I don’t have a “real” mental health condition, I’m just weak, and other bad self-talk

One of the hardest things for me in dealing with my mental health condition is my very strong theory that everyone else is having exactly the same problems that I am, but they’re just 8 million times better at dealing with them, and hiding them from everyone else. And thus, I don’t talk about my mental health, much, because everyone else is obviously coping with the same thing, and I’m just a big whiner who can’t cope and fails at everything and is useless and should just run away and everyone will be better and– stop.

For extra special bonus points, my mental health condition will also remind me that if I just try hard enough, if I just do more things, I will prove that I’m coping Just Fine and everyone will love me and why would anyone want to talk to someone who isn’t doing all this extra stuff and if I just could cope the way everyone else did I wouldn’t have these problems and I would just be good enough and not have to do all these things and– stop.

It’s a fun game my brain chemistry plays with me and part of the reason it’s so successful is because of how mental health conditions are portrayed in popular culture.

I don’t talk about how my brain is working this week (this month, this semester) because I’m afraid. I’ve already experienced backlash related to my mental health condition online, and I fear “coming out” to my professors, my classmates, or the people on any of the six committees I’m on this semester because suddenly I’ll be weak. I’ll be the scary girl who might snap. Maybe they’ll ask about my experiences being detained by hospital authorities for “my own good”. Maybe they’ll start to doubt the validity of my research, or dismiss my opinions, or stop telling me about meetings, or start talking about me behind my back, whispering and then they’ll be making fun of me all the time and it will be just like high school and I am not sure I can cope with that again and I don’t want to go to the hospital and I don’t want to go to the doctor and tell them I’m not coping because they’ll lock me away and– stop.

It took me a decade of this constant self-talk before someone told me it wasn’t “normal”, and that I could get help to deal with it. And despite having gotten effective help in the past, despite increasingly being able to keep myself focused and on task and not falling apart all over the place, I’m still deathly afraid of talking to people about mental health concerns. I’m still afraid, today, right now, to go to my doctor’s appointment because doesn’t everyone have their heart pounding in their ears during class? Isn’t everyone convinced their profs all hate them? Doesn’t everyone think that if they just stretch themselves a little thinner, they’ll be good enough?

The only reason I resisted getting help for so long, when I could have been getting help as soon as I started having these symptoms, was because Mental Illness has a huge social stigma attached to it. People like me, who “just” have such bad self-talk that they harm themselves in ways that aren’t easily noticed (six committees? plus the writing for the paper? Plus the FWD/Forward blog duties? Not to mention trying to finish the MA in a year? With a husband who’s recovering from cancer surgery and has a disability? And trying to make sure everyone eats healthy, and trying to keep the housework up? Self, what are you doing? Besides doing it all wrong, of course.) can end up not seeking help because I’m not crazy, I’m just stupid and lazy. We’re lead to believe “real” mental health conditions are like t.v. version of schizophrenia and movie versions of OCD.

I had a great ending planned to this, that would invite people to talk about how pop cultural portrayals of mental health concerns affected them. I also wanted to write about how I don’t want to put a stigma on schizophrenia and OCD, but on the way these conditions are portrayed in the media, but if I keep writing, it’s going to be another way to not go to the doctor and get a needed prescription for anti-anxiety medication. Last year I didn’t go to the doctor until I thought I was having a heart attack and could barely breath.

But it’s all in my head, right? People like me, we’re just weak.

35 Comments

  1. I’m not crazy, I’m just stupid and lazy.
    I hear this thought process from myself all the time and it just is so hard to ditch, particularly in terms of ‘you shouldn’t sleep so much/sit around playing computer games/RP/clean the kitchen when you could be doing schoolwork, you could be so much better’.

    My best to you.

  2. thank you. that sounds like what goes on in my head everyday. and i have always been like this, so that just makes it normal and not really an illness, right?

    whenever i see a mentally-ill person in the media, or read about someone with a mental health condition, i go through exactly this process. even now, reading your account, i have been telling myself, “well, you don’t have anxiety like that, so clearly you are just a big faker. your heart never pounds in your ears.” add in a chronic illness that many folks “don’t believe in” (fibromyalgia), and i feel like a lazy, incompetent fraud all the time.

    no one could ever say anything worse about me than the things i think about myself.

