Grey Hearts and Dancing Minds

(Although this is actually a performance poem, it is set out as prose poetry, experimental, just like the inspiration of the piece, Allen Ginsburg’s Howl. This poem does have a bit of bad language, and has trigger warnings of talking about mental health and disability, as well as ableism.)

I saw the best minds of my generation, beaten down and abused by their own minds, they would cry and cry as they held their heads, reaching out, questioning why their own bodies could treat them in such a way that they fell into despair.

I saw them crippled, suffering by the boundaries that they were given, drowning in a sea of cider and pills, cider and pills, pills.

A rainbow of emotions would smother them, choking their passion and destroying their dreams. They wondered why they ought to get out of bed to attend a lecture, or a seminar.

They would look in the mirror and see nothing but ugly hags staring back; fat, terrifying creatures that would seek to destroy their self-esteem.

I watched helplessly as they fell, deeper and deeper into their own thoughts, thoughts of self-destruction, loathing and fear.

They were too busy falling, with me attempting to catch them, for them to notice that I too was falling, into the depths of my soul, a soul that didn’t want to be discovered, or questioned, let alone fallen into.

Sometimes I would lie in bed, my inner demons arguing in my head, battling with the thoughts of other things, getting louder and louder, shouting, screaming, never relenting, never stopping.

I walked from A to B, my mind would be running a marathon, exhausting me by the time I sat down to attempt to study.

Everything and anything would distract me, anything from the rare bit of sun coming through the clouds out of the window, or the rustling of an illicit sweet wrapper.

My mind just would dance through the lecture, picking out words and tossing them far, far away. Words stopped being words and became nasal sounds, quietly knocking at me, at the soul that didn’t want to be knocked.

I saw the best minds of my generation flail, and struggle to survive. I watched helplessly on, without realising that I was barely living.

I ended up sitting in a room, a small box office, crammed with a psychologist, asking me probing questions about whether I climbed trees when I was a child and whether my mind was dancing, which even then it was, everlasting, never relenting.

I was soon diagnosed, and put on a list for medication.

Pills, that would stop my mind from dancing, just like Marilyn Monroe.

For the meantime, I would have to carry on surviving, and attempt to pin down my mind, my soul, and stop them in their tango of self-destruction, prescribed special glasses to stop me from falling over my own feet, stop me falling into my own despair.

I would sit with the angelheaded hipsters in my seminars: feeling like I was drawn in with multi-coloured ink, with a grey heart beating, whilst they stayed black and white, wondering what it would be like to just be that guy in the corner, able to sit and read from a white piece of paper without any bother, and churn out essay after essay, pulling all-nighters at the flick of the wrist, his mind letting him have control of his own thoughts.

We passed through the university semester, just about submitting reasonably written academia, fuelled with drugs, alcohol and literature, We were a movement of minds, all dancing whilst the other minds carried on walking by, oblivious to the creation that we so longed to reveal to them, whilst they ignored us, and carried on walking.

We dreamed fire in small study bedrooms cluttered with laundry and lost ideas, as we planned our futures, our revolutionary poetry, challenging and defying the status quo, to remember that we were OK, because we were already writing.

We would cower at our desks as we fought with our passions and ideals all whilst attempting to lead deceptively ordinary lives, lives blighted by the grey in our souls, souls that didn’t want to be discovered, questioned or fallen into, but ended up accidently showing themselves in our writing, writing that we would be expected to have read out loud and criticised.

So, with a blood-curdling howl of indignation, I started rebelling, writing obscene rhymes in order to attempt to change the world, to throw a spanner in the works, demanding change, demanding that one day, we should be able to rebel in the hope of changing the view on the rainbow minds that would never stop dancing, the grey souls that didn’t want to be hurt by the souls that were always on show, a shimmering gold as the sun shining out of their hearts.

I longed, hungry and lonesome for something to inspire me, to perhaps change the colour of my soul, as I wandered aimlessly through the streets where Austen walked, as doors to writing dens closed one by one, sending me on my way, as I attempted to scribble on the back of receipts in the charity shop where, on lazy Sunday afternoons I’d sit and hope that customers would arrive, and purchase some books searching for their forever-shelf in the homes of middle class elderly women or under the beds of students, collecting dust, among the memories, too bright post-it notes and stale bottles of beer.

