The Mind as a Person, and Their Place in Their Family

People often talk about their non-neurotypical children as if they were robbed of their ‘real’ child. And while I can understand the frustration and loss involved with raising a child who may never speak to you, or spends hours in a room screaming-

That is their real child, and there is no untangling how their brain works from the person. It doesn’t mean that they can’t connect with that child as a person.

And demanding their ‘real’ child is essentially the changeling myth, in reverse: the child they birthed in exchange for one that is near identical, but ‘normal’.

I do not exist as a neurotypical person. A person that was physically identical to me but lacking my illnesses, my idiosyncrasies, my way of looking at the world-that would not be me, and could never be.


This post was born from the fact that I feel as if said hypothetical identical stranger was swapped for me at birth, and my neurotypical double was raised by a pair of very confused lesbians who obsessively collect trains, line their walls with bookshelves and chose a sperm donor who they hoped would produce a child that was a little like them.

So my family has me, an atheist neuroatypical bookish nerd who seems to lack anything in common with them. And until recently, I accepted my black sheep status, because despite a lack of understanding, I thought I was loved.

But yesterday, the topic of my young transgender cousin came up. She’s going to be a senior in high school, and both of my aunts insist on calling her by her old name and with male pronouns. It clearly hurts her feelings, and my aunt’s only response was she doesn’t want ‘someone like that’ in our family.

My young cousin has good grades, a part time job, and the most trouble she’s ever gotten in involved marijuana. (Like many other teenagers in America, she smokes it with her friends.)

By comparison, my two older cousins have stolen cars and wrecked them, gotten involved with underage girls, leeched off their parents, started fights, thrown things and sworn at their mother-but there’s no mention of cutting them off.

I had to come to the realization that the ‘me’ that my family loves is in fact not me at all, but the me that is related to them and passes for normal. The me that I would recognize as myself-the bisexual neuroatypical woman who likes collecting notebooks and dark chocolate-doesn’t exist for them.


There was a time that I wished that what was so different about me would go away-that I wouldn’t startle so easily, that I wouldn’t count patterns on the ceiling, get overwhelmed so easily by crowds.

Then I realized that if I pull at enough of those differences I would unravel myself. So many of those things being gone would mean that I would disappear.

So I came to accept them-even if living with them is less than ideal.


 

So, for those who feel like they don’t fit in with their family-who feel like the person who is embraced is a shadow or puppet show-

See if you can find a new family.

People who know who you are. All of who you are. Spend time with them.

Take time getting to know yourself.

Minimize time with your relatives.

Constantly holding up a mask and smile is exhausting. Don’t do it.

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Living Neuroatypical re: Job Hunting

No one likes job hunting.*

*Well, I’m sure there must be someone, as there are people who want to have sex with their cars, but as a general rule, even people who hate their current position aren’t overjoyed with the process of looking for another.

As a neuroatypical, I have to concur with the general rule on this one.

Job hunting isn’t fun.

Not necessarily for the same reasons.

Reason #1:

Job applications.

Type 1: The sort intended for jobs paid by the hour.

They are generally tedious, too long, dull, and numbing.

They are also not intended for people who aren’t neurotypical. A person with, say, ADHD, is going to have a much harder time with them, and some of them are timed.

The applications have questions intended to weed out those who lack the basic temperament or compliance for hanging up clothes, making milkshakes, and tolerating the general irritations of the position.

But the questions also have the side effect of weeding out people who may be perfectly competent, if not excellent potential employees, but don’t understand and/or misinterpret the questions.

Questions on applications for retail or food service jobs are often meant to be answered on a scale of 1-5, agree/disagree, which is already sort of a crap-shoot in terms of answering.

How much do you agree? Are you neutral?

When I filled out those applications, it seemed like I had to guess. And after twenty five questions, with another forty to go, I would be so overstimulated and irritated that I would have to go do something else for an hour or would be unable to process anything. And half the time, the application would have timed out, so I would have to start over again.

