Thoughts

The Illusion of Equality: Is water a human “right”?

This video from 2005 showing clips from a film called Bottled Life contains three statements from Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck.

All three statements by Mr. Brabeck deal with issues that affect Nestlé’s economic status and they all come together to create an extremely negative impression of Mr. Brabeck. Part of one of his comments about water contains this sentence:

“The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”:

I reacted strongly and felt the need to post the video. Several things became apparent as I started looking into the matter. On Wikipedia I counted 74 brands of water. But water bottles are far from being the only thing Nestlé produces. Its over 2000 brands include several that use water as a main ingredient and in their production. However, Nestlé is not alone in using water in this manner. When I discovered Huffington Post’s background story on the 2005 video, I worried that I had been unfair to Néstle. So I dug a bit more into the issue of water in the world. One of the things that came up was a film that was published in January 2007 by DokLab called Bottled Life.

Bottled life was challenged by Nestlé and they made up a list of questions that they answered (on their website). DokLab created its own page showing these questions/answers and DokLab commented on each of Nestlé’s questions. This is an example of what that “debate” looks like:

“8. Is it true that Nestlé is responsible for the drop in the groundwater level around the village of Bhati Dilwan in Pakistan, which has caused many springs in the area to dry up?

Nestlé: No. Nestlé Waters is committed to managing the water resources we operate around the world in a responsible manner.  For example, the Sheikhupura factory in Pakistan close to the village of Bhati Dilwan operates two deep wells for its bottling activity. Both wells are equipped with the instrumentation necessary to monitor the key hydrodynamic parameters (including flow rate and water level) on a continuous basis.  This extensive monitoring allows us to identify any risks and to take immediate action to mitigate them to avoid negatively impacting the local aquifer system.

DokLab: In Sheikupura, Nestlé is extracting water from two deep wells and selling it at a high profit. The population there has no means to draw its own drinking water from wells of this kind. In the past years, receding groundwater levels have become a fact of alarming magnitude. The extent, to which Nestlé with its two deep wells is contributing to this decline, is known only to the corporation itself. In order to expand its production of bottled water in Sheikupura, Nestlé was subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment in 2007. The report required subsequent amendments. However, Nestlé never published the amended document. Why not?

My interest rose another notch. In Norway we pay taxes to have clean water reach our taps. Beyond that we can choose to buy or not buy bottled drinking products. Fresh water is over-abundant in Norway and we, and our farmers, sometimes wish the distribution of it was a bit fairer. Other areas of the world are not so lucky and their need can make a tempting target for corporations who are looking mainly to line their shareholders’ pockets with even more money.

According to Shuval (1992) the Minimum Water Requirement for vital human consumption in arid areas like the Middle East is about 125 m3 per person per year (Shuval & Dweik, 2007). Nestlé and its peers, corporations in other fields (like oil companies, especially using the drilling method called “fracking“) and various countries seem to use this basic need for water to push products and/or create problems. The below examples illustrate what incredible power lies in controlling fresh-water access around the world. NOT A SINGLE ONE of these cases show the altruism on the side of corporations. If they appear altruistic, it seems as if they use that appearance to earn more money.

2006 Bechtel Corporation vs. Bolivia

In 1998 IMF (International Monetary Fund) lent Boliva $ 128 million on the condition that they “sell off “all remaining public enterprises,” including national oil refineries and Cochabamba’s local water agency, SEMAPA” (Frontline). The buyer was a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation, Aguas del Tunari. This purchase led to such a steep increase in the rates people had to pay for their water that strikes arose. Eventually, Aguas del Tunari was forced to let SEMAPA return to the hands of the Bolivian government. In 2001 Aguas del Tunari started their fight to get the Bolivan government to pay damages.(Frontline) January 2006 saw the settlement of this case. Bolivia would not pay Bechtel or Aguas del Tunary any money. In return they had to absolve both of any possible blame in the matter. (Vis-Dunbar & Peterson)