Yet I listened, as I was told that I wasn’t allowed to let my mind do all the dancing, that it wasn’t OK to reach out, gasping, flailing, screaming, begging for the help that I needed from those that I thought were my friends, one by one they showed their true darkness, abandoning me, gossiping about how they didn’t like the person that I had become, I’d been suddenly gripped by an illness that I was becoming, suddenly I wasn’t someone worth respecting anymore, hypocritical fly-by-night motherfuckers, who were not even worth the ink on the page, the letters in the words that I write.

As the words flow through my fingers and onto the screen, with the cursor flashing mockingly at me as I wonder whether it’s really alright to tell all those people with false sympathy to fuck right off, that it’s not cool to be one thing in front of me, and then be something else, telling me that I’m being two-faced because I have to be two different people in order for them to accept me as a human being, that is something that I have to accept, is it?

Is that something that I should endure, just like all the other bullshit that I go through, with my mind ever tapping its feet and thoughts ever screaming at me to the point where I’ve run out of energy to scream right back?

Is that really acceptable?

Is that really OK?

Guess what, it’s not, and will never be.

So as I’m reaching out to catch those minds, that are plummeting to the ground, howling at the loss of their dreams to the minds that are eating their souls alive, I stop.

Think.

Maybe I should let someone catch me, just for a change.

 

 

 

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24 Hours

(This is a poem I wrote after a lecture on Frank o Hara’s poetry, as part of my course. TW, Emotional Abuse from Foster Carers, Ableism)

24 Hours
By Heidi Street

7:30
I wake up, flung out of bed after realising that I do
actually have things to be getting on with today,
my room is absolute bombsite,
and there is a delivery due today, one that might just help me gradute…

8:00
I take my pill, a little white piece of liberation,
And begin to munch a slice of toast with some odd urgency, after all
I still have the tidying to do,
not to mention that there are the night before’s knickers on the floor

10:00
It is nearly time for my delivery, I’ve just had the telephone call,
a bit of a relief, considering that I do have other things to be doing
I clear a space on the desk,
show the delivery man in, so he can set up my salvation

11:00
The laptop is set up, the delivery man leaves,
I then log into Skype,
in order to talk to my beloved
who I shall not see (in the flesh, that is) until November at least

12:00
I know there is some talk I should attend,
but, how can one go to such things,
when free stuff is to be had
I scurry off, grabbing everything I can see

13:00
In twenty minutes, there is a workshop,
I shall be putting my skills to the test
in front of other, more talented folk
I know I shall surely fall a bit flat on my face

14:00
That wasn’t so bad!
That character my team created was actually pretty great!
but now I hurry back to my room,
I’ve got a laptop to befriend

15:00
Time to eat, I think to myself,
I haven’t eaten since 8am
so to my kitchen I must go,
To whip up bacon, beans and fried cheese, a wonderful delight

16:00
I sit down in front of a blank word document,
Imagining myself a misunderstood bohemian talent,
With flowing long hair and bright, shining eyes,
But, alas, Facebook awaits…

17:00
Oh, look, Jeremy Kyle
I do enjoy watching these people making idiots of themselves on television,
as they scream rude words and fight on stage,
almost like two bears in the baiting rings of old

18:00
My gosh, is that the time?
I have a party at the Student Union to prepare for!
I only have two hours to go,
Although half an hour late shouldn’t be that unacceptable?

19:00
I dry my hair, apply my makeup,
Thick, catlike eyeliner, lipstick the brightest scarlet
I smile into the mirror
Not bad, you sexy minx

20:00
Slipping on my heels and grabbing my bag,
I check myself in the mirror,
the rich vintage gown looks a treat
on my rather small looking hips

21:00
Sat at the bar,
my flatmate causing a stir,
looks like the Mr Collins has made an appearance,
I put my face into my hands, oh, goodness, he’s coming over!

