I’m autistic. I live in a world where I have to be fearful. Because people don’t understand autism. Because people think disabled people should not have the right to live. Because people prefer to judge and fear that which they do not understand.
I wake up every day and fear that I will have a meltdown, that this meltdown will be the one that gets me killed one way or another.
I fear that the next meltdown will be the one in which I accidentally injure myself beyond repair. Or take my own life. Or appear to others to be wanting to take my own life.
I fear that I will scream too loud, and someone will call the police on me out of concern. I fear being confronted, cornered, touched, or restrained by police. Police that I didn’t want here. Who I didn’t call for help. Because I know that during a meltdown I do not have the ability to make a logical choice. I know I will end up dead. And my loved ones will be left behind to suffer.
I can’t imagine my mother having to go through the pain of losing her daughter, and on top of that having to be confronted with the media and an ignorant public who thinks I deserved to die. People who didn’t know me, who didn’t know the whole story. People who don’t understand autism, or – even worse – people who do. People who have their own autistic child and yet somehow think I deserved to die anyway.
I don’t want to be remembered for my worst moment. I don’t want to be remembered as the hero or the villain of what others will inevitably see as my tragic story. I don’t want my death to serve as a teaching moment for others, or as a wake up call, or as a platform for people to climb onto and argue with each other about how much autistic people deserve to live or die. I just want to live my life in peace.
But I am afraid. The world has taught me that I have to be. And with every autistic death, I have more fear. That next time it will be me, or my niece, or my best friend’s son, or one of you, or one of your kids.
I know that I am not alone in this fear.
Instead of arguing, what can we do about it?