2008: Vital Water Graphics: An Overview of the State of the World’s Fresh and Marine Waters

«Economists can highlight and quantify the benefits flowing from water, like hydroelectricity, and help build what we call a baskets of benefits. It is generally easier and more equitable to allocate the benefits than the water itself. Economists also remind us of the need to recover the cost of water delivery, treatment, storage and so on. But we’re often pushed to think in terms of water markets — buying and selling water as a commodity even though this has never happened internationally in a practical sense. As someone who is committed to water emotionally, aesthetically, religiously and for ecosystems, I am reluctant to think of water as just another economic good.» (Aaron Wolf, geographer, University of Oregon, United-States)

2009 May: CODE VIOLATIONS in times of emergencies

“Many Code violations in emergencies have been perpetrated by baby food companies, international and national NGOs, governments, the military and individuals. This typically reflects poor awareness of Code provisions and takes the form of PR campaigns, general distribution to health care facilities and households, failure to monitor breastmilk substitute use and inappropriate labelling.” Nestlè and Danone run neck-to-neck to control the world market. (UNHCR)

2012 Aug 12: Oregon at the Forefront of Battle Against Nestle Water Grab

“Oregon is at the forefront of the Nestlé battle. Members of the Keep Nestlé out of the Gorge Coalition are fighting to prevent the construction of a water bottling facility in the Columbia River Gorge city of Cascade Locks. The diverse coalition, representing consumer advocacy, labor, religious, environmental, and public health groups, has been defending Oregon’s public water resources for over three years in the campaign against Nestlé.”

2012 Aug 28: Water-Shortage Crisis Escalating in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin

“The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, originating in Turkey and cutting through both Syria and Iraq, have experienced drastic reductions in water flows in recent years due, primarily, to Turkish hydro-engineering and regional droughts. This is of significance for Iraq, which has historically prospered because of the rich agricultural harvests based on water supplies sourced from these waterways. Turkish initiatives aimed at massively expanding their exploitation of the water from the two rivers have coincided with severe droughts in the region and resulted in a burgeoning water-shortage crisis in Iraq. This problem threatens an environmental catastrophe. Political negotiations between the three countries have so far fallen short of reaching agreement on providing the necessary increases in flow rates to address the deteriorating situation in Iraq.” (Bolded by ed)

2013 Nov: States Focusing on Water Right Issues

“…controversy arises because water impacts are localized, and hydraulic fracturing operations occur (and are expanding) in some of the country’s most arid and drought-stricken regions, including states such as North Dakota, Colorado, California and portions of Texas. In some areas, the impacts of fracturing on already scare water resources is cited as a potential reason for delaying permitting or approval of new wells, conducting further study of the impacts, or even banning fracturing altogether.”

2014 Feb 6: Egypt and Ethiopia spar over the Nile

“… the rhetoric of water wars over the Nile misses the crucial voice of marginalized indigenous populations — whose lives are altered by these state-sponsored megaprojects. While the construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt and a smaller one in Sudan have enabled the two countries to develop thriving agro-industries, they caused wanton destruction to the Nubian people’s ancient way of life.  As a result of the secrecy surrounding the Nile discussions and the lack of tolerance for political dissent in all three countries, there is little discussion of the dam’s impact on indigenous communities and the horrendous environmental consequences.” (Hassen Hussein)

2014 Mar 3: Water: Conflict and Cooperation in Israel’s Jordan River Valley (ILLUSTRATED)

“In more recent maps drawn for subsequent iterations of U.S. and internationally-brokered peace talks between Israel and the PA, most of the mountainous Samaria and Judea regions, along with the Jordan River Valley, are drawn as a Palestinian state, plus today’s Hamas-controlled Gaza, all the way to the Egyptian border.”

