Category Archives: Health

Coffee & Covid: Thursday, May 19, 2022 PROBED; High Vacc, High cases

The experts: they just can’t figure things out. Yet we are to trust them. How’s that work? mrossol

5/19/22 by Jeff Childers

It’s Thursday — another week in Pandemia almost in the vault. In today’s roundup: Covid cases rising around the US, in very interesting areas, and the CDC wants local officials to mask us up; Chicago’s covid numbers are bad for the jabs; you’ll never guess how 95+% jabbed Connecticut is doing; bad news for public school enrollment, except in some baffling areas; monkeypox poses a horrid messaging problem for US public health experts; Jankowicz is out at DHS; Montana’s new election laws upheld; Georgia’s new election laws defy democrat predictions; and Elon Musk runs rings around Twitter.

I’m speaking (remotely) at the Pensacola Doctors for Truth two-day conference for an hour this morning. Wish me luck!

 

   

🗞*COVID NEWS AND COMMENTARY* 🗞

🔥 Covid cases are increasing across the US. The New York Times ran a story yesterday headlined, “Biden’s Health Officials Warn Of A Substantial Increase In Coronavirus Cases.” (Why do they put always Biden’s name in the headline? He probably doesn’t even know what day it is.)

Anyway, the CDC reported that a third of the US is now in “high” covid territory, and encouraged local officials to re-order indoor mask mandates. No thanks. After reporting THAT unpleasant fact, the Times noted “The warnings from Dr. Walensky and other federal health officials seemed somewhat at odds with [Joe] Biden’s own stance…Mr. Biden no longer wears a mask in most settings.”

How about that.

Take a look at the Times’ covid maps. Is it just me, or do the higher covid areas seem to basically track with higher vaccination rate areas? Check out these two charts from the Times’ interactive covid tracker:

Covid:

   

Vaccinations:

   

Where’s that Geert Vanden Bossche guy when you need him? Maybe HE could explain this baffling coincidence.

(Facebook users: charts and inline graphics are available on the Substack version: LINK)

📈 Chicago public health data shows covid infections in vaccinated 5-11 year-old kids is significantly higher than infections in unvaccinated kids.

   

So … the kids missed out on two years of school only to get jabbed and then get covid anyway. Thanks experts!

🔥 95+% vaccinated Connecticut has the highest case rate in the country. Cases there have jumped +885% in the past two months. Experts are … you know. They have no idea what’s going on.

   

🔥 And … the experts are baffled yet again! More baffling. The New York Times published an article this week headlined, “With Plunging Enrollment, a ‘Seismic Hit’ to Public Schools.” Uh oh.

The alarming sub-headline reads, “The pandemic has supercharged the decline in the nation’s public school system in ways that experts say will not easily be reversed.” Supercharged. Not easily reversed.

But … why would you WANT to reverse it? Never mind.

The Times reported that America’s public schools have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020, and the data shows “no sign of a rebound” to previous national levels any time soon. What do the experts think about this? The Times glumly reported, “No overriding explanation has emerged yet for the widespread drop-off.”

Baffled.

What they DO know is that bigger cities have seen worse student losses, but some entire states, like Florida, seem to be going the other way, for some reason. The NYT said in “Florida, for instance — enrollment has not only rebounded, but remains robust.” And, “private schools have also seen some gains in enrollment.” It’s such a mystery! Nothing about it makes any sense.

Even more oddly, California has been hit the hardest. Late in the article, the Times momentarily muses about a disappointing survey last month showing lots of Orange County parents who said they’d pull their kids from public school next year if covid vaccines become mandatory. I wonder if this could have anything to do with … nah.

Can anyone help these poor experts figure out what might be causing these horrible losses to public school funding, I mean horrible losses to free educational opportunities? Because the Times thinks this is really bad. It said, “educators and school officials are confronting a potentially harsh future of lasting setbacks in learning, hardened inequities in education and SMALLER BUDGETS[.]”

Not that. Not smaller budgets. Please, say it isn’t so.

🙈 And … more monkeypox! The Daily Mail UK reported a story yesterday headlined, “Monkeypox hits Europe: Five men in Portugal test positive as Spain probes eight suspected cases in men – as experts warn there could be ‘tens’ of cases in Britain.”

Probes. That’s pretty funny.

Experts theorize that the disease is spreading through SEXUAL CONTACT, since the thirteen new cases in Portugal and and Spain were detected at STI clinics in younger homosexual men. In fact the story says experts think it’s spreading in something called “sexual networks,” which must be something the kids have come up with because I don’t remember that one from the old college days, but I bet it involves probing.

