20 October, 2009

I'm a fake person.

Niyatee asked me another question. I like how I'm setting her up as this strawnormalperson, who exists to ask me questions so I can shed light on things in an interesting manner, like I'm a classical philosopher. For the record, she is much smarter than I am. And the reason she was asking me questions is that she's a neurology student and she works with people who have PTSD, and I think she was thinking about whether stimming is similar to the thought processes of non-stimmers who are under stress, whether it's a physical manifestation of something other people do invisibly. But for some reason, we/I got off track enough that I ended up telling her about this time when my friend told me about something really awful that had happened to her.

My immediate reaction was of a piece with my standard social interaction persona, which is, as I might have mentioned, a poor imitation of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. My voice is kind of soft and little-girl-ish, I am solicitous to the point of sometimes going too far, I interject, I tease. Not that I teased my friend when she told me what had happened, but I reacted the way my MPDG persona would react. I said, "Oh no! That's terrible! I'm so sorry!" in this breathy little voice. But then I thought: what the fuck am I doing? What she just told me is heartbreaking and infuriating; she deserves more than a shitty, cutesy performance of sympathy. So as she continued to tell me about her experience, I went and sat next to her at the table where she was sitting, and I looked at my hands, and I spoke the way God intended--in soft gray lines.

When I said this, Niyatee said some disclaimers about this being a personal question and she wouldn't be judgmental--but how do I actually feel when a person's in pain? Really. Because I had been saying, I guess normal people sense what other people are feeling, and feel what they feel, right? Is that how it is? Implying that I don't sense what other people are feeling. But when she asked me how I feel when someone's in pain, I felt myself starting to respond, "Oh no! That's terrible!"

Which isn't a feeling. And I just said it's an act.

What do I feel, actually? Maybe I feel interested. When I was a kid, I got bullied a lot and other kids didn't seem to respond to my expressions of pain, and they didn't seem to respond to logic. So I kind of believed other people didn't have an inner life. Even now, before I get to know people I tend to have a sense that they're different from me, inside. I can only be attracted to girls after I've seen them in a visible bad mood; I need physical evidence that they have feelings too. My immediate reaction to someone telling me that they're depressed or upset is that I feel closer to them, and more interested in them, maybe. Does that make me a bad person? I'm not really sure.

But I'm a behaviorist, maybe, when it comes to myself--I tend to think it doesn't matter what I feel. I might as well feel "Oh no! That's terrible!" Does it matter how I feel if I respond correctly? Not that I respond that well. My MPDG persona is a mess, I know I act like a silly little kid, but I couldn't talk in class or make friends without it. I need someone to be. "Be yourself" is the stupidest thing you could say to me, because I don't really remember who I am, and if I do find out, it won't matter, because who I am is not someone who can function in the outside world.

Something I know is that I'm not really a girl. I'm not saying I'm repressing transgenderism, because I don't think I really have a gender identity on a deep level like most people do. But when I was a kid, I definitely remember that my brain felt like a boy's brain. There was just something about it. When I read about how men and women don't get along with each other, I always thought the man's point of view made sense. I remember being scared someone would find out--that when I woke up in the morning, when I thought the word "me," when I wrote, the first image that came was always, I'm a man. There was something wrong with me.

But when I grew up in my mid-to-late teens, and started trying to work out ways to be functional, the idea of being male (and the fact that I thought of myself as maybe trans, and read about transmen, and wanted to look like a boy) was something I just didn't have room for anymore. I didn't have the spoons to transition, that was for sure. And besides, the MPDG box was the only one I could even halfway fit, and like the name says, it's a girl's box. And I wouldn't pass, anyway. I'm sure not tough enough. So now I'm a girl. Okay. Who the hell cares what I feel?

See, I am definitely not a classical philosopher because I'm not shedding very much light. I'm out to prove I've got nothing to prove, like Napoleon Dynamite. And what can I demand from the world that would make this stuff any different? What would the world have had to be like for me to not have had to learn all these fake reactions? And besides, it really is an innate good for me to notice when someone burns their hand on the stove and how to help them. Can I separate that from the emotional performance that I learned as part of that reaction? Also, I know that I have to batter my way discreetly through tiredness and executive dysfunction and shoes that are too tight and questions I don't understand, and can I really separate that from the injuries and illnesses that have either gone untreated or been diagnosed quite a while after they first appeared, because I didn't make enough of a fuss?

I feel really fucking sorry for myself, I know. But I just feel like I'm not really anyone, and that gets to me from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. I have felt like I wasn't anyone before but what I was really feeling was that I wasn't anyone normal. I'm working on getting over that feeling normal thing because it's never going to happen. Not very many people will ever get to know the real me because I am just too different but some people will and most importantly if I really get to know myself then it really doesn't matter if anybody else knows the real me. Sounds cheesy I guess but it's helping me.

    I care about others immensely, but I don't "care" in words or emotions. Normal people care in emotions and then express those emotions in words, but I don't naturally associate how deeply I care for someone to an emotion. Like you said, I have learned what to say in response to someone who is in pain. It's on a completely different plane void of emotion but that doesn't mean you don't care. It's just not a social concept of behavior yet because it's not understood. And even those of us who "feel" without emotions do not fully understand it. Sometimes our emotions or the emotions of others can mingle on that plane and confuse us about how we are really feeling, but I think people with AS need to understand that emotion is secondary for us and may not necessarily be the driver ( if it is, it's probably just by chance or learned).

    I don't think your reactions are fake just because they are learned. Your natural reactions are non verbal and non emotional therefore you have to learn how to get what you are feeling to come out in a way that others will recognize. You are someone. Imagine the real you being squeezed through a "normal" machine and then what comes out is how others see you. A representation of you in an unnatural form. Ya it sucks and it's lonely as hell but I understand and there are others who do to.

    If you think of the "normal" machine as applied behavior analysis like you wrote about in your last post then we can really use that to our advantage. And if our machine runs out of electricity (spoons) then we are pretty much screwed. Spoons are definitely the crux of AS. If we never ran out of spoons then we could be god damn experts at running our "normal" machines.