2015 Mar 05: Danone, Nestlé and Lactalis fined for roles in alleged Spanish raw milk cartel

“Eleven dairies, including Danone, Nestlé and Lactalis, have been fined nearly €90m for allegedly colluding on the price paid to Spanish farmers for raw milk.”

2015 Jan 12: Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact

“Minimum Reservoir Pool Elevations. Minimum Reservoir Pool Elevations attached hereto as Appendix 3.1 shall be enforceable according to the schedule specified in Appendix 3.4.  Enforceability of Minimum Reservoir Pool Elevations is subject to Article IV.E, Appendix 3.5, and superseding Federal law allowing for regulation of reservoir elevations.” (Proposed Water Rights Contract)

2015 Mar 20: Nestle Continues Stealing World’s Water During Drought:

“Nestlé is draining California aquifers, from Sacramento alone taking 80 million gallons annually. Nestlé then sells the people’s water back to them at great profit under many dozen brand names.”

2015 Apr 10-12: Health and Environment Laws Swept Away: Trans-Pacific Partnership Says if a Corporation Claims it’s True, it Must be True

“…a judge ruled in favor of Vivendi Universal against Argentina in a failed water-privatization scheme, and her ruling was allowed to stand even though the judge served on the board of a bank that was a major investor in Vivendi. The TPP is completely silent on conflicts of interest. The leaked TPP chapter reveals for the first time that ICSID would hear disputes brought under TPP.”

2015 May 05: The Economist: Water, water everywhere (Maori Rights in New Zealand)

“The Maori claim a special relationship with New Zealand’s fresh water, based on their historical use of its rivers for drinking water, spiritual beliefs, fishing and shellfish harvest, transport and trade, among other things.”

2016 November 04: Daily Mail UK: Food, water fears remain year after Brazil mine dam disaster

“Upward of 10 billion gallons of mud filled with mining waste buried towns in the Nov. 5 dam break that has been described as the worst environmental disaster in Latin America’s largest country …

… A judge has ordered Samarco— a venture between giants Vale of Brazil and BHP Billiton of Australia— to pay for independent studies, but it’s unclear when results will be released.”

Intact Tick Removal with Cotton Swab

I know too many people who have suffer tickborne diseases. This video shows how to easily remove the tick without fear of detaching its head.

Tickborne diseases in the US

How to avoid ticks

Endret klima – hva skjer i kulturlandskapet? Gjengroing, sykdommer (flått)

Die Maiers Comedy Trapeze

I am generally not a fan of clowns, but this couple are simply marvelous. And strong, well choreographed and agile.

Autism x 2 and social phobia

Hiding by Photodream art
Hiding by Photodream art

At this time of life I seldom play the “if only” game. However, there is one thing I dearly wish could have been different. Knowing about my own autism would have made understanding what was going on in my oldest son’s life so much easier. Instead, I thought he was just an odd version of average – much like myself. But, as we all know, the past is over and done with.

My asperger son struggles with social phobia (the full-blown kind). Not until puberty did we notice anything untoward. Slowly the monster inserted itself into his mind until panic-attacks were a daily event. We (my son, husband and myself) believe that puberty must have been the triggering factor.

Social anxiety seems to be a common problem for teenagers. According to US statistics 13 years is a starting age for social anxiety for many. On Health Center I found a description that puts into words what I observed in the early stages of my sons’ condition:

Mike, 15, has always seemed like a loner. At school he sits by himself in the lunchroom, and he has no friends, although no one particularly dislikes him. He never initiates conversations with his fellow students, and when someone tries to initiate a conversation with him he looks at the floor and speaks very quietly. He always seems to be on the outside looking in with the kids in his class. One night recently when he needed to call a fellow student to work on a group assignment, his mother noticed that he agonized over making the call for hours and seemed extremely anxious at the thought of it. He often gets stomachaches and extremely sweaty when called to the blackboard or asked to read in class. His parents have always just thought that he was shy, but they are beginning to wonder if something else might be going on.

