Who the Frag Am I?

May 4, 2010

On Phase Shifts

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder — wtfmi @ 11:30 pm

I haven’t posted in over a month. This isn’t because I don’t have things to say … okay, maybe it was because I didn’t have anything to say. *grin* But more to the point, my attention was focused elsewhere.

My husband has ADD. I don’t, so far as I can tell, but I have the same on-again off-again excitement levels. For the past month, give or take, I’ve been excited about re-theming and adding new features to one of my wesbites. I worked hard on that and it took all my time, energy, and enthusiasm. No, that’s not quite right … I gave it all my time and energy, quite willingly.

After I finished that work last week, I slowly came down. I puttered about mindlessly, reading a bit, playing a bit, but mostly feeling like I was missing something. Nothing seemed quite engaging enough …

Then I crashed hard two days ago. I spent all of Sunday in bed, staring at the wall when I couldn’t force myself to sleep or read. Yesterday I woke up angry — at myself, primarily, because I was wasting my time lying about being depressed — and stayed angry all day. I couldn’t talk to anyone without being nasty so I locked myself in my room and forced myself to sleep or stare at the wall.

Today I feel much better! I have a new project in mind that should keep my busy for a week or two and I’m very excited to get to work on it! I’m not angry!  (Well maybe a little at the stupid things I have to pay attention to which are not my project …)

I wish I knew what the hell is the matter with me.

February 26, 2010

On the Love of Change

Filed under: Autism — wtfmi @ 10:09 pm

One of the things that initially convinced me that there was no way I could possibly be autistic is the fact that I really like change. I’d heard that people with autism are resistant to change, but I embrace it — so that couldn’t possibly be me, right?

But I mentioned this one day to my husband … and he snorted.

“You really think you like change? You hate it!”

“What do you mean?” I asked. “You’re the one who hates it. You never want to move, but I love looking at new apartments. You get freaked out when your karate class schedule changes!”

“We’re not talking about me,” he answered. “I know I hate change. But so do you. You won’t even go with me to new restaurants! It’s always Outback or the Greek place.”

I shrugged. “I know what I want is all. Those places are comfortable. But what about moving? That’s a huge change, and you know how much I enjoy it.”

“What do you enjoy about it? Do you like packing all our stuff or lifting the heavy boxes or waiting for the application to clear or worrying about being homeless if things don’t all come together?”

“No,” I said. “All those things suck. But-”

He smirked at me. “So what do you like about it?”

“Well … I like looking at places. I like choosing one. I like figuring out where our stuff will go and unpacking everything in a clean new place.”

“How would you feel if you had to move without having time to plan everything out?”

I shook my head. “That would really suck. I’d hate that.”

“Well there you go. You like spreadsheets. You like maps. You like planning. You like having control over your environment. But you don’t like change.” He paused. “And that’s okay with me. I just wish you’d try new restaurants sometimes.”

February 23, 2010

On Imaginary Virtue

Filed under: Identity — wtfmi @ 8:37 pm

I’ve known my whole life that I’m different. And except for occasional struggles with depression, I’ve been proud of that fact.

For example: I never bought into the whole passel of silly requirements that most girls and women feel they have to meet. I’ve never tried to strictly control my weight. I’ve never worn the kinds of shoes that destroy your feet and legs. I’ve never spent too much money on clothes. (I own six pairs of identical jeans, one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals, and something like ten shirts.) I don’t style my hair or blow-dry it, and I get it cut once or twice a year when it gets too long. I only wear make-up on job interviews and first dates, and for those I only blot some powder on my face so I don’t look oily. I stopped shaving my legs in college because really, it’s just a waste of time.

And I was inordinately proud of these things: “Look at me! I’m too smart to fall for all that misogynistic bullshit!”

But I was rationalizing.

I don’t avoid high heels because I know the damage they can cause. I do it because they hurt my feet.

I don’t skip the diets because I believe that enforced starvation is one way that our patriarchal culture keeps women from thinking about serious things (like why we make 77 cents on the male dollar). I do it because food tastes good and not eating gives me a nasty headache.

I don’t eschew clothes shopping because excess consumption is morally or ethically wrong. I do it because I don’t really understand the interactions involved in shopping and the lack of a script makes me very anxious. Also, I can’t handle the crowds.

I didn’t stop shaving my legs because it’s an excellent way to weed out ill-fitting potential partners. I did it because it hurt my skin.

