Coming Out
January 26, 2011

So there's this rather well-known blogger who runs The Bloggess. She wrote a post Monday called "Coming Out" and it's not about being gay. It's about people coming out and publicly owning their mental frailties, illnesses, disruptions, whatever you want to call them. She decided to do this after a friend of hers lost her husband to suicide.

I do know that the speech she made at Tony's funeral was something that you might need to hear.
Tony took care of everyone. All the time. He was so busy taking care of everyone else, he didn't speak out when something was wrong.

And this is what you can do for me, for Tony, when you leave here today. All you men, you big men. When you walk away from here, you speak. If something is wrong, if something hurts, then you talk about. Tony was so busy taking care of everyone else, he didn't care take of himself. So after this, you speak.

This speaks to me for so many reasons. One, because I'm the person who takes care of everything and I mean *everything* and have since I was about seven or so. Maybe earlier. Two, I have never lived in a home without someone with a mental illness.

I have counted myself lucky that I do not have depression - I've had a couple of situational-induced bouts to be sure - but ongoing, clinical depression is not me.

I have friends with depression. With panic disorders. With anxiety. OCD. I have one friend who was horrifically abused who truly has multiple personality disorder (or borderline personality disorder, or whatever they've renamed it this week).

My mother's family was shaped by a narcissist and an alcoholic. Mine was as well, although my mother's took the form of a martyr complex.

A friend, in signing my sixth grade "autograph book," called me an egomaniac. After looking up the word to make sure it meant what I was afraid it meant, I vowed to think of others more. I was always looking for ways to improve, to "do life right."

With all the problems I saw around me, I vowed to be the perfect human ... which for some reason, in my head, despite really hating Star Trek because of William Shatner, I thought meant Spock. Emotions were simply useless things that got in the way. They confused and bewildered me. (And I mean that not in an emotional sense but as the inverse to a state of logic and comprehension of patterns.)

It wasn't until I read Elizabeth Moon's excellent book The Speed of Dark in August of 2005, that I began to have an inkling there might be something ... off ... with me. That perhaps my constant state of "outsider" was not due to everyone else but to my own brain construction or chemistry.

I'd had ADHD testing done in 2001 because after chemo, things I'd been able to control previously were out of control. I was having problems with motivation and organization, something that had not really been a problem before. But the doctor who did the testing did the absolutely bare minimum (and not really even that) and then left me to my GP who prescribed meds. Meds that I don't think did much of anything and so eventually I stopped taking them and really doubted the diagnosis itself.

But reading first Moon's Speed of Dark and then seeing some books talking about connections/similarities between ADHD and autism, I began to see a better picture emerge.

While Hans Asperger had noticed a set of behaviours back in 1944, his research didn't really become known in English-speaking countries until the early 1990s - after I had already graduated from high school. What is now called Asperger's is a form of high-functioning autism. And the more I've read, the more I've suspected this might explain why I was always so very different.

There's really no meds for Asperger's - instead, treatment is behavioural therapy. I read more and more about it, but didn't bother talking to a doctor. What was the point? I kept hearing story after story of insurance not paying for the therapies and that they were expensive. I was getting by - why go through the bother of a label? I would simply work on the less good traits on my own.

Except my wife was getting a little fed up. She didn't like this self-diagnosis business. Hmph. I was coping.

She didn't think I was.

And then an issue came up where all of this kind of came to a head. I'm missing too many social cues.

So, I've gone in for testing. I don't get to talk to the doc until Monday, so I don't know if I have Asperger's or not. Maybe it really is ADHD causing my issues - the doc tested for that as well. Hell, maybe it's both.

But the thing is, I'm taking positive action. And I am owning whatever the hell it is that makes me different.

Because no matter how different I am, there are others out there who are different like me.

And they need to know that being different is okay. It's okay to ask for help.

Hell, it's okay to revel in your differentness. I do. I'm PROUD of the fact that I am not like other people, that I am myself.

But you also have to coexist with other people. And if you're different, sometimes that means you need help learning how to be yourself, allow others to be themselves and coexist in a healthy and happy way.

Lori, I wish you never, ever had to go through what you've been through. There are no words.

But your words at Tony's funeral have been heard all the way around the globe. Loudly.

Tony took care of everyone. All the time. He was so busy taking care of everyone else, he didn't speak out when something was wrong.

And this is what you can do for me, for Tony, when you leave here today. All you men, you big men. When you walk away from here, you speak. If something is wrong, if something hurts, then you talk about. Tony was so busy taking care of everyone else, he didn't care take of himself. So after this, you speak.

You speak.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 26, 2011 7:35 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

Hooray for knowing!

January 26, 2011 8:56 PM

 

Claire said:

Loved this post dude, I am surprised the wifey got a chance to say something, what with all the duct tape an all :)

/serious note

Proud of you for writing this post and for going the docs, it will be interesting to hear what they say.

January 27, 2011 11:09 AM

 

Tara R. said:

You speak up and speak out. So much the stigma of thought disorders needs to be lifted.

I'm glad you went in for testing. Knowing is a big step in planning for your future. Good luck.

January 27, 2011 7:35 PM

 

inthefastlane said:

What ever it is, knowing and owning can give you an awareness of yourself and a better picture of how you interact with those around you. There might not be a "cure" or a therapy. But, sometimes some self-awareness can go a long way, if we are willing work to use it to enrich our relationships with others.

January 29, 2011 9:43 PM

 

Dawn said:

Had to look up your info today so I could recommend you for graphic design to a friend--glad I took a few minutes to check out your blog again. Very interested to hear what the doctor says, what you find out from the testing. The language is slippery isn't it? Asperger's/ADHD/whatever-else-fits-it-there. Been thinking about this issue a lot lately.

Anyway, I've always found you different in a good and easily relatable way, but I think you already knew that. So maybe that makes me diagnosably different too. Who knows.

Say hi to the wifey for me :)

Glad you're speaking.

January 30, 2011 2:50 PM
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