autonomy, being "sick", and self-destruction
It all went wrong when I was a child and daydreamed about ripping my mother’s jugular out with my teeth any time she bent down to hug me. No, no— it all went wrong before that, when I learned that people put down dogs that bite, and promptly started to use my teeth anytime I had the slightest bit of a reason to. No. It all went wrong when I was so small and knew there was something that set me apart from all the other kids, and it was a bad thing.
Let me start over. It all went wrong when I was a baby and looked out from my stroller at the world with a blank sort of disgust for anyone that tried to make me giggle or smile. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever believed in being happy. Happiness seemed like a shaky state that other people convinced you to be, and I wasn’t going to let someone push me into something that wasn’t my choice.
Me. I decide. Even as a baby, I was going to decide. And when they wanted me to smile, I frowned.
This has probably ruined my life.
Do you ever want to crash and burn just to see how low you can go?
Indulge me in metaphor— let’s take a knife, for an example. I am the knife. You are the knife. Even if people think that the knife is dull, we know the knife is far sharper than that. We know the knife is capable of cutting and slicing. The issue lies in that the knife is never used, and therefore can never be proved to be sharp, so the knife is automatically assumed dull. But we know we’re sharp— real fucking sharp. We’re killers if we want to be. And maybe, just maybe, we want to be killers. We want to prove it. We want to say hey, if you thought I was dull before then watch this, and then we want to have purpose and then to get so fucking dull from it that everyone says oh my God, I had no idea that you were so sharp, I was so wrong and you were right, and then everyone will love you from your hospital bed and they'll all blame themselves.
Ineffective metaphor. To speak plainly, I want to get fucked up and fucked over. I want to hit rock bottom. I want to crash and burn. I want to have nothing to lose. I want to make a decision that nobody is able to override but myself. I want to have control.
This is the part where if I explained this desire to someone, they would tell me to get help or that I’m “sick” or that they’re worried about me. Sure. Understandable. Here’s the thing, though— I could get sicker. And I could get more independent. And maybe, if I practice falling enough, I’ll learn how to drag myself up from the dregs of life and become something better. Stronger. Sharper and focused and deadlier than I’ve ever been, and I want that. I want that control. I want to be the knife. If I survive, I want it to be my choice that I survive, and if something terrible happens to me, I want it to have been my decision for the terrible thing to happen.
Besides, they’re not urges I act on. I refuse to succumb to anyone’s influence, which includes my own— maybe a backwards way of thinking, but one that’s prevented me from doing a lot of dumb shit nonetheless.
It doesn’t stop me from wanting to follow them, but I make a habit of counting the blessings instead of the condemnations. Small potatoes.
Autonomy is a loaded word. Mostly because nobody really knows what it means, and if they do, they oppose it for ethical or moral reasons. Nobody wants to admit that actual autonomy, the ability to control yourself entirely with no external restrictions or intervention, does include the ability to harm oneself— to die, to bleed, all because you simply want to. Of course, the moral and ethical reasons are for good reason, as suicide and self harm should never be encouraged, but it doesn’t change that the definition for autonomy includes things that are detrimental to your person.
“Sick” is the death of autonomy. What does sick mean? That your brain doesn’t make enough of the right chemicals or makes too many of the wrong ones? That you have a cold? That you have a debilitating long term chronic illness? That you disagree with others, and therefore something must be wrong with you? People have been getting their rights and freedom taken away for years because they’re “sick”— women who are reportedly hysteric, the mentally ill, the disabled, people who spoke out against racism, people attracted to the same sex. “Sick” doesn’t mean ill. “Sick” means I don’t think you deserve what I deserve. “Sick” means you are worthless because I disagree with you and your ideals and your existence.
I’m “sick”. I’m also sick. I have— to our current knowledge— a mold infection and maybe something else. Symptoms include chronic joint pain, brain fog, low energy, sensitivity to stimulation, and all other offshoots and symptoms of those symptoms (moody, prone to isolation, unwillingness to expend energy, occasional inability to eat due to sensory issues, etcetera). I’m not even including whatever’s happening in my brain, which holds a chance at being the “something else”, because that is something I don’t like to discuss with my mother and therefore is not something she’s aware of.