El Pais reported TODAY that Madrid has now probed, er, identified 23 monkeypox cases — some retrospectively — and loquaciously reported, “the Director General of Public Health of the Community, Elena Andradas, has reported that 22 of the first 23 cases studied have explained that they have had relations with other men in recent weeks.”

Relations! Cue the euphemism team, we’re going to need them.

I originally reported a few days ago about a couple cases in the UK; that number is now up to seven, and like the others, at least four are known gay folks. The Telegraph’s headline reads, “Monkeypox ‘spreading in sexual networks’.” Again with the networks.

The Daily Mail reported that the cases don’t appear to be linked to each other, which makes experts think the virus is already widely spreading in the community. The probe is out of the medical bag, as it were. But if it IS sexually transmitted, as it appears, then it should be easy to get the outbreak under control if people will just press “pause” on the sexual networking, whatever that is. Don’t tell me — I don’t need to know.

Late yesterday, Massachusetts public health confirmed the US’s first case in a Boston man who recently returned from a trip to Canada.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the potential fatality rate: one in ten, if infected. Of course, that’s in Africa, where monkeypox has always been found until now. Even if not fatal, it’s still pretty gross, part of the smallpox family, featuring nasty skin rashes and lesions, or “pox.”

The UK’s CDC is warning gay men to watch for skin pox, and advises seeing a doctor if you get symptoms, in case that’s not obvious. Here in the US, public health twitter experts are busily virtue signaling and scolding any mention of sexual orientation related to monkeypox and straining their imaginations to come up with alternative explanations. You know, it could just be that gay men have better health clinics because they’re fastidious or something and so they’re the ones finding it first. Or something.

For example, Twitter pandemic expert Dr. Eric Feigl-Dingle, I mean Feigl-Ding-Dong, I mean Feigl-Ding, sorry; he was quite stern about all this “gay networks” talk. He tweeted, “I don’t like the reporting that implies LGBT or sexual clinics. Too early to say. They have good screenings and it could just be picked up there first.”

But Eric, the European reporting isn’t IMPLYING a gay connection. They’re SAYING IT. And, just offhand, I wonder how Eric knows so much about the quality of screenings in gay clinics. Never mind. The most important thing THIS TIME is we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. You can call them anti-vaxxers but don’t say gay sex networks spread monkeypox.

If the mode of transmission IS what it appears to be, and if people will just be reasonable in adjusting their lifestyles, and it doesn’t mutate into something more infectious, monkeypox won’t amount to any wider public health problem. What is more interesting about the story is the timing of the outbreak, its novel mode of transmission (monkeypox has never been an STD before), and that it is infecting otherwise healthy young men, showing another novel vector.

What we’d all like to know the most is: what’s their jab status? How’s their immune system holding up, overall? I’m just asking.

🔥 Chipper 33-year-old TikTok star and head of Homeland Security’s brand new Orwellian Disinformation Governance Board Nina Jankowicz abruptly resigned yesterday, as the White House announced the new sub-agency will be “paused” for re-tooling. Buh bye.

🔥 This week, the Montana Supreme Court overruled a lower court, restoring Montana’s voter ID law, and ending Election Day voter registrations. The two laws were passed by the state’s Republican majority in 2021, intended to increased election efficiency and security.

🔥 Fox News ran a story yesterday headlined, “Georgia early voting shatters records despite election reforms Dems labeled ‘voter suppression’.” “Shatters” might be an understatement. 540,000 people cast ballots as of Tuesday, far surpassing the 182,000 votes by the same point in the 2018 midterm primary elections, and even shooting past the 2020 presidential election numbers by +156%.

Democrats and woke corporations like the MLB, Coca-Cola, and Delta had complained bitterly about the Republicans’ new voter laws aimed at increasing voting efficiency and security, and argued bitterly that the new laws would unfairly frustrate some voters. Apparently not. Apparently just the opposite. Which is supposed to be a good thing, right?

The Abrams campaign, the MLB and the White House “did not immediately respond” to a Fox News request for comment.

It should be easy to vote and hard to cheat.

🤡 I hardly know what to say about this story except Elon Musk is a Trump-level media troll. Axios ran a story yesterday headlined, “Twitter Turns The Tables On Musk, Will “Enforce” Merger.”

Hahahaha! You can’t make this stuff up! Somehow, with a handful of mean sarcastic tweets a day, over the space of two weeks or so, Musk has somehow manipulated the Twitter board from resisting his buyout into now insisting that he go through with it. It looks to me like the tables are turned the OTHER WAY.

In a written statement to the New York Times, Twitter’s board said, “The board and Mr. Musk agreed to a transaction at $54.20 per share. We believe this agreement is in the best interest of all shareholders. We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement.”

