Looking back at where you have been

(How You Live—Point of Grace)

So I wanted to write about the alphabet soup of labels that have been used on me over the past few years and my thoughts on each…as always, it is more about thinking things through for myself that for anyone else to read, but I am always happy to share my thoughts to whomever may enjoy them or benefit from them 🙂

So, I started with SI, self-injury…It was a way to grasp onto some small piece of control in a world that I was drowning in. When it had gotten the worst and I finally realized it needed to stop, I had recently stopped swimming, and while everyone thought of me as a swimmer still, to me I had lost that identity and I missed both the water and struggled with the loss of the identity. People at school still thought I was a “smart kid” but my grades weren’t the greatest and I had never fully latched onto the identity of being smart, but it felt that what little bit I had held onto was being ripped away from me…although looking back, the grades were probably at least partially a result of the other things going on in life, although it definitely was partly because I was reaching the point where trying harder and longer was no longer enough to make up for my low reading comprehension level—when reading comprehension only required knowing what the words meant, I excelled, but when it began requiring actually understanding written material I was a little lost. I had made up for it by working harder and longer, but there was more work and it was going farther and farther over my head…and then on top of the school thing, on August 10, 2008, I attended a new church. Taking me away from my old church completely changed what I saw as the course of my life and took away the things I had been looking forward to in the years to come. That was one more thing that was taking away my view of my identity and taking away my sense of control…I was struggling and the SI gave me a way to put the control back into my hands. It could cover up the pain in my life…I mean, yes, it hurt, but it felt better to be the one in control of my pain instead of feeling totally helpless needing to just endure the pain. I never WANTED to hurt; that was NOT the intent…it happens when the pain seems like the only way to feel okay. It isn’t to control other people. It is a way to feel control over myself. I let myself get walked all over, and hurting myself let me feel like I still had control over myself…is it fun to bruise my knuckles on occasion when I bit them too hard, certainly not, nor was it fun to feel the need to pinch myself to control pain, but it felt like a solution to my pain. I knew it was wrong, but knowing and being able to act on that knowledge were certainly different things.

I still refuse to label myself whatsoever with anorexia nervosa…yet…I was headed that direction my senior year of high school, and had I not noticed it and stubbornly known I was definitely not letting myself going there and forced myself to turn around, my life could have taken a very different path. It was NEVER about food, and NEVER about weight…it was simply another way to try to reach for control. I was losing my old church the rest of the way, and I was hurting…I wasn’t going to go back to self-injury, and I guess this was the next best thing I could reach for. It only lasted a couple months, but when I realized it, it was definitely scary to see where it could have gone…At the point I realized it and turned things around, I was NOT at dangerous weight, and was still eating three meals per day and snacks—I was not starving…did I lose weight, yes, but my BMI remained just barely within the healthy range, so it doesn’t feel like I really deserve the label of an eating issues kid, although I definitely know that people don’t usually feel like they deserve a label of AN even when they do…but I feel like for me it never went far enough to really label me that way…

I was going to go in chronological order of when things were suggested to me, and/or became problems, but it is hard to determine exactly what comes next…

