Building house

Petition to remove capital letters from online discourse.

I may be a non-conforming rebel, but I’d also like a writing gig someday. You feel? Ugh, just typing that made me squirm in discomfort. Some phraseology is best left on social media, where hipster lowercase, run-on sentences with no punctuation, and netspeak reigns free. “i’d also like a writing gig someday u feel” reads much better aesthetically than whatever mess  I typed up there.

The Internet gives everyone a voice. This is mine.

Stay tuned.

 

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The best part of “believe” is the “lie.”

Fake it ’til you make it, right?

My year-end review is this week, and it’s always an OCPD nightmare. In addition to talking up how good I am at my job (which I am), I get to answer these “competency rating” questions that assess my mind-reading and doormat skills, both of which I don’t have and refuse to learn.

Last year, I was honest and got tl;dr responses that basically outlined me as a shitty person who is to blame for all of my inadequacies–at being a mind-reading doormat.

This year, I’m getting creative. I already know my behavior has improved (thanks to the makeshift sensory accommodations I devised and tested myself!), and nobody can see inside the horrors of my mind except for me. I really have gotten better at not taking everything personally, even if it’s meant to insult me (passive aggression FTW!), which combined with the tolerable sensory processing actually makes me act like a decent person. Who’d have guessed?

I certainly don’t communicate with myself. I don’t uphold positive morale all on my own. I do what I can to create pleasant encounters with everyone I work with and I still get snapped at, ignored, or misunderstood. There comes a point when the problem isn’t with me anymore.

I have reached that point. I’ve spent the past 2 years hating myself for who I am and how I react. I saw five different therapists and one psychiatrist, and probably tried 13 different medications. I even got a neuropsychological assessment that I am undoubtedly dipping into my financial aid to pay for, the results of which have taken over two months now. Either they don’t have their shit together or I’m more fucked up than anyone can assess professionally. I kinda hope it’s the latter.

I’m done searching for the solution of a problem that doesn’t exist. There is nothing wrong with me. I do not need to be a mind-reading doormat to function in this world. I’m okay with getting low scores on my “competency rating,” because it’s a corporate assessment of my mind-reading doormat skills, not any kind of judge of my character.

I can only do so much when 99% of the “communication” involves deducing what the fuck’s going on based on the conversation around me. And as much as I would love to help out and “volunteer” to take on more work, others take advantage of that and it suddenly becomes my job. Fuck all of that. I work to get paid, I smile and pretend to be nice even when I don’t want to be, and I do my job well.

That’s all you’re getting out of me, and you can suck it. Review submitted.

Call someone who cares

I really cannot stand talking on the phone.

I have to do it for my job. It doesn’t actually bother me for work, because there’s only so many reasons people call and there’s usually a script involved. I don’t like getting them to leave voicemails when the person they need to speak with is unavailable, but I hold my own. I have been doing it for over 15 years, and it helps that I get paid for it.

Personal phone calls are brutal. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve made a personal call in the past 5 years, and one of them was a butt dial. My friends know better than to call me; it better be “I’m at a place and I need to decide something that will affect you right now” or text it.

When I was a teenager, I would hang on the phone for hours, but it was also the 90s and we didn’t have texting or Internet messaging. The minute that shit came out, I never called anyone ever again.

Except that doctor’s offices and businesses and Comcast tech support still require me to use my phone as a phone like it’s 2005. To be fair, Comcast does offer chat support, but the only time I call them is when my Internet isn’t working. (They still tell me about the chat function though, because that’s totally a thing I can do when I have no Internet connection.)

My phone rang five times today. It doesn’t even ring, because I cell phone noises annoy me, but I received five phone calls and three voicemails. Two were from Comcast, one was from the pharmacy that still hasn’t tossed my prescription even though I haven’t picked it up in over 3 months (I don’t even know what it is, honestly), one was my prescription health insurance wanting to refill a script (I can do that online?!), and finally some dude from California called and said half a word before hanging up.

hate talking on the phone, especially while I’m at work. Most businesses work the same hours as me, so it’s unavoidable. Not to mention Comcast is incompetent and called me about my service appointment after I had already cancelled it, so I was mad about that. By the time the prescription rep called, I pretty much told her I don’t like phone calls and to email me my reminders.