Oh man, this is rich. How things change. On Monday, Musk questioned whether Twitter’s official numbers of “live users” was accurate. Live users are distinct from and better than what are referred to as “bots,” which are useless fake throwaway accounts used by psyops teams and trolls. Musk said sadly that a viable deal wasn’t out of the question, it’s still possible, but maybe at a lower price.

Cue the Twitter board freakout. A lower price! Never!

Touché Elon, touché.

Have a terrific Thursday! I’ll see ya’ll back here in the morning.

Share

You can help get the truth out and spread optimism and hope: https://www.coffeeandcovid.com/p/-learn-how-to-get-involved-

MeWe: mewe.com/i/coffee_and_covid.
Twitter: @jchilders98
C&C Swag! www.shopcoffeeandcovid.com

https://www.coffeeandcovid.com/p/-coffee-and-covid-thursday-may-19?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoyODc2Mzg5NSwicG9zdF9pZCI6NTU2MDUwNDIsIl8iOiJoQnFyYyIsImlhdCI6MTY1Mjk5NDA3NiwiZXhwIjoxNjUyOTk3Njc2LCJpc3MiOiJwdWItNDYzNDA5Iiwic3ViIjoicG9zdC1yZWFjdGlvbiJ9.IxKT_gvqeGFekUNuaPsVOpzv6kAOki7gIFP1IxzbD-o&s=r

Share

Public health shooting itself (and us) in the foot

4/28/2022  By Vinay Prasad

The problem is not rogue online misinformation; it is errors from CDC, NIAID, and the White House

Apr 28 Comment Share

Building trust in institutions is vital to their success, but as we enter the third year of the pandemic, public health still seems hellbent on destroying itself.

In recent weeks, we have seen flip flops on major policy proposal: a vaccine passport for domestic air-travel and authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 6mo-4 years. These were publicly flirted with, but eventually abandoned. The administration has pushed medical products through, without the traditional advisory boards (as in the case of the 4th dose for Americans over 50).  We have witnessed absurd contradictions– that Kyrie Irving can watch the basketball game from the first row, but not play on the court–, and worse, that this rule only applies in New York city. Finally, the prospect that mask mandates may return in the fall looms over us, even as our rules become more absurd, with restaurant servers and preschoolers acting as the last, powerless people tasked with masking for all.  Public health, the institution, must own these absurdities and contradictions because the CDC has the scope and authority to correct them with clear guidance.  Just as we need trust, public health seems poised to destroy it .   Let’s consider these cases:

In early October 2021 Ashish Jha, the newly selected Biden COVID Czar, suggested a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel, a view he reiterated in late January 2022.  On Dec 27th, Anthony Fauci emphasized the idea of a vaccine passport for domestic air travel.  Politico reports that Dr. Jha has long advised the administration on health policy, and Dr. Jha has confirmed he received  “updates and announcements” from the administration prior to his appointment.  Then silently, the proposal was abandoned with no action taken. As a close observer, I was confused as to what happened.

Similarly, in Feb 2022, the FDA asked Pfizer to submit data from an ongoing, and to date, negative trial for vaccination in kids ages 6mo to 4 years. An advisory committee was scheduled to discuss the results, which was leaked to news outlets as a reduction in symptomatic cases– one of the trials secondary objectives.  Then, at the penultimate moment, the application was withdrawn and the advisory committee was cancelled.  These flip flops were jarring. In the latter case, many parents were crushed, and felt as if the rug were pulled out from them. Scientists voiced protest, suggesting the vaccine be approved anyway. But I was most concerned that an approval based on inadequate data would further poison vaccine hesitancy at all ages, and for other vaccines (so called spill-over effects). Even as it stands, this whipsaw news coverage may yet undermine parental trust.

Last year, the top two officials at US FDA famously resigned, citing pressure from the White House to approve boosters (a 3rd dose) for all adults, despite inadequate data showing benefit at young ages.  Now without this institutional memory, the White House pushed ahead with an ambitious plan to authorize a 4th dose of the original, ancestral Wuhan strain mRNA product for anyone 50 or older. The advisory committee, a bulwark of transparency and independence, was skipped and the product has now been pushed through.  This is a controversial decision because the data showing a 4th dose helps older people is based on observational studies, which are often unreliable, and, in this case, plagued by the bias that wealthier people preferentially sought it out. Better outcomes after a 4th dose cannot be disentangled from better socioeconomic factors.  Moreover, there are underappreciated risk of more doses of the same vaccine, including original antigenic sin. This term means that at some point in the future, if we authorize a different vaccine made to target a new variant, recipients of 4th doses of the older vaccine may be more likely to mount an antibody response to the original strain and not the modified spike protein.  This is an unknown risk to the current policy.

