The Case of Liz C (2002-2016)

I’m going to tell you a story.

In 2002, a very attractive young woman moved into an apartment down the hall from me. Like most of us who went to DC from elsewhere, she was smart, driven, ambitious, and successful. She had a neat job working on a public broadcast show I really like. I developed a crush on her. But for some reason she never seemed to be around, and I hardly ever ran into her in the building. Once each in the elevator and laundry room, but this is when I was still extremely shy. Of course she never said anything to me either. For weeks I did my laundry at the same time and day hoping to see her again, but no luck.

I was on the Board of Directors of the building, and for a while in 2003 we had an idiotic president who attacked me on the building’s email listserv. Not long after that, this girl came up to me in the Metro one morning as I was waiting for my Red Line train and said she strongly supported me, before quickly leaving for the other end of the platform. It was a nice boost, and I took it to mean she actually knew who I was. I resolved to ask her out. And I did. Or at least I thought I did. I believe I sent her an email, since I never got a chance to see her in person despite living about 60 feet apart. I told my therapist and was advised that I may not have been clear enough, and the girl may not have realized what I was asking. So I got a greeting card, asked her out more explicitly in pen, and slid it under her door. At the same time, unbeknownst to me, a friend in the building who saw her a lot told her what a great guy I was and suggested she go out with me. This surely looked coordinated or creepy, and I never heard a peep from her. Shortly after that, I noticed on Friendster that she added a boyfriend.

A few years later, in Montreal, I was watching the show she worked on when the host announced her departure and recognized her on air. I sent her a short email of well wishes. No response.

In 2014 I saw on Facebook that she was back home, in the Pacific Northwest. I sent her a short message apologizing for the clumsy/creepy ask out attempt, pointed out several things we had in common, and wished her a Merry Christmas. No response (Facebook showed that she saw my message).

This April, after basically giving up on Facebook and caring who knows what or expecting anything here, I sent her a friend request. To my shock, she accepted it. I messaged her to thank her and said I was pleasantly surprised. No response (again, Facebook showed that she saw my message).

I learned that she is back in DC and about a year older than me. And still very attractive. My heart sank when I saw a post she made about Linked In and said it suggested ex-boyfriends as connections to her. I have no exes, nor money or a successful career or popularity like her. She never interacted with any of my posts, so I tried to comment very sparingly on hers. There weren’t many. She only ever responded to a remark about food (Kerrygold makes the best butter; Tilamook is best at ice cream). Then I noticed that she had deleted me. I messaged her to ask if I’d offended her. No response.

This is just another classic example of what happens to me in trying to date–I never had a chance. None of it is in my control or influence. I am almost always ignored, led on, or rejected–and I can’t change any of those. I can’t even get any kind of explanation. I don’t think there’s anything more or different I could have done; she simply never interacted with me. I am just not wanted; I am a surplus man in a culture where men are the demand, and women are the supply. Yes, that is crass and horrible. Yes, that is economic and capitalist. But it is true. There is nothing I can do and no hope of getting my needs met.

Most people don’t care, a few would like to help but can’t, and a tiny fraction of those will admit it (and then usually disappear). The King County-funded crisis clinic laughs at you and hangs up on you. The health clinics that take Medicaid have no one who knows autism. The support groups are for kids and their parents. The autism people at Children’s Hospital only help low-functioning adults and refuse out-of-hand to address dating. The UW autism center only does medication management and will not replicate a UCLA program since Washington and California autism researchers are rivals. The autism and Asperger’s websites, Meetup groups, and Facebook pages refuse to touch any question about relationships or sexuality. Same for the more general disability ones. The ones on sex education, research, and positivity won’t touch anything on people with disabilities. Tim Burgess, the former cop and closet Puritan who falsely conflates sex work and sex trafficking, keeps increasing penalties on “soliciting”. He has the ableist privilege and lack of empathy to assume everyone who pays for sex is a criminal who should be maximally punished. His office will not answer questions about people in my situation, he will not adjust any of his positions or policies, and he won’t read any of the books or watch any of the movies I’ve asked him to. If you’re suicidal, people call 911, which sends the police out to re-traumatize you, and potentially you get locked up as an inmate in a social service hospital. They won’t do anything to PREVENT suicidality–they won’t even listen to WHY your life is hell or what could make it better. On the contrary, they’ll complain that they don’t want to hear from you even if you’re answering their call to supposedly check on your suicidality. It’s a program that’s typically Seattle–pretty window dressing that does nothing substantive or helpful. So we are stuck. This is life in America in 2016.

