Last Christmas, a youtuber I follow got a very-late-in-coming diagnosis of neurodivergence. He put out an extremely candid vlog detailing what that diagnosis meant for him. Knowing what he is, and how that differs from neurotypicality, has given him the ability to spot the differences, as it were, and to help reduce the friction that those differences can cause. That is difficult, but helpful.
The diagnosis has done something else, though: it has told him that he is not ill. He isn’t going through a phase he’ll get over. He is quite simply different, and those differences, good and bad, are here to stay. All he can do is manage their impact to the best of his abilities.
The most cutting part of the vlog, for me, was listening to him explain how much time he wasted waiting for what he thought were his symptoms to get better, or to go away. He was waiting for the right time to go out and do what he wanted to do. That time will never come. He now has to accept that, and to accept that the time he spent waiting in vain won’t come back to him.
I found that incredibly interesting, as well as incredibly moving. I also found it relevant to the self-defence field. There is a tendency in self-defence and recovery to try and use one-size-fits-all solutions to individual problems, without actually looking at the origins of those problems, without distinguishing between symptoms and personal attributes, and often without trying to disentangle the causality of the issue. Does the student have social anxiety because they were attacked, or were they attacked because they have social anxiety? Can they change their victim profile by reducing that anxiety, or is it a part of them that won’t be “cured” by “standard” fixes, because their anxiety has a different source? Is telling people that you can “fix” them helpful when it is not only untrue, but predicated on ableism?
The thing I find most interesting, though, and the main reason I am writing, is that I can’t post the link to the original vlog here. It is a splendid, honest, open, truthful piece of self-chronicling, and I don’t trust my audience to respect it.
In case someone’s missed it, the world of self-defence is full of people who hurt people on purpose. Some are straight trolls, doing it for kicks. Some justify that behaviour as a teaching moment, because what doesn’t kill you obviously makes you stronger and we all want stronger people, yo. Some are predators of various kinds, often operating under the aegis of other predators – or, worse, of people whose ego is so large and so wrapped up in their identity as Defenders Of The Helpless that they can’t contemplate the merest possibility of sheltering a predator in their midst.
No, I’ve not run a scientific study on this, and yes, there are plenty of good people in self-defence, too; but years of personal experience have taught me that this is A Problem. I personally only realised the extent of it when I had a giant falling out with a prominent self-defence instructor and – hey presto – suddenly stopped having issues with online creeps. I write about creeps all the bloody time, and all I needed to do to remove them from my life was cut one self-defence instructor off. I didn’t see that coming. So much for my expertise, hey.
The world of self-defence has a problem, and it’s a problem big enough that I don’t want to lead it to the doors of people I like, people I don’t want to be affected by the bad company I keep. I don’t want to be the discarded bag of chips that attracts the flock of seagulls; if I take on that role, I will feel responsible for all resulting screeching and shitting. And I cannot begin to express how bad that makes me feel, how disappointed I am at the discrepancy between what self-defence can be, and what it really is.