Coming out twice: How my “nuclear meltdown” helped me embrace my madness and autism

Check out my chapter in the newly published book Tinfoil Hats: Stories by Mad People in an Insane World, published by Autonomous Press, entitled “Coming out twice: How my ‘nuclear meltdown’ helped me embrace my madness and autism.”

Two years in the making, this chapter is my raw and unfiltered reflection on my process of coming out as mad and then autistic. It’s a reflection on two lives: a life lived unconsciously until my publicly-televised “nuclear meltdown” on ABC TV in 2016, progressing into a life lived consciously as a proud madman and autist. It’s about the burden of masking for survival and the constricting crush of sensory overload. It’s about re-evaluating my entire life through a new lens. It’s about old traumas and reclaiming dignity from those who would take it from me. And it contains many expletives. Fuck yeah.

Ben’s chapter abstract

My entire body was heating up. My muscles were heavy, and my skin began to vibrate as if being shocked by a mild electric current. With every question they asked I struggled even more as my mind and body began to shut down. Finally, I gave in and said, “I can’t do this.” The interviewers quickly cut to the next story. I sat there immobilised, in complete shock. What the hell just happened?

I’m an expert on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but in 2016 I had my own “nuclear meltdown” while being interviewed about North Korea on live television. This chapter is a reflection on my televised Chernobyl moment and how this ended up being a moment of transmutation, a catalysing event that led me to “come out” twice, as Mad, and then as autistic.

About Tinfoil Hats

Tinfoil Hats: Stories by Mad People in an Insane World is a collection of true stories by neurodivergent people who identify as being Mad, about what it’s like to live Mad in a world that oppresses them because they think, live, and act differently. The authors come from all over the world, and from all walks of life. Tinfoil Hats is edited by Mad poet, artist, and scholar Phil Smith. Intensely personal, sometimes funny, sometimes dark, these stories are always illuminating. They’re vibrantly shameful, horrifyingly scary, and just plain hard. They’re also joyful, spiritual, and enlivening. They describe in detail what it’s like to be Made Mad by a psy-complex that stigmatizes, psychiatrizes, and traumatizes. It’s unhinged writing, about whirleds unknown and unimagined by most.

Tinfoil Hats was not conceived as – should not be read as – some kind of trauma porn, a way to get juiced on the misery and distress of others. nope. nuttin like dat. instead, it sees Madness as a kind of political and revolutionary knowledge. it troubles the ways in which Mad bodyminds are heard and understood by the psy-industrial complex and the dominating, epistemic violence it inflicts on us all.

The authors come from all over the world, and from all walks of life. Tinfoil Hats is edited by Mad poet, artist, and scholar Phil Smith, whose recent work Writhing Writing: Moving Towards a Mad Poetics (and published by Autonomous Press) won the 2020 American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award.

This book is for you if you’re a Mad person, or if you know someone who is. this book is for you if you’re a social worker, psychologist, researcher, therapist, doctor, or nurse, and want to know what it’s like to live Mad. this book is for you if you’re curious about what saneism is, and what that form of oppression means in the lives of real people. Tinfoil Hats is the beginning of a Mad (r)evolution. join us.

More from Ben, #neurospicy #madman

Ben’s writings and media on neurodivergence, madness and mental health.

Ben on the Edge Dwellers Café Podcast.