I know there’s a lot of judgment for people who are rude to customer service workers who are “just doing their job,” but their job interrupts my day and my work. And it’s always unnecessary. If you can send it in an email, don’t call me. I don’t want to talk to you. Ever.

I don’t have time to think about what I want to say on the phone. Everyone wants an answer right away. I don’t like my speaking voice or for that matter being addressed by my legal name–which is on all of my accounts everywhere. I will forego immediate responses for the convenience of sending a message. That is how much I despise talking on the phone.

Alas, the calls keep coming. I can’t ignore them without giving up whatever business I have with them. Nobody cares that I don’t like the phone. It’s how people are supposed to communicate. I need to get over myself and deal with it.

Just like everything else.

Internalized misogyny.

I’ve spent the past six weeks archiving 10 years of fanfiction to AO3 and let me confess here and now, 2008 Max was a full blown misogynist. Apparently, back in the year of our country’s first elected black president, men were only gay because women were unappealing. I think the descriptors used the most were “gross,” “emotional,” and for some reason “slutty,” which made no sense because all I wrote was smut and “slutty” should have been the golden ticket into the sex club.

I’m also going to diffuse the first two by saying that by definition buttsex is grosser than anything you can do with a vagina and the male characters I wrote were very likely just as emotional as I was accusing the women of being–because emotionalism isn’t a gendered trait.

Alas, I have no excuse for my actions. I was half-closeted (an out-and-proud bisexual because I didn’t know asexuality applied to me, but still cisgender) and writing for a fandom that was 100% male characters. The only women were cast in TV shows or crossed paths with our boys in other ways. (There were, and still are, no genderqueer or non-binary characters.) Those women, I treated kindly. They were written as feminine powerhouses. Not all of my writing was misogynistic. I didn’t hate all women. #notallinternalizedmisogyny

But still, it bothers me now. I almost didn’t want to archive these horrible representations of what I clearly thought romantic and/or sexual attraction to be almost a decade ago. Eventually, I figured out how to insert tab A into slot C without taking away the agency of tab B, but there’s so much backlog that was so well-liked at the time that I’m stressing out about how many influential minds I might have inadvertently swayed into similar mindsets. How many other writers did I influence to write the words “girls are gross” and equate terms like “girly” and “manly” with “weak” and “strong,” respectfully?

I am ashamed of myself. As a writer, as a scholar, and as the owner of a vagina and a bunch of feminine-identifying features that have had me fighting unflattering female stereotypes every single day of my life, if mostly in my own head.

I started this blog with the intention of never revealing my true biosex because it’s nobody’s business and not relevant to anything I post here. I don’t think people as a collective whole take women seriously, especially not genderqueer AFABs, and I wanted to see if the possibility of being read as a man or AMAB would make a difference. It was supposed to be a social experiment, but then I got really depressed and kept deleting my posts. I’ll leave the experiments to the professionals.

For topics like this though, my biosex is important because I was socialized as a woman against my will. I was socialized in this sex-saturated, image-focused world to look a certain way, act a certain way, and desire certain things, and I wanted none of it. As a kid, I wanted to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, wear jeans, and write fanfiction. I still do. Years of being held to these unfair standards of beauty and life have weighed on my conscious and made me resent anything and everything that falls under the umbrella of “womanhood” (and heteronormativity) as presented as femininity.

Clearly, that bled over into my writing. Looking back now, I had no business writing about monogamous relationships at all–I still don’t. The only way I could bottleneck my pov into being attracted to only one person is to either take literally everyone else off of the market or make them undesirable. I don’t think that’s how it works in real life. I wouldn’t know. I’m polyam as fuck, and I have been since I wrote six different boys’ names on my notebook after the “I ♥” in second grade.

