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Headspace

20 Oct

My mental health lately: not so good.

Thursday, I went to some museums in Houston. It sounds like such a simple process, doesn’t it? I mean, I like art and going to museums. And I’d made plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while to meet up there, so a splendid time was guaranteed for all, right? So. I went to class that morning, and as leaving campus to go to the museum district, I got crowded by a bunch of people. It was my school’s club fundraiser day (there was a snowman on the gazebo, for some obscure reason) at lunchtime, so half the campus was in. my. space. And I started to get anxious – not too noticable, just about the level of anxiety I get when I’m grocery shopping at the beginning of my period. And then I had to deal with Houston traffic. And then there were schoolkids at the museum. And then I had to deal with more traffic. And then, because I was driving around an unfamiliar part of the city, I got lost. And I was thirsty. And the convenience store didn’t have much parking. Or plastic-bottle drinks. And the glass bottle wouldn’t open. And I started crying, badly parked in a convenience store parking lot, because I wanted a damn Sprite (which, once opened, was flat). And then, I figured out where I was. And then, I found the biggest art supply store I’d ever seen. And then, I headed home, in what for the most part appeared to be a pleasant mood. And then, the shit hit the fan.

A part of the way home, which should have taken me 15 minutes, took me an hour. And finally, I got home. And I saw the house, and I stopped lying to myself about what that house means to me, acknowledged how much I hate it for just a moment, and then I had an anxiety attack.

And then I went over to the lover’s (L) house, and tried to pretend everything was fine. And for a while, I got to a point where I believed it myself. And then L’s myoclonic jerks – twitches – started. They’ve been pretty bad lately, and I started crying. Again. And couldn’t stop. And I finally told L about the anxiety attack.

So then, it was Friday. Started out okay. Took L’s sister to buy Guitar Hero 5, so L and L’s mother could watch House together. And that worked out alright, except GH5 had to be in L’s room because it wouldn’t really fit anywhere else, so L and I couldn’t really be alone. Do that whole couple’s bonding thing. And then we went to a movie (Zombieland was fairly fluffy – a bit too “one true love and virginity is teh suxxors and LOL @ fatties” for my tastes). And the line to the ticket booth was long, and there were a lot of flashing lights (because, for whatever reason, the movie listings are surrounded by a Broadway-style marquis), and this creepy kid behind L and me started being creepy (as you can probably tell by my incredibly descriptive adjectives, thinking about it makes me all squicked) and I started shaking and I could feel the anxiety setting in again. I felt better as soon as I got out of the line, and was okay for most of the rest of the night, except for when I spilled a drink and nearly started crying again.

So, Saturday and Sunday kind of blended into each other in my memory. L’s sister played more GH5, and I decided to install the Sims on my computer to somewhat alleviate the general feeling of ennui. Except, it took almost an hour to install and I didn’t want to run any programs while installing it and once I installed the program I couldn’t find it in my directory and once I found the program and figured out how to run it I couldn’t figure out the controls because they were by no means intuitive and so I started crying and shaking again. And then L and L’s sister told me to calm down because it was just a game, so naturally I cried harder. Because telling me to calm down makes things worse, because it’s telling me to stop responding to things in the way I respond to things when I’m stressed and feel like I’m on the verge of an(other) anxiety attack, which isn’t possible because it’s how my brain fucking works and adds another layer of frustration over my current emotional response, because I’m trying to do the impossible to make other people happy (because one mustn’t allow others to feel like they have contributed to one’s poor mood). And I’m trying to process all that and avoid biting L and L’s sister’s heads off at the same time, so I went and hid (sat on the bed with the door wide open) in L’s sister’s room for a bit so I could avoid people. Once most of that frustration had bled off, I went back to L’s room and worked on learning the controls for The Sims. At some point, L told me that L’s parents think I’m gaining weight and should exercise more. And my face crumpled again, and I felt (once again) tears forming as I tried (once again) not to cry. Because of course I’m gaining weight – my bodyweight has a range of 20-30 pounds it cycles through. Because of course I’m gaining weight – I’m trying to make myself eat on a more healthy schedule, instead of not eating even though I’m hungry because I’d have to go to the kitchen which is all the way over there and I’d have to stand up to cook anything and it’s not like I have anything premade. Because of course I’m gaining weight – I’m stressed out, which means my body processes food differently than when I’m feeling well.

But I still feel like I shouldn’t be gaining weight. Because that’s bad, right? Even though I’m usually pretty sure that I don’t care about what I look like, even though I’m pretty sure that my weight won’t affect my health, even through all that, it still stings like hell that I might be gaining weight.

I’m going to schedule an appointment with a doctor this week, so hopefully having this shit documented will help me explain what’s been going on and why I think I need some anti-depressants.

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Quick Hit: FWD/Forward

12 Oct

Apropos of my last post concerning the Feministing debacle, a bunch of awesome feminist writers have teamed up (including friend to Foxtrot Chally *waves*) and started a group blog discussing disablism, accessibility, marginalizing language and lots of other cool goodies.

