The first line of Teri Underhill‘s website bio frames the purpose of her music around advocacy work, particularly relating to mental health and autism awareness. This mission is felt with brute force when considering her latest track, a creeping pop anthem titled “MONSTER.” The song, as Teri explains, is a direct response to past experiences of ableist abuse relating to her autism symptoms. To elaborate on this further, here’s Teri in her own words, discussing the creation of and meaning behind “MONSTER.”
I began writing and producing my song “MONSTER” last fall. As someone who was diagnosed with autism later in my life, it’s been a journey of self discovery and self acceptance. During this time, I was feeling heavily judged, sad, and misunderstood with my diagnosis. It was something I knew about myself for over a decade, but finally came to terms with it as an adult. As I started talking about it with people, I was met with a lot of “Are you sure?” “I think it’s just anxiety,” “Have you been taking your meds?” “You don’t look autistic,” and so many more hurtful statements from strangers on the internet and people in my personal life.
Finding this part of me helped me realize my autism is why I react to so many things the way I do, why I barely speak, why I cannot stand loud sounds without crying, and so much more. During this time, I experienced a lot of autistic meltdowns where it was out of my control, crying for hours, and sometimes becoming violent with myself if people around me were not helping out (not helping out by belittling me, telling me to “stop it,” etc.).
I felt monstrous. I felt like an animal. And I felt I was looked at like one.
I realized the ableism that comes with autism. How people bully us for our likes, our “quirks,” our awkwardness, our meltdowns with ourselves. People are so fast to judge without any solutions to those that have a disability. So I wrote “MONSTER” in feeling for those that have been judged, like myself. This is a song to defend my autism, defend my disability, defend myself, and defend others like me. We are not monsters or freaks. We are just human. This is how our brains were created and how we were meant to be. Human.
For more from Teri, she will be performing Saturday, September 23 at London Underground, as part of the Maximum Ames Music Festival. Then on Sunday, October 8 Teri will be performing as part of Mālama Maui: A Benefit Show for Maui at xBk Live.