  3. Anna, I feel like you are inside my head right now. Or I am inside yours. Or our heads are in the same place. Something.

    If I can just do more people will like me. I just need to try harder instead of being weak. Of course everyone hates me and thinks that I am worthless. Doesn’t everyone’s heart pound every time the phone rings? At the very thought of any kind of social interaction?

    no one could ever say anything worse about me than the things i think about myself.

    This.

    It’s a fun game my brain chemistry plays with me and part of the reason it’s so successful is because of how mental health conditions are portrayed in popular culture.

    And this.
    .-= meloukhia´s last blog ..This Is Just to Say =-.

  4. Thank you! I really do forget sometimes that not everyone puts up with what I do–that anxiety and depression are things I should get treated for; if I can get rid of them, I am not obligated to live with them.

    About the point you were thinking of making: the only positive-and-accurate portrayal of OCD I can think of is from the TV show Criminal Minds. A cop whose OCD causes him to write down his day obsessively discovers a serial killer is working in his area, because of his extensive records. He’s also a decent human being who cares about the poor and the homeless, and is willing to defy his superiors when they don’t care that drunks and druggies are mysteriously disappearing. In the portrayal, “decent human being” matters much more to his characterization than “OCD”, which is just a sidenote the main characters notice because they’re psychological profilers.

  5. Great Article.

    As an Aspie it is apparent there is something different about me from the get-go. I’m strange and am generally OK with that. I know what I’m capable of, love a challenge (thank goodness) and am academically confident in my abilities. Other people however are not so sure about my behaviour. As a result I’m often overlook, talked about behind my back, spoken to bizarrely and purposely left out of social and job opportunities.

    Professionally I’ve yet to disclose to any colleague or client that I have aspergers. The reason – there are people who I deal with directly who have discussed openly their beliefs that Aspie’s and Autistics are “spoiled”, “frauds”, “don’t understand what they are talking about”, “act like parrots”, “have no brains”… the list goes on. My fear is that their mis-understanding will ruin my professional career entirely. At the moment they think I’m odd but capable. If they know I have aspergers they will think that I am not only socially moot but academically not qualified.

    Living in the closet is an everyday struggle that is not healthy to their illusion of reality or my mental health.

    Perhaps it is just the affirmation of my recent diagnosis (previously I was self-diagnosed and thought myself completely incompetent) but coming out sounds more and more positive. That is until I’m about to do it and then, all over again, the destructive thoughts come creeping up.

    Having “disabilities” allows us perspectives that others aren’t naturally afforded, we need to work twice as hard to live our reality and theirs while forging a third. That takes guts.

  6. I struggle with feeling like a fraud too. For me, my disability is highly unpredictable in both its presentation and its severity. When it’s acting up sometimes I can barely speak or concentrate, I become exhausted from the constant ticcing and taking care of myself becomes a real chore. On good days, though, I can be almost symptom free.

    It’s when I get those almost-symptom-free days that I start to get the nagging thoughts that I’m somehow faking or malingering my condition. I start to feel that maybe I want to be disabled, maybe I want to have tics for the rest of my life, maybe I ENJOY THE ATTENTION! If I would just fight my tics when they would happen I wouldn’t be such an ATTENTION WHORE!

    Right, because I like the attention strangers give me when they get up out of their seats to avoid sitting next to me. I like it when mothers heard their children away from me. I like it when predators target me because I’m “more vulnerable” than other women. I enjoy the pitiful stares and the coddling attention on the bus. I enjoy having my very identity as a woman questioned because I have a mental condition (I’m trans, too). I enjoy having to worry about a whole NEW set of predators.

    Yes, the attention is just great.

    These feelings make it hard for me sometimes to be proud of who I am. Feeling good about myself sometimes just makes me feel like a fraud which makes me feel bad about myself. It’s a nasty bind.