It looks like a useful resource. It’s new, so reading the extent of the archives is easier than older blogs (in other words, go! Read!).

Why I’m Angry

7 Oct

You may have heard of Feministing’s recent refusal to acknowledge disability as a feminist issue.

You may have heard about the systematic othering of disabled people at Feministing.

You may have heard that Feministing commenters continue to engage in problematic behavior, in spite of being called out on TAB privilege.

You may have heard that Feministing moderators allow (and, by silence, encourage) the marginalization of trans people and denial of trans rights.

You may have heard that Feministing encourages multiple forms of kyriarchy, consistently and without apology.

You may have realized by now that I’m cosigning meloukhia’s letter.

Asperger’s?

9 Apr

After Tuesday’s post, I realized I knew next to nothing about this syndrome I may have. So, naturally, I made friends with Wikipedia and related footnotes. I’m still working through a lot of the links I dug up, but I thought this was interesting:

From the DSM-IV requirements for diagnosis with Asperger’s Syndrome – my comments in italics

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
(1) marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction I absolutely suck at recognizing non-verbal communication. What I understand, I understand because I’ve looked up body language decoders on the Internet.
(2) failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level As I said in the last post, I’ve never made friends easily or well. I had what I would term a best friend in elementary, but most might call ‘good friend’ or ‘acquaintance.’ I’ve never had that level of closeness since. In fact, the occasion immortalized here from last Monday was the easiest I’ve ever made friends (and if feeling dizzy and short of breath because I have to stand up and ask a question in a microphone to a room full of people is easy, I’d hate to see what making friends the hard way is).
(3) a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people) Not sure if I do this or not.
(4) lack of social or emotional reciprocity I had to google this, because I wasn’t sure what was meant. This result is interesting, and it may be applicable to me. I’m still not sure if this is what is meant, but I find small talk vastly irritating and as soon as it begins, I try to get away from the situation.

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus I don’t know if I do this.
(2) apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals Possibly. I get frustrated when I’m in an exercise class and the warm-up order shifts unexpectedly. I don’t do well with change to my routine I’m not prepared for well in advance. I don’t like not being able to check my e-mail immediately before bed and immediately upon waking.
(3) stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements) Very much so. I fidget constantly, I crochet, I draw. My hands cannot be still. I hate not having something in my hands, something to focus idle energy into. I keep rocks in my purse to hold when I don’t have anything better to do with my hands (and when I’m walking, I pick up rocks I like the shape of that look nice to hold). When in junior high/high school, I played trumpet, and practicing fingerings was a convenient way of appearing “normal” while enabling my need to fidget. When walking, I occasionally throw in a few bounces and pirouettes, without really consciously realizing I’m doing so (others have pointed it out to me).
(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects The shape of noses fascinate me. I love staring at noses, the contours and bumps and zits and hairs poking out from the nostril, all the little “imperfections” that give the nose character and make me secretly adore the bearer. This is the only example coming to mind, but I’m almost certain there are others.

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. I can’t relate to my mother, because she expects things of me that I’m unable to deliver. I have trouble applying for jobs, because I’m so convinced I won’t get the job that it seems futile to even try. I can’t ask for help if and when I need it, because I lack the social skills to feel comfortable doing so.

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years). Nothing as far as I’m aware.

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than in social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood. Nothing as far as I’m aware.

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia. Nothing as far as I’m aware.

So I certainly meet enough of the requirements to warrant a follow-up and an attempt to get an official diagnosis. The main problem is financing such an endeavor – as I’m currently uninsured, I have an overwhelming desire to say, “Fuck you, United States of America, for not having socialized healthcare.”

EDIT: So, ten minutes after I post this, Meowser has another awesome post up.

Not Neurotypical: An Overshare

7 Apr

For various reasons, I’ve spent much of the day teetering on the edge of tears. First, my martial arts class was cancelled because my main school had a bomb threat. That martial arts class is amazing – if I’m having a shitty day, it takes the focus off of what’s happening to my life and allows me to get out of toxic thought patterns. And when I don’t get that, my day tends to suck. Plus, you know, bomb threat to the school I’ve spent large amounts of time at for the past 15 years (my dad’s a professor there, and has been since my childhood). So, I return to my other school to wait for my afternoon class, and I mark time, as I am wont to do, by going through my RSS reader and seeing what’s new. One of the first feeds I check is Shakesville, and this guest post by Meowser sucks me in. It’s about (warning: very poor summary) being diagnosed with Asperger and the stigma our society awards non-neurotypical brain function. You seriously need to read the whole thing, if you haven’t already (though I assume most people who read this blog already read Shakes).

But the reason I’m writing this post is because, as has been stated ad infinitum, the personal is very much political (and oh, how I wish it weren’t and I didn’t feel compelled to write this post and tell the internet my problems because the internet very likely (in my head) does not give a shit).  I’m trying to not have a heavy hand (er, pinky finger) with the backspace key the way I normally do when I’m writing about things I’d rather nobody else read, things I’d rather I didn’t even think about, let alone spill to the internet. This will likely give me more runon sentences and weird grammar than usual; please forgive me this. You see, dear reader, I have trouble coping with challenges in my life in ways that neurotypical people *ahem* typically don’t.

