Inquisitive Girl

Many transabled people have written about the young, open minds of children when it comes to disabilities. It even features in a lot of fiction written by transabled people for transabled people. After all, we have a unique perspective on the world, experiencing it both as a disabled person and a non-disabled person, and we can take an outside view on the way that people with disabilities are treated by society, having experienced this ourselves first-hand. And now I have my own story to tell.

I was heading towards the bus stop while pretending, and I must admit that I was a bit lost. This bus stop has two shelters and three places where the buses can stop, and even though I knew which part of the stop I needed to head for  knowing which part of the stop I’m actually at is a different matter. Presumably I looked lost too, for as I approached the stop an old lady (at least, I assume she was old because her voice sounded weak and worn) grabbed my arm – yes, I know it’s annoying when people do that – and asked me “are you OK?”. I said that I was needing the number 6 bus to Middleton (I’ve removed identifying details from this post) and asked if I was at the correct stop, which she confirmed. She then guided me to the bench in the bus stop and begged me to sit down, with which I complied considering that I had just missed the 15:42 bus and would have to wait half an hour for the next bus.

I hadn’t been sitting there long before I heard a young girl’s voice (about ten years old) at my two o’clock, and she seemed to be talking to a middle-aged woman who had arrived on my left (the latter of which was not her mother but did seem to be related to her in some way). She was asking the older woman to sing a song “from the 21st century”, although of course in the style typical of children her age she didn’t wait for a response before explaining that her mother was born in the 20th century but she was born in the 21st century and that the 22nd century would come in the year 2100. Feeling that such a comment would be appropriate for her age, I interjected in a casual manner by saying “yes, because the centuries are counted from 1 but the years are counted from 0”.

A few more minutes of silence ensued, and during this time I contemplated what I would say if anyone asked me about my blindness. This isn’t something that I’ve really had to consider before, and I was perturbed by pretending in public on my own without having a cover story ready. And rightly so, because just then the same girl that I had heard speaking before asked me “were you born with your eyes closed?”.Read More »

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Excuses for the cane

Wheelchair pretenders really have it easy. There are so many excuses that can be used when one unexpectedly crops up in a wheelchair, and again when they return a few days later back to their former walking self. One can explain “part-time” wheelchair use to people that see them every day. On reading archives of transabled.org, one finds such excuses ranging from “back pain” to a vague “neurological problem” and anything else which may in part be true or may be completely made-up or even a non-existent condition which sounds plausible enough that people believe it.

But there is no such luck for blind pretenders. We can’t say “sometimes I can see well enough to walk without a cane but sometimes I need to use the cane” like wheelchair pretenders can say “sometimes I can walk well enough but other times I need the chair”. Sure, we can claim “deteriorating vision”, but then it’s not going to be convincing to walk around with fully obscured vision, so the pretender would have to be willing to accept simulated partial/blurry vision in place of complete blindness for their pretending (something which does nothing to help with my BIID).

No, if you’re going to pretend to be blind you have to do it full-time. So you have to be practiced enough that people don’t wonder why you aren’t still in rehab. You have to have a story ready for when people ask the inevitable questions, and your story has to be able to explain how you could go straight from apparently fully-sighted to fully-blind overnight without any sign of shock or taking any time off studying/work for rehab. That’s a pretty tricky situation, and once you’ve taken that step you’re locked in; you can’t just say “my sight got better again” like wheelchair pretenders can say “my joint pain subsided”, even if your BIID has gone quiet and you don’t feel the need to pretend as much, or you find that really pretending isn’t working as a treatment option.

Maybe there’s something I’m missing, but it really seems like wheelchair pretenders have it easy. They can pretend right in front of regular acquaintances, no questions asked; while it might be easier to physically simulate blindness than it is to simulate paralysis, the logistics of pretending once you leave the house are considerably more difficult.

Three requirements for BIID treatment

In considering possible therapies and treatments for BIID, I have been trying to determine what functions effective BIID treatment must perform. I have come to the conclusion that there are three requirements for BIID treatment to be effective, and that these relate closely to the three ways in which identity is determined:

  • One’s state of being
  • The way one experiences oneself
  • The way one is experienced by others

Thus effective BIID treatment must allow the sufferer to:

  • Take on the physical state of having the required disability
  • Experience oneself as having the required disability
  • Be experienced by others as having the required disability

I’m going to look more in depth at these and then look at how potential treatments relate to these criteria.Read More »

Why wheelchairs are triggering

As regular readers of my blog will know, my particular BIID variant concerns blindness, not paraplegia. So why are wheelchairs triggering to me? Why does seeing someone in a wheelchair, or talking about wheelchairs, make all my BIID feelings return?

I have spent considerable time contemplating this, and I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of different reasons:

When I read about paralysis-variant BIID sufferers, I draw comparisons with my own feelings about blindness

This is perhaps the most obvious one. In reality, the wheelchair has nothing to do with it but what’s actually going on is that I’m reading about their feelings about paralysis and their experience of being in a wheelchair, and I think about my feelings about blindness and my experience with pretending to be blind. I read their account of getting their first wheelchair, and I think about how I felt when I got my white cane. In short, reading about other BIID sufferers – whatever variant – reminds me of my own feelings, for better or for worse.

Seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID

This is an extension of the previous situation. Because most of the BIID literature concerns wheelchair “wannabes”, either because of amputation or because of paraplegia, one who reads a lot of BIID literature starts to associate wheelchairs with BIID. So seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID, which reminds me of my feelings.

As a BIID sufferer, I am a lot more aware of disability issues

As someone with BIID, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about disability in general. When I’m in a public place, I think about the accessibility issues that people with different disabilities – not just blindness – may have. Furthermore, I am a lot more aware of disability issues because I have read a lot about the issues faced by both naturally disabled people and disability pretenders. And for me, disability is strongly linked with BIID, and thinking about disability tends to remind me of BIID. So seeing or talking about wheelchairs (or any other disability or assistive aid or anything related to disability in general) is likely to remind me of BIID.

A Blind Legend game review

Sometime during the first half of last year, I came across a new video game being developed for iOS, Android, and more recently Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X (the desktop versions were not available at the time of writing so please note that this review focuses on the mobile versions only). Unlike almost every other video game, it was intended to be played using sound only, making it accessible to blind players. Furthermore, the main character in the game – and the character which the player plays as – is in fact blind, and as someone with an interest in technology, an interest in accessible software for the blind, and considerable experience with pretending to be blind in real life, I was very interested in the game and intended to play it as soon as it was released, which was supposed to be some time in October last year. It was released, I believe, on time, although it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally got round to downloading it, and only this morning did I get a chance to play the first few scenes.

I’d like to start off by saying that the game is as impressive as I was hoping it would be. The environments and game play feel incredibly realistic and immersive, and the player gets into the first-person role quite quickly. This is one game that you’ll definitely want to have plenty of time to try out.Read More »

Self-harm, play piercing, and endorphin regulation

A lot of aspies self-harm. Even more used to, until they were told to stop by either their parents, their therapists, or their inner conscience. Most of those that do wouldn’t admit to doing it. But yet they all feel the need to, and they all carry on doing it even when they want to stop. They like the feeling of pain. They need the feeling of pain, and the mental state that it brings with it. And it truly helps them to feel better.

Then you get the neurotypicals who poke needles through their skin because they like the way it feels. They call it play piercing, and they say that they not only enjoy the physical feeling but that it gives them this intense rush of happiness inside, which gets ever increasingly intense as they add more and more needles, sometimes hundreds all over their body.

What do these have in common? They’re both in some way penetrating their bodies in a way that causes pain. And they both like that feeling of pain. But it’s not just the pain that they’re after; it’s the brain’s response to the pain that they associate with the pain, and which makes them seek more pain. A sensation of pain causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, and the endorphins inhibit the transmission of the pain sensation. In short, endorphins are natural painkillers, which the brain releases in response to pain. So by causing pain intentionally, one can intentionally cause the release of endorphins.

But it’s not the painkilling aspect of endorphins that self-harmers and play piercers seek. Endorphins have other effects too, and one of those other effects is that they invoke a feeling of happiness. In fact, endorphins are the chemicals that control happiness – when we’re in a situation that makes us happy, our brain releases endorphins and that causes us to experience happiness.

So by intentionally causing oneself pain, one can intentionally trigger the release of endorphins, which will make one feel happier. Indeed the experience of happiness resulting from self-harm does not feel the same as true happiness, but superficially it is similar and it is similar enough for both groups of people to keep wanting it over and over, just as one wants to feel happy.

So what the play piercers are doing is triggering an intense endorphin “rush”, leading to a sudden feeling of happiness, which they enjoy. And what the self-harmers are doing is releasing endorphins into their body to make up for the absence of other happiness.

Here then is the link between self-harm and depression: depression either causes or comes as a result of a lack of endorphins. In either case, increasing the concentration of endorphins in the brain will help the depressed person to feel better. By self-harming, the depressed person feels a little better, and can continue getting through life. Here, too, is the link between self-harm and Asperger’s: aspies tend to feel depressed easily as a result of their more intense emotions. By self-harming, they can balance out their depression and feel a little more positive about life.

So let’s put the play piercers aside now and think about self-harm and depression: by intentionally releasing endorphins, one can reduce depression, thus endorphins can be considered a kind of natural anti-depressant, and self-harm can be considered a natural way to regulate one’s endorphin level to keep oneself from sinking too deep into depression. See what I did there? Yes, self-harm can be used to manage depression.

And that’s the point here: we need to stop thinking of self-harm as a negative behaviour and instead start viewing it as the body’s natural response to depression. Is it a better anti-depressant than medication? Is it better to let a depressed person manage their depression themselves, through self-harm, as necessary? Is self-harm actually a protection mechanism, just like shivering when one is cold, rather than a way to mutilate oneself out of hate for one’s own body? The truth is, we don’t know. And we won’t know until more research is done. But that research won’t get done until we stop viewing self-harm as something to be stopped as soon as possible.