(I learned, much later, that (apparently) neutral or hesitant answers are negative, while answers that are at either end of the spectrum are seen more positively. If they’re the right answer, of course. )

When the question was ‘Everyone slacks off at work sometimes’, I said that I agreed, because that’s true. It isn’t as if we, as human beings, are not masters of dicking around. But this is a massively wrong answer, because since retail and food service workers aren’t meant to be human beings,  and therefore should indicate that they do not understand what ‘slacks off’ means, and that at work they are nothing but vessels for said work.

Being who I was, I answered the questions without understanding that mindset, and took everything too literally.

Type 2:  Resume and Cover Letter

This form of application is less tedious-but I wouldn’t call it better.

The resume is always the same, you arrange it in a way that is meant to appeal to the applied position, you send it.

But the cover letter?

If anyone is honest, a cover letter is half advertising and half blowing as much smoke up someone’s ass as you can get away with, each meant to be customized to each job you apply to.

As someone with anxiety and trying to find a spot on the spectrum: trying to constantly sell myself, while being all too conscious of the performative nature of the cover letter?

It’s like pulling teeth. It can get obsessive, writing and editing and trying not to sound boastful or boring and not being able to imagine how the recipient will interpret the letter, and any lack of response fueling the obsession, not knowing how to fix it, even with advice, a need to succeed and a lack of feedback causing the anxiety to rise, causing you to make mistakes?

It’s not a good place to be.

Oddly enough, I do better via phone and in-person interviews, when I get them.

Which leads to-!

Reason #2:

Interviews!

Perhaps there exists a human being so confident and socially calibrated that an interview is a pleasant experience from start to finish.

I envy them, if so.

There is a constant sense of performing a balancing act, in an interview. You must appear eager, but not desperate. Intelligent, but not a know-it-all. Friendly, but not pushy. And so on.

In a neuroatypical’s case? You have to constantly worry about looking normal, on a everyday basis.

A job interview is ‘I’m normal, why do you ask’, dialed up to eleven.

In my case, I have to prep entirely the night before, medicate, do numerous deep breathing exercises, and hope that absolutely nothing will go wrong because I can be sent into an anxiety spiral of panicked uselessness with something as trivial as losing an earring.

And the instant the interview is over? It will be gone from my memory, because I would be unable to store it, too busy appearing normal.

Let me set the scene:

Intimidating woman in a power suit, perfectly peach lips and sharp eyebrows: Hello.

Me, professionally dressed, with a smile that tastes like mouthwash and too many mints: Hello, nice to meet you.

Me inwardly: MY NOSE ITCHES is my skirt riding up should I fix it oh no now I’m fidgeting, that makes you look insecure? Or was it immature? Insincere? Shit, make eye contact! No, now you’re staring, look away, not over there, look in her direction, oh look a bird-

IWIAPSPPLASE: So, what interested you in the position?

MPDWASTTLMAG: (says rehearsed answer)

MI: What was that? You’re fidgeting again, stop it you look like a freak. Oh look it’s that bird again, hi pretty birdy. Oh, I hope it doesn’t crash into the glass. What if that window fell out and I died? Shit she said something, nod NOD DAMN YOU.

IWIAPSPPLASE: What is your greatest weakness?

MI: I can’t actually tell you that, because ‘I have generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and CPTSD’ translates to ‘useless DO NOT HIRE’ in interview-speak, so…now I have to make something up!

MPDWASTTLMAG: I’m really rigid.

MI: REALLY? THAT’S THE BEST YOU CAN COME UP WITH!? (falls into despair, hobbles through rest of the interview, crawls home, kicks off shoes, and is completely depressed for a week)

This will then set off my anxiety about literally (almost) everything, to the point that making any sort of decision, including what to have for breakfast, becomes crippling, as well as convincing me that trying to work is impossible, and that I would resign myself to subsisting on disability for the rest of my life, as well as building imposter syndrome. And so on, until the next one.

In Conclusion:

job-interview-stock-photo

This. This  about sums it up. Just with more fear sweat.