The public saga of Kyrie Irving reminded the world just how absurd COVID policies can be. Mr. Irving is an employee of the Brooklyn Nets, and subject to NYCs employer vaccine mandate.  As such he cannot work in NYC. But recently NYC dropped the vaccine and mask mandate to attend Brooklyn nets games. Kyrie can stand in the front row and cheer, but he cannot stand on the court. He can also play during away games, and visiting unvaccinated players can play in New York. The policy was so contradictory that Kevin Durant, a teammate, called it ‘ridiculous’. In response to criticism, the mayor exempted athletes from the mandate, a band-aid solution that makes the policy even more unjust to average workers, and is now what some are calling the “Kyrie carveout.”

Finally, we continue to be obsessed with masks. Masking kids, preschoolers, and possibly restoring mask mandates in the Fall, if cases rise.  This rhetoric belies the deep truth: we know very little about when and if community mask mandates slow the spread.  Moreover, in a country where any adult who wishes to get vaccinated for the last year could get vaccinated, the purpose of mandatory masks, even if they work (like tight fitting n95s), seem pointless.  Sars cov 2 will eventually infect nearly everyone on earth., a fact acknowledged by Anthony Fauci. Delaying this inevitability while stoking political anger seems a foolish proposition.

Public health is, to some degree, responsible for these contradictions, inconveniences, and irrationalities. Government agencies and actors have failed to articulate the goals. Failed communicate uncertainty, especially around masking kids– an intervention where the US deviates from Europe and the World Health Organization.  The Surgeon General is on a hunt for misinformation, and upset with podcaster Joe Rogan, but appears entirely incapable of introspection. Trust in public health is gone not despite the actions of public health, but because of them.  When a star dies, it may shower pieces across the galaxy, and if public health implodes, Americans will seek out snake-oil salesman and charlatans, and we will have only ourselves to blame.

Share

Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the Future of Masking

Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the Future of Masking

By Ian Miller   April 25, 2022   Masks   9 minute read SHARE | PRINT | EMAIL

San Diego’s nickname is “America’s Finest City.” 

Whether you agree with that designation or not, there are few people in the United States who would argue for including Philadelphia or Los Angeles on the list of “finest” locations in the country.

But their fanatical dedication to COVID policy has taken cities that already struggle with crime, homelessness, poor quality of life or high cost of living and made them even more uninhabitable.

They’ve enforced mask mandates, outdoor mask mandates, discriminatory vaccine passports, engaged in reckless fear mongering and in the case of Los Angeles, created one of the largest self-owns in covid “history” — LAPublic Health surveyed over 1,500 businesses during a one week period in December 2021 and proclaimed that “high masking compliance” was keeping the region “safe.”

Those aren’t my words, that’s their words:

Public and business sector masking compliance is high, indicating the broad understanding that this small behavior change adds a layer of protection that enables us to engage in our customary activities without endangering ourselves or others. Public Health regularly conducts site visits to assess mask compliance across a variety of L.A. County businesses, during which we determine compliance among customers, employees and their staff, and overall safety requirements. Out of more than 1500 site visits conducted between December 4th-10th, the vast majority of businesses and industries, including restaurants, bars, food markets and hair salons, had masking compliance rates above 95%.

“Masking requirements reduce transmission without much disruption to people’s routines and allow businesses to reduce risk for their customers, and workers,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the business community of L.A. County for leading by example on masking as champions for public health. The take home message is clear: masking creates safety for employees and customers, reduces COVID transmission in our communities and helps everyone stay safe here in L.A. County.”

Immediately afterwards, cases skyrocketed more than 20x higher and shattered every previous record:

It’s hard to be more demonstrably wrong than this.

LA public health officials specifically credited the high rate of mask wearing with keeping cases low and residents “safe,” only to see this remarkable compliance prove the uselessness of masks once again.

Of course, there were no press releases from Barbara Ferrer in the months afterwards acknowledging that the demonstrably high rates of mask usage are clearly meaningless, and that based on her own department’s exhaustive site checks, masks provide no “protection” for others.

And more importantly, after the mask mandate and vaccine passport requirements were lifted, despite Ferrer’s best efforts, cases plummeted to the same low levels seen in previous years:

Cases are as low this spring as they were in previous springs, despite LA finally resembling something close to normalcy.

I haven’t been able to find any press releases reporting how the mask mandates and vaccine passports failed to prevent the largest surge of infections the county had seen, and that removing these destructive policies did not lead to a new surge. 

Unsurprisingly, Ferrer has not commented on the fact that a complete lack of “interventions” is apparently just as “protective” as the city’s obsessive need for theatrical policies.

However her latest policy decision is yet another indication of what the “new normal” will look like in heavily blue cities like Los Angeles.

There is no epidemiological, data driven or evidence based justification for continuing to force people to mask at airports, bus stations and on planes, trains and buses. 