  7. I’m joining the “did you spy on my brain?” line-up. This is all so very, very familiar. At the moment, I’m fighting my way through a stronger-than-usual bout of “but you’re not REALLY disabled, you’re incredibly rude and appropriating the way you act as if you actually *belong* on this site, the way you take away attention from the Real Disabled People” myself. Probably set off by the fact that I have an appointment with the disability service next week and am considering coming out to people. ._.

    The idea of coming out is absolutely *terrifying*. I know the way autistic spectrum disorders get looked at, and I just. Dread. This idea of my coursemates, or my supervisor (my supervisor especially, since I want to impress him and be the most awesome PhD student ever and I can’t shake the feeling I’ve been lying to him by not telling him when I applied, even though I wasn’t even diagnosed at the time) looking at me and trying to fit me into their mental image of “Asperger’s” and all the stereotypes they’ve probably absorbed instead of just seeing me as Kaz like they do now… I want to sink into the floor just thinking about it. 🙁

    Incidentally, I wanted to thank you for mentioning that anxiety caused you to feel as if you were having a heart attack – I’ve actually been wondering if I’ve developed heart problems because my heart feels weird if I get too shocked and it is just beyond terrifying.

  8. What really gets me is that I’m not the only person who thinks that I just have to try harder. People around me do too. I had an appointment at a clinic a week ago to discuss if I want to get help there. The clinic is more or less the only option for me because my assurance won’t pay for anything else. My problem is that I have a huge amount of baggage and that the environment of a clinic triggers about four or five different anxiety issues and paranoia for me. I had my first panic attack in ages. In the end, just spending three hours there turned me into a total wreck. I tried to explain that to the therapist I was speaking to. She didn’t get it. In the end she told me that I just needed more motivation and that I have to try harder to make it happen. It was a punch in the gut, because for once, I knew that I couldn’t try harder and that this “help” would probably only make me worse.

    I think this “try harder” approach to depression (in my case) is something that is very much part of society. Because behaviour that might indicate that you’re not “trying hard enough” (-> refusing medication and/or a therapy, talking about it in the open, etc.) is often portrayed as wanting to be sick and secretly enjoying it. Not to mention that I’ve actually been told that I’m just gagging for attention when I bring up my depression when it’s on topic. Yeah, great. So you’re punished for behaviour that indicates that you’re not trying hard enough to persons without mental health issues.

  9. I’ve got a “legitimate” disability. I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since age 10. However, due to the nature of my fluxuating symptoms, being the youngest of five, and living on a dairy farm where lots of work needing to be done, I was treated to a fairly consistent barrage of “you’re faking how much pain you’re in to get out of doing X”. Or “you just did X yesterday, so why can’t you do X today?”. My mom was very busy and rarely intervened, and I didn’t know how to advocate for myself, and had no models of how to BE with the disease.

    So I learned to hide my chronic symptoms, be ashamed, and started the rounds of self-talk. Over many years this led to extreme anxiety and depression. I didn’t want others to “find out” what a “faker” I was.

    It wasn’t until after college that I finally started being open with people about my disease, about my limitations, about needing help. It wasn’t until about 5 yrs ago, I started to admit I was actually part of the disability community.

    Reading your post, it felt a lot like 20 yrs of my own stuff, and I wanted to share how someone with a physical illness can have similar issues.

  10. It’s odd you should write about this today – I was wondering the same. I’m having a bit of a bad week with anxiety etc. and have been prey to constant thoughts that perhaps I’m not “really” ill… It’s a pain, and I wish I knew what to do about it.

