Autism, chemo brain, women, trans people, POC, siblings

A friend shared a meme about autism researchers “proving” things that people with autism have been writing about for 20 or more years.

I thought about how that is applicable in some way to every group of “other.”

When I was going through chemo, I experienced chemo brain, a side effect of many chemotherapies that patients have been complaining about for years. For me, it was a huge loss of cognitive functioning, memory, focus. People brought me books to read to pass the time, which I appreciated—I love to read!—but I didn’t have the focus to read. (Interestingly, I could still do math/logic puzzles that required focus.)

On my worst days, conversations would all be a game of charades, because words escaped me. (This happens to everyone every now and then; this is similar but happened in every conversation about anything.) I lost both short-term and long-term memory. There are things that I remember remembering (that’s weird) that are gone. My memory used to be better than average (based on conversations with other people about it). I’ve worked on it quite a bit, once it became apparent that this was not something that was just going to “clear up” once the chemo cleared out of my system.

As a side note, I read through several sites’ worth of information on chemo brain, and most of them listed a dozen or more possible causes of chemo brain … without listing chemotherapy as one.

Also, it’s apparently bad enough in some people that they can’t return to work and end up on disability. One more thing that pushes the “it wasn’t me” button.

Anyway, the point is that also while I was going through chemo, a friend sent me an article that basically said: people have been complaining about this for a long time and doctors are just starting to consider that it might actually be a thing.

Good of them, no?

In trying to find a more definitive time frame than “years” for the chemo brain, I learned that women going through treatment for breast cancer were the first to complain about it. Which may be why it was ignored for so long.

Women are another “other” whose experience is ignored. Medically, women have only recently started to be used in trials for medications, for example. Heart attacks have different symptoms in men and women. Women are much more likely to be dismissed as overreacting by their doctors.

I talked a little bit yesterday about social differences. Reactions to #metoo highlight some of these issues. Women are treated differently at work than men. Accounts written by trans people reveal what women have been saying all along. Men are taken more seriously. (But they lose intimacy. We need to fix both sides of this!)

You don’t have to understand where someone is coming from to believe them.

I know a handful of trans men. I have no idea what it’s like to go through life feeling like I’m in the wrong shell. (How many spotlights does this put on the differences between how we treat boys and girls, men and women? How much would all people’s lives improve if this changed?) I can’t imagine looking in the mirror and seeing a woman but feeling like a man.

That doesn’t mean their experience is invalid, that they’re looking for attention or “just trying to ____” (with whatever nonsense you fill in the blank). It just means they experience something that I don’t.

“People of color” is a lot of people, including tons of diversity within. (That by itself is enough evidence of their “other” status.) To use another hashtag summary, the clash between “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” highlights some (too many) people’s unwillingness to listen and understand.

Just listen. Don’t defend. Don’t argue. Just listen.

Taking this down to a micro level … One of my siblings told me once that since we all grew up in the same house and their experiences were positive that I’m the one with the problem.

We can debate on another day about what constitutes “fine.” For today, can we consider that not all kids are the same, and you can’t treat them all the same? A local friend has identical twins who have very different personalities. All of the identical twins I can remember growing up had a shy twin and an outgoing twin. None of the twins I’ve taught have been similar to each other.

Just listen. When people tell you their experience, just listen.

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