So of course, that’s exactly what Los Angeles did.

LA County’s public health department reinstated part of its COVID mask mandateFriday, meaning a patchwork of rules for masks on public transit and at airports in Southern California. The decision announced Thursday came just days after a federal judge overturned the Centers for Disease Control’s mask mandate on public transportation.

Initially, local transit agencies went along with that Florida judge’s ruling, allowing the federal rule enforcing masks on planes, trains, buses and other ways of getting around to lapse. Masks became optional.

But that changed with Thursday’s announcement from the county health department.

The LA Metro immediately announced they would be enforcing masking on the subway (yes LA has one) and buses.

As with nearly all masking policy, this highlights the danger of allowing public health officials and politicians the authority to maintain the disproven narrative that masks work or that mandates are remotely beneficial.

This is exactly why I and many others continue to write about these issues, exposing their lies and misrepresentations — they must not be allowed to continue misleading the public and ignore the inarguable reality that masks have failed. Inevitably, it leads to policies like this; where rogue public health directors extend a mandate out of desperation and in order to maintain their relevance while protecting their extremely fragile egos.

Never mind that we’ve already seen that masks on public transit are completely useless at preventing widespread community transmission.

On September 22nd, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City announced they would be heavily stepping up enforcement of masking in order to ensure universal compliance:

Customers Refusing to Wear Masks Are Subject to Receive a Summons

Authority Ramped Up Mask Education and Distribution Efforts Immediately Following Labor Day as More Riders Returned to School and Offices

25,000 Free Masks Handed Out During Phase One of “Mask Blitz” During Last Two Weeks

The goal of heightened enforcement is to increase mask usage across all agencies, and to return to 2020 and early 2021 compliance levels where nearly 100% of riders wore masks onboard subways, buses, commuter railroads and paratransit vehicles. Since the $50 fine was implemented on September 14, 2020, MTA police officers have had over 88,000 positive encounters with customers. This has included the distribution of more than 50,000 free masks overall, 25,000 in the two weeks since the blitz began on September 7.

“Promoting mask usage is an important component to protecting one another,” said Patrick Warren, MTA Chief Safety Officer. “To support the use of masks we have provided tens of millions of free masks to customers, complemented by a robust communication endeavor. These efforts have seen mask usage recently rise on buses and trains. This next phase of our blitz will reinforce that wearing a mask is not optional. Vaccinated or not, you must wear a mask when traveling on public transit.” 

Less than two months after this “mask blitz,” designed to enforce “nearly 100%” compliance among riders, cases in New York exploded to new highs, shattering all previous records:

So it’s understandable that Los Angeles would deem it necessary to continue the transportation mandate, to ensure success like this.

How do you engage with people so profoundly ignorant and habitually incompetent? This data is readily accessible, anyone should be able to see that the high mask compliance in Los Angeles was useless. Everyone should also see that masks on public transit, along with the general mask mandates and vaccine passports of course, were unsuccessful at stopping record breaking surges. 

There is no easy answer, unfortunately.


Philadelphia

Not to be outdone in the annals of covid policy hilarity is Philadelphia.

Less than two weeks ago, Philly announced they would be bringing back a mask mandate in response to a rise in cases.

Set to take effect on April 18th, the mandate was supposed to prevent another surge of infections in the city:

When the city announced April 11 that the mandate was coming back, the health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, said it was necessary to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant. She said Philadelphia had crossed the threshold of rising cases at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.

“If we fail to act now, knowing that every previous wave of infections has been followed by a wave of hospitalizations, and then a wave of deaths, it will be too late for many of our residents,” Bettigole said at the time.

A quick glance at a chart of cases in the city after the initial mandate came into effect in June 2020 shows you why city health authorities and the mayor thought that masks would prevent the surge from taking hold:

Cases rose 3,544% after June 26, 2020 to the peak of new cases in January 2022.

With inarguable success like that, how can you blame them?

Their decision is even more absurd when we look at the “increase” in cases that caused them to believe a useless policy was necessary:

Not only did the end of the mandate not lead to an increase weeks afterwards, but even with the slight increase, case rates are still significantly lower than in April 2021 with the mask mandate in place.

Hilariously, the mayor announced that the policy would be ending after only four days in effect:

In a masterclass of misinformation, the mayor of Philadelphia specifically stated that wearing masks would “tamp down the case counts”

“Our belief is that wearing masks again will tamp down the case counts and hospitalizations, and allow us to continue to reopen and to get back to more normalcy,” Kenney said Thursday.

And his health officials had the audacity to credit their “response” with cases dropping, despite the fact that cases had already peaked by the time the mask mandate came into effect and at the exact same time they peaked in 2021.

