affirmations

"But it will confuse the children!"

When marginalized people exist unapologetically in public, some bigoted people say things like “But it will confuse the children!"

This is about as ridiculous as saying “Don’t pour water there! It will get the fish wet!”

Most of the world is confusing to children, because they haven’t had time to learn very much about it yet. Kids have to learn even really basic things. Some examples of stuff kids aren’t born knowing and often find confusing:

  • Door open *and* close.
  • Light switches can turn lights on and off.
  • Some things belong to you and some things do not.
  • Not everything that looks appealing is edible.
  • When you’re in public places, you have to wear clothes.
  • Some people are relatives and some people aren’t.
  • Everyone has a name.
  • People like different things.
  • Holidays exist.
  • Not everyone celebrates the same holidays.
  • It is possible to read books.
  • If you let go of a ballon outdoors, it will almost always float away.
  • Even when you are very upset, it is possible to communicate without screaming or hitting anyone.

You’re not going to break children by existing in public as a marginalized person. Even if they are confused, nothing terrible will happen. Children are good at thinking about things they don’t understand and learning new things. Kids are confused a lot; that’s part of being a kid. They are learning, and it’s ok.

Image description: "Telling marginalized people "your identity will confuse the children" makes about as much sense as saying "that water will get the fish wet". between two photographs of fish.

Image description: "Telling marginalized people "your identity will confuse the children" makes about as much sense as saying "that water will get the fish wet". between two photographs of fish.

The drawbacks of anger, and some alternatives

A lot of things that are normal aren’t ok. It’s hard to notice this. We’re socialized to accept a lot of things that really ought to be unacceptable. When we try to object, we’re punished. Being punished for objecting is often humiliating and disorienting.

It’s hard to remember that these things are wrong even when others punish you for saying so. It’s hard to remember that you have rights when others act like you don’t.

One way to remember that things are wrong is to get angry about them. Feeling outraged can make it easier to hold onto your sense that, no, this isn’t ok, and yes, it is ok to object.

Unfortunately, the price of rage is high. Rage hurts. It’s physically unpleasant, physically exhausting, emotionally draining, and makes it hard to think clearly. The physical and emotional exhaustion from anger makes it harder to do other things. The fog of anger can lead to mistakes that make it harder to remember after the fact that you were justified in objecting. Rage is better than nothing, but there are other strategies that don’t hurt as much.

One thing that can help is to develop your understanding of the situation over time. If you learn to understand what you’re angry about and why, it can make it possible to use understanding rather than anger to stay oriented.

Questions like these can help:

  • What am I angry about?
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • What happened that I think is wrong?
  • Why do I think it’s wrong?

For instance, say I’m in class, we’re doing an activity, I’m not able to do the activity, and I’m feeling angry. We’re writing thoughts on big paper, and I can’t do handwriting well enough to participate. In that situation, I might think:

  • Why am I angry?
  • I’m trying to participate and failing over and over and that’s intensely frustrating.
  • Why am I angry about that?
  • Because I’m sick of being left out all the time.
  • What happened that I think is wrong? 
  • The teacher knew about my disability and didn’t do anything to accommodate it when they planned the activity. 
  • When I pointed out that I couldn’t participate, they didn’t do anything to fix it.
  • Why do I think that’s wrong? 
  • Because I have a right to be here, and the teacher is supposed to be teaching me. 
  • I’m a student here, and I have the right to learn the material and be part of the activities we’re using to learn it.
  • This is disability discrimination, and that’s wrong.

Then, the next step in using understanding rather than anger is to notice that something is wrong before you start feeling enraged. Sometimes that can make it possible to fix the problem without having to get to the point of outrage. It can also make it more possible to decide when to fight and when not to.

For instance, take the class activity. If I remember that I have the right to be there and that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to teach me, this might happen:

  • I go to class and see that there is big paper on the walls.
  • I remember that I can’t do big paper activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to participate in educational activities.
  • I remember that I have the right to learn the material.
  • I ask right away “Are we doing a big paper activity today? How will I participate?” 
  • At this point, I’m annoyed, but not outraged, and able to assert something without it hurting so much.

They may or may not respond the right way — and I might still get really angry. But if that happens, I can repeat the strategy again, figure out what I’m angry about and why. Then I can get further without depending on anger the next time. (Even when you can’t win or fix the problem, it’s still often possible to use that kind of strategy to stay oriented without rage. I have more posts in the works about that specifically.)

Anger isn’t a failure. It’s ok to be angry when unacceptable things are happening. It’s also ok *not* to feel physically angry. Anger hurts, and you don’t owe anyone that kind of pain. You don’t have to be pushed to the point of rage in order to be justified in objecting to unacceptable things.

Sometimes it might help to explicitly remind yourself of this. Some affirmations that have sometimes worked for me:

  • I don’t have to hurt myself to prove that this is wrong.
  • It’s still wrong if I’m calm. 
  • It’s still wrong if I’m not crying and shaking. 
  • It’s still wrong if my heart isn’t pounding.
  • Even if I’m ok, the situation isn’t ok.
  • Even if I’m ok in this moment, it’s ok to object to a situation that’s hurting me and/or others.

It also helps not to beat yourself up for getting angry. Anger in the face of outrageous things isn’t a failure. No strategy can completely replace physical outrage for anyone. Holding yourself up to impossible standards won’t help. Working on your skills at staying oriented in other ways will.

These strategies are harder to learn and harder to use. They also make it a lot more possible to resist and stay oriented without hurting yourself. It’s not all or nothing — any skills in this area help, and it gets easier with practice.