P.S. I’m getting more matches on Tinder since changing my height to 6’3″ and saying I drive a Ferrari and have a trust fund.

Are You “Safe”?

The language used by US mental health providers around suicide is very fucked up. They like to ask if you are “safe”, which in fact doesn’t mean safe at all. It means going to stay alive–keep suffering. As long as the police are at large, you are obviously not safe. No one in poverty, with a disability, or who’s a color other than white is safe. And as long as you’re stuck in the 3rd world backwater that is the US, making sure you suffer as much as possible and can’t get anything resembling help, you are obviously not safe. In fact, the only time you truly ARE safe is when you are dead.
The other thing they like to ask is “whether you are suicidal”. But like pornography, this is never defined–because we really don’t want to talk about it, no matter how necessary. There is a big difference between having a loaded gun pointed at your head about to pull the trigger, and drawing the abundantly rational conclusion that you’d rather be dead, or would be better off ending than prolonging your inescapable suffering. If suicide were as easy as flipping a switch or pushing a button, I’d have done it a million times already. If I were asked whether I’d rather be alive or dead, there’s only a generous maximum of 10% of the time when I’d want to be alive. I’m old enough and smart enough to have lots of experience and knowledge and know what the hell I’m talking about. But it should be obvious that, even though I would almost always rather be dead than alive, that doesn’t mean I’m imminently about to kill myself (I can only wish). There is a long continuum here, but like most things, we ignore it, put a wholly inadequate label on it, and pretend it’s a simple dichotomy. And woe to anyone in pain who answers one of these questions “incorrectly”. The police will come for you, and you’ll likely be killed violently.

Impossible Decision Point

The Social Security Administration limits disability applicants to earning $1130/month for 2016.
If you make any more than that in a calendar month, you’re automatically disqualified from getting disability. 
Well, by working at Taco Time doing boring mindless work for a lower nominal (let alone real) wage than I earned in 1999 before I had any professional work experience, and which I had to commute 75 minutes each way to get to and from, it turns out that my February earnings were…$1131.27. Of course, I’ve since lost that job for being sick too often (embarrassing, stigmatized health issues like PTSD with no coverage to speak of from Medicaid), but that extra $1.27 does me in. After 20 months of bureaucratic nightmare trying to get disability, including a trumped up arrest dismissed by the prosecutor (only arrest in my life), and their loss of my birth certificate for 7 months and claim it was my fault, my application is now automatically disqualified. This is the great vaunted social safely net in America. I can’t hold a job but can’t get disability. I can’t have a stable home, pet, girlfriend, any of the physical or mental health treatment I desperately need–no matter how hard I fight for it or how many times I seek it out. Or how clearly and certainly I know exactly what I need–the poorer and less powerful you are, the less anyone bothers listening to you. Including friends and family, if you have those. I have nothing but inadequate food stamps, which will be taken away soon–because under their standards, I’m an able body adult w/o kids. (Since I’m not approved for disability) 
The only thing we do for people in need in the US is blame them, judge them, ignore them, castigate and excoriate them, and pretend everything bad in their lives is their own fault. Never mind systematic classism. Because we can’t possibly admit that the US is not a perfect meritocracy which deliberately and systematically exploits the poor to feather the nests of the Super-rich just a little more–in fact, no advanced nation is as anti-meritocratic or anti-utilitarian as the US. We make sure to maximize the number of people suffering and the depths of their suffering–see Where to Invade Next. It doesn’t have to be like this at all–we choose it consciously. But pretty lies always trump ugly truths in our land of denial and magical thinking. It’s far easier to blame victims and cast them as immoral, lazy, weak, undeserving, etc. than to acknowledge or fix problems. 

Is it worth trying yet a third time (with another 18-24 month wait) to apply for disability anew with all its impossible endless bureaucracy and total lack of guarantee you’ll get a fair hearing, let alone benefits? Is there any job I could possibly get and keep–one with a reasonable commute that uses my “huge Aspie brain” and lets me advance social justice in some way, paying well enough not to need help from poverty programs, but rather let me enter the middle class for the first time in my life at 39? Am I truly better off killing myself, since that’s clearly what every institution of any power or significance in the US really wants of us? Or is there any plausible way for me to emigrate to the vastly more advanced, fair, humane, egalitarian, happy, functional, democratic countries of northern Europe where people are treated with dignity and opportunity? My inclination now is suicide, unless emigration gets simpler, faster, and more feasible in short order.