That desperate attempt to convince the public that masks work is even more absurd when looking at data from neighboring counties. COVIDcast provides a comparison between Philadelphia and their closest neighbors and without labels it’s impossible to tell them apart:

Predictably, the undeniable futility of a mask policy having a positive impact in four days does not enter in the discussion or in the media coverage, which is especially offensive when considering trends are exactly the same in neighboring counties without masks.

Naturally, the mayor and health director also specifically stated that they would not rule out further mask mandates if conditions change.


These two cities are tremendous contributors to some of the worst, least impactfulpolicies in world history.

Their commitment to gaslighting their citizens, openly lying to justify their political desires, and maintaining the delusional narrative that masks are necessary or valuable would be admirable if it wasn’t so immeasurably destructive.

Masks are useless, mask mandates are even more useless, yet cities like LA and Philadelphia are clearly going to forcibly mask their residents on a rolling basis indefinitely. 

“CDC guidance,” the politicization of mask wearing, where many on the political left have made masks an visible form of their allegiance to progressive causes, and the desperately incompetent and malicious health “experts” who brazenly lie about the effect of masks are combining to ensure masking is semi-permanent in the anti-science jurisdictions.

No matter how much evidence accumulates against their usage and how ludicrously absurd their statements and justifications are, these two cities represent the future of masking; a clearly useless intervention, designed by incompetent and panicked “experts.”

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Share

‘I’ve always been plagued by a sense that I was a little out of whack’

I don’t necessarily agree with Hannah Gadsby on everything- probably not on much -but I appreciate her putting her experience with autism out there. I have much to learn about the condition. mrossol

The Gardian, 3/19/2022, by Hannah Gadsby

You don’t have to be an expert to know that people with autism don’t get to speak about their own experiences. Until very recently, autism has largely only been understood through the prism of the experience of parents and as a list of observations that mostly neurotypical medical professionals have made and assigned meaning to.

The myths around ASD (autism spectrum disorder) have wasted enough of my life, so I don’t really want to waste any more of my time thinking about them, much less writing them down. But as the myths are so firmly embedded into popular (mis)understanding, I don’t have the luxury to skip over them, so it is just a sad reality that I have to waste even more of my time to bring many of you up to speed.

 

For a long time, I worried that I’d been misdiagnosed. It was difficult to believe that I wasn’t entirely to blame for my life being such a painful struggle, because I was so used to assuming I was a bad person. It took me a long time to get brave enough to simply share my diagnosis. My experience did not match the popular understanding of autism, and I knew I had to become an expert in neurobiology in order to untangle the myriad myths surrounding autism – just to beg permission to claim that piece of my identity.

I was right to be cautious, because when I finally did start telling the world of my diagnosis, the dismissals came thick and fast. I was told I was too fat to be autistic. I was told I was too social to be autistic. I was told I was too empathic to be autistic. I was told I was too female to be autistic. I was told I wasn’t autistic enough to be autistic. Nobody who refused me my diagnosis ever considered how painful it might have been for me, and it got really boring really fast.

Ever since I can remember, my thoughts have been plagued by a sense that I was a little out of whack, as if belonging was beyond me. To give this feeling a story, it’s as if I am an alien who has been abandoned on Earth and left to muddle my way through life, without a reason, a mission, or any memory of home. If you are a conspiracy theorist, this is where you begin to wonder if I might perhaps be a lizard. I am not.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby

I am a visual thinker. I see my thoughts, but I don’t have a photographic memory, nor is my head a static gallery of sensibly collected thoughts that my brain curates into easy sense. It is not linear. It is fluid and flexible, kind of like a private Wikipedia that I am constantly revising and editing, but instead of words, everything is written in my own ever-evolving language of hieroglyphic films filled with hyperlinks to associated and often irrelevant thoughts. I have never managed to develop a reliable system to file and separate my thoughts into individual think pieces, and so I am utterly incapable of having one thought without at least another hundred coming along for the ride.

Further complicating this issue is the fact that my brain doesn’t work in the realm of the abstract. I’m not capable of thinking with imagery that I haven’t seen with my own eyes, which means that when someone tells me a story, I will see it as something like a film that I must edit together out of all the other films sourced from my own internalised collection. Every single day I have spent on this Earth, I have added countless images to my brain library. Needless to say, it is very busy in my head. If it were possible for someone to catch a glimpse of my thoughts being processed, they’d be hard-pressed to make sense out it. I doubt they’d even believe that the tornado orgy of wingdings and gifs was anything other than gibberish.

Sadly, the enthusiasm that my brain brings to the collecting of visual records is not then applied to the filing and retrieval process. And because of my inability to quickly and efficiently translate what I see into an externally communicable format, I am wired to have lots of fun and adventure in my head while at the same time failing totally, utterly and miserably at life on the outside, and feeling profoundly alone.