At any rate, I know better now. At least, I hope that I do. I love women. I want to be kinder to them in future writing. God knows they deserve it.

The better to hear you with

Time flies when you want to die.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with caffeine. I lived off it as a teenager and an adult, but several years ago I noticed it was acting as a conductor to my anger and cut it off completely.

It helped cage my rage for sure, but I don’t think I can say it was overall beneficial as it left me entirely unable to tolerate the social nuances of our flesh & carbon system. Caffeine may have increased my sensory overload pain, but I interacted with other people much better.

Another downside is sleep. I am Not Tired at the end of the day, which is great for when I need to Do Things, but I value my sleep more than literally anything in my life. I may not lie awake anxious and upset anymore, but I’m still lying awake.

I have extreme hearing sensitivity processing difficulties. Repetitive noises like computer chimes and sudden loud sounds like crying babies and barking dogs bring on the rage faster than anything else. I can count on one hand how many times the culprit has stopped without complaining when I asked in the past year, so add resentment and begin the downward spiral toward my own unimportance and incompatibility with a society that thinks that putting up with this excruciating pain several times a day is part of being alive.

Several doctors of different backgrounds have diagnosed me with misophonia, but all I find when I google it is the story about the man who killed himself because the world wouldn’t shut the fuck up. Not exactly inspirational. The support groups are 100% bitching and recommending headphones that cause me even more pain by applying pressure to my head or inside my ears.

At least in American culture, it’s easy for a medical professional to slap on a diagnosis and send you on your way. We may have become more progressive in recognizing mental illness and invisible disabilities in recent years (thanks, social media!), but understanding divergence and accommodating it are two very different things.

It’s okay if you’re different, but we’re not actually going to do anything to make life easier for you because it inconveniences the neurotypical able-bodied population. Why should someone have to act differently because you’re in pain? They have a basic human right to their comfort just like you do. You’re the one who needs to adapt, not them.

To be clear, that entire last paragraph was sarcasm. I agree with zero words of it. Due to the unfortunate amount of conservative literature I’ve read over the past year, I can tell you that’s how a lot of people think. Equality vs equity and all. Some of us are the tiny mice trying to see over the fence, and having the same-sized stool as the elephant next to us isn’t good enough. We still can’t see.

This easily leads to a dark place where we question what is even the point of trying so hard every day if we don’t have the resources we need to succeed. “You can’t control other people, but you can control your reaction” becomes an ableist saying when one’s entire existence depends on the understanding and compassion of others.

Besides, growing up with undiagnosed autism led me to gauge social behavior based on past experiences. So, if 9 times out of 10 someone snaps at me for asking them to lower their volume, I’m going to file that away as an ineffective method of communication. When I follow the rules and escalate it to higher authority (like at work), and I’m told that my nose-blowing is just as noisy, I conclude that asking for accommodations only results in unsolicited personal criticism.

It seems that I am only worthy of comfort if I am perfect and pleasant in every single way, neither of which are the cards I’ve been dealt. At least, not in the perception of Those Who Matter. I try so hard to get along and coexist with others, but I can only do so much when certain noises send me into a fury.

I read yesterday that autism advocate Temple Grandin said that loud noises sound like fingernails on a blackboard to her brain. I can say the same about computer chimes, babies crying, dogs barking, and anything that comes out of a cell phone. It’s not something that instantly goes away once the noise stops either. My ears are super sensitive for hours after a big overload, to the point where I have to close myself off with noise-cancelling headphones for an unspecified amount of time to calm my frayed auditory wires.

After being “set off” that way, any noise can feel just as painful as the original trigger, and that type of inconsistency discourages neurotypicals from taking me seriously. The binary all-or-nothing thinking gives me less credibility when I am in a place where I can better process these noises, usually at the beginning of the week after a long period of rest and recharging. They’re mildly annoying instead of excruciatingly painful, but it doesn’t take long for them to build back up.