Quelque-chose a penser

What advice would you give a diabetic in 1915 (before they discovered insulin)? How about a PTSD victim from the Civil War? A schizophrenic in the 18th century? A depressed denizen of the 17th century? A sleep apnea sufferer in the 16th century?

Now, imagine someone who’s in the exact same position today. You don’t really think medicine has reached the point of isolating, identifying, and treating or curing every malady people suffer, do you?

Not Discussing Suicide = Biggest Barrier to Preventing It

This drives me nuts. I’ve lost so many relationships with family, friends, and professional contacts because they can’t even stand to hear about suicide. Including the head of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, while she constantly posts from their Facebook page about the importance of mental health and its confluence with homelessness. The hypocrisy is astounding.

NPR/WBUR article

“When my brother died, people had the nerve to come to say to me what a coward he was,” Barnes recalls. “My brother was a firefighter. My brother went to Afghanistan. My brother fought for his country. He goes into burning buildings to save people’s lives, and he’s a coward? My brother had a weak moment with a lifetime of depression.”

…“The biggest barrier or the biggest cultural barrier we have to preventing suicide is not being able to talk about it,” says Jack Jordan, a clinical psychologist in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, who’s widely recognized for his expertise in counseling suicide survivors — those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide.

Chemical Castration Please!

*Girl from temp job who agreed to get coffee with me? Ignoring me. 

*Microsoftie who chatted with me on Tinder and wanted to meet in person? No word since April 29.

*Girl who replied to one of my “if I had a girlfriend” posts on Whisper saying we should hook up? Totally disappeared. 

Now tell me why I should waste more time, effort, and emotional energy racking up more rejections, lead ons, and getting ignored? It’s hopeless torture. I’d rather just be castrated already. I couldn’t afford a prostitute even if we did legalize it. Sex is a human right, but some of us are more equal than others.

Hopeless at Body Language = Hopeless at Love, Sex, and Dating

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I met someone from Whisper in person. It was a woman, but as she’s engaged this was platonic and not a date. However, she knows about my inability to date or find a sex partner and that I’ve never had a girlfriend.

We had a good time and were glad to meet in person. But after I got home, I got a message from her saying she was worried she’d upset me. I had no idea why or how that would’ve happened, nor why she thought that. But she told me that twice in our conversation she moved closer to me, and I moved back–away from her. I believe her; this is EXACTLY the type of non-verbal communication to which I am TOTALLY oblivious, and which makes dating and flirting and all that shit impossible for me. I never noticed her moving closer to me, and I had no idea I’d moved away in response. I could only apologize and tell her I didn’t realize I’d done that, she hadn’t upset me, and assure her I was utterly clueless as to both her body language to me and mine to her.

Now, if a platonic friend notices this and tells me, just imagine how often something like this has happened with a girl I was attracted to or tried to flirt with, ask out, or be on a date with–none of whom ever mention it because they don’t think to. They don’t know I’m autistic and hopeless with non-verbal communication; they assume everyone knows what they do. Imagine how many phone numbers, dates, one-night stands, and relationships I’ve missed out on because I can’t read body language. And there are NO resources to teach this to autistic adults. There’s everything you could possibly imagine for KIDS with autism, but almost nothing for adults. That place at Children’s I posted a while back? I talked to them. They don’t take Medicaid (go figure), and I don’t qualify for financial assistance. Nor do they offer services that would help me, because they’re focused on low-functioning adults. I know how to dress myself, maintain decent personal hygiene, ride the bus, prepare meals for myself, etc. But if you have a health condition which, through no fault of your own, precludes your ability to fulfill the basic human needs of love and sex, we don’t give a shit until you’re suicidal. At which point, we physically make sure you don’t die, but do even less to give any QUALITY to your life than we do for the kids we convince low-income teenagers not to abort. We’ve all seen and possibly shared the memes about pro-lifers focused on forcing women to have the baby, only to deny it every service and support it needs after birth. We never hear or discuss the fact that we do the same thing, but worse, for people who deal with suicidal ideation.

“Don’t kill yourself!”
“But my life sucks.”
“It may suck now, but it will get better!”
“When? Are you going to help make it better?”
“I don’t know, just don’t kill yourself!”
“But I’m failing and flailing and suffering.”
“Just don’t kill yourself!”
“Why not?”
“Just don’t! It’s immoral/illegal/selfish/will hurt other people!”
“Well, once I stay alive, what can I look forward to?”

CRICKETS.