The fact that the depressed person instinctively turns to self-harm as a way of dealing with their depression tells me that it’s supposed to work as a way to regulate one’s emotions.

Hypersensitivity vs Hyperawareness

As part of a recent assessment, I was asked a number of questions about my sensory experience. One of the questions was “Do you tend to notice sounds that others don’t notice?”.

Of course the answer is “yes”, but when I went into more depth and started analysing *why* I notice sounds that others don’t, I realised that it is probably somewhat related to why I see things that others don’t. No, that sounds like I hallucinate; what I mean is, that I notice things in my field of vision that others don’t, just like I notice sounds that others don’t.

The seemingly logical assumption for the reason why one would notice sounds that others don’t notice is that they are hypersensitive to sound – as in, their ears (or perhaps their brain) experiences aural stimulation as louder than how other people experience it. They notice these sounds simply because, while for other people the sounds are below the threshold for “being heard”, the sounds come through “loud and clear” for people who are hypersensitive.

So why then do I see things that others don’t? Visual hypersensitivity generally causes everything to appear brighter than for a normal person, just like aural hypersensitivity causes things to sound louder than for a normal person. Indeed, many visually hypersensitive people find a well-lit room to be painfully bright, and I can’t say that I don’t experience this at times myself too. But just because things are brighter doesn’t mean that I’m going to see things that others don’t – indeed things that “hide in the shadows” for normal people may be clearly visible for me, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the number of extra things that I notice.

The key, thus, is in the word “notice”. It’s not necessarily that the things are more prominent due to being louder/brighter; my hypothesis is that it’s to do with sensory awareness. Whereas normal people may well see/hear these things, they filter them out because they focus only on the input that they are actively processing – such as a conversation that they are having – and ignore anything else. And that’s a good thing at times, too: it certainly means that they can have a conversation even if there is a lot of background noise, unlike me who can’t even hear what the other person is saying! So thus we can conclude that I *don’t* filter out other sensory stimulation; I process absolutely all of the stimulation that enters my senses. That’s why I see things that others don’t: they don’t even notice them because they are not processing that stimulation; I do notice them because I am processing all of the stimulation that I receive. That’s why I call it “hyperawareness” – I am exceptionally (excessively?) aware of background sensory input.

That’s also why I can’t hold a conversation when there’s too much background noise: I can’t block out the background noise and separate out the person’s voice!

Armless, the movie

A few days ago I watched the film “Armless”. Having previously seen Quid Pro Quo, I was hoping for a similar nice overview of BIID but with more of a lighthearted touch, as the film was supposed to be a comedy. This, I thought, would be an interesting mixture and something that I believe the right filmmakers could have pulled off very well.

Let me start by saying that it failed at both. It’s probably the worst representation of BIID that I have seen from the media (even worse than the recent Jewel Shuping story), and this is particularly disappointing considering that this film was released two years later than Quid Pro Quo, the latter of which gave an almost perfect representation. The comedy elements are also rather cheap, and are incredibly thin and dry most of the time. The plot also remains rather flat, and the ending is disappointing although could have been better with a different build-up.

Nevertheless there were a few funny moments, and perhaps two continued gags. There’s plenty to keep a viewer laughing on the surface for most of the film, but it’s not the kind of in-depth, well-planned comedy that I value. And considering that there is pretty much no value in the film from a BIID perspective – if anything it does more harm than good – I can’t see any reason for someone to watch this film over and above any other mediocre comedy, BIID sufferer or otherwise.

I’ve given a more in-depth look at the film below, however this section contains spoilers. You have been warned.Read More »

I guess Ham Radio just isn’t for me…

For almost nine months now I have had an itch to get into amateur radio in some way or another. It started when I had been reading about shortwave radio and I wanted to listen to it for myself, so I tried to find a circuit diagram of a simple shortwave receiver that I could build on my breadboard. And it didn’t work. Then a little while later, for some reason or another, I tried to build an SDR (software-defined radio) quadrature mixer to let me experiment with a range of radio encoding methods on one of my Linux computers. And it didn’t work. Then I decided to keep it simple and just build a direct-conversion CW (Morse code) receiver – not much to go wrong there. And it didn’t work.

See the pattern here? Yes, none of them worked. And today, even after I managed to receive and (manually) decode the 60kHz MSF time signal with the help of (the same) Linux SDR program, I still failed to get a simple frequency mixer working in order to tune higher up the LF band. And I only managed to get the time signal experiment working because the sound card in my new computer can sample at up to 192kHz sampling rate, and 60kHz is thus below the maximum tunable frequency of 96kHz, meaning that I practically just had to connect a fairly long random-wire antenna to the line in port on my computer, fire up the SDR, and type in “60kHz” – not much of an achievement there. Heck, even the magnetic loop antenna didn’t work.Read More »

Born blind

I’ve figured out why I wasn’t born blind: if I was, then I would never truly appreciate blindness as it would be all that I had ever known. Now I just need to figure out why I wasn’t blinded in an accident.

Micheal Johnson