So while it’s true that I don’t buy into the whole silly feminine ideal thing, it’s more or less an accident of genetics. I find the feminine ideal silly not because I’ve evaluated it with an analytical eye and made a rational decision, but because it’s painful and boring and it just doesn’t interest me. And if something doesn’t interest me, it might as well not even exist.

If I were more neurotypical I would probably find many of these activities less painful and possibly more rewarding. I hope that I would still evaluate them rationally and come to a rational decision about their place in our culture and in my life. But I am not neurotypical and I really have no idea what I would be like if I were.

So no, I’m not virtuous. I’m just lucky that this is who I am.

February 19, 2010

On Borderline Personality Disorder

Filed under: Autism, Bipolar Disorder — wtfmi @ 8:02 pm

Yesterday I mentioned that I don’t always agree with my psychiatrist that I have (sub-clinical) bipolar disorder. The criteria don’t quite fit right. There is another disorder with criteria that fit me much better … Truth is, I am afraid that I have borderline personality disorder (BPD).

And I do mean afraid. I’ve been terrified of a BPD diagnosis since I was an adolescent. Being labeled with BPD can be the equivalent of being labeled as a difficult, lying, manipulative bitch. Get branded with BPD and your chances of anyone in the mental health professions believing you ever again go way down. And as it happens, being disbelieved or dismissed is a major sore point for me, perhaps because it happens so often.

(Be aware that I am not saying anything about people with BPD here, only about the attitude of many mental health professionals.)

So yesterday, after posting, I decided to learn more about the underlying intricacies of BPD. I mean, I’d read the DSM-IV criteria before, but I know that the DSM is rather far off when it comes to autism and I assume the same is true for BPD as well.

I spent the next 8 hours reading up on everything I could find online. (The internet contains a lot of iffy information, but by starting with sources you already trust (if available), keeping an eye on your source’s sources, and cross-referencing the information you find, you can at least distinguish patterns in the available information. I also find the net to be a valuable source for the personal experiences of affected people.)

When my husband eventually pried me away from my computer and forced me to eat something, I was awash with new information and new thoughts about patterns of behavior — and I wanted to share it with him. Poor man. I basically brain-dumped everything I’d read on him in a fast-paced thirty-minute lecture, in no particular order, frequently punctuated with the exclamation, “Isn’t this fascinating?!”

But one thing that stood out to me while I was researching — besides the fact that the criteria for BPD are so broad as to be useless, that the shorthand concepts that we often use to describe BPD are not the incontrovertible outcome of those criteria, and that there is precious little actual research on BPD — what struck me was how many of the criteria could just as easily be the outward signs of undiagnosed autism, especially for women on the end of the autism spectrum that appears less challenged with social interaction … well, once you stripped away the whole “difficult, lying, manipulative bitch” thing.

So after dinner I went looking for research on that notion. I didn’t find any (suggestions welcome) but I found a decent number of opinions on it flying around the autism-sphere.

One of the common opinions is that autism and BPD are two entirely separate things that cannot possibly be related, largely because BPD is all about being too sensitive to feelings, too lonely, and too socially manipulative, while autism is all about being insensible to feelings, unable or unwilling to be with other people, and unable to lie or manipulate. Of course, both of these are simplistic to the point of being untrue.

Another opinion I found is that BPD probably contains a number of disorders which are currently all mashed together because we haven’t done enough research to separate out the threads. One of those may be ‘classical’ BPD (although I think we should still take a careful look at the sexist aspects of that definition), while another may be co-morbid with autism or even an outward manifestation of undiagnosed autism.

But the most valuable of the opinions I read was this one: it doesn’t matter. Diagnostic labels are only useful insomuch as they are … well … useful. The BPD label isn’t useful to me while bipolar label is — primarily because it comes with medications which I have personally found to be useful in smoothing out some of my nastier moods.

And the most useful label of all — for me, from my own strictly limited point of view — is the autism label. Because autism has helped me understand myself and my life enormously.

So I’m going to calm down about BPD and stop treating my bipolar disorder as a separate and terrible disease. These are just labels for patterns of behaviors I display, and my behaviors ultimately come from who I am. Sometimes I need help with those behaviors, and sometimes I am happy with them, but in either case what you call them is only useful if it helps me.

February 18, 2010

On Writer’s Block (this is a lie)

Filed under: Bipolar Disorder — wtfmi @ 6:13 pm

I do not have writer’s block.

What I am having right now is a mixed episode of bipolar disorder. (Doesn’t that make it sound like a tasty side dish in a restaurant?)