Struggling more with disability in the aftermath of the election

Everything gets harder under extreme stress. The aftermath of the election is an extremely stressful situation, and a lot of people are struggling.

This is not a normal situation. Donald Trump is almost certainly going to become President in January. He has promised to do awful things. His actions since Election Day have not been reassuring. This is a terrifying situation. For many people, it’s life threatening. It’s hard to function in a situation like this.

If you have a disability, this may be affecting you differently than it’s affecting nondisabled people. Most people are having trouble right now; most disabled people are having additional disability-related trouble.

If you have a mobility disability, moving might be harder right now. If you have a speech disability, speaking might be harder or impossible right now. If you have sensory issues, some sensory input you are normally able to deal with might be intolerably painful at the moment. If you have an eating disorder, it might be harder to control it right now. If you have seizures or migraines or other neurological problems, your threshold might be lowered. If you have trauma-related triggers, they might be harder to tolerate, or you might be more hypervigilant than usual. If you are hard of hearing, it might be much harder to understand spoken conversations right now. And so on.

Things you’re used to being able to do might be harder or impossible right now. Coping mechanisms you’re used to relying on might not be working. This is true for everyone, disabled or not. But with disability, we’re also having functioning problems that most people around us aren’t having. That can in itself be difficult to cope with.

For many of us, self acceptance as disabled people is a struggle. Under extreme stress, acceptance can be even harder. Acceptance is a skill just like everything else — and under extreme stress, many of us are dramatically more impaired. Acceptance gets harder, at the same time that there is suddenly more to accept. But you’re still worthy of acceptance. You’re not broken. It’s just hard.

Being disabled isn’t a failure. Being more impaired in a time of extreme stress isn’t a character flaw. You’re not alone in struggling. Nondisabled people are also more impaired right now; and they also can’t make it go away through sheer force of will. The particular things you can and can’t do may be different — because you have a disability, and disability matters.

Tl;dr The aftermath of the election is extremely stressful. This kind of stress makes everything harder. If you have a disability, some of your coping skills might not be working very well right now. Acceptance may also feel a lot harder. It’s worth remembering that it’s normal to struggle in situations like this — and it’s not your fault that disability matters now. Your body is not a character flaw.

You don’t have to be better than you are to make things

You don’t have to be better than you are to make things.

The things you make do not have to be perfect, and neither do you.

It’s ok to make flawed things. It’s ok to make mistakes.

Everything you make will be flawed. Everything everyone makes is flawed.

No matter how good someone is, what they create will be imperfect. If you wait until you’re capable of making a perfect thing, you’ll never make anything.

You do not need to be the best in order for it to be ok to make things. You don’t even have to be impressive.

It’s ok to make things even though other people make better things.  It’s ok to make things, even if other people know more than you do.

It’s also ok to make things even if you’re not sure the things you’re making are any good at all.

It’s ok not to know everything. It’s ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to make things that aren’t good enough.

Everyone who makes things, has made things that weren’t good enough, and will continue to do so. Everyone who is skilled started out unskilled. Nobody starts out as the best.

It’s ok to make things, even if you are the worst, even if you are the least skilled, and even if you make a lot of mistakes that others wouldn’t.

You don’t have to be the best in order to make things. You just have to make things.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be better than you are. You can make things as you are, with the skills and knowledge you already have.

You don’t have to be a professional or an expert in order to make things. You don’t have to have years of experience making things in order to make things.

You don’t have to wait to be better, or to know more, or to hold off on making things until you’re capable of making better things. You can make the things you’re already capable of making.

No matter who you are or what your skill level is, you’re good enough to make things.

You can make the things you’re already capable of making, and you can keep learning.

alexfienemann:

realsocialskills:

Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful sticky notes and putting them all over my room,…

alexfienemann said:

Going to try this.  What a great idea!

I am a teacher.  I got a lovely email from a parent once, and she CC’d my principal on it.  This was during an especially trying time for the school and for education in general.  He told me to print it out, keep it in my drawer, and look at it whenever I felt frustrated with my students or parents or whatever.  A lot of teachers do this - keep notes and reminders of how good they are at their job, because while teaching is wonderful, there can be very very bad days and it is very easy to get into a negative feedback loop because you are responsible for so much and take care of so many young lives.

I know, kind of a TL;DR, but I thought it pertained. ^^

but-hehurtyou:

fractionalrabbits:

realsocialskills:

Hi, this is for the person who posted about getting stuck in feedback loops of negativity. I have depression and that happens to me a lot. One thing that has helped me is writing in colorful…

but-hehurtyou said:

it helps me when I ask someone I’m close to to write like 100 of them and then I see them so you don’t think of it as you trying to make yourself feel better, but someone else wanting to see you happier as well.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

Dave Hingsburger, “The Are Word: helping individuals with intellectual disabilities deal with bullying and teasing

And also he explains it in this blog post: I’m ok, I have it on good authority

(via realsocialskills)

He also taught it at a self-advocacy conference.  He had us role-play bullying over and over while yelling “I’m okay - you’re mean!”  It really works.  It is the first thing anyone ever taught me about bullying that ever, ever worked.  Because “ignore it” won’t work.  But this does.  It teaches you to rethink what’s happening, rather than just “ignore it” and expect it to go away.  I use this all the time.  It is the only cognitive tool about bullying that has ever made a difference to me.

(via youneedacat)

I would love to go to that training. Just reading it described in the book has helped me a lot. It’s *amazing* how much “I’m ok, you’re mean” helps. It’s gotten me through a lot of horrible things in the three or so months since I’ve learned it.

Most people teach us to be non-judgmental in the face of bullying, when in fact judging bullies is literally the *only* thing that ever helps make it bearable.