I’ve talked previously how having your rent paid and living on benefits isn’t a dream. That having found my faith makes me feel fortunate. I have mentioned that what comes with living with autism and being on benefits means there is much Stigma and Loneliness. In this blog, I will try to describe how social exclusion happens in practise.
As an Autistic my ability to fit in socially is challenging alone given my supposed deficits to understand social cues and my tolerance of loud noise such as music. The fact I don’t work is usually the biggest stigma I face. I am often passively written off or am just not socially expedient to the person I am talking to. There probably not gonna be borrowing something valuable I own or being introduced to someone who does them a favour in their career.
Therefore my social exchanges in the past decade have been very much at arms length by other people. People may learn my name, find out I don’t work, I don’t have a family and then we might end up talking about the weather. They will then usually talk to someone else or have to go somewhere. Sometimes it isn’t the stigma that I don’t work. It’s something to do with that awful theory of mind thing and double empathy problem that haunts Autistic people like me. I can’t seem to read their acceptable emotional state or social cues and the person talking to me may misunderstand by assuming they know what I’m thinking without asking me.
The result is I experience the harsh end of what I describe as an atomised society. My social experience is very much superficial every day without forming any close friendships as time goes by. I do yearn to discuss a book or watch a blu-ray at home with a friend and even share a meal together. On a basic level, the Sunday service at Church fulfils that. Someone does a sermon on my favourite book the Bible. We share bread and wine in remembrance of Christ. I meet some familiar people after for a brief tea. That makes a difference to me. It sustains me.
You might ask why don’t I join a mental health group? Well I actually ran a peer support group between 2018-20. I did most of the admin and fundraising. The problem was no one really wanted to help with that. The charity I was involved with required quite a bit of bureaucracy as well. In the end, I left with thousands of cash raised but no one interested in volunteering. Many people liked all the free food and drink. Many wanted to dictate how it should be run without offering any time or money. Sometimes I was ridiculed for being me. I didn’t make any close friends from it outside the meetings. So I quit because I didn’t think it was worth the responsibility with COVID infections then placing more restrictions.
The big issue I found with mental health groups or recovery colleges led by charities is they follow very much the Neo-Recovery model. It might work for people with a bit of anxiety and depression but anything more severe it causes problems. Your trapped where you can’t recover under the present Neoliberal Capitalist philosophy and stigmatised for each failure. To me it becomes a warehousing of people for segregation and like a cult that doesn’t fit with the true teachings of Christ to me (It’s not the Economy stupid!). A weird feature I found was I wasn’t socialising like most people do but I was vigilant of being understanding of the different diagnoses of people I would encounter. Everyone had triggers. I would even start to learn unhelpful negative attitudes and behaviours. This is not healthy inclusion. Thus why I try tried to describe a different perspective of the Recovery model with the ‘DIM US‘ framework.
I suspect as I get older it won’t get easier to socialise. The chance of a career becomes less likely with many years of being unemployed plus the cumulative effects of ECT and medication. Disabled people are increasingly being demonised as they don’t contribute enough to the economy. The loneliness used to really trouble me and the thought no one cared made me feel unworthy to live. I don’t tend to feel that as much anymore thanks to my faith in Christ.
I will die a lonely death. Probably alone in my home where my body won’t be discovered for days (hopefully my Church can raise the alarm!) or perhaps in an isolated hospital bed like my Stepdad. My funeral will be a paupers funeral and there is no will or inheritance as there’s nothing of value to leave behind. That doesn’t matter though. I believe I am going to a better place. I have had time to ponder the meaning of life and death. I believe in the Kingdom of God and I believe I will explain what it was like being me. I’m not sure what God and anyone I know in heaven will make of it all nowadays. Though before that happens I hope sharing my story in my blog makes a small impact on a few people in gaining insight from my perspective.
Thank you for reading my blog. My testimony on living on Earth.