  11. {{{{anna}}}}

    i hate the “just try harder” and “all in your head” things. it took me years (almost 2 decades) to get to the point where i can (usually) accept my limitations and stop letting drs (and others) bully me into making myself sicker.

    after i got sick in 1980, the drs couldn’t figure out what was wrong — so obviously if i wasn’t so lazy and just tried harder, i’d be fine. feh. feh at the lot of them. (i truly believe that if i hadn’t continued to force my body to go until it collapsed repeatedly during those years, my body wouldn’t be so much omre damaged now.)

    i suspect now that a lot of it is that the currently healthy are terrified of the idea that there are things one can’t force one’s way thru, whether it’s a visible or invisble disability. and anything outside the norm is threatening, too (like, say, plurality — because “everybody knows a body can only hold one person” — one pdoc told me that, in those very words once…)

  12. I’m thirding or whatever number we are are the feeling of you being in my head today. I feel so guilty about calling myself disabled. I’m a big fakey faker taking away resources from deserving people. I just know that everyone will find me out and laugh at me.

    I just know if I was just a better person, I wouldn’t be like this. This also handily ties into my dark thoughts that my first mother gave me up becuase she knew I was a bad person.

    The best part is realizing this is fucked up thinking and not being able to stop it.

  13. Dear lord, does this describe me for the last decade. I think part of the issue is that so many ‘symptoms’ are things that everyone feels from time to time, and they don’t realise that while they sometimes just need to ‘buck up’, for others that’s just not possible. It took me flunking out of university (in my last year, after years of getting progressively worse) to finally seek help, and THAT was only because the department head told me to. I’d noticed I was having problems back in high school, so I was suffering for 6+ years before looking for help. (And of course, what do I get from my parents? ‘You don’t seem depressed.’ Yeah, because that’s who I’ve been for the better part of a decade now!)

  14. @Kaz: similarish boat here, though obviously with differences. I’m playing the ‘is it worth it in spoons to try and prove myself “disabled” in a university context’ game, as well as the ongoing ‘you don’t really belong, don’t appropriate’ game.

    I should note that the latter isn’t just an issue for me in terms of defining my disability, but in terms of queerness and gender identity and even feminism sometimes. I’m sort of in the middle on everything (bi, genderqueer, dealing with My Little Neuroses)…again what Anna said about the voice, I suppose.

  15. As others have said– yes, this, exactly. I’ve had generalized anxiety disorder all my life, which wasn’t diagnosed until last semester, in the throes of a major depressive episode it brought on. And the depression has gotten better, but the anxiety hasn’t. I hate not knowing what’s going to be happening in my head from one five-minute-period to the next. The thing I hate most is that for me, it’s cumulative– I get anxious, and then I become hyperaware of it. So I’m anxious, and I’m anxious about being anxious, and I’m anxious about being anxious about being anxious, and it’s just– easier to stay in my room most nights because of it. And then I feel isolated and blah blah blah.

    So yeah, I would LOVE to see a good portrayal of anxiety and/or depression in the media, like a REALLY REALLY good version. One of the better ones I’ve seen was Andie McPhee on Dawson’s Creek– they did a lot wrong with her, but she was a character, a person, first (for an entire season), and a character with a mental health issue second. And in her struggles, we also got to see the struggles of those rallying around her– but they DID rally around her, and accept it. And then they shipped her off, which I wasn’t too happy about, but I think it was mostly that the actress was in her thirties and not wanting to play a high schooler any longer.

    I first saw the episodes in which she has a breakdown in syndication, a couple of years after my own depressive breakdown and it really hit me hard, but in a good way. Here was a character on TV with whom I empathized, and with whom I was meant to sympathize. Those two things often don’t go hand-in-hand for me. I have it on DVD and keep meaning to watch it again, now that I’ve been diagnosed not only with depression but with generalized anxiety disorder, and now that my most recent depressive episode is no longer so far in my past.

    I also have a lot of thoughts about how a lot of the Kimmy Giblers and Urkels and Rachel Berrys (since I’ve already brought up Glee) are probably not just oblivious, but neuro-atypical: when I see Rachel Berry, I see myself in high school, a scared girl who had been scared all her life and learned to hide it with bravado, because bullies never quit when you’re an easy target. And it’s so damaging to keep reinforcing their behavior as something that is OK to laugh at.

  16. Hi everyone,

    I’m not actually able to respond to comments because I’m doing that thing, but I have read them all. Thank you.

    I was very brave and now I have meds from the doctor and even made a follow-up appointment. Go me!

