Saturday, August 1, 2015

Openness in the face of the fishbowl

Being honest about all of the aspects of trauma work, of healing oneself, can be pretty intimidating, especially once you start to have an understanding of who your audience is, and are publicly posting links to your blog entries on Facebook.
I have a little castle in my fishbowl. It is made of glass.

There are a lot of sources of judgment out there. Oftentimes the people who should really know you best and support you most seem to have the most difficulty with where you are at. And by "you", of course, I mean "me," and "I".

So why am I doing this? Why am I writing openly about my process and experiences?

There are a few reasons:

One is that certain people close to me, although on the surface aware of the stigma surrounding such things, and fully able to articulate how unfair and messed up and counterproductive the existence of that stigma is, experience the peripheral effects of that stigma and are embarrassed by it, challenged by it, or just plain tired of dealing with the things my brain does.

And I get that. I really do.

Because if you are having difficulty by association, imagine what it feels like to be the person directly in the beam of said stigma day in and day out. Imagine what it feels like at 300x magnification and not being able to just walk away from it. Imagine never getting a break.

Being the contrary sort of person that I am, I respond to judgment and condescension (intentional or unintentional), well-meaning paternalistic "shoulds", and misunderstanding with being more open. If we as non-neurotypical folks can bring our truths into the light of the mainstream, then folks who are neurotypical may come to better understand what we go through, and stop holding us to impossible standards and start seeing us for our strengths; as humans rather than "illnesses".

I am not ill. I am not broken. I am wounded, yes. I am struggling, yes, but the struggle is more often with the reactions to my Is rather than my Is itself. And struggle is that human thing which brings about personal growth - struggle is in and of itself not a bad thing. Struggle is a material you can build with if you are lucky enough to have the right tools or know how to make them.

I have learned to reframe PTSD as PTSI: Post-Traumatic Stress Injury. The reasons for this change are listed on the linked website, but for me they are simple: What I have is not a disorder. It has brought disorder into my life, yes, but a car accident does that to a person, or losing one's job, or to a much lesser extent, running out of coffee. But "disorder" has come to erroneously imply something permanent, mysterious, and destructive.

What happened to me changed the structure of my brain, and it can be changed back. PTSD has more in common with a broken leg that was improperly set than it does with a chronic illness or a disorder: It is painful to repair, and that repair takes persistence, and requires a solid support structure, but none of these are reasons to avoid repairing it when its current effects in my life are negative.

The anxiety, ADHD/I, depression - these are all symptoms of PTSD, which is in itself a symptom of a brain incorrectly programmed, in response to genuine dangers, to subsequently perceive danger where there is none, or where danger is within acceptable parameters (ie, walking alongside a busy road is theoretically dangerous, but socially "normal," whereas having a panic reaction to said traffic is not.) I am totally comfortable walking down a busy road, but experience anxiety triggers that are both physical and social and very much dependent on the specifics of the situation.

My work is twofold right now: working on healing myself, with guidance and patience and grace for myself from a better-informed position, and working on healing everything else: the societal misconceptions that keep the mainstream less or entirely inaccessible for people in my shoes, the judgments that keep us down, the misconceptions that see us rejected, marginalized, underestimated, minimized, and misunderstood because we have bones that did not heal correctly and, metaphorically, make us move in a way that nobody outside of this experience can understand.

The way we are seen needs to change. The way we are treated needs to change. As long as I live in a world where I feel I have to seriously consider the ramifications of outing myself as experiencing ADD or PTSD, it will not be safe for most people to seek healing. When someone is filtered out socially for being currently unable to engage in said society in the specific way arbitrarily decided and imposed by said society, what is that but fundamental inequality?

And what is inequality if not wrong?

I fight for myself, yes, but I also fight for everyone else. If outing myself in this way educates a couple of people, and changes a couple of minds, then the world will be a slightly better place. There's no harm in that.


  1. You are a brave warrior because PTSI is hard. I have too.

    1. We are both brave warriors! :) Thank you. Best of luck in your journey.