Caffeine makes all of this worse. It overstimulates the senses that are already hyperactive, which for me are hearing and touch. I have yet to have a pleasant encounter with anyone who invades my space in either way, whether it’s because of the undoubtedly frustrated tone and unfiltered words I’m using or because they’re an inconsiderate piece of shit who feels entitled to throw my entire world off its axis by being loud or leaning on the back of my chair.

I meditate every day and I find it increasingly difficult to have compassion for those who knowingly disregard my sensory limitations because it cuts into their expected privilege of doing what they want when they want. There is a multitude of excuses, such as they don’t hear well or they need to be closer to me for whatever reason, but I don’t actually care. It causes me pain and they need to not do it. End of discussion.

So, yes, I can drink a cup of coffee every day and be a semi-productive member of society. I can pretend to care about other people’s business and pay attention to my work and have the energy to volunteer and socialize and even clean something after a whole day of my sensory nightmare called work. I can even have the mental power to put on headphones or leave the room when it gets loud, to state my boundaries over and over even if they aren’t respected, instead of sitting there seething because people continue to do things that hurt me even after I have told them multiple times.

Is it really worth the additional stress though? How is it any different than using alcohol as a social lubricant? Caffeine may be a socially accepted mind-altering substance, but the pros don’t outweigh the cons for me. I don’t find an amiable atmosphere worth the increased pain and decreased sleep. Is it even amiable if I’m the one sacrificing my own comfort for the sake of morale?

But the rent’s gotta get paid, and it’s going up $30/month next year. Caffeine is a short-term solution to a long-term problem that no one wants to address. Capitalism doesn’t care about the side effects if I’m getting the work done and not upsetting the precarious equilibrium of the neurotypical office environment. The angry mom blogs don’t care that my ears are on fire as long as I’m not frowning at babies on airplanes. God forbid I look miserable when my brain is literally exploding.

One day, there will be a solution that makes everyone happy. Until then, there’s coffee.

The three ships of discovery

With the annual celebration of white supremacist indigenous genocide just passed, it seems like a good time for a tasteless pun relating to the different (relation) ships I have dissected from the socially accepted means of having feels for another person(s).

The three ships as I see them are based on romanticism, sexuality, and amory. It serves to mention that “amory” in this context is not representative of romantic love, but the number of people one can feasibly develop and maintain feels for simultaneously. It also serves to mention that the word “monogamy” is typically used instead of “mono-amory” not for its literal focus on marriage but its colloquial understanding of only one ship with only one other person.

Side note: the main problem with breaking down traditional relationships outside of the norm is the lack of language continuity. As a communication scholar and someone who lives outside of the homogeneous identity Western/American culture forces upon me, much of the frustration and misunderstandings are purely based on the inconsistency of the words we use to categorize and explain our feelings. Even within these categorized communities, we are still evolving and learning who we are and how we individually experience interactions, and while we are content with living and letting live (for the most part), the societal powers that be require concrete definitions in order to accept us as additional ships.

That being said, my understanding breaks down relationships as follows:

romanticism: the “love” ship. Strong feelings of wanting to be together and missing each other when apart. Future plans of experiencing life together, whether married with kids or exploring outer space. The mainstream ship, closest to the traditional understanding of relationships.

sexuality: the sex ship. Fueled by hormones and turn ons, whatever those may be. Physical interest in touching and pleasuring. Direct sexual attraction, orgasm, and genitalia preference are optional. Commonly experienced with romanticism, rarely mutually exclusive.

amory: the number of people on the ship, or the number of ships in the harbor. Easiest to comprehend, yet most difficult to accept. Monogamy is one other person, polyamory is multiple people (though not necessarily all partnered with each other), and nonamory is no ship at all and incompatible with romanticism or sexuality.