As I’ve stated on the LJ entries I just linked, I suspect that I have depression (which is currently deepening, as evidenced by the reemergence of my most common symptom), but I’d never considered Asperger’s Syndrome before. For one thing, as Meowser stated, I’m biologically female, and women don’t have such syndromes, silly goose! But enough of the symptoms Meowser listed made me go, “That…sounds a lot like me, actually,” to make me curious enough to take the quiz linked in the post. I scored 35/50, and a score of 32 is a strong indicator of likelihood of Aspie’s. UrsusRufus linked another quiz in comments, I scored 186/200 for likelihood of Aspie’s (and a 16/200 for neurotypical brain function). So.

I was an unusual child, the most common description is “dancing to the beat of her own drum.” Quite often, literal dancing. In the third grade (age 9 or so), I got in trouble because I stood up and started doing a happy dance because school was almost over for the day, and I could go home and read my books. One time, the art teacher got upset with me because I was skipping through the halls on my way back to the ordinary classroom (Orderly walking ONLY – stop that infernal disorder!). For this and other things (like the fact that soon after I discovered chapter books, I decided to read (and succeeded in reading) Little Women *cough*feminism buds early*cough*), I was mercilessly teased through junior high. But I was and still am one of the slowest people ever at arithmetic. When in second grade, I had to have remedial math quizzes at home with my parents so I could have a chance in hell of being anywhere near an acceptable level (by high school, I was finally allowed to use a calculator for everything – woo!). But I’m very good at higher-level maths, like algebra and pre-calculus, especially for a liberal arts-focused person. My logic class is frustratingly easy, because I can just see how arguments like Modus Ponens and conditional exchange work logically, and how equivalencies are, in fact, equivalent, and it’s hard for me to let the teacher teach at the other students’ banally slow pace. A lot of my school problems (again, outlined in the LJ entry linked earlier) could be said to be symptoms of Asperger.

But I’m also very good at passing for neurotypical. I’ve had to learn how to be – like I said, merciless teasing through the age of 14 (and plenty beyond that, but nowhere near the level it was for the first 8 years of my public school education). So most of this shit – nobody will notice it. Ever. When my parents separated in September 2001, I began acting out my frustrations, and they sent me to a therapist so I wouldn’t be as aggressively troublesome as I had been. I was diagnosed as having passive-aggressive tendencies, and friends my own age were recommended by the therapist. My mom started going to church and taking me with her; I was fairly serious about Methodism for most of my teenage years (previous exposure to religion was fairly agnostic). I became involved with the youth group at the church, but I never made friends easily. I never exchanged phone numbers with friends in the group, never dated, kept to myself. This worried the therapist about me, but as far as I know, Asperger’s was still never mentioned. I remember one time on a trip home from a Christian rock (oxymoron if ever there was one) concert, one of the boys in the youth group fell asleep with his head on my shoulder. I sat there panicking because, OMG, somebody is making physical contact with my body and what do I do what do I do what do I do? So, I did what anybody worried about being taken for a freak does – I let him sleep while I sat there in hyperawareness of how far away from the church we still were (half an hour, okay, only fifteen minutes, ten, very close now, almost there, OHTHANKGOD, he’s awake). But anyway, before I got off on that tangent, I was going to say that I taught myself how to act neurotypical to convince the therapist that I was okay to stop counseling sessions. And it worked, taking a little over a year of seeing her. But I never actually got better at coping – just at hiding my problems because I knew nobody actually cared I was having problems, they just cared that they weren’t affected by it (for a frighteningly near-perfect example of how this plays out in my head, see this comment by JJohnson).

But why am I posting this here? I try to keep my mental stuff away from this blog – I like to quarantine it on my LJ, because I’m afraid nobody will take me seriously as an intellectual and a feminist if they know how bad it gets sometimes, how much I hate myself, how much I want to make the pain stop, how far I’m willing to go sometimes to do so (as Meowser said in the post, I’m not suicidal – most of the time. I can avoid self-harm fantasies – most of the time.). But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that increasing the voices that say, “Look, I’m not neurotypical, but that doesn’t mean you get to shut me away in an institution, drug me until I look like I’m coping with shit again, tell me that what my brain naturally does is irrational and absolutely useless in the discussion on how to help nonneurotypical people cope (not look like they’re coping, but ACTUALLY FUCKING COPING) in a world that isn’t built to allow them any degree of success,” is absolutely a feminist issue. Even among allies, it can be impossible to get across the idea that “…non-neurotypical people retain full human rights regardless of the severity of our conditions.” That’s why this post is here – because the more people shout from the rooftops that ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’, the more likely that our voices will be heard, and we won’t continue to have our voices drowned out by the thundering roar of normalcy fetishism.