Tag Archives: Sensitivity

List of Things that Make Me Me

During the past week and a half, a lot has happened, and yet so little has. I spoke to the patient advocate regardng the recent diagnonsense. She recommended a second opinion at another hospital. For various reasons, I decided against this. My psychologist did consult a psychiatrist at the brain injury unit, who told her she was right that brain injury and autism shouldn’t really be diagnosed together, but the same goes for borderline personality disorder and brain injury. Now I’m left with a very confusing diagnosis. I think it’s going to be personality change due to a general medical condition (brain injury), but my psychologist also said something about generalized anxiety disorder and attachment disorder possibly going onto my diagnosis. And I thought I was the one who collected labels.

This is all very confusing, because I rely on concrete labels for defining myself. How coincidental that I just opened a journaling eBook to a random prompt and it told me to make a list of my uniqueness, my marvelousness, my talents. These are not psychiatric labels, because, although some people consider autism a gift, I cannot say that autism itself should be one of my talents. With no further ado, here is my great list of things that make me me.

  • I am intelligent. I have a lot of knowledge and I can articulate it well most of the time. I am good at analyzing stuff.

  • I can persever(at)e if I truly want to achieve something.

  • I am sensitive. Sometimes, this sensitivity causes me to experience overwhelm to the point where I appear uncaring, but I truly care about other people.

  • I am creative. I write, I craft, I make soap.

  • I have a pretty cynical sense of humor. I remember on my first day in the psychiatric hospital, telling jokes about how you could tell the patients and staff apart.

  • I am stubborn and I like it. My husband jokes that my parents haven’t made up their minds about anything since the 1980s. I am thankful not to be that extreme, but I can really want to be right sometimes.

  • I am a semi-successful blogger even though I haven’t been blogging as much over the past few months.

  • I am a good wife.

This list should or could probably be longer. It also didn’t really cheer me up. However, it does help me see that I’m more than my confusing set of diagnosense.

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.

Sensitivity Is a Good Thing

“You are too sensitive.” I and other people with mental health problems hear it all the time. I was raised with the idea that I should be more laid-back. Now I can see that being laid-back is good, but when it’s used to mean not to react to wrongs in our environment, it’s not so good.

Over at Pride in Madness, there’s a post on being sensitive. Its main point is that sensitivity used to be a positive trait. People who care about the world around them, used to be described as sensitive. Now, it’s used to mean “overreactive”. We easily forget that people who fought for the rights we now have, used to be seen as sensitive and overreactive, too. Women’s rights activists were diagnosed with “hysteria” as a way to silence them. This is a way for the dominantly male, White, heterosexual, non-disabled culture to keep its members in a privileged position. And this is exactly why we need sensitive people.

Everyone is privileged in some way. I remember last year considering the Black people protesting the St. Nicholas celebration in the Netherlands because of its association with Black slaves, overly sensitive. That was a mistake. I don’t promise I will never make this mistake again, and so I can see why men make the mistake of calling women overly sensitive and non0disabled people make the mistake of calling the disabled overly sensitive. This is, however, exactly why we need reminders from people like the author of Pride in Madness that sensitivity is a good thing, and that we need people who are sensitive to the wrongs in the world in order to make them rihgt.