I believe that it is this whirl inside my brain that contributes to my occasional inability to speak. To be clear, I don’t identify as being nonverbal, but I often lose my verbal ability. Especially if I am overwhelmed by a lot of sensory information at the same time as I am trying to identify, process and regulate emotional distress. This is what is called selective mutism, which commonly exists alongside ASD, but is not exclusive to it.

When I told Mum I was autistic, she said: “Yeah, that makes sense. I always knew there was a lot going on inside you, but I just couldn’t get in. You were like a tin of baked beans and my tin opener wouldn’t work on you.” It’s a tidy metaphor, especially if you know that Mum does not like baked beans.

My childhood was a serendipitously effective buffer for the worst that my ASD threw at me. Small town. Not a lot of change. My family unit was a ready-made social network that I didn’t have to navigate cold because I was just a part of it. They looked out for me, but, because we were a big family, no one really noticed if I didn’t talk. I was the youngest, so no one expected me to be a leader. No one noticed when I would disappear for hours, and no one thought much of my habit of taking frequent naps in the linen press. I wasn’t quirky, I was just Hannah. Nobody thought I was special when I memorised every single question and answer in Trivial Pursuit. Because I wasn’t special; everyone cheated one way or another. It was only when I stepped out of the bubble of my family that things went to shit. And, gosh, to shit they went.


I struggled to grasp even the most basic of life’s skills. In my first year of primary school, I forgot to wear underpants so many times that my family started to check me at the door every morning before I left. I assumed I’d get better at stuff as I got older, but it only got worse. And the older I got, the less amused people were by me.

During my adolescence I began to find it more and more difficult to make myself understood, and that is when I developed an instinctive habit of taking the blame whenever I didn’t understand what was going on around me – which, to be clear, was all the time. This struggle persuaded me to assume that I was unlikable, and eventually I stopped thinking about the world through the lens of my own needs. And anybody who is a human knows that this is not a recipe for good times.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby looking sceptical

I used to fret about fitting in at school, not because I wanted to, but because I knew I was supposed to. I was at my happiest in my own company, which I took to be an abnormality. It never occurred to me that it could be the epitome of normal behaviour – for me. I was a “girl”, and girls were expected to be masters of the mingle, so I tried really hard to be normal, but it was a fool’s errand because my neurobiological situation makes it hard for me to “see” all the networks of undercurrent connections that drive the interactions of the more typical thinkers, which in turn makes it incredibly difficult for me to intuitively reflect peer group behaviours. So the best I could do, and continue to do, is observe, guesstimate and imitate, which is often referred to as “masking” in autistic circles. As a coping mechanism for teenage me, masking was an incredibly successful tactic – I was only bullied intermittently during my school years – but as a catalyst for growth, it worked more like castration.

By the time I was middling my 30s, I was no longer living my life. I was merely coping with it, and barely. I felt as if I was a supreme annoyance and a burden to anybody I spent meaningful time with. But nobody seemed to notice that I had major depressive episodes every other year, and debilitating anxiety the rest of the time. Not even me. Nobody noticed that I never made eye contact. Nobody noticed that I often spoke in a patchwork of collected phrases. It took me a long time to even spot those patterns of my own behaviour, because I was too busy trying not to do the wrong thing by guessing, pretending, panicking, then either shutting or melting down.


My meltdowns had always been a mystery to me, so when I was finally diagnosed, I was able to reframe the way I thought about my strange little outbursts. For a start, I became far more compassionate toward myself, which probably halved the distress of the occasions. In the scheme of my life, I have not had very many meltdowns, however. I’m more of a shutdown kind of autistic. From the outside, a shutdown looks very similar to a sulky tantrum, but it is nothing of the sort. I don’t have control, for a start. And I am certainly not ruminating on any kind of emotional narrative, because I have gone into fight or flight, but in my body that translates into neither fight nor flight; I just shut down like a maxed-out power grid in the middle of a storm.

Meltdowns are equally distressing, but for different reasons. The worst is knowing that I am out of control, and may accidentally injure myself or, worse, someone else. Meltdowns are often conflated with panic attacks, but they are not the same beast. The biggest difference between them is that a panic attack is agitation and fear, spinning on a kind of mind loop, whereas a meltdown is a maelstrom that begins in the body. Another important difference is that a panic attack will never resolve the anxieties that triggered it. Meltdowns, on the other hand, are a real spring clean. They clear the pipes and can often leave you feeling as if your body has been reset.

I wish more than anything that I had known about my ASD when I was a kid, just so I could have learned how to look after my own distress, instead of assuming my pain was normal and deserved. There is no one to blame, but I still grieve for the quality of life I lost because I didn’t have this key piece to my human puzzle. But until someone unlocks the riddle of time travel, little me will have to flail and fail their way through the world for 30-odd years.