According to Wikipedia, font of all knowledge, this may also be known as ‘agitated depression’ — which is an excellent description of what I am feeling. Wikipedia goes on to say that this:

[...] is a condition during which symptoms of mania and depression occur simultaneously (e.g., agitation, anxiety, fatigue, guilt, impulsiveness, irritability, morbid or suicidal ideation, panic, paranoia, pressured speech and rage). Typical examples include tearfulness during a manic episode or racing thoughts during a depressive episode.

Racing thoughts during a depressive episode … that’s me. In particular, I am simultaneously so angry I could spit, and too depressed to get out of bed on my own.

Every night I lay in bed thinking about things I want to post. I write entire posts in my head — deeply personal, very analytical, full of rich language and profound insight. Then I fall asleep. I write them in the shower, also, and in the car, or any other time I’m bored. (I’m doing it right now, for a different post than this one!)

I go over the language again and again, make mental notes for post after post. And because thought connects to thought, because all the concepts interlock, because patterns are so important to me … the damned things never end. And so the act of sitting down to type is beyond me.

No, that’s not true … the act of deciding what to type is beyond me. It’s all crap anyway.

And yet here I am, typing. I have a brief window of not-as-badness in the morning. And I feel a responsibility to my imaginary readers to post, even if it is crap.

I haven’t said much about my bipolar disorder yet. For one thing, I do not have an official diagnosis of bipolar disorder. (Mind you, that doesn’t stop me with regards to autism. But in this case I don’t always agree with the unofficial diagnosis anyway. Depends on my mood.)

I started seeing a psychiatrist when my family doctor suggested that my chronic depression was something more, was bipolar. I freaked out about that: seems like everyone I know deals with depression and even anxiety, but bipolar disorder sounds so much more serious. You know, like a real mental disorder. My therapist also doubted the idea since I never seemed particularly manic to her. She suggested that a psychiatrist, someone with experience with mood disorders, could shed some more light on the matter.

The psychiatrist talked to me for almost two hours. Then he said that I seem to have sub-clinical bipolar disorder, with manic and mixed states that have been intensified by my antidepressants – which is apparently not uncommon. Nothing to get upset about. He would probably diagnose it as bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BD-NOS) or even a mood disorder NOS.

I noticed, though, that my chart continues to bear the codes for depression and anxiety, and nothing else. I wonder if this is to spare my feelings — although I have ceased to be freaked out by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder — or for some other reason. Perhaps to avoid future stigma should someone be looking at my history? I suppose I could ask.

He’s also been slowly reducing my antidepressant – Effexor — and put me on a mood leveler — Lamictal. And it’s been helping. The duration and severity of my fluctuations have been waning.

But they aren’t gone.

February 14, 2010

On Disordered Eating

Filed under: Fat Acceptance — wtfmi @ 10:27 pm

For many people, fat acceptance means leaving behind their patterns of disordered eating.

Disordered eating is not the same as an eating disorder. Disordered eating is very common; it includes the behaviors we think of as being indicative of eating disorders, like extreme restriction and binging, but it also covers less extreme behaviors such as chronically restrained eating (aka dieting), a strong fixation on ‘healthy’ or ‘moral’ eating (i.e. “carbs are BAD“, “sugar is BAD“), irregular or chaotic eating habits, and ignoring feelings of hunger or fullness.

(As I type this, for example, I am ignoring rather pointed feelings of hunger because I do want want to leave my thoughts for even so long as it would take to grab a bowl of cereal.)

Disordered eating becomes part of an eating disorder when it is backed up with the particular brain biology that enforces disordered eating. People with eating disorders usually need help to break themselves out of their behaviors just as much as people with bipolar disorder need help to break out of theirs.

But let’s set aside eating disorders for the moment and return to disordered eating. Disordered eating is very common in the US, and a huge chunk of that we can lay squarely on the doormat of dieting. More specifically, people believe that thin is better (healthier, sexier) and that they can use dieting to become thin — or at least thinner. Fat acceptance isn’t about accepting your fat; it’s about accepting that neither of those two propositions is intrinsically and simplistically true. For most people, then, fat acceptance means leaving behind their patterns of disordered eating, especially dieting.

So what does this have to do with me? (Because this blog is all about me. You knew that, right?)

(Shoot. Those hunger pains have gotten quite annoying. In fact, I’m beginning to get dizzy. I’ll have to get some food. I just hope I remember my train of thought when I get back. If I don’t, you know what to blame: biology.)