I guess I’ll write about OCD next…when I told my friend about the food restriction when I got scared and was turning things around, she mentioned that I should look into OCD…I had no reason at that point to believe I had OCD and I didn’t really understand—I was attempting to research how OCD treatment is connected to anorexia nervosa treatment…and was not overly successful…I never really bought into the whole OCD thing and 99% forgot about it…until first year when I was hanging out with my friend and she said to bring up OCD with my counselor and I agreed to try…a few weeks later I successfully tried…however…when the obvious follow-up question of “why” was asked it was met with an “I don’t know” and the conversation was dropped and never retrieved…I attempted to elicit help later that year when I was terrified because my roommate had gotten sick, but my attempt was completely unnoticed as far as I can tell…which probably isn’t that surprising seeing as how my counselor at this point had not yet given me a way to communicate, and via email I had simply put it as a statement that I was coming unless I got sick because my roommate was sick, so without any way to know how I communicate and without any way for me to get help without drawing attention to myself, it is not that surprising that no one really knew what happened…I think it was that summer that someone else suggested OCD to me, which was what brought it to the forefront again, and when I went back to school in the fall using handwashing as a distraction technique and stuff I was finally ready to actually admit that there was a problem here…It was only the control the people mentioning it had seen at this point—the germ issues were pretty well hidden…If you wanna read more about my struggle with OCD I have written quite a few things about that…but yeah, there is no question that OCD was a problem for me…there isn’t much other explanation for my bloody hands, my refusal to eat and drink, my sanitization of my environment, my holding my breath in dirty spaces, and so much more, and I am SO thankful that I no longer have to deal with that. I thought last year that just not having compulsions would be enough to make me happy…After everything I had been through I had lost hope that freedom was possible. My counselor had told me so many times that it was hopeless and I was never going to be good enough that I started to believe it and lower my aims…but she was wrong. It took some time once I was recovered to really believe this was for real and not just a break or something, but I am so glad that I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore. The way it feels when you accidentally touch the oven when it is hot is how your brain feels when you have OCD. But rather than just a brief localized ouch, the whole brain starts to hurt like that. And you can’t just remove your brain from the heat like instinctively happens with your hand…so you do compulsions. Washing and avoidance are like a tiny trickle of cold water…it feels just a tiny bit less hot in just a small point, but that feels SO good you just keep doing it…yeah, the washing is annoying but necessary but it also feels like if you could just stop washing it would feel awesome because that is taking up so much time and energy…and while the OCD isn’t really about the compulsions, it feels like that is all there is, because the compulsions and avoidance seem like the entirety of the OCD—the reason behind the compulsions and avoidance becomes hidden under the compulsions and avoidance…so yeah…I am so glad to have turned off the oven and no longer have to deal with the OCD…no compulsions/avoidance, nor any desire for them 🙂

Completely unrelated side note…I should probably be careful with what I repeat…my radio stopped working like a year or so ago so sometimes I listen to my ipod when I ride my bike…and that was what I was doing a few days ago…sometimes when I am listening to something and I like it I repeat it…so I said “You’re gonna get mean. You’re gonna get tough. You’re gonna get physical. You’re gonna get out there and KILL!”…yep, I said that out loud…haha yeah…anyone who really knows me knows that although I love self-defense, I am not very sure that I could actually intentionally hurt someone even if they were attempting to kill me…but random people on the street don’t know that…

Back to what I was talking about, looking back at where I have been…before my second year, someone suggested that perhaps my reaction to going to the new church had become PTSD. I am not really sure I agree with that, primarily because there was no threat to my life, or anyone else’s…like yes, it was a huge deal to me, but part of the lasting effects I think I kind of brought on myself…I could see that I was being torn away and desperately desired for that not to happen, so I was taping over the weak spots holding it together which meant that when it finally was completely torn away, instead of one straight line taking off a piece of my heart, the was a jagged line that seemed as if nothing could ever match up enough to fill in the gaps…it was my holding on so tightly that I think probably ultimately made it so hard…but when you have built your life around a certain situation, and especially when this is where you have been “studying” social skills for so long but not well enough to have any transferable skills, it is really hard to be forced to leave and completely start over. This year I finally found peace with the situation. Yes, there are things that were hard and things I missed out on through the change, but there are also some good things that would never have happened (okay fine…and some bad things…I would never have gotten into counseling if it weren’t for people I met at the new church…so I would have been protected from some stuff)…but I have absolutely loved doing VBS, and have been the head teacher for the 0 to 2 year olds for the past few years, and that is something I never could have experienced, and while I am sure there are plenty of other activities I could have done instead, this one is not bad and is a highlight of my summer…unfortunately, this year I am unsure if I will be able to do it because of when it falls with my rotation, but I am hopeful that I will be able to at least volunteer a night or two even if I can’t lead (and chances are while I am there I will lead anyway if I make it—it wasn’t until last year that I was even aware that I WAS the head teacher…I naturally am inclined toward leadership so in the past I had taken on that role to some extent, but never knew that I was officially assigned that position…I just thought I was another volunteer in the room…but anyway, I love VBS and am glad I have gotten that experience…and actually, after reading this article , I am more willing to define the experience in the same way as the person who suggested it had defined it.