Many aromantics and especially asexuals may disagree with my definitions here, and they are welcome to do so. As someone on both spectrums, I find the grouping together of sexuality and sensuality inherently problematic in our sexually saturated social climate, but these categories are for relationships, not attraction. I am not explaining to fuckboys how touching isn’t always sexual, I am separating social connections between two or more people into simplistic categories that I personally use to evaluate my own ships.

I also did not include friendship on here, because the concept of friendship is too vast and subjective to make its own category. Traditionally, friendships are valued as lower social connections than relationships, so examining them would not be relevant to the topic of this post. Alternatively, a relationship anarchist such as myself may see friendships as synonymous with relationships, or shorten it even further to “ship” to comfortably discuss their social connections without the restricting connotations that more specific words imply.

Now for the fun part: how these categories manifest with my obsessive personality and social limitations. For the longest time, I thought I was a romance-repulsed aromantic, but I can’t sit here and deny that I don’t initially feel things like crushes or romantic intimacy. In fact, this entire post was inspired by my latest mistake in the form of a cishet who came out of nowhere and “stole my heart” as the romos say.

Yet it’s 100% one-sided and unhealthy, borderline mentally unstable. I know because I suddenly care about my phone too much, looking to see if they’ve responded to my message or (on Facebook) has even read it yet. With every interaction, I am flooded with anxiety from past experiences, mostly the negativity stemming from what is in my mind considered acceptable communication between two or more parties in a companionship: joking around, sharing memes, and random serious conversations, scattered with pictures of whatever we find amusing or relevant or applicable to the other person.

It’s more complex than “why haven’t they responded yet,” spiraling down into “why do I care so much” and “why did I do this to myself again,” inevitably crashing down into the “they don’t care nearly as much as I do, so I must be wrong” fallacy. I become obsessed with the idea of this person, thinking about them at any given time when a situation calls for more than just me, and wondering whether we would be compatible in this game of life for the long term. I am still very much repulsed by marriage and family (and space travel), but I have become attached to this person as a companion when they haven’t even consented to being on the ship.

In regards to attraction, I’m all over the romantic spectrum (autochoris, akoi, quoi–look them up), but the biggest common denominator is that it cannot be reciprocated. Once the other person feels the same way, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of pressure and expectations and stress because “the same way” is misunderstood as traditionally romantic. I don’t mean flowers and candy and celebrating anniversaries and meeting the parents so much as the impossibility of living up to what’s in my head, regardless of what the other person thinks and feels.

The same applies to sex, albeit much more disassociated. I am firmly against using intimate details of my experiences to justify my sexuality, but I will say that my fantasies are far greater than the real thing. Trust and comfort are non-negotiable when it comes to physical contact, and there are too many outside factors that can “ruin the mood” and hinder my enjoyment. Alcohol helps, but needing to drink to enjoy being touched is problematic for different reasons.

That doesn’t mean the attraction isn’t there. If the wind blows the right way and I have the time and energy, I could very well experience a mind-blowing sexual fantasy about the object(s) of my obsession. This may even carry over into long-distance communication such as instant messaging or talking on the phone, one sided or not. The rarest of instances involve us not only in the same room, but on the same page about what we want to do with each other and what it means and doesn’t mean. In that last situation, it’s almost guaranteed that I will be some form of intoxicated and have already spent countless hours obsessing over my feelings–both romantic and sexual.

Honestly, it’s easier to keep it all to myself, because history has proven time and time again that trying to turn a fantasy into reality will result in broken ships and a broken heart. My therapist likes to say this is all or nothing thinking, and maybe she’s right, but she also agrees with me that it’s not anxiety if I’m using what I learn from past experiences to navigate future situations. That’s how undiagnosed autistics learn how to survive, after all.

Given that amory ships are likened the most to relationships, it’s surprising that I have an entire harbor of them. This is where my relationship anarchy thrives, with an amory ship for every person to whom I devote my energy regardless of any official status or attraction. Most of my amory ships are friendships, some of which stay docked for months at a time but still set sail every now and then. When I feel that the ship is no longer active, I’ll cut the ropes, and that is my version of heartbreak.