When I became interested in fat acceptance, I first changed my beliefs about thinness. This was pretty easy: I didn’t have beliefs so much as unexamined assumptions, and applying some basic research and examination to those assumptions cleared them right up. But I was also expecting to change my behaviors to some extent, and that just didn’t happen.

I couldn’t stop dieting because I have never dieted in my life. Okay, so there are some minor exceptions. At the urging of a boyfriend, I once followed the Atkins diet — for about four hours. (I was excited by the notion of all the bacon I could eat, but a few hours later I was really wanting a tomato — so I had one.) There have also been several times that I have tried to cut down on my Pepsi intake (because caffeine and high-fructose corn syrup are BAD), which inevitable fails the first time I get stressed. Or, you know, thirsty. So let’s just say that I have never successfully dieted for more than a day or two, which hardly counts.

Before fat acceptance, I was ashamed of my lack of control. After fat acceptance, I was proud of my intuitive knowledge that all that dieting stuff is bunk. Neither is true, of course. But more to the point, I eventually realized that my eating still is, and always has been, disordered — diets or no. I have chaotic and irregular eating habits and I often ignore my feelings of hunger (and, rarely, fullness).

On any given day, I may or may not have breakfast when I wake up, depending on whether I feel hungry or vaguely sick to my stomach. (Those are my only two gustatory waking-up states.) Most likely, however, is that I feel hungry but get involved with some project and forgot to eat for four or five hours, until the dizziness kicks in reminds me. Then I force myself to take a break and grab something — and then eat it in front of the computer or a book, like as not. This isn’t because I am too busy, but because I am too easily bored. Eating, like showering and sleeping, is boring. I’d rather be doing something else.

(One way that I can tell when I am depressed is because those activities no longer bore me.)

My much-delayed breakfast will often line up with my husband’s lunch, but if it doesn’t he will sometimes convince me to go to lunch with him, and so my breakfast and lunch are only about an hour apart. Otherwise, I’ll just skip lunch. I’ll either snack a lot during the afternoon (if I am reading) or eat nothing at all (if I am working or playing), and then at some point before we go to bed, my husband will remember to cook dinner. He likes actual meals, and big ones, which often leaves me with way too much food at dinner. But I’ve gotten into the habit of only taking about a quarter of what he makes and leaving the rest for him (for dinner or his lunch the next day). Note, however, that how much I take and how much I eat has almost nothing to do with my level of hunger.

So. To sum up: Although I don’t diet and I am no longer interested in losing weight or fixated on some sort of artificial dietary health, my eating is nevertheless disordered — and it turns out that I don’t care to do anything about that. Like my disordered sleep patterns or my unattractive appearance, it’s just not worth it to me to spend the time trying to fix it. And I accept that.

February 13, 2010

On Stimming

Filed under: Autism — wtfmi @ 12:12 am

One of my major initial doubts regarding my autism self-diagnosis involved the symptom of stimming. Firstly, I was a bit confused about what stimming actually is. And secondly, I had no idea if it was something I did or not.

The DSM-IV seems to be refering to stimming in the autism criteria when it describes “stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)”. Hand flapping sounds like something that would be very obvious (and somehow ominous) and is clearly not something I do, right? (At least not in public, my mind whispers.) And certainly I don’t have any stereotyped and repetitive complex whole-body movements. (Right?)

But finger flapping? Or in my case, finger tapping? Does that count? Or moving from foot to foot? Everybody does this sort of thing, right? Tapping a pencil, or tapping their foot, or twirling their hair in their fingers … so how can I tell if I am ‘legitimately’ stimming?

To answer that question, I turned to YouTube. I was hoping to find images of stimming in action, both so I had some concrete examples and also so I could see more of the context of stimming.

At first I found a lot of videos of what appeared to me to be perfectly normal young children making perfectly normal excited motions. No help there. So I went looking for videos of adults stimming. Ah, that was much better: I found some really helpful videos by autistic adults explaining their various stims, why they stim in different situations, and how they feel about stimming.

Their descriptions of context and emotions helped more than anything else to help me identify my own stims. And yes, it turns out that I do stim.

I do indeed tend to hand-flap around the house when I’m happily excited, although I had never really thought about it at all. (It’s just a thing, ya’know?) I have a highly ritualized game I play with my wedding ring when I’m in a one-to-many talking situation. And that finger tapping I mentioned? Well, I may have over-simplified a bit. I actually have complex finger tapping routines based on prime numbers that I run through when I’m concentrating.