We were those parents, until reality showed us that matters were much more serious than shyness. “Mike’s” level of anxiety was my level of anxiety back in my teens. At this level, the person suffering from social anxiety will not always need outside intervention. Perhaps my autism helped me overcome my struggles by its tendency to help me focus on matters I am really interested in. I was extremely interested in winning over my fears.

Life brought too much chaos into my son’s life over too short a time-span. Death of a loved one and the severe illness of another brought his ability to deal with life and anxiety to a stop. This was a dark, dark time for him. He had periods when taking his own life was extremely tempting. What kept him from actually following through was his fear of the potential pain around death and his desire to do interesting things again. As his mother, I would have understood if he actually did kill himself, but I am incredibly thankful that he did not.

What finally enabled my son to see past his social phobia had to do with two factors. The most important one was being diagnosed with aspergers. He now understood himself better. Hell, I understood myself better. Both of us realized that we were just regular Aspergers. The other thing that helped him was the apparatus that came to life with his diagnosis. The System also realized that there was more to him than a stubborn disorder keeping him down. This, they could work with.

And work we have. There are days like today, when he is not able to attend school. Then there are others when he does. One step forward sometimes leads to falling ten steps back, but he manages to improve ever so slowly. Being an asperger is a teeny problem compared to struggling with Social phobia. As always we take things one day at a time and accept that we and life is what it is.

Turning 50

Artist: Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Artist: Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Portrait of a Woman – 1925

I wonder how much my autism influences how I view turning 50 years old. Two days ago that supposedly important anniversary arrived at my door and placed me firmly in the center of the middle-aged.

There will be no major celebration. I just don’t have it in me any longer to pretend to like to be the focus of attention of a larger group of people. Remembering how it was to throw a party for my 40th birthday, just entrenches the dread of another such getting together for the sake of paying attention to me. My siblings and parents have expressed their disapproval, but all of them know me well enough that they can also joke about the matter.

So, 50. Hmmm. I thought I would be dead by now. In fact, I had hoped I would be. It just seems a waste to have people my age alive. That, and my depressive nature, work to make death an attractive alternative. Yet I have so very many things in my life that ought to give me a strong desire to live.

My husband is an amazingly wonderful person whose incredible patience and loving nature covers me with his goodness. My sons are also pretty neat people. Both are kind and generous while also embracing a direct approach to communication. All three of the men in my life are people I enjoy spending time with and time without.

Due to the vagaries of luck, our financial status is fairly secure. We have a home to live in that we no longer owe money to anyone on. My husband enjoys his work and I enjoy mine. Our neighbors are nice to us and we try to be nice back. Our country is well-off and has politicians that are no better or worse than politicians in many other countries.

In spite of this, I have no desire to live. Neither do I want to kill myself. I just happen to think that it makes no sense for me to live. Aaahhh, the strange nature of chemical and electrical impulses in brains.

So, 50 is no different for me than 49 or 39. There may be more experience and wisdom collected inside my head. However, all of my old struggles are still with me and those I love.

I’m Autistic, And Believe Me, It’s A Lot Better Than Measles

Vaccines don’t cause autism. But even if they did, is being like me really a fate worse than death?

The autistic brain is not particularly good at understanding irony, and yet most people I’ve met on the autism spectrum have, over time, developed a pretty strong grasp of the concept. Many of us have even managed to teach ourselves how to wield it. I’ve begun to suspect that this is due to our constant hands-on experience.

Having an autism spectrum disorder in an ableist world means that you’re constantly exposed to cruel irony. Most frequently, this comes in the form of neurotypical (i.e. non-autistic) people who tell you, incorrectly, that you can’t or don’t feel empathy like them, and then stubbornly refuse to care about your feelings when they claim that you’re lost, that you’re a burden, and that your life is a constant source of misery for you and everyone who loves you. There’s also my current favorite: parents who are willing to put the lives of countless human beings at risk because they’re so afraid that the mercury fairy will gives their kids a tragic case of autism if they vaccinate. Gotta protect the kids from not being able to feel empathy — who cares whether other children live or die?

