ARtemesia on Identity: A Beautiful Work in Progress
Even before developing self-awareness, many of us may sense that something is off, something is missing in our understanding of the world. We just know that whatever is missing is what might help us make sense of the world and our place in it.
First, rules seem to be the key. If I follow this rule , if I do <this> , all will be ok. Only it’s not. We are staunch rule followers, often defining our own rules from past situations. It does not work.
Then, as ARtemesia notes, we see how so many others break the rules. For me, I even saw these rule breakers gaining unfair advantages.
It’s all too painfully confusing.
We become voracious seekers of knowledge and explanations.
Some of us might exhaust people with our questions, others quietly devour dictionaries, encyclopedias, books, and other media.
Where today Google and social media serve this voracious appetite for all knowledge, the gaping crevasse between us and the world of non-autistics never seems to fill. We cannot seem to ever find the elusive elements that will help us finally get “it”; get them, get to “us”.
ARtemesia details all of the ways autistics seek information; including copying of others who seem to know, perhaps in hope it will then make sense. We might put on the cloak of others but ourselves underneath remain an unsolved mystery.
Having no idea that we perceive the world differently or in what ways what we do see is different, we put the blame for our differences on our own shoulders. We become angry- angry with ourselves, angry with the frustration; we are failing at life. Our anger comes out in so many unhelpful ways.
“How can we “be ourselves” when so much of allowing is feeling, and feeling hurts so badly?’
As ARtemesia says, we don’t give up, we never give up. The flip side of such incredible strength in determination is not knowing when retreat is not synonymous with defeat.
Pouring everything we have into this effort of externally striving, seeking, fighting to have a sense of wholeness, we never realize we are actually pouring all of ourselves out.
The way to find our own identity is in being who we really are no matter how uncomfortable we are in our own skin.
“The doorway to realizing one’s true self is simply self-expression.”
“Through self-expression, we learn confidence.”
Dr. Michelle Garnett on Identity
Dr. Garnett expresses the belief that an early diagnosis is the best way to help girls have fewer issues with identity. She also details all the other things that supportive and loving people can do in a girls life to help her understand, accept and integrate this knowledge that she does experience the world differently and that it equates to being uncomfortable in many ways that her peers are not. Presenting the child with lists of strengths and encouraging pride in uniqueness along with the idea that they are not alone all sound so lovely.
I earned my skepticism, I can show you the scars. I don’t want to be negative here, I wish this were a realistic scenario for even a handful of precious girls. Loving, understanding, accepting people who have the time to figure out how to help a struggling autistic, as few as they are, face a gauntlet of people in positions of power who have vastly different ideas of how to “help”.
While I wish the above reality was mentioned here, the following reality was included.
“I find that knowing about Asperger syndrome for a girl on the spectrum is a precious gift, providing a logical, scientific explanation for differences that she is excruciatingly aware of, but in the absence of such an explanation she has received pejorative labels that are character assassinations, such as “difficult,” “lazy,” “naughty,” “stupid,” or weird.” Without a proper explanation, such labels start to form the basis of a negative self-identity.”
Dr. Garnett explains the mechanism behind how we do come to develop a healthy identity through self-expression.
“Often the person knows themselves, their thoughts, and their feelings only in action ( including in being), by expressing themselves through writing, talking, drawing, painting, dancing, theater, playing music, doing yoga, meditation, playing sport, being in nature, etc.”
My Personal Takeaways
This chapter gave me permission to not be so angry with myself that at nearly 53 I do not yet know my identity. I am truly a work in progress. It also made me realize that it was not a failure, it was not my doing, it was not all on my shoulders, not all my responsibility that I did not manage to feel ok in my own skin.
While I did discover some truths about who I am over the course of my life, I can trace each and every understanding to some form of action I took to reach outside of myself in some form of expression. I learned the most about life and my place in it when I first sought to instruct my own children. It was in taking up the job of defining, expressing, teaching and explaining that I learned to truly see the way things were.