  17. You are me and I claim my five pounds.

    I’ve been depressed (more or less) since I was about fourteen. Since I’m now thirty-eight, this means I’ve now spent more of my life being depressed than I have not being depressed. Given both of my parents (and at least two of my grandparents) were also depressed, I don’t have much experience of how not to be depressed. I grew up in a family culture which was about depressive coping strategies, one of the primary ones being outright denial. End result: I wind up rather neurotic about what counts as “normal” – to the point, perhaps, of trying to be hyper-normal.

    That said, life is a bit easier to deal with since I’ve realised my “normal” and other people’s “normal” aren’t the same thing.

    But I totally understand the almost frenetic pace of trying to conform to what other people’s “normal” might be, trying not to show up as mentally ill, trying not to surface on people’s radar as odd. The fear of being institutionalised (which in my case kept me from seeing a doctor about my depression for about sixteen years) or of being medicated into a stupor. The fear of showing up as “different”. The strange joy of realising yes, the stresses I’m under at the moment would make anybody buckle, so me wanting to hide in a corner and scream until my throat breaks isn’t actually unusual, or weak, or pitiful, or silly.

    The truth of mental illness is yes, some of the things we experience are things which everyone experiences, such as anger, frustration, guilt, joy, elation, imagination etc. However, we may experience them for longer or shorter duration, at a greater or lesser intensity, or on a different frequency to other people. We might experience them for reasons others don’t, or for no reason at all. There’s also the things which other people don’t experience, which we do, and which can’t be explained, or shared, or understood unless you’ve been there. The human mind is a mystery to just about everyone; those of us who aren’t “normal” get to have a mind which is a bit more mysterious than most.

  18. @sophiefair: I have the same problem with my ADD. People “don’t believe in it” and/or insist that it’s over-diagnosed. Same is true with my learning disabilities.

    @Anna: I’m also having the same problem with doctors right now. I know I need one. I really need to get back on my meds for my ADD, depression and anxiety (and I should talk to one about some other stuff too). I just hate going to them and have had two really bad psychiatrists in the last couple years. And then there’s a bunch of other stuff going on in my life that makes it difficult for me to even begin to look for help.

  19. Yes. Periodically I will “crash”—get to the point where I can no longer keep up and will just. stop. functioning, and well-meaning people will ask why I didn’t get help sooner? (Answer: for all the reasons you give in your post, Anna.)

    When you see your co-workers easily doing eight-hour days, or your fellow students excelling (or just plain staying awake in class), or just “letting it go”—seemingly everyone else on the planet keeping it together—it is so damn hard not to deduce that there is something wrong with you.

    And when you have never really experienced “normal” it is hard to tell what an acceptable stress threshold is. And you become obsessed with it. You ask yourself when is it appropriate to break down, to cry, to pack it in?, instead of asking, what are my limits? What is enough for me? Yes, I know a “normal” person would get out of bed now, but how much rest do I need?

    And with that, time to go to bed. Congrats on getting meds & the next appointment Anna!

  20. thank you for this post. and: i don’t know for sure if i would have sought help i really, really needed a few weeks ago if i hadn’t read so many stories over the past couple years from other people, mostly on the internet, suffering from this kind of mental health issue, the kind you convince yourself “isn’t a big deal” because hey, hating your life isn’t a big deal, whoever said you deserved to be HAPPY? i like to think i would have, because at this point i’ve been there and done that, but… you know how it goes. so, thank you for making me feel less alone, and also thank you on behalf of anyone who might be reading this and might not recognize themselves in it now, but who might subconsciously wind up using it, even if they forget about this specific post, as another brick in the foundation it’ll take them to realize they deserve help to.

  21. I find myself nodding along to this as well. My situation is slightly different (and a part of me is saying “less severe” but I’m trying not to listen), but even with my mental state in a good place, I still keep getting sick, like a leaky pipe that gets fixed only to burst right next to the patch. After each patch, I resolve that “this is the last time! everything will be ‘normal’ from now on!”, until the next crisis.

