Tag Archives: Self

Defining Myself

One of the March writing prompts on the SITS Girls site is “what defines you?”. I could write an essay on this, and in fact, in 2002, I did this in response to the “defining yourself” prompt on a disability website I visited at the time. I wrote an essay on the ways in which I was different from most other people: being blind, being in the intellectually gifted range and (I thought at the time) being a lesbian.

I no longer identify as a lesbian obviously, but the other minority statuses still apply to me, and so do many more. I am autistic, mentally ill, unemployed, etc.

Do these minority statuses truly define me? I don’t think so. Rather, I think I am defined by the core of my personality. Having a poor self-image makes it hard to define myself as such, but I will try.

1. I am intelligent. I don’t like my intelligence in a way. I embrace my giftedness as a minority status, although to be honest I don’t think I’d like to be part of elitist high IQ societies. I am part of a few Facebook groups that define giftedness as asynchronous development and often also link it to high sensitivity. These groups do not see giftedness as all positive, like the high IQ societies do. They rather see it as a distinctive but value neutral characteristic.

As a more abstract quality, I however don’t embrace my intelligence. It is so often used to define the core of my abilities, as if I can’t be impaired with such a high IQ. I realize that intelligence is what allows me to write relatively coherent blog posts, for example, but if it’s connected to social skills or practical independence, that’s just not okay.

2. I am stubborn. Sometimes, people say I am a go-getter. Other people say I give up way too easily. It all depends on the situation. In a way, my stubbornness can be seen as rigidity: if I’ve got something in my mind, it’s got to go this way. I just today remembered pushing my father to vote for a particular political party when I was too young to vote (around sixteen). I don’t remember the details and am not 100% sure he ended up voting for that party, but I do remember being quite adamant that at least one of my parents was going to vote for my party.

3. I am sensitive. I want to firmly distinguish this from being empathetic, as in knowing how to react to people’s emotions. However, I do sense and absorb people’s emotions very easily. This sometimes leads to overload. I am also, of course, sensorially reactive, wich can also lead to overload.

4. I am socially awkward. Back in like 2003, I used to own an E-mail group (one of the many inactive E-mail groups I’ve owned) called something like Socially_Awkward. This was how I defined myself in the midst of suspecting I had autism but also being aware that others saw autism as an inherently negative thing that an intelligent person like me shouldn’t associate with. The fact remains that I’m socially awkward. I can converse semi-normally when the situation is familiar, but I often have to be taught explicitly how to handle unfamiliar social situations.

These are but four of my characteristics. I undoubtedly have many more, but it is hard for me to think of them. There are also many other ways in which I could define myself. As I said, I could go with my minority statuses. People could also define themselves by their jobs or roles. In this case, I’d be defined as for example a wife and a blogger. Then there are probably many more ways to categorize and thereby define people. I am curious to know how you define yourself and what categorizations you use to define others.

Letter to My Twelve-Year-Old Self

When reading journaling prompts, some ask the journaler to go back into the past or spring forward to the future. There is in fact FutureMe, a site that has you write letters to yourself that will be E-mailed to you on a set date in the future. This is an interesting experiment, because it allows the future self to see what the past self was like without bias. Then again, writing to your past self is a good way to reflect on how your life has changed. This is a letter to my twelve-year-old self.

Dear twelve-year-old Astrid,

This is you speaking, fifteen years on. I am 27-years-old now and looking back on your life. I see your struggles. You are becoming aware of your social and emotional problems, yet needing to hide the their true extent because showing would mean you’re stupid. Let me assure you, you’re not stupid. You are autistic, and many people who have the cognitive abilities you do, are.

You’ve just received the report from Dr. M, the educational psychologist who evaluated you in what would become the final and successful attempt at getting you a recommendation for mainstream schooling. As you are aware, he recommended you use the remainder of the school year to sit in with a mainstream class to see if it’d work. Last month, you also went to the open house at the academic magnet secondary school/grammar school your sister’s friend’s big sister is attending. You are excited about going there. I appreciate that. I admire your optimism, giving each new start a new chance for success. At 27, I’m quite disillusioned. Grammar school was pretty bad, but I know you persevered. I wish I had that capacity now.

At the same time that you are preparing to go to mainstream grammar school, you fantsize about getting help for your social and emotional problems. I admire you for having devised your own tretment goals and thinking of ways to reach them. Sadly, you didn’t get help with this. I would’ve liked to tell you that I do, but let me say, psychiatric institutions are not great. Back in your day, there was a documentary about a young woman who was too intelligent for the system for people with intellectual disabilities but didn’t fit in with the mental health system either. You feared, or maybe you hoped, that you’d one day be her, because in the end she was accepted into a suitable treatment facility. I identify strongly with her, although I’m no longer locked up.

I know life isn’t easy for you being twelve. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that it’ll get better. You hope to be a mathematician or linguist when you are my age. While I did study linguistics briefly, I had to dorp out due to mental health problems. I ended up in a psychiatric institution, and I’ve still not found the right treatment or care.

I know you struggle with losing your vision. I still do. I haven’t become completely, totally blind yet, but I can only see a little bit of light now. A few months ago, I went to have surgery to hopefully restore some sight, but it failed. The good news is, accepting blindness will become easier. I still struggle, but not nearly as much as you do.

Oh, and friendships will also get easier. I know you don’t have any friends. Guess what? I’m married now. While I don’t have any friends besides my husband either, I do have some connection to other people. You know, the Internet will come into your life, and this is great. Through the Internet, I’ve been able to connect with other people and find out tht I’m not alone on this journey. There are other children like you, and there are adults like me. This is sad, but it may help you feel less alone.

Keep on fighting, Astrid. I know life ahead will be hard for you, and even now I find it hard to appreciate the accoplishments you were so badly looking forward to, but as I said, I admire your perseverance. Without that, I would not have been where I am now.

With love,/P>

Your 27-year-old self