So yeah…social anxiety…this is another one I am super proud of where I have come. For as long as I can remember, I have been pretty avoidant of social situations. If I really had to do it, I usually could, but if it was reasonably avoidable, it was avoided…which is probably why I had the same group of friends through most of middle school and still didn’t know their names by the end of middle school…and why the new kids were usually my friends until they got in with the cool kids and left me behind…like, it feels good for you to thank me for being your first friend, but it detracts from the thanks when you have no longer been interested in being with me ever since the cool kids accepted you a few weeks ago…You would probably be amazed at how much of life I was able to navigate without speaking out loud and with minimal written communication…At some point first year I was talking to my at home friend and she was shocked to hear that I talked to my counselor even less than I talked to her, because I barely spoke to her…but she was my best friend so I was a lot more comfortable with her, and thus was much more able to speak even if I couldn’t say much…and plus my friend was so encouraging. Some of my favorite memories with her are of how enthusiastically she praised me when I spoke out loud, especially when I said something besides “yes” no” or “I don’t know.” In my records from third year I saw the diagnosis of selective mutism…at first I thought that was stupid because I always could get through the amount of speaking I deemed important enough to push through, but after more reflection, I suppose that I probably was at least on the bubble between JUST social anxiety and having SM…There was SO much more in my head that I really wanted to say that I couldn’t push through my mouth…It was painstaking at times to get words out that I really wanted to say. I would try so hard and not be able to say anything…It was as if my mouth and vocal cords were glued in place, and my feet were glued to the floor…If you imagine that you wanted to do cartwheels in the grass, but were wrapped up like a mummy and tied in place unable to move a muscle without great difficulty, that is what it feels like…it is not fun…I do prefer the older term, elective mutism, to the new term though…selective mutism to me feels more as if there is a choice involved in when to speak and when to be silent, whereas elective mutism doesn’t feel like a choice, rather it feels to me as if it describes more something out of my control that just happens in some settings…I say in some settings, because I have never had a large amount of difficulty in the classroom—that is the one setting in which I could usually speak whenever I needed to…which, unfortunately, means that now that I speak freely to everyone, the amount of talking I do in the classroom is kind of a problem because I start talking to the people sitting next to me, and I talk to myself, and I just say whatever is on my mind as soon as it pops into my head without thinking first about whether it is actually overly important or relevant at the moment…which means I get yelled at occasionally by teachers because I can’t keep my mouth shut and be quiet…but considering I came from being too quiet and getting yelled at by a counselor last year for not speaking enough, I will accept being yelled at for being too loud and obnoxious…although it hurts my heart when my friends tell me to shut up because I am being really distracting, because I try really hard to be quiet and not bother anyone, but it is like I can’t find the turn off switch and my mouth is constantly powered on, meowing like a cat and saying whatever is on my mind, and it bothers them, but I can’t shut up…I don’t WANT to bother anyone…I just want to make everyone happy, and I can’t. Sometimes I feel like I will never be good enough.

I guess next is the last one in my blog title…ASD…There is only one person who ever truly suggested that I had autism. Sure, one person suggested previously that I didn’t really seem to recognize or express emotions, but I believe that I couldn’t recognize them as well as other girls because I had spent so much of my life isolated, and didn’t express much, because expressing emotion tends to bring attention to yourself—attention that I preferred to avoid at all costs. Aside from that, the statement was a completely new proposition…I still do not really know what she saw in me to label me that way…I asked in writing the next week but she refused to tell me, because it is her clinical judgement and that is not my business and not up for negotiation. I was a compliant and respectful girl…okay fine…I was also passive and didn’t know how to stand up for myself…but not knowing is still really hard, because how can I argue against it if I don’t even know your point of view?!…yeah, I do still crave control, which means I want to know everything…I want to know why people have done or said things. I want to know what people are thinking…I get frustrated with books and news articles and movies, because they leave out what I consider the ending…to anyone else all the information needed is there, but I want to know more…One of the times she kicked me out (and then “apologized” and allowed me back) she connected the “autism” to my taking a little time to speak my thoughts…I think anyone with half a brain would realize that if speaking is terrifying then words will not come quickly…without fear I can now hold a conversation just fine…but with the fear, it was hard…The fear clouded my ability to process the words being spoken to me…it was hard to find words to reply, to shorten those words into something I could realistically convey, to force those words out of my mouth…clearly a conversation with me was going to require at least a little waiting if you were going to want spoken responses from me and do not accept written responses, especially if you ask questions that not only require more than a yes or a no, but also requires a significant amount of knowledge that I might not have or thoughtfulness that you are not allowing me enough time to procure…even without fear, I certainly cannot come up with a 10-page case presentation without stopping to think about my response first…in the real world, they call this successfully avoiding impulsivity…yeah, sometimes I start immediately, but I tend to pay for that in stupid things falling out of my mouth or coming out my fingers that I wouldn’t have said/written if I’d stopped to THINK for a minute…So, my opinion currently is that if you are not willing to give me a reason when directly asked why you think I may have autism, then I doubt that your assessment is based on anything about me. If someone I trusted thought there was a possibility I would be more than willing to look into it and collaboratively assess the possibility, working together as a TEAM, but unless/until someone trustworthy objects, I am closing the book on any possibility of autism.