22:00
On the dancefloor now, hot and sticky,
forget that holiday, the Student Union is the place to go,
with the sweaty, gyrating bodies
mingling passionately as the music pumps through the room

23:00
I’m slowing down now,
my feet actually really hurt,
how can people actually dance all night
I suddenly feel older than nineteen

0:00
It’s time to leave,
I feel relieved,
as my friends and I totter off home
we talk feminism, as the darkness swallows us into the night

1:00
I kick off my heels, peel off my tights,
it is such a relief to unzip my dress,
to put my nightgown over my head,
and fall straight into bed, asleep as soon as I hit the pillow

2:00
I toss and turn,
and in my dreams,
I see the woman I am most afraid of,
she reminds me that I am worthless, that people like me shouldn’t live like I do

3:00
I turn to her, and bluntly say
“It is no thanks to you, you hateful woman,
Who treated me like a slave,
for I am on to better things, I shall follow my dreams, whether you like it or not!”

4:00
She glares at me, hate in her eyes,
as she tells me that I am undeserving of anything better than servitude,
Autistic people should be nothing but cleaners and dustbin people, she retorts
How dare you try to pretend otherwise?

5:00
“It is because of you that I decided I wanted better than that”
I replied, “I got to this part of my life because I needed to escape,
from foster carers like you, who think because
our parents rejected us, that society should reject us too”

6:00
She screamed as the sun began to rise,
and I pushed her far into the light
so that she could burn in the fire of her own evil
I watched, feeling nothing but determination to succeed in my life

7:30
I wake up, flung out of bed after realising that I do
actually have things to be getting on with today,
my room is absolute bombsite,
and there is a poetry lecture today, one that might just help me gradute…

The Little Blue Pill

(Trigger Warning: neurotypical privilege, ableism, the Cure Autism Movement)

I met up with my best friend (I’ll use his nickname rather than his own name for privacy) yesterday. Blitz’s Aspergers is much more noticeable in him than it is in me. We met whilst in nursery, and his mum childminded me for ages, before I went into full time foster care. We went to the same special needs secondary school for a few years before I transferred to mainstream. We would keep nattering away whilst I sat my GCSE’s and then went to college for my film and television production course. He was (and still is to this day) my voice of reason.

So, we went to the pub, and chatted everything aspergers. We talked about how it can be tricky to be ourselves, as almost as if we have to be two different people, one person in front of our mainstream friends, and someone else to our families/fellow aspergers. We talked about how irritating it is to be put into a stereotype, for example, all of is are supposed to be amazing at maths. Blitz and I SUCK! I just scrapped my C! We talked about relationships, and how sometimes it is tricky to find someone patient enough to cope with our eccentric behaviour.

Later on, I brought up the Little Blue Pill.

The Little Blue Pill is a concept I invented when I was eighteen, out of curiosity. Basically, it is hypothetical. If an aspergers/autistic person takes that pill, they will be cured of their ‘disability’. I started asking my friends if they would take it or not. Most said no. I asked Blitz.

Me: So, there’s a little blue pill sat on the bar, right now, with a glass of water. If you take this pill, you will be cured of aspergers. Do you take it?

Blitz: (horrified) Aw, hell no! Why would I want to be cured?

Me: There are people out there trying to invent that little blue pill…

Blitz: Why do we need to be cured? I mean, sure we struggle socially, we might never be fully independent. But there are so many things that being Aspergers has given me, like my passion for gaming, my art skills (his manga artwork is awesome!) And my ability to judge character properly. Where would I be without that?

Me: I don’t know…

Blitz: Exactly. Now, let’s have another drink!

All the people I asked who have Aspergers or Autism said they wouldn’t take that pill. But, what I’m worried about is that one day, that cure will be made, and children with autism will be forced to take it, they wouldn’t have a choice. This is because being ‘neurotypical’ is the only way that people accept you, apparently. Never was autism mentioned at the women’s conference I attended, only physical and educational disabilities like dyslexia and dispraxia. You never get a job interview when you say on your application that you have this disability. People mock you, saying ‘you don’t seem autistc’ and if you show some signs, then people mock you further by telling you to act more grown up, more professional. My college stopped my additional support, as they didn’t think I needed it. I almost failed college. It was thanks to my tutor going that extra mile to help me, even though he didn’t have to.