To me, amory ships are more important than romantic or sexual ships. For starters, amory ships are mutually beneficial. They represent longevity in a way that romanticism repulses me. If I set aside time to spend with someone, care about what happens to them, and intend to do both of those things in the future, they get an amory ship. All of my close friends have amory ships, including my datefriend. The current object of my obsession is in the process of docking one, though at the moment I am wary of letting them in my harbor. Whatever we’re building together is too new and unstable for any kind of commitment.

There is no hierarchy in my amory ships, and they are all equal in my heart. I don’t claim to understand monogamous people one bit, but I believe they only hold one amory ship at a time. Polyamory invites the most possibilities of ship coagulation, whether there are multiple people on one ship together, or various sizes of different ships. I feel like relationship anarchy lends itself to the most simplistic of harbors, but I may be biased.

The way I understand my three main ships is incompatible with the current social norms. Even if the societal powers that be were to accept desegregation of romanticism and sexuality, and recognize polyamory as a valid ship, I don’t have faith that their subscribers would be able to adapt to my variety of casual meaningful relationships that may or may not contain romantic and/or sexual elements. Currently, I find myself with monogamous sexuals who are down for casual intimacy until they find a “real” partner, and polyamorous romantics whom I have to practically drag away from their other partners to build any type of ship.

I practiced nonamory through my 20s and the beginning of my 30s, because it seemed the best way to experience life without the complications that other people bring into it. No ships mean no time or energy wasted on people who were not compatible with me, and no heartbreak when I inevitably had to cut their ropes. While the most comfortable and trusting, it makes for a rather lonely existence.

Just like I am not purely aromantic or asexual, I’m not nonamorous either. While there are many things I enjoy doing by myself, I don’t necessarily want to be alone all the time. By default, I keep people at a distance to avoid the constant pain of cutting off ships into which I’ve put a lot of effort. I love so much and so often that I have to carefully decide who will be around long enough to make it worth the pain, not just a convenient pit stop. It’s hard. And throwing romanticism and sexuality into the mix just complicates things.

At the end of the day, all I want is a group of people who care about me and want to make time for me individually, who share my values and interests and understand my social limitations. These people exist, because my fleets are plentiful, but I keep meeting more potentials. The beauty of polyamory/relationship anarchy is that I’m never satisfied, always looking for more people with whom to share parts of my life, and that can also be the worst feeling in the world.

And the more people with whom I become smitten (I’m looking at you, current object of obsession!), the more alleged life lessons I have to incorporate into the ship building. Except that everyone is different, and threatening their agency with assumptions based on past experiences is the best way to send that ship sailing before the anchor has even been lowered.

Autistic anxiety

It’s that time of the year when I see the Myers-Briggs personality test floating around social media. Throughout my adult life, I have fluctuated between INTP and INFJ, briefly crossing over into Extrovert territory last year when I had a large group of friends and actually liked being with them.

This time, though, I read all of the social interaction questions with the mindset that they would be comfortable outings (or innings!) with someone whose company I greatly enjoyed, instead of automatically assuming a stressful sensory-unfriendly event with equally as unfriendly people.

Upon reflection, it’s not surprising that I’m a closet extrovert. I didn’t have many friends when I was a child because my parents were selective about who I could play with, not any decision of my own. As a teenager, I had so many friends that I had to split them up into groups. Even as an adult, I haven’t had that many issues attracting like-minded people with my blunt personality–it’s keeping them that’s the struggle.

Since I first thought that I might be on the spectrum, I’ve scrutinized every uncomfortable social interaction I can remember for justification. Someone I went to high school with whom I am still “friends” with (Facebook only) told me that there were signs back then, at the one time in my life I thought I was killing it at the social game, living like a sassy gay best friend in a high school movie. Hearing that was more validating than my actual diagnosis.