Oh, and I rock quite a bit, too — foot to foot when I am standing, or front to back when I am sitting. Although when sitting I usually keep the amplitude so small that even my husband says he can’t see it. But  I can feel the muscles moving and my balance shifting, which is the part that matters to me. The part that, yes, calms me. In fact, I do a lot of nearly-invisible rhythmic muscle tensing in complex patterns, especially when I’m feeling anxiety.

I absolutely do not feel that I could possibly tell whether someone else is stimming or not. But I am now satisfied that stimming is exactly what I am doing.

Aside #1: One of my favorite videos was by YouTube user gorramdoll, who also blogs at I’M SOMEWHERE ELSE — a blog which I had, quite coincidentally, added to my blog reader earlier that very day. I watched a great many of her videos on AS/ASD, and then went flapping about the house in sheer excitement because so many of the situations and reactions she talked about felt so familiar to me. This flapping was quickly followed by me shouting at my husband, “Come quick! Come see! I’m hand-flapping!” His response: “Yeah? So? You do that all the time.”

(And this is both inappropriate and perhaps somewhat rude, and so I apologize beforehand even though I am going to follow through with my behavior anyway … But man! Is she attractive or what?)

Aside #2: Had this same question come up ten years ago, it would have been a lot harder for me to see in myself. It’s only over the past ten years that I have begun to be comfortable moving my body, publicly or privately. When I was younger, the notion of — for instance — raising an arm above my head for no particular reason while in a grocery store would have sent me into horrified shock. You don’t do that! You just don’t! But my husband, who has ADD, does it constantly. It took me awhile to get used to his freedoms, and a lot longer to start appropriating them for myself.

I do wonder, though, if these attitudes are left over from a forgotten childhood of being told not to stim. They could be — I’ve forgotten an awful lot of my childhood.

February 12, 2010

On the First Steps in My Journey

Filed under: Identity — wtfmi @ 2:49 am

This is all Hillary Clinton’s fault.

A couple years ago I was stressed out, depressed, and having a hard time holding it all together — pretty much like I’ve always been. So it didn’t mean much to me.

As it happened, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were both running for the Democratic presidential nomination, which I found to be neat in a resigned sort of way. (“Cool! But shouldn’t this have happened, like, decades ago?”)

Then I started to notice (what was to me) a very obvious difference in how people were treating the two candidates, both directly and when discussing them with others. I talked to my husband about it and found, rather to my dismay, that he didn’t see it t all. He thought I was reading too much into things, that I was over-reacting, that I was getting just a touch hysterical on the subject.

I went ballistic. This pushed buttons I didn’t even realize I had.

Direct sexism has only rarely annoyed me because I only rarely think of myself as female. (I am biologically female and I identify as female-gendered when asked because it’s easier, but my grasp on gender has always been rather weak.) But not being taken seriously, not being believed, not being trusted with my own experiences … yeah. That’s a sore spot.

So for perhaps the first time I felt a thread of connection with feminists, and by extension with other women. I’ve never liked other women, probably due to neuro-atypicality. (Been attracted to them, yes. Been friends with them, no.) But I became interested in feminism and all its tropes, and when I am interested in something I study it exhaustively.

I went through a series of important realizations very quickly: that I harbor a lot of sexist attitudes; that sexism has affected me in many ways; that feminism has a lot to offer me; that feminists really annoy me.

And then I turned the question (of the primary) around and looked at it from the other side … and realized that I was profoundly uncomfortable about questions of race. So off I went to study racism. (This one I am still having trouble with. But more on that later.)

Along the way, I ran (back) into fat acceptance. (I’d wandered into fat acceptance many years ago via the BBW community, but I was at the time rather creeped out by a particular BBW-aficionado in my life and gave the whole thing a pass.) This time I came in through the research side of things — which left me with a deep distrust of medical press releases but a much better appreciation for my physical body.

One of the most startling thoughts that came out of learning about fat acceptance, though, was that not only is it none of your business if I am fat, but that it’s not any of your business whether or not I am healthy either. I’ll repeat that: My health is none of your business.

That one just blew me out of the water.

And that led me to reading about disability. And just in time … because right about then, my chronic and largely untreated depression got worse. Again. And I decided that it was time to start taking my mental health seriously. This wasn’t easy for me because I had long believed that my depression (and all of my other peculiarities) were weakness, pure and simple. If I were better, I wouldn’t have these problems.

The generic depression-and-anxiety diagnosis became bipolar disorder with a side of autism. I freaked out. I still am, to some extent. But I am beginning to feel my way through.