No matter what other lofty ideas of toxins and vaccine-related injury anti-vaxxers try to float around in their defense, that’s really what all of this is about: we’re facing a massive public health crisis because a disturbing number of people believe that autism is worse than illness or death. My neurology is the boogeyman behind a completely preventable plague in the making.

The rest of the article can be found on https://medium.com/the-archipelago/im-autistic-and-believe-me-its-a-lot-better-than-measles-78cb039f4bea

Meeting me in public

Album cover for Martin Stimming
Album cover for Martin Stimming

Let’s say that one day you are wandering aimlessly in whatever mall is nearest to you. Somewhere in that store you encounter me. What would that be like?

I’d most likely be in my wheel-chair. Malls hurt to walk in. I’m average looking, so nothing extraordinary in that. Most likely I’d either be humming (sometimes kind of loud) or talking to myself. The humming would be repetitive (about two bars over and over again). If I was talking, I’d be going through what I needed to get and where I needed to go in order to buy that object. Sometimes you would even hear me commenting on the mall itself. I might even be singing that list. I would try to keep things quiet, but gauging how loud I am can be difficult. All of a sudden I might laugh.

Why on earth do I do this? As I have read up on autism/aspergers (didn’t even know there was a name for me until a couple of years ago) I have come to realize that my singing/humming/talking have to do with concentration, sensation and hearing.

I am easily distracted. Even with a note detailing what I am supposed to get and where, I’ll often become fascinated by something and end up forgetting why I went to the store. I then have to remember that I have brought a note and look at it. Off I go again. Repeating to myself where and what I need to be and get helps me focus. I find it helpful to have a person with me or knowing ahead of time exactly which stores I will be visiting.

Repeating/singing/humming also satisfies my need to stim. Unfortunately for my surroundings noise is one of my most frequent stims. Using godawful rhymes, terrible melodies, weird sounds and repeating words feels really good. If I manage to remember to only hum while I am out, people tend to accept my behavior. That way I get to lower my level of stress and satisfy the physical pleasure that comes with stimming.

Sometimes, when I repeat/sing/hum I am trying to distract myself from all the noise around me. The world is really loud when filtering out sounds is not an option. My hearing is perfectly average. As I am soon to hit my half-century mark, I imagine I will gradually be hearing less and less of what goes on around me. But for now, the world is noisy. But if my hearing is average, how on earth could noise be a problem. Well, it has to do with the filtering thing.

First, let me describe background noises. Before outside sounds enter my head, my brain deals with a sound that is always there. It is not tinnitus (I have an occasional visit from that fiend, so I know what tinnitus is like). For one thing my background noise is located in a different area of the inside of my head – really close to my skull. You didn’t know that, did you? There are areas where sounds are felt in the brain and on the body. Or maybe you did. That is my background noise.

Then the outside ones take residence inside my body. I hear every single noise I am able to hear all of the time, unless I am able to drown them with my own sounds. These noises make it difficult for me to focus on the people I am talking with. All of a sudden a new and fascinating sound appears and off my attention goes. The accumulation of noise (both fascinating and not) is why I’ll most likely ask you to repeat whatever it is you said (maybe several times). I realize this may be irritating for you, but I am unable to do anything about it.

Sometimes the accumulation of noise over a period of time becomes too much and my brain either dissociates or chooses another form of melt-down. I generally manage to leave before things get that far, but if not, having another person nearby who knows I am in some kind of trouble is a good thing.

This sensitivity to sound also has one incredible benefit. Well-played music can make for an intense experience. Certain guitar-riffs and saxophone combinations slam into my body in the best way possible. If we are talking at that time, I guarantee you will lose my ability to focus completely on you.

Disclaimer: this is my experience with sounds/noise. Other aspergers or autists may have very different experiences.

Are autists capable of feeling empathy?