    So now I cornered myself by talking it out with my parents (so they can remind me if I “forget”) and even broaching the topic with my boss while home sick last week. Now that I’m “well” again, it’s hard not to backtrack, especially because my boss is highly optimistic still (even after 9 months he still sincerely believes that this will pass, that I’ll make it through the winter without any more illness). Because the voice in my head (and some people – not friends, mind you, but their voices are still loud) keeps telling me that I should be able to work a 100%, without falling sick every month, that with the depression held in check by my meds, everything should be fine, I shouldn’t need any more time off than a “normal person”. Except that, after 9 months in my first full-time job and 9 months of one crisis after the other, during which I started immersing myself into disability (and feminist) blogs, I think I am slowly getting to the point where I will stop listening to the voice and start listening to my body.

    So, thank you, for another voice that makes it easier to accept me for me, limitations and all.

  22. Some of my mental health conditions are real enough. I got physical scars and have been hospitalized for them. They did not turn out to be good places for me to get treatment. I mostly was not treated actively badly though no one at all wanted to help me deal with (or hear much about) my gender which I thought was kind of an issue. The county hospital put me in a room with someone who could not sleep with the lights off and panicked in the dark and would neither move me nor give me drugs to sleep in those circumstances anyway. I tried blindfolding myself with various things and it didn’t work; they let in light anyway and I can’t fall asleep with something on my face like that. They for damn sure taught me to not tell people when I was having thoughts about blood and death because I did not want to go back.

    What isn’t real is being on the autism spectrum. I haven’t been diagnosed by a professional, y’see. There are reasons why not, mainly having to do with being older. I’ve started poking around at the possibility of getting diagnosed now but who knows. So I am very careful who I say “I think I’m this way” to and how I say it. I… oh, I don’t know. It makes me want to cry a lot. There are so many things that fit and it would be nice to have an explanation and not just be fucked up and weird and it be all my fault and shit my grandmother might have sent me away to one of those Bad Kid Institutions for real like she was saying and I should stop.

  23. It helped me a lot, realizing that all this negative BS I kept parroting back at myself actually came from other people. I’d heard it enough that I internalized it, to the point of continuing other people’s emotional abuse for them. (Recent posts: “[L]ook who they are and how many of them are saying it.” and Not taking care of yourself) It’s hard not to pick up these kinds of messages if you’re sufficiently different from what’s expected.

    Just realizing that has helped some. So has applying the “Would I blame any stranger on the street for this, much less someone I care about?” standard, to put things in better perspective. Many health-related things just are not measurable with current levels of knowledge and technology, which does not make them any less real. I still fight feeling like some kind of fraud in a lot of areas of my life.

    Getting treated that way–at least as “not trying hard enough”–by people who should know better will do a lot to keep a person away from “help”.

  24. This is such a great post.

    My therapist and I end up talking about this all the time, because I basically feel like a huge failure at life since it seems like everyone I know who has had to deal with similar things has handled them so much more gracefully. I feel like I should be able to develop a work ethic and really make something out of myself.

    But first of all, no one has lived my exact life circumstances, and the ones who are bearing up more gracefully? Often they are not dealing with depression to the extent that I am.

    I wish it were something I could just will myself out of. It’s not like I enjoy feeling this way. And the fact that I am managing to do most of the things I “should” be doing is, for me when I’m feeling generous with myself, an indication of how hard I am working, even though when I’m pessimistic all I see is my failure to excel.
    .-= Gnatalby´s last blog ..The Dumbing Down of Disability on Glee =-.

  25. I grew up feeling this way, terrified my parents would commit me, like my sister. Began seeking treatment at 35. (At 40 I discover my sister committed herself!) Lotsa drugs, lotsa talk, lotsa wonderful friends. Still can’t shake it.

    Thanks for putting it into words.

  26. “no one could ever say anything worse about me than the things i think about myself.”

