Finding Independence (Success Begins With Two Words, I’ll Try…)

So two weeks ago I had the chance to watch Finding Dory and, once again Pixar has delivered another masterpiece and most importantly, something blog worthy. So without spoiling anything, Finding Dory center’s around Nemo’s friend Dory who is very scatter brained and is notorious for short term memory issues. The movie takes a look back at her childhood and how she got separated from her family in the first place. A series of events causes Dory to remember her family thus begins yet another journey that makes for an epic Pixar film. Their adventure brings them to an aquarium that specializes in rehabilitating injured aquatic animals. Now, where the film truly succeeds is how it tackles living with a disability. A lot of this movie’s important characters including Dory all have some sort of disability that has an adverse affect on how they live their lives. From a visually impaired whale shark named Destiny to a Dolphin named Bailey who is unable to use his echo location abilities, a cognitively impaired loon named Becky and of course Dory, this film stresses not only how people live and function in this world with disabilities but, it also explores the topic of ableism which can be a huge problem for those of us with disabilities.

The subject of ableism drives the plot of this movie. Through out the movie, Nemo’s dad who is a very anxious person encounters these animals and often doubts their ability to help them on their quest to find Dory. His inability to trust others leads the two in to very perilous situations. Watching a lot of these scenes reminded me of time throughout my childhood where I was constantly underestimated. People had a certain perception of who I was before they even met me and usually set the bar pretty low from the get go. I also found myself relating to Dory because I too have some short term memory issues. My issues are pretty mild compared to Dory but they can still impact my life in ways they wouldn’t impact others. With being on the Autism Spectrum, my brain is trying to process a million things at once with different pieces of information fighting for residency in my brain. Imagine a funnel and you have a bunch of tiny marbles trying to get in at once, somethings make it in and others don’t because the marbles just keep coming and coming. I can be somewhat forgetful when there are a million things going on at once and part of my life has consisted of working around this.

With any disability, working against it can be a recipe for disaster like cooking meth in a garage with materials you bought from Wal-Mart. As you grow up, you understand your limitations and you learn to work around those limitations. A good chunk of Finding Dory consists of Dory coming to grips with the fact that she has memory issues and learning how to work with and around those issues to achieve her goals. The other animals with various disabilities also must learn to work around their deficits to achieve their goals. There are things in my life that I struggle with as a part of being Autistic but, over the years I’ve learned to work around these issue. Here’s a list of some of the things I struggle with silently but have learned to work with,

  1. Short Term Memory: As mentioned above I have mild short term memory issues. My long term memory is fantastic but, some days I have issues retaining other pieces of information. At work this has cause occasional issues and one way I deal with this is the excessive use of post it notes. My desk area is littered with post it notes and these things have been a Godsend. Before I leave work if there’s anything I need to remember for tomorrow that I know I’ll forget, I stick a post it note on my computer monitor or on my keyboard so that I’ll see it first thing when I start up my machine. Back in middle school if I had to bring in something I knew I’d forget, I’d write a reminder on my arm in pen or permanent marker knowing I’d glance at it at some point. This helped greatly back in the day. Calenders on smartphones are also a Godsend be for good measure, I put appointment cards on my bedroom mirror so that they always stare at me. My short term memory also gave me issues while learning how to drive. Driving is pretty complex and the amount of information you have to absorb while learning it created for some problems. It didn’t help that my dad who doesn’t truly understand the nature of my disability would constantly yell at me every time I screwed up. I eventually got a driving instructor who specialized in teaching drivers with disabilities who was able to break everything down for me into bites and give me visualizations of how to perform certain tasks.
  2. Following Directions: I’ve come to realize that I’m a very visual and auditory learner and do better with picture based guides when trying to do complex tasks like repairs or assembling furniture. There’s something about my attention span that decides to go “fuck this shit” when it comes to large bodies of text unless those large bodies of text are interesting and can keep my attention. I struggled in English classes because the books were just too damn boring. As far performing repairs and assemblies, I got around this by using Youtube (Thank you Lord Jesus for such a wonderful invention). Using a how to video allows me to follow a long so that I can see what they see and so that the pieces of texts that would get lost in translation in my head due to processing issues. As far as books, sometimes use audio books while reading books that I like but have ridiculous amounts of text per page like the Game of Thrones series. For Bibles, I purposely find ones with large print because that means less information per page.
  3.  Auditory processing: Because my brain is taking in multiple things at once, I have issues filtering out noises in loud places. Even when I’m close to the people I talk to, people’s voices tend to drown in the blood ocean of 5000 different conversations happening at once. If I really need to hear someone, I put my ear to their face so that I can pickup what they’re saying. When I go on dates or meet up with a friend, I purposely opt for quiet places or go to places at times I know will be less crowded.
  4. Mental Processing: As I mentioned above, my brain is literally trying to process a million things at once but at the same time, my mind is constantly bombarded by thoughts and feelings already in my head. All of this happening at once can be pretty mentally overwhelming. As much as I enjoy public transit because it means not using gas, I kind of hate it because it’s so fucking loud. The trains are noisy, people are loud especially during school commutes and party nights and at the same time, I have to process a highway of thoughts swimming around in my head like they’re all trying to break Michael Phelps’ record. Headphones are my best friend and I swear by them. People constantly wonder why I always have headphones with me and yes I do like music but, the thing I don’t tell people is all of what I mentioned above. Blocking out any additional outside noise allows me to process and sort out my thoughts. Music can easily blend with my consciousness so it makes processing and sorting everything much easier, everything in my head slows down just a bit when music is involved. This problem isn’t very existent when I have people to talk to but when I’m alone, I’m just a tad bit miserable without headphones.

There’s way more but, If I were to cover all of this in one post then we’d have enough for a book (sounds like a great idea, yes mother I heard you loud and clear. I love you but, if you mention that Goddamn book one more time… It’ll happen on its own time….). The point is, you can either let a disability be your crutch or you can learn ways to get around it while understanding your limitations. The most important thing is that you at least try because if you don’t try, you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of. The portion of the blog title in parentheses is a quote from Abbey Curran, a woman with Cerebral Palsy who started a beauty pageant for people with disabilities as a way to build confidence among those who’s self esteem had been rocked over the years. When you spend your whole life being doubted and being told what you can and can’t do, it’s pretty easy to believe it and limit yourself. Your mind sometimes can be the tightest glass prison you’ll ever trap yourself in. Sometimes you just gotta ram yourself through the glass and plunge into an ocean of uncertainty, only then will you truly learn to swim in a way that suits you.

Stay classy peeps….


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