What’s the deal with The Fish?
Is a question that I have answered in a usually very perky manner with: It’s a thing, c’mon, PLEEEEASE?
More times than I can count now- and they never really understand the victory I celebrate each time I’m doing it. Let me preface this by saying something that most who know me pretty well already know: long before Autism awareness had been a thing, long before there were campaigns and famous people babbling, long before any of this stuff: I was, what most people just considered: A Really Messed Up Kid.
The one thing that I can say about all of this, is that being as my kid
sister is also on the spectrum: you will never, ever know how grateful I
am for the awareness campaigns. Because she didn’t have to go through
the things I did. Lack of awareness causes much more damage than most people will ever know and this is why I don’t hide who I am. Ever.
You’re not supposed to admit this openly if you are in any way involved with any kind of *waggle fingers* stuff. Because, well, loads of dipshits who just don’t know any better and who are for the most part, kinda stupid about perception seem to think this is a debunker- but, from about age 9 on, something was Very Very Wrong With That Girl. My parents wouldn’t want me saying it that way, now, but I was a frustrating enigma of behavioral issues nobody could figure out. At one point, a relative who will remain nameless during my stint with You Can’t Handle Her Because You Just Suck, Let Me Do It- Oh Shit, I Can’t Either relative-go-round said, to the horror of another standing near, “She’s not even worth trying to save!”( Yes, that was part of an actual conversation- if by conversation, you mean: “You guys, I am RIGHT HERE! Could you at least not scream it?” So we are clear: I harbor no ill will, long forgiven, let’s not, okay? There has been a lot of healing and shit gone on since then.)
Meningitis didn’t kill me for very long, but, it was clear that it had done some serious scrambled brains on me. I couldn’t tell you if I’d had behavioral issues prior to that, because frankly, I don’t remember anything before waking up, looking over a nurses’s shoulder and screaming bloody murder because I saw something else there. Again, not something you are “supposed” to talk about. I came to, more or less, this scrawny, ragamuffing tomboy with knob knees completely terrified that what I’d seen had followed me home. (Eeeeeh, long story short.) I feel reasonably sure being on the losing end of a fight with a pick up truck a couple years later resulting in a TBI probably did not help this along.
The diagnostic list is exceptionally long and argued about among a handful of shrinks that frankly, after years of doing absolutely nothing but make me worse: I gave up on. We’re talking 24 years of medication, therapy, poor life decisions and otherwise, here, I had good reason. I’ve written about the major event that really fucked shit up- I’ve actually spoken about it at domestic violence and rape awareness rallies quite a bit now. That part of my story’s long over, but, I tell it again and again because every time I do, my ears and heart are loaded with the stories of others- some who are still struggling: and it’s worth it. Very. I want people to know there is no shame. No fault. But there is hope. So, yeah. (Responsible person note: just because it didn’t work for me, does not mean it won’t or can’t for you. This isn’t a decision to make lightly based on some random nut with a Fish’s blog.)
There were two big facets of all of this that at one point I decided I didn’t have to work around. I simply vanished to the woods. If I had to ride in a car, I would simply write it off as “Well, here comes a panic attack.” If I had to socialize, it’d either be on my terms:
Out in the woods, you’re on my turf- you meet a much more confident, much more articulate and vivacious lady. Who will likely feed you and may have grown, foraged for, caught and cleaned whatever it is she’s cooked for you. True story. There is, however, another place you may find this side of me: creepy places. (Unless there are like 30 freaking people all around, in which case I will disappear at random and avoid larger groups for any prolonged period of time. I am not quite there, just yet.)
Mostly, when you meet me in situations I am unfamiliar with that involve a lot of people, it doesn’t matter how you’re seeing me- this is what I am wanting to do. Right here. Not this specific dog, but, this is what I want to do. Every stinking time. Saisir le poisson.
I don’t know exactly how this started. I only know that for a really long time, Kurt would patiently work with me in the car and in social situations. I would hang on for dear life, maybe throw up on trips back and forth to Saint Louis, where he lived while we were dating. (I’m not fond of people, but I am most definitely not dead from the waste down, dears.) When I say “afraid of people” when I say “afraid of cars” it’s a concept some seem to think means “I just don’t like it” or “I am attempting to absolve myself of social accountability”- no. I mean, I would vomit, couldn’t breathe, would twitch away from being touched, and often say horribly inappropriate things. I mean, terrified.
Well, one thing leads to another and we spawn, as happens often in such human interactions. Through the weird word association way I speak: Thomas Stockton Kroeck became The Fish. He is in fact, the original Fish. Kurt bought him this stuffed Fish- but he wasn’t overmuch fond of it. It did, however, fit absolutely perfectly in my hand in order to squeaze the ever loving shit out of while in the car.
This still happens a lot. It was on the way to Ashmore.
The building itself I was completely fine with. The concept of trotting around in the dark, even if there was something super mean there- also, totally okay. (There was not, by the way. As far as demons go, I’d say the only demon running around Ashmore is called “Power of Suggestion”. Now, not alive…yes. Quite a bit. But demons? NOPE.) But, I knew this meant a lot of social interaction. I knew also, that, well, anytime you interact with “visible” people: people are very (rightfully) excited and sometimes aren’t as mindful as they could be. Time spent as Ye Grumpy Little Truss Monkey Lighting Gal for a bunch of major music venues taught me that- and I never begrudge it, but, it’s definitely one of those considerations when doing things.
For a long time, The Adventure Fish went with me everywhere. He still goes most places, but if I leave him- the only place I really note keenly he’s not there is in the car: “OH GOD KURT DON’T DRIVE LIKE THAT I FORGOT THE FISH!”
“Victoria…calm down…I am just going the speed limit…it’s okay..”
While, sometimes fortunately and sometimes unfortunately, I never developed the social conditioning that keeps my face and words from more or less going mind-to-everyone else: over time, I became a lot less afraid of people. I’m still keenly aware of facial expressions and other reactions that most don’t even realize they convey- but, it matters less and less. I actually enjoy talking to people more and more, though occasionally it’s a little uncomfortable when I don’t like them. (Ask my friend Krissi. We did not like one another when we met, and I think having her smart ass question of “Am I BORING you?!” met with “Actually, very much.” was a bit of a shock. I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, so, sometimes I find it best to daydream or pull my attention to something else- which, still tends to hurt feelings, but less so than the truth, it seems. Still find that odd.)
Anyway, the thing of it is, The Fish is sort of my Cowardly Lion’s Courage. I know I don’t need the ribbon, anymore. I just enjoy running up to people and cracking them up now by asking “Will you take a picture with my Fish?!”
I wanted to say that having someone approach me, quietly and away from
everyone else, to ask me about this- and who I could tell actually
somewhat grocked what I was laying down without this exceptionally long, boring and often awkward retelling, well, it was pretty cool and I
appreciated it. Even if I pretty much ran off right after. Sorry, kinda
knew it’d get mighty crowded, mighty quick.