I’ve always been autistic, but high-functioning autism hasn’t always been a thing. I remember reading the Baby-sitters Club books and learning about the autistic child (Susan) who didn’t talk and played back any music she heard on the piano. I talk a lot, mostly as a compulsive outlet for my obsessive mind, and to my knowledge I don’t have any savant-like abilities. I can’t even recite popular song lyrics or movie quotes word for word without fucking them up.

Growing up with undiagnosed autism, I learned over time how to talk to people and what was and was not okay to say in different places. I knew I could swear with my friends but not in front of my parents or teachers. I knew to be quiet in class and when people were on the phone or watching TV. I knew that the racing thoughts inside my head were best left unsaid unless someone specifically asked what I was thinking, and sometimes not even then. I was happy being “weird.”

I still know these things now, but it’s much more complicated. Communication as an adult is so complex and even with a master’s degree I still struggle with knowing what’s okay to say when with whom. I just turned 37 years old last week, and my most recent work evaluation mentioned inappropriate comments I make in the office. I hear others joking around, supervisors and coworkers alike, so I do the same. To me, I’m either being held to a higher expectation of decorum, or my tone and wording don’t convey my desired intention. I really hope it’s the latter.

After over three decades of being reprimanded for the things I say that others don’t like, it’s no wonder I automatically associate social interactions with stress. Questions on personality tests are purposefully vague, yet it’s that vagueness that leaves room for pessimistic interpretation. I automatically assume that people will be mean to me, or ignore me, or that I will be uncomfortable to the point that I leave with a negative feeling about the whole event.

I am slightly wiser now, in that I am aware of how the environment affects my social skills. At this moment, wearing comfortable clothes in my LED-lit apartment without any uncontrollable noises or other people around, I can think clearly enough to work through my thoughts and write this post. I am extremely grateful to live in a building with thick walls and not much outside activity–it wasn’t always this peaceful at home for me.

Everywhere outside of this space is a minefield. I never know when someone will bang on a desk, a light will flicker, or my movement in space will be altered without my consent. Someone will lean on the back of my chair and my world falls off its axis. The only way I can describe it is like a mental earthquake, where each tectonic plate is shifted by sensory triggers beyond my control. They’re not all immediate quakes, either; for example, I’ve learned recently that the fluorescent lights in my office will gradually destabilize me so that “little things” like someone’s cell phone repeatedly going off (turn that shit off at work, seriously!) will shake my world.

While I can wear a floppy hat and blue-blocker glasses, I can’t predict other people’s behavior. I literally have to assume the worst, which is the main component of anxiety. Only instead of fearing a car accident or natural disaster, I fear inconsiderate coworkers and loud children. And then I feel guilty, because I’m expecting other people to act a particular way purely for my comfort, which is what most of them tell me when I complain and ask them to stop.

It’s hard not to hate neurotypicals when their understanding of “normal” literally hurts my brain. I was at my anxiety support group meeting and this rando suggested that I have compassion for my cubicle neighbor who makes my workday a living hell by keeping his computer speakers turned all the way up so that I can hear every single notification chime like a fucking symphony all day long. How do I have compassion for someone who regularly dismisses my needs like that? When I took it to my boss, she compared it to my constant nose blowing because I am blessed with severe allergies in addition to all the other fun things I get to experience every day.

It’s like this everywhere. There’s all this big talk of enforcing boundaries and asking for accommodations, but the truth is that no one wants to do anything that inconveniences them in any way. It doesn’t help that by the time I realize something is a problem, I’m already in sensory overload, so my tone and words aren’t as nice. I’ve tried to wait until my anger subsides, but then it’s either not a big deal anymore or the person still gives me a hard time. This is the real world, I need to get used to it, the world doesn’t revolve around me, etc. etc.

