I know some of my readers are autistic like me, so I know that sometimes clarification is a good thing because things are confusing.
So before I go on I wanna clarify in case someone doesn’t understand why I chose this title for the post that the title is a parody of one my sorority’s songs, Silver and Blue (some of the lyrics are “Just look at her and you’ll see, that class is what makes her UNIQUELY KT”) and Uniquely KT is one of our favorite descriptions for ourselves because we’re all different but we’re all still sisters.
While I loved my time as an inpatient and got a lot out of it, my time in the partial hospitalization program was pretty much actual hell for me. And I know why: I’m an undiagnosed autisitic person and they didn’t know how to react to my meltdowns because they assumed I wasn’t autistic. They had a set way of handling people and I didn’t react the way they expected me to because of my autism, which only frustrated them more.
That frustration was taken out on me. Especially since they would get mad at me for trying to talk about autism (even about letting go of my self-diagnosis, which was pretty fucked up cos they told me time and again to let it go, mixed signals much?) and would yell at me for my behavior during my meltdowns – no, I wasn’t trying to get attention by literally banging my head against a wall, a common autistic trait during meltdowns, I was frustrated as hell because no one was fucking listening to me. There’s a difference.
But what sticks with me the most is a conversation I had with my case manager when she first took me aside and told me that all the workers in the facility were worried about my continued self-diagnosis of autism when I had even opened up in group and said that I had been admitted to the hospital because I had been tested for autism and had a meltdown when I was told I don’t have it because I didn’t know how to handle the those results. I was told that I needed to stop denying my results and using autism as a crutch. They gave me no other option and tried to cut me off or ignored me when I protested.
I remember telling my case manager that my results said the only reason I wasn’t on the spectrum was because I communicate too well and how I didn’t understand that, because in my eyes, I don’t communicate well. At all. She told me it’s because I’m too social. Then she told me that I need to learn how to let go and deal with loss.
Pause. Read the next sentence with as much bitter sarcasm or cynicism or what have you as you can, because that’s exactly how I feel about it:
She told me to learn how to let go as I was wearing my Hell Mom sorority hoodie, a physical reminder of an opportunity at a leadership role that I had lost because of that frustrating hospitilization stay. An opportunity I may never get again because I know for a fact that there are others interested in being Hell Mom next year who are probably more likely to get the position than I am.
I’ll admit, I was fucking pissed when she said that because I was literally wearing a reminder of the fact that I need to learn to let go. But I was also pissed cos I knew exactly why she told me I’m too social to be autistic:
I’m not stupid, I know she assumed I’m too social cos I’m in a sorority and therefore have friends.
Which, 1. rude, much? Autistic people can have friends, bitch. Even if I wasn’t autistic, you just insulted all my friends and family members with autism by implying they can’t have friends. And 2. you know jack shit about me and how I interact with my sorority sisters, so don’t you dare assume my sorority is what’s keeping me from being autistic.
Here’s the thing: I joined a sorority because I was worried I wasn’t social enough. I was worried that if I didn’t give Greek Life a chance, I wouldn’t make friends on campus (I had a few friends at the time, but I was terrified they would leave me because it’s happened before). To me, this seemed like a way to guarantee friendships and as someone who struggles with making friends, of course I wanted to try it.
I feel like people just assume autistic people can’t handle Greek Life and I think that’s bullshit. (Especially because I once read a phenomenal post on the possibility of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde being autistic, and on the show Community, the canon autistic character Abed Nadir not only joins a frat in season 1, but later creates another one in season 4 – although, yes, he did both of those because of movie tropes he wanted to fulfill and both were left as open ended plot points, but he still did them and didn’t fail because of his autism.)
Honestly, I think pledging was such a good thing for me because I’m autistic. During those five weeks of pledging, I had a routine and I had rules and I thrived because I need that kind of structure to actually motivate myself. But pledging itself was open ended enough that I was forced to learn how to think on my feet, learn how to react when plans changed suddenly (something that I normally can’t handle well), and learn how to handle failure.
And I won’t lie, I had meltdowns a lot during pledging. Honestly, the amount of meltdowns and panic attacks that happened among my pledge class during our time pledging just shows that we were all kind of trainwrecks at the time. But we survived and made it out alive. And we did that because we’re sisters.
I remember in the movie Neighbors with Zac Efron and Seth Rogen, there’s a scene where Rogen’s character and friends try to get a pledge to betray the frat by exposing a hazing scandal, but they’re shocked when the one thing that happens is what they hadn’t expected: the active brothers were nice, supportive, and caring about their pledges (Holy shit, brothers caring about each other, right?). Rogen’s character literally said “We didn’t plan for nice!” in the scene and I knew in that second that I loved that movie (well, actually, I knew I loved the movie the second Dave Franco’s character said “We’re brothers and that means we DON’T GET DIVORCED” cos I mean, just wow, what a beautiful line). That scene stuck out with me because while there may be hazing in some groups, that doesn’t mean it’s in all of them, and it was a perfect example of why people join, and more importantly, stay in Greek Life.
On initiation night for Sigma Kappa Tau, one of the first things we do is ask our pledges if there’s anything we should know about them, like do they have anxiety, PTSD, anything that could trigger them? And if anything they say means they would have a problem with one of our traditions, we modify the tradition so they can still partake in it without having to deal with that trigger. We don’t force them to do the tradition despite their trigger and we don’t make it so they miss out on it entirely. We do this because pledging is about building trust and while we do get pushed to our limits, it’s not for the sake of being cruel – it’s to know that we can trust our sisters to be there for us when we can’t handle it.
Every time I had a meltdown or panic attack during pledging, an active (usually one of the Pledge Moms, one of which happened to be my Big, or Hell Moms) would take me aside, help me calm down, and make sure I was ok to keep going. If I wasn’t, I went back to my dorm early. Any time my limits were pushed too far, it was because I was stubborn and didn’t want to back down. The hard lines I had set down on initiation night (mainly my severe anxiety when it comes to food and their textures) were respected and never, ever crossed. Even now, as an active member, my boundaries are respected by my sisters.
Pledging showed me it was ok to breakdown and show my emotions, to acknowledge my limits, to fail sometimes. It showed me that people will still love me despite all these things – something I didn’t know beforehand. It was actually during pledging that I first told someone I thought I might be autistic – it was to my pledge class, and I didn’t know how to communicate it well enough to have a full on conversation about it, but I trusted them enough to say “Hey, I think I might have autism” which was a huge milestone for me because until then I had been afraid to say it.
My autism is what makes my part of Sigma Kappa Tau so special to me because the KT’s helped me accept the traits that make me autistic. So the implication that my being a part of the KTs is what’s keeping me from being autistic? It’s a big fat fuck you to everything about me that’s Uniquely KT.