So that leaves ADHD…This one is the newest and therefore the one I have had the least time to reflect on…At first I was a bit offended when it was suggested to me…Although it was someone who likely intended no harm, I guess it just wasn’t coming at a good time and my interpretation of the thought was that of someone looking for something wrong with me to discount my interpretation of how things were going…I thought I was having trouble concentrating because my life was kind of turbulent, and pathologizing that feeling felt to me as if she were telling me that I didn’t deserve to feel hurt after being abused and having my life and livelihood taken away from me…I doubt she intended it that way, but I was already hurting, and upset and this just made me feel blown off, and as if I didn’t matter…I don’t value myself very highly and therefore do not expect that much from other people, but I do deeply crave feeling accepted for who I am…not just tolerated based on what I can do for you, but accepted…the turning point in really believing it was in filling out a questionnaire about ADHD…it was intended as more of a survey than a diagnostic tool, but it kind of opened my eyes to the possibility that I really did have ADHD…every one of my responses fell within the category of possible ADHD…and many of the questions pointed directly at things that really bothered me about myself…I get really frustrated with myself sometimes when teachers yell at me for talking too much in class when I really wasn’t trying to be disruptive…I squirm and am always in motion instead of sitting still facing forward like a mature person…I am impulsive (there is a broken key on my keychain as a reminder from an event in which I acted impulsively…it is supposed to serve as a reminder, but the thing is that when I am about to act impulsively, it is not like I get a little signal or anything to look down at my keychain, see the broken key, and remember to reflect on whether or not what I am about to do is a good idea…but just if you were wondering, cutting your nice (expensive) lock off your bike because you played with and broke one of the keys is not such a good idea, especially when you actually do have four more keys that you could use to unlock it—they just aren’t currently hung on a keychain around your neck…)…and, well, I am distractible (there are a lot of examples I could use here, but a very recent example: I interrupted the sales person at the car place while she was talking about something to which I probably should have been listening to ask what the red button on her computer did—I really wasn’t intentionally tuning her out, but sometimes the background track gets so loud I forget about the foreground…haha…yeah…this is one of the areas in which the social anxiety actually was helpful…when it was harder to talk, I didn’t interrupt my friends or people providing me with information…I may still have been distracted thinking about that bright red button, but my mouth was shut so I at least wasn’t being rude and interrupting them…so yeah…after that long aside…my (former) counselor suggested I either give medication a chance or keep working with a counselor to try to learn to focus better (or do both), but my opinion is that if I have made it this far without official help, that if I set my mind to it I will continue to be able to work around this on my own…obviously if something changes and I discover that the frustration with myself has become too intense or the distraction and impulsivity start causing greater problems in my life then I am all for solving that problem, but I don’t really want to fix something that isn’t really broken…plus, in much of my experience, people are being medicated for ADHD because they are driving the people AROUND them crazy rather than because the symptoms are bothering them, and in my opinion, I am who I am. If you don’t like my unmedicated crazy self then don’t be friends with me, and if you are willing to accept it with open arms I would love to be good friends with you…I have nothing against people that do use medication whether they use it the way I would or not (as long as they are using it legally), but I just think that medication is not really right for me right now…besides how crazy expensive it can be…

…haha yeah…just wondering if anyone actually made it all the way to the end of this post…also, I decided I am tired of being a responsible adult…I kind of want to go back to elementary school where the most important decision I had to make was whether I would draw attention to myself by allowing the teachers to re-assign field trip groups after the groups had been announced when they realized I had accidentally been placed with the bullies, or if I would remain in the group for the end of the year field trip and just assume things would be okay (I selected staying in the group, and it wasn’t really that bad…not perfect, but certainly could have been much worse)…

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