I am not sure if I am autistic or not. But I am sure that from time to time I can speak because I don’t have enough energy. I wouldn’t categorize it as a selective mutism as I am not anxious. Just exhausted.
May be it is a bad idea to use Semi-verbal as an identity but what happens if I don’t do it? Shame for not being able to use telephones? Shame for not being able to meet expectations of neurotypical people? Shame for the way how my brain operates?
I think, I hope, I am past that point since I tell people that there are days when I can’t leave the house without my noise-cancelling headphones. I need them, they are my crutches. Without them I wouldn’t be able to get food. There’s no shame using them.
Why is it that I feel shame about using AAC? One part is because until recently I tried my best to pass as a neurotypical. The other is a fear of being looked over as someone who is stupid because I can’t speak, internalized ableism.
I will start with the second one. Internalized ableism is an awful thing. On one hand I admire Deaf people that they were able to create their own language and culture. On the other there is a very loud voice in my head which shouts “stupid person” whenever a deaf/hard of hearing person tries to speak. I feel awful because it puts me into a position of self-hatred since I can’t speak.
I can’t speak, therefore I am stupid.
The first one is as hard as the second. I was diagnosed with learning disabilities but I found ways around them. I was able to find workarounds for my other neuroatypical traits. What was my other option?
I grew up with an alcoholic & workaholic mother who didn’t care much about my problems as long as I didn’t cause too much trouble. That I was struggling socially wasn’t high on her priority list. Nor was my inability to speak. “You don’t talk to me today!?” was her favorite sentence when I couldn’t speak. After couple of times I made sure I always had enough spoons to be able to talk even if it meant hiding afterwards.
At the moment I am fighting both habits and re-learning self-caring & self-loving behavior. Adopting Semi-verbal as an identity sounds to me as a first step. “No, I won’t pick up the phone,” will be my second step.