I see a fault in the idea, put forward by neurotypical “experts”, that autistic people have mind blindness, which essentially suggests we are unable to understand the inner workings of other people. I believe we all have mind blindness; why else would we invent language? The only way to see another person’s mind is to find a way to be able to hear what they have to say.

Portrait of Hannah Gadsby with her face screwed up

The problem is that communication skills are developed atypically in autistic people and, most often, very slowly. I have always had difficulty articulating my needs, but as I have got older, my language and social skills have improved a great deal. My ability to regulate, however, has not, and nor have my sensory sensitivities. My eternal struggle with these distressing disabilities often gives the impression to others that I am moody, reactive and inconsistent. I say I want one thing, then moments later I will say that I need the opposite. This is not a reflection of my character, but rather a reflection of my neurobiological functioning. I am unable to intuitively understand what I am feeling, and I can often take a much longer time to process the effects of external circumstances than neurotypical thinkers. But it is they who get impatient with me, and under that pressure I feel forced to guess my needs before I have had time to process stuff in my own way, and so mistakes are made. I can be cold and not know it. I can be hungry and not know it. I can need to go to the bathroom and not know it. I can be sad and not know it. I can feel distressed and not know it. I can be unsafe and not know it. You know how sometimes you put your hand under running water and for a brief moment you don’t know if it is hot or cold? That is every minute of my life. Being perpetually potentially unsafe is a great recipe for anxiety. And – spoiler alert – anxiety is bad.

Once I understood that I was always going to have difficulty with self-regulation, I stopped worrying about it. Once I am distressed, my moods are not mine to control, but my environment is. I am always working to remove myself from all the cycles and patterns of hostile environments. I no longer search my behaviours exclusively for revelations about my character; I use my occasions of distress as ways to map the circumstances and environments I move through, and look for ways I can reduce my exposure to distressing situations. I have learned how to advocate for my own experiences instead of being ashamed of my pain and confusion. I stopped worrying about what I was expected to do, and worked on building an understanding of what I could do to make myself feel safe and calm.

I am not afraid of pressing pause during a television show when I feel distressed. I seek out spoiler alerts to avoid getting panicked by unexpected plot twists. I leave crowded spaces. I switch off discordant music. I wear headphones at restaurants. I openly express my hatred of the saxophone and electric guitar solos. I don’t allow important emotional conversations to take place in cafes with polished concrete floors.

I spend hours alone at home rearranging my little piles of bric-a-brac, because it’s really fun. I only wear blue clothes because blue makes me feel calm. I listen to the same music, watch the same shows, and eat the same foods over and over again without any qualms. I find joy in my life where once I couldn’t because I was too busy trying to do the “right” thing instead of checking in with my own needs first.

I am lucky. I have the privilege to be able to protect myself – now. But it’s not because I can do it on my own. I need help. There is not much about my life that is not looked after by another human, sometimes teams of them. That’s the beauty of success in show business: other people become quite keen to do all the things for you. I am basically a middle-class white man from the 1950s.

 
‘Now everyone wants a piece of the Gads’ … Hannah Gadsby in Melbourne, Australia.
‘I broke the contract’: how Hannah Gadsby’s trauma transformed comedy

But even if I hadn’t stumbled into success, I would still need a lot of help just to navigate life. It is absolute bullshit that the only way I could access the help I needed was by accidentally activating some kind of exceptional potential I didn’t even know I had until I was nearly 30 years old. Please stop expecting people with autism to be exceptional. It is a basic human right to have average abilities.

Most people who struggle to find stable employment also contend with things like intergenerational poverty and/or trauma, cycles of abuse, mental illness, systemic discrimination, disability or neurological disorders. Not only are these all chronically stressful and traumatic circumstances, they have all been linked to a high incidence of impaired executive function. Welfare systems are not built to be easy for people who are anxious about using the phone, or people who mix up dates. They are not designed for people who are bad at keeping time, filling out forms, or people who can’t easily access all the relevant bank, residential and employment details from the past five years, if they thought to keep that information at all. Welfare systems don’t accommodate transience because welfare systems are not built to be accessible, they are built to be temples of administrative doom, because, apparently, welfare is a treasure that must be protected. Can somebody please do something about that? I am not good enough at organising to be an actual activist. But searching for the connections between the big picture and the little picture is a very ASD thing to do. I am never not cross-referencing the trees with the forests, and it can be a very exhausting way to engage – but I wouldn’t change it for the world, because I believe communities need thinkers like me.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/mar/19/hannah-gadsby-autism-diagnosis-little-out-of-whack?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Share