So if it wasn’t for Hillary Clinton, I would still be trundling along the same old way: stressed out, depressed, barely holding it all together, and blaming myself every step of the way. But instead I have a metric shit-tonne of new knowledge and tools rumbling about in my head, helping me — finally! — to understand myself just a little bit better.

February 10, 2010

On Language: Autism vs. Asperger’s

Filed under: Autism — wtfmi @ 5:52 pm

When I think I can get away with it, I tend to use the word ‘autism’ or ‘autistic’ to describe myself, rather than ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. My research so far has led me to the opinion that ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ is a description of an area of the autism spectrum. I am generally more interested in emphasizing the similarities along the spectrum than the differences. That’s not a political statement, necessarily; what I mean is that I tend to need to say something about the similarities more often than I need to discuss the differences.
  2. ‘Asperger’ is a hard word for me to say. The ‘sp’ combination, followed by a truly ugly ‘er-ger’, is just distasteful. ‘Autism’ and ‘autistic’ are easy words for me to say. ‘Autistic’ is actually quite fun: the sharp t’s and hard c; the bell curve of linguistic stress; the mutated repetition of the last two syllables. For a long time, I simply wouldn’t say words if I didn’t like the way they felt in my mouth. I had to get used to it in some situations, but when I can I will always choose the fun words.

You’ll note, though, that I qualified my statement with, “When I think I can get away with it”. And there are times when I can’t.

Sometimes I need to specifically refer to the area of the spectrum that is associated with, shall we say, less obvious challenge in passing for neurotypical. ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ is a shorter way of conveying what I mean, especially to an audience who might need me to explain the concepts lurking behind ‘obvious challenge’, ‘passing’, and ‘neurotypical’.

Sometimes I know that a person very explicitly doesn’t share my opinion that ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’ is on the autism spectrum. In order to avoid pointless disagreement, I will use ‘Asperger’s’ while I am talking to that person. My psychiatrist is, unfortunately, one of these cases.

And when I am describing a person, I try to use the language that they use to describe themselves.

A couple other language notes:

  • I tend to drop the word ‘disorder’ in relation to autism. But because ‘autism spectrum disorder’ is the accepted medical language, I can’t always avoid it.
  • I also try to be sensitive about when I am using people-emphasizing language and when I am not. For example, ‘a person with autism’ is a person; an ‘autistic’ is a statistic. Because I really like the word ‘autistic’, though, I also tend to use ‘autistic’ to refer to myself regardless.

And a final note: I am describing how I speak because I think it illuminates some interesting aspects about how I think about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. These are not prescriptions or proscriptions for others; it’s none of my business how you use your language.

Of course, I say this here. But when it comes to conversation with actual people, especially strangers, I’m lucky to have any control over what comes out of my mouth. *grin*

February 9, 2010

On Identity

Filed under: Identity — wtfmi @ 8:20 pm

When I was seeing a therapist for severe depression, she asked me one day to describe myself — not my demographics, but my core self.

I was unable to do this.

I can just barely, in my mind, feel out a concept that encompasses the totality of my core self, but I completely lack the words to describe it. In fact, I don’t think there are words to describe it. (Or colors, or shapes, or smells.) And considering how reliant I am upon words, how fond I am of using them to denote exact shades of meaning … yeah.

So then my therapist asked me to list the five to ten adjectives that best describe me. (I’m not sure how this was different from asking me to describe myself. Perhaps because it was a list.) And again, I couldn’t do it.

But I wanted to show willing, so I asked if she could suggest some adjectives, and then I would tell her exactly how well and in what way they applied to me. “Give me an adjective, any adjective, and I’ll tell you how it fits. And it will fit in one way or another,” I said.

She looked at me with the oddest expression, like she wasn’t sure what to do with me.

I read somewhere — although I can’t find it now and it’s quite possible that I misunderstood anyway — that people on the autism spectrum sometimes have problems with self-identification. Apparently some of us don’t easily separate the ‘inside’ of our identity from the ‘outside’ of the world.

This makes a lot of sense to me: how you could possibly separate who you are from what you’ve experienced? Even if you try to keep the discussion strictly biological, i.e. “I have genetic predispositions to mood disorders,” or “I was born with autism,” you are still talking about a specific expression of the genes which is based on your (biochemical) environment.

Anyway. So I can’t accurately describe myself outside of space and time. But I’m going to spend time and space here, on this blog, considering the question of who I am right now.

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