So I have to be careful. As much as I would love to go to a party and meet new people, I have to mentally prepare myself for sensory triggers. The lighting may be dim, but that just makes bright flashes feel even brighter. My personal space will likely be invaded, over and over. For the most part, people have expectations based on their understanding of social behavior, misinterpreting my facial expressions and tone of voice because I don’t have the energy to “look and sound nice” when I’m in sensory overload.

That doesn’t even include any emotions. Once those hit the scene, I’m done for. I had the absolute worst time at that wedding a few weeks ago, simply because there was a whole table of people I used to be friends with having a good time and blatantly avoiding me. I was forcing a smile so hard that when the bride (the whole reason I was there) came over to make her rounds, I stared at her like I didn’t know why she was talking to me. She was also drunk and screamed right behind me before leaning on my chair. By the time the sun went down and the lights in the reception hall turned on, I was heading for the door and not caring what anyone thought about it.

Speaking of alcohol, all of this is mildly easier after a couple drinks, but for a while there I didn’t keep it at just a couple. I’ve been in an online moderation program for over a year now, with limits and plans and other organizational resources that please me, but I haven’t quite gotten to to the point where I’m comfortable diluting my senses with alcohol again. I don’t like the idea that I have to drink to socialize, even if it’s not entirely out of anxiety.

Overall, social interactions are so stressful and exhausting that I would honestly rather stay home unless I’m absolutely certain of the environment and who all will be there. However, asking those questions ahead of time seems to be bad, as it places the burden of my comfort onto the host or the person inviting me out. It discourages invitations. I become a “difficult” person to be friends with, because someone has to consider my social limitations when deciding to include me.

These are things I’ve been told when I try to predict a social event, so I stopped trying. I go in blind and sometimes it goes well, other times it doesn’t. Even if I have the best time, it leaves me so drained that I don’t want to leave the house or talk to another person for the entire next day. I have started adding an additional day off to any trips I take so I can relax and “detox” my brain. For the most part, Sundays are off limits to anyone who is not part of my church, and even then I will make sure to have adequate down time. I need it if I want any hope of making it through the work week without a meltdown.

I’ve figured this all out on my own. I’ve only started seeing a therapist recently, and she doesn’t do much more than listen to me bitch and point out fallacies in my thinking. I spend a lot of time reading articles and blog posts that describe other people’s personal experiences with these situations in an attempt to learn how to navigate them, which is mainly why I started this blog. If other people’s posts have helped me, maybe mine will help others, even if it’s just figuring out how they tick and going from there.

At the very basis of it, my anxiety is rooted in applying past knowledge to future events, which is also how (obsessive) spectrum cats function. Worrying about how other people will react makes it social anxiety. Becoming frustrated and hopeless from all of this is depression. These labels are mutually inclusive for me, and have been since I entered the workforce. I just didn’t make the connection until recently.

Yes, I am an extrovert. I am an ENFJ–a leader. I thrive in situations where I can actually take charge and make plans. I love nothing more than to influence and inspire people. The only complication is how I am perceived. Communication 101 states that it’s my responsibility to make sure my meaning is understood the way I intend it to be, and I haven’t yet managed to discover a way to do that.

Who are you?

I met a new friend the other night, and they asked me the following question:

Who are you?

Not, “What do you do?” or “Where did you grow up?” or even “How do you know [Mutual friend]?” but simply “Who are you?”

It took me a minute to think of an appropriate answer. Being the safe space of the House of Queer(tm), I was given this minute without rushing or ridicule. We were playing Catan, and a few more turns went by before I came up with a formidable list, which I am sharing here as both an introduction to my person and a general content warning.

I am passionate.

I don’t care about a lot of things, but with the things I do care about, I expend all of my effort, time, and energy. They can range from people to causes to inanimate objects, and they fluctuate with my environment. Right now, at 10:43am on Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, my passions are: coffee, current flavor tiramisu; my datefriend, R-bae; and genderfucking the shit out of this hetero wedding today.

It could be said that passