Thursday, April 2, 2015

Identity, the Formula, and Vera

Trigger/Content Warning (TW/CW): this blog post contains mentions of ableism and damaging therapy. Reader discretion is advised.

A few weeks ago, I had an interview done with an eligibility evaluator from the (State of Ohio's) Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities (CCoDD) to see if I am eligible for services provided by the county based on a formula I came up with: autism + posttraumatic stress disorder = one needy brat, heh. Prior to this interview, I had a separate interview done, with the same agency, a month earlier to see if I was eligible to be eligible for services (if that makes any sense).

Follow this, if you may:

I was sent to the CCoDD by the University of Toledo. I was sent to the University of Toledo by my mental health team at Cleveland Metro General Hospital (currently known as Metro Health). My team from Metro Health gave me the assignment to find a doctor to reassess my autism because of my diagnosis of PTSD. In other words, I had to prove my autism because I didn't have a piece of paper stating that I had autism.

Just what kind of nonsense is this? Seriously?!

To provide context into this rambling session, allow me to take you back into time. Hold on tight.

I was born a few days before the inauguration of Ronald Reagan becoming the United States of America's 40th president.  A few years after my birth, my parents discovered something was amiss about me. From the stories I have heard over the years, my father genuinely believed I was deaf; I was unresponsive to my name being called among other things. And as the story goes, my parents took me to the family doctor, who referred me to a child psychologist.  The psychologist determined that I had, in his words, "mild autism," according to family fable. 

And as they say, the fecal matter flung against the wind turbine, or something like that.

It wasn't until the age of 9 that I stumbled upon a newspaper article talking about autism. I read the article and noticed the subject in the article, a young boy, had very similar issues like I did. I went to my mother and asked her if this is what I had, and why I was in special education for many years:

To paraphrase my mother's response: "Yeah, you supposedly had autism. But you outgrew it. You don't have it anymore."

I would spend the next 20 years of my life questioning on whether or not I was really autistic.  In those 20 years, I went to physical changes, emotional changes, mental changes, and spiritual changes. I tried to find an identity; how do I describe myself to other people? Between being told (by folks who were genuinely trying to be supportive) that I was "not autistic" and having my intelligence insulted (by folks who were trying to be really blunt and mean), being confused wasn't a state of mind; it was a way of life.

Now, let's come back into the present.

Who is Vera Didenko?

Yeah, and also explain that damn "Mx." as your title; what are you, Mexico?

I'm going to have some fun.  I'll describe myself now in the way that my younger self could not do.
  1. I am Autistic. In December 2014, I had the autism reassessment done at the University of Toledo's Center for Excellence in Autism. They took my insurance and was willing to test a subject other than a cisnormative male. In January 2015, I received my results (based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version 5 [DSM-V]) as being on the autism spectrum disorder, needing level one support. In other words; ASD, Level 1 was basically the current version of "mild autism"; nothing changed in these 20+ years. But hey! I now have a flapping piece of paper stating the obvious!
  2. I am Pansexual. I have intimate and sexual relationships with an adult human being, regardless of their identified gender.
  3. I am Genderfluid. One day I identify as my assigned gender at birth of female, another day I identify as a male with female anatomy (it would be great to have a penis than to have a vagina, but I digress). The title before my name is "Mx.", which stands for "Mixter," a blend of "Mister" and "Miss".  Folks who are non-binary, trans*, or intergender will opt for this title instead of previously established titles.
  4. I am (almost, as of this post) Jewish. I do not recognize Jesus Christ as a prophet, a teacher, a healer, or even as my Lord and Savior. Yeah, I said it.
  5. I have blonde hair. This does not constitute or equate to me being a blonde.
  6. I have an old soul. I am very aware of the world I live in and connect to many things around me, like a psychic vampire reaching its intangible tentacles onto a noun to drink from its nectar of spiritual being.
  7. I have PTSD, types 1 and 2. Type 1 refers to chronic direct and/or indirect exposure to long-term trauma. Type 2 refers to acute direct exposure to trauma.
With all that said, I want to establish a connection between my autism and my gender; they are both fluid. As previously stated, there are times where my gender will switch to female to male and back. Wet, wash, rinse, repeat. My autism does the same exact thing; it will go from barely noticeable to completely non-verbal and back. I have found this to be the best way to describe how both my autistic being and my gender identity works.

Which now brings me back to the interview I had with the CCoDD.  The interviewer could not grasp the concept that I was autistic, and yet I could drive a car, at one time hold a job, graduate from school, and have oodles of friends, fans, followers, and most importantly, family by definition. The questions she kept asking were of basic terms (as listed on her sheet of paper):

"Can you wipe yourself after you use the toilet?"
"Can you make your own food?"
"Has anybody complained about your hygiene?"
"Are you able to dress without any assistance?"

And after answering yes to all of these questions, the interviewer looked at me and said: "It sounds like you need someone to talk to. Do you see a psychiatrist?"

And once again, my intelligence is insulted.

"I can tell you that you will probably not be eligible for services here," the interviewer ho-hummed. "However, legally I have to tally up the points to see if you exactly do qualify for services or not, and send them to you via postal mail.  If you receive a letter from us that is certified, that means you did not qualify for services. If you receive a letter from regular first-class mail, that will mean you are eligible to receive assistance from us."

As of this post, I'm still waiting for that letter in the mail.

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