    This. It *might* be possible for someone to be worse than the things I say about me, but it’s not possible to be worse than what goes on in my head. (I’m many, it isn’t just me that beats up me) (And one of the main themes of beat-up-on-shi is ‘you’re just inventing being many for attention’. which is kind of funny when it’s coming from someone else inside. :P) (The argument for not making it up is also strengthened by the fact that there’s an alter missing right now and I miss her terribly and if I was making up I’d be able to bring her back by force of will wouldn’t I :P) (Many also means I can *know* the message is bullshit, but I can’t shut it up, because it isn’t me saying it.) (Yay parenthesis!)

    Really, the best thing I ever did for me was dropping out of high school. The panic attacks and the depressive episodes over assignments and grades and I should be able to remember it normal people can remember that they have homework and etc – was not worth it. I don’t *like* school, and I have given myself permission for this to be okay. it only took ten years 😛 (thirteen if you count kindergarten and preschool, which I don’t because I don’t remember them and thus don’t know if we hated them.)
    .-= Shiyiya´s last blog ..Boycott Method =-.

  27. I’m really glad you wrote this.

    I have a terrible time with thinking that everyone is coping better than me, that I *should* be able to do more, to work myself into the ground without complaint, blah blah blah.

    It’s hard not to be able to do it, and it’s even harder to be totally convinced that I SHOULD.

  28. GOD YES.

    I’m so glad you went to the doctor’s, Anna. I wish I could be there for everyone who isn’t able to go or needs support, and offer a hand to hold if they wanted it.

    I personally am finding, strangely enough, that being out of school for the first time ever – for longer than summer break – is helping a lot with my anxiety. I have other issues, but not having to worry about all of my classes and all of my commitments and all of the ways I was failing at everything is… it’s amazing. At my job I am the lowest person on the totem pole. I show up, someone tells me what to do, and 99% of the time it is just “Do the best you can.” I do well. I go home and I don’t have homework and I can just – breathe.

  29. What isn’t real is being on the autism spectrum. I haven’t been diagnosed by a professional, y’see. There are reasons why not, mainly having to do with being older.

    Your difficulties are no doubt real regardless of their name.

    My sympathies with being a lost-generation verbal autistic. Those of us who were adults before autism-diagnoses without speech delays were invented seem to get a lot of this “you are making up your neurological condition” stuff unloaded on us, along with a bunch of belittling “aspergers syndrome is contracted by reading the wikipedia page on aspergers syndrome” type crap.

    Autism experts who are actually doing research and counting things say that people who self-diagnose are usually correct. Knowing that won’t help you find somebody who’s willing to help you as an adult and will do an assessment for anything like an affordable sum, but maybe it’ll make it easier to remember that you are not making this up.

  30. Don’t know if it helps, but I was diagnosed autistic at age 24, and my mom at age 54, so it’s not impossible. Key is finding someone who actually knows their stuff to diagnose you, though. But that goes for people at all ages who want or need a diagnosis.

  31. You are seriously echoing everything I’ve thought regarding myself on my own mental health and such. Only I don’t stop myself as early and really should.

    Only really one of the things I deal with is diagnosed and the others are only suspected, but they all impact my life really hard. And I tend towards the idea that I just suck at handling all this. It doesn’t help that I have this distorted golden age view of the past, where I keep thinking I could handle all my issues better (in reality, as I drank away my bodily dissonance, I also drank away the anxiety, depression, and the stress from the ADD). I was also medicated for the ADD back then (although the meds were a major IBS trigger). But it still doesn’t stop my brain from setting up that golden age bullshit of, “but you could handle it all back then! Why are you so broken now?”

    I’m not even sure if it’s all society depiction either. I think I’ve still got some denial steeping in me, regarding me being PWD and having the mental health troubles I do, that tries to crawl up out of the deep abyss of the self hating parts of my brain and proverbially whispers these awful things into my metaphorical ear in an effort to convince me that no, I’m not PWD, I’m just useless.

    This nasty little worm of denial pulled this crap with being trans too, so you’d think I’d be familiar with its tricks by now. x_x
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..Murphy’s Law And Disability: The Week From Hell =-.