Artist: Chelsea Osgood
Artist: Chelsea Osgood

Empathy : the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feeling Webster’s online

This definition is talking about two things. The first is pretense. Pretending to understand a feeling or experience another person is going through. Your feeling is telling you that you are able to share another person’s experience.

Let us pretend that I fall down and hit my knees. That hurts, I might cry and even be sad because it happened. What if another person fell down and hit their knees in the same way? This is where it becomes tricky.

89 Comforting a Friend in NeedTrue empathy (see above) would mean that I could truly feel what the other person hitting her/his knees felt. Perhaps there are people out there with this ability. If there are, I imagine they are few and very far between. For the sake of this post, I am ruling that true empaths do not exist. Therefore, we are stuck with this “feeling” thing.

What I have is my experience. When I see another person falling down, all I can do is extrapolate from my own experiences and use that to do whatever it is I do. If the person shakes their fall off, I might become confused. My projection of my own feelings onto that person tell me that the other person is supposed to be in pain, crying and needing comfort. But nothing in the situation indicates that is happening.

Parrot comforting rat
Parrot comforting rat

As it often does, my extrapolation failed. To me that is what happens during an empathic experience. People project their own feelings on to another person and expect them to behave in the same manner as we did. If the above definition is a valid one, it is highly likely that autists might not be good at empathizing.

A lady I know had a husband who was sick for an awfully long time before he died. I’m practically 50, so some rules in society have been knocked into my head. I also have my own experiences to go by. As death got closer, and my parents were talking about her pain and sadness (and her missing me in church), I figured I could text her every evening until he died and maybe a little after. I did not have a clue as to what she was feeling. Because of my own sadness when people and animals have died, I figured she had to be having a rough time and took a chance on my sms’ working. A while after his death, this lady told me that those texts were part of what kept her going through her difficult time. That made no sense to me (which is probably a lack of empathy) but I was glad my intention to help worked.

Comforting a friendAt her husband’s funeral I figured there would be PLENTY of green stuff. I didn’t bring any. Instead I thought about what gave me comfort when I was sad. For me that is hugging something really hard. Now that her husband was dead, she needed something else (at least that is what I extrapolated from my own experiences). I got her one of those soft dogs that you can get at a toy store. A big, huggable one. You know what? That dog has been held and cried at and been the recipient of all sorts of emotions (not only hers).

This time my attempts worked. Often they do not. But people generally don’t seem to mind those attempts to help. And just as my projections onto people often fail, so do theirs onto me.

From American Horror Story

Let me present you with another situation – not mine. No, not mine at all, but another autistic person. Someone I am very worried about when I remember that she exists. She has one of the more painful stories I have come into contact with.

My friend writes some of the most touching posts I have read. Sadly, this beautiful person struggles with severe depression. My friend also has arthritis to a degree that causes extreme pain and a severe sensitivity to touch. Neither illness responds to treatment. My friend is also autistic. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some health personnel the combination of these three make my friend less than human.

One time when things were at their worst, my friend asked for help. In spite of my friend’s previous experiences with health services, that friend needed help but when help was requested something completely was given. This friend has records that indicates that no force should be used and my friend’s doctor is very clear on that matter. However, this was placed in seclusion and restrained. It turns my friend had the gall to beg for toothpaste.

After restraining restraining my friend, health personnel and others present  made fun of my friend. I believe they call it bullying when regular people act the same way. Severe bullying in this case. Every single cautionary note in her file was ignored. Her arthritis, her sensory issues, her fear of restraint and so on. It is highly likely that none of the bullies were autistic. Therefore, an empathic ability should have been present in them all. My friend did not come out of her experience a healthier person. Quite the opposite.

Whether empathy is a true ability in non-autists is not something that matters to me. Nor does my so-called lack of it. What does matter to me is how people treat other people. In my friend’s case, I am extremely worried about the outcome. A lack of empathic compassion caused what is likely irreparable damage of several kinds.