Then I discovered the Cure Autism Movement. Basically, they are pushing for the cure, of both classic autism and high functioning, all the way to aspergers. These people are the ones who would ensure that no person ‘would ever endure the suffering’ that this ‘terrible disability’ causes. Sure, there are days where I wish I wasn’t autistic, where I could make some sense of the world, and be able to go to festivals without crying in pain at the volume of the music. But usually, I remember that without it, I’d be pretty lost, I would lose a very important part of who I am. I probably would lose my love of reading, my writing skills. Goodness knows what I, or Blitz would be without it.

So, would I take that Pill?

Hell No!

Well, all that’s left is to spring my experiment on you lot.

That Little Blue Pill is sat next to you, with a glass of water. When taken, it will take away your aspergers/autism.

Do you take it?

Women Have Aspergers Too!

So, I follow @EverydayAbleism on Twitter, which is very similar to @EverydaySexism, except from the fact that it covers people in the UK who suffer from an ableist society. Ableism is basically the discrimination of someone because of a disability that they might just have to live with day in day out.

I have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) which I was diagnosed with at the tender age of three. As I grew up, I was made very aware of my ‘disability’ by ableist foster carers, who looked after me solely for my DLA and the higher rate paid to them by social services. I was bullied at Brownies and Guides because I ‘suffered’ from a condition, and was often reminded by teachers that I would never go to university, because ‘kids like you simply don’t do things like university, if you aim that high you are only setting yourself up for failure.’ That would be before they would shoo me away and tell me to get on with that wordsearch that would be the only bit of schooling I would be given for the day.

It wasn’t until I got to mainstream school when sexism came into the picture for me and ASD.

‘You can’t be autistic, you don’t seem it.’

‘Girls don’t get Aspergers, that’s a guy thing’

‘I didn’t think you had Autism, unless you were born male’

‘You look rather boyish, so that kinda makes sense’

I never thought that being female, and being autistic was such a crime! I never really thought that it was a problem. Autism doesn’t affect as many female s as it does males, and doctors and scientists are still trying to figure it all out. I have often been the only girl in a class of twenty students when I was at special school. I didn’t care a jot, naturally. I thought that was normal, as I played Yu Gi Oh and read manga with my best friend. I was seen as one of the guys. And I didn’t think that was wrong!

I was on Twitter yesterday, when a discussion on ableism in education was spoken about. I brought up the special school teacher incident, and a few girls with ASD and Aspergers replied to me. They told me that lots of Aspie folk attend university, and it is seen as normal. Yes, it can be tricky for us as we don’t have the same skills as everyone else when it comes to studying, but there is support available.

The conversation then turned to being aspergers and female. That opened up a whole can of worms for us. Yes, we are women, yes we have autism and/or aspergers. Why does that matter?

What we need is to be seen and heard just as much as male ASD folk. Notice that I never mentioned ‘sufferers’. When doctors and specialists write about Autism, they must’nt focus on some people just because a penis rather than breasts and vaginas are involved. I’m sorry, but that’s the bottom line. When teachers have a girl with ASD, they need to make sure that she is just as valued as her male counterparts. Girls and women with Aspergers and Autism need feminism just as much as any other women. Perhaps we can be more oppressed than some other women, simply because of the fact that we ASD girls are not taught about feminism, teachers just don’t think it applies to us. If anything, we might need it more than anyone else. I’m not saying that we are the most important, lots of women need feminism, from the trans (yes, feminism is VERY IMPORTANT for them!!!) To the WoC (women of colour). But sometimes the disabled women are forgotten. Especially those with what is known as an invisible condition.

So, next time you meet a woman with Aspergers or ASD. Don’t question her and her ‘eligibility’ to live (not suffer) with it. Just support her, and love her like you would love any of your other friends.

Because Women have Aspergers Too.