  32. Urgh, I hate it when people talk about Asperger’s as “something you get from reading Wikipedia,” and wrote my most recent blog entry on that. I do have an official diagnosis, but I relate to this post and comments so much because I’ve so often thought that well, I’m just making excuses for myself. I can’t be autistic–I’m just a messed-up, badly behaved person in some vague, undefined way. I think this might also be something of a gender issue, since women/girls are less likely to fit the stereotypical image of a verbal autistic person–though, of course, many men don’t either. And I think popular perceptions of autism/neuro-atypicality in general have a lot to do with it, by defining autism/AS as nothing but a list of “symptoms,” rather than acknowledging the variability of our personalities and lives.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Denigrating Self-Diagnosed People Means Denigrating All of Us =-.

  33. Wow, I feel like you read my mind. My anxiety, and the related panic attacks and depression don’t feel “serious” enough for me to “bother” a doctor with (plus, I don’t feel the doctors take it very seriously) even though at times, it makes my life utterly unbearable; the absolute frozen terror in the pit of my stomach I get, and the energy I have to expend fighting it off, and the way it makes me react towards loved ones… and… and…

    Self, what are you doing? Besides doing it all wrong, of course.

    This.
    .-= Ruth Moss´s last blog ..Transgender Day of Remembrance, and an appeal to fellow Mummy bloggers =-.

  34. One more here — as a child, I was both TAG and was diagnosed with something called “developmental output failure.” Translation: really smart, could absorb just about anything, but as soon as you wanted me to talk or, horrors, write something about what I knew, my brain locked up. More recently, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and I often, often wonder if this isn’t just an updated version of the output disorder, or if one feeds into the other: can’t produce output, even though I know I know the material, panic ensues, output further decreased…

    When I finally got the right meds for the GAD, I realized the last time I felt so normal was before/around puberty.

    Feeding even more into the bad self-talk was that I had these issues while living with at least one if not both parents having OCD, and quite possibly my siblings as well. So not only was I frustrated with my inability to “meet expectations,” my parents were right there reinforcing those same messages. “We know you’re smart, so why are you failing this class?” I never had an answer that seemed “good enough,” so I wouldn’t answer at all.

    I’m almost 32 years old, and only in the past two years or so has my relationship with my parents, especially my mother, improved. And that, I am convinced, is only because I was diagnosed with GAD, and she was diagnosed with OCD. It explains so much of my childhood, and it makes it a lot easier to both understand her behaviors that used to feel so pointed and personal, and to explain to her “this thing you do is triggering this kind of anxiety response in me, please stop.” I can finally give a “good enough,” in my own mind, answer to questions (usually of the “why do/don’t you?” type) that used to be unanswerable.

  35. Thank you.

    I keep getting told I shouldn’t just stay inside and read a book when I don’t feel I can face the world. I keep getting told I need to face my fears to figure out how everyone else deals with day to day issues–that once I do it, I’ll see that it’s easy and won’t hurt me. As if I never have tried this before.

    I keep getting told I need to “get better.” I hate that phrase. Like if I work hard enough, all my mental issues will just go away, and the fact that they haven’t is proof I haven’t worked hard enough at overcoming these obstacles that everyone else seems to have no problem dealing with.

    There are people around me who want to help me but are subscribing to popular culture models of how people with mental issues “get better,” where it all wraps up at the end of the hourlong drama with important life lessons learned. There are people around me who tell me that what I have gone through is not enough to have caused me to become someone who is occasionally unable to function outside her bedroom, and I am just lazy, just discinlined to live my own life.

    Thank you for echoing what’s inside my head when today I’m supposed to go to the wedding of a thin blood relation who was also one of my chief tormenters when we were in high school. Because we are “family” and apparently that means I need to “forgive and forget” rather than actualize my own desires to not have anything to do with a person who previously caused me so much pain. I’m not doing it for her–she has likely forgotten me. I’m not doing it for me–I don’t feel I have anything to prove but a lot of comfort to lose. I’m doing it for blood relations who want me to conform to their model of how life is supposed to be lived, and will not accept my desire to find the place most comfortable for me as anything other than the words of a lazy girl who doesn’t want to actually live her life.