This is “sick”. “Sick”, in the eyes of my mother, means that I am unable to self-regulate and therefore that any ability to self-regulate should be inaccessible to me. She decides when I do and don’t have energy or the ability to do things, and gets angry at me when those times don’t coincide with the times I actually do and don’t have energy. I am not allowed access to my bank account. I am often not allowed access to my computer or phone. Any good day I have is proof that the bad days don’t exist or can be pushed through. She gets angry at me for leaving the house, for staying in it, for “only being able to do the things [I] want to do”, for wanting to buy shoes with the money I make babysitting, for not being able to get a job despite the fact that I can’t really stay in a building with fluorescent lights for over two hours without getting severe vertigo. Some of it is justified, but I can’t agree with her without making it dramatically worse for me. If I ever told her that my mental health was iffy, it would get worse for me. If I questioned her, it would get worse for me. If I asked her to listen to me when it comes to decisions about my own life, it would get worse for me.
My father is “sick”, too. Anxiety, acid reflux issues, and occasional depressive episodes. Of course, this makes everything he says or feels absurd and unjustified. My mother is the one who makes the rules about what does and doesn’t matter, and therefore is the only one who doesn’t ever get her point written off.
And maybe this is all paltry compared to the reasons people have gotten called “sick” for in the past. Neither of us are fighting for the greater freedoms of a marginalized group— it’s a quiet struggle against a single person inside the structure of a home, with a backdrop of met needs. Nothing special. But it doesn’t change that this is my life, and I have a right to it. I have a right to make my own decisions regarding my healthcare. I have a right to choose how to spend my time. I have a right to not be treated like shit for being disabled in the place I live.
I’d rather be called a slur than “sick”, at this point. Curse the fucking word. Curse the moral qualms to autonomy. Curse the ethics of control. Welcome to “sick”— how’s it ever going to get better if everybody discounts your opinion?
I self-destruct, but in subtle ways. No spending all my money or killing anyone or running out into the interstate just because I want to watch a car crash up close and personal. No rope, no razor, no cliffs. Small detonations to prevent a build up that’ll take me out for good. I’m not supposed to eat anything except for meat, fruit, and vegetables, but I have a Coca-Cola once a day. I sneak time on my phone. I eat raw meat when nobody’s watching. I skip taking my meds sometimes. I have habits that I’m sure are unhealthy— authority issues, acting contrary, intentional laziness, unwillingness to “participate in the real world”. There are dozens more, probably. Dozens and dozens of small acts of control to keep me from going off the deep end.
It’s survivable. Everything is survivable if you just don’t die. And I’ve got love and hunger and a deep fascination and respect for this world, so I think I’m doing alright. No bodies yet; no anything yet, and that’s how I’d like it to stay. I’m doing alright.
I would like to believe in a black and white world— I would like to be able to revert to the fairytales of my childhood where things were either good or bad and everyone could tell the difference. There’s something sitting deep inside me that wants to know which one I am. And I can say that I don’t believe in good and evil (which is true) all I want, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing they existed so I could believe in them.
Ultimately, I have a lot of parts that most people consider really fucking bad. I am almost always on the verge of snapping and doing something that would kill me or land me in jail for life if I got caught. Almost every other piece of me has entirely neutral moral standing. I have three pieces that are good, and that’s it, out of the hundreds of things that make me up— just three. Three I am sure are good.
The first is whatever’s keeping that tenuous thread of self control intact. It means I don’t want to do it, in any way, shape, or form. It means I haven’t done it, and actions will always speak louder than words. Free will— thou mayest, or thou mayest not. And I haven’t. And I won’t. It wards off the rot like soap for the soul.
The second is the part of me that thinks I’m bad. It’s not necessarily a self-flagellating, “I deserve all the bad things” type of thinking I’m bad— much more of a intrinsic knowledge that I have it, somewhere in me, to be a better person than the one I am now and that lightly scorns me for not trying to become that person. It does it lovingly. It wants the best for me. It knows rot makes for a healthier soil without encouraging the rot, and that if I put my mind to it, I could turn all this wretchedness into a garden. I could bring it back to life.
The third is that I want to be good. I want that for myself and the people around me. Every single day, I am actively choosing to be as good as I can possibly muster up. Despite the empty spot in me where the others have something good, despite the fact that my family’s blood went bad a long time ago, despite that I’ve been cruel entirely independent of it all just for my own twisted sense of autonomy, I want to be good. No euthanasia for this dog— no biting today, or the next, or the one after that. I choose to be good.
This is my self control. This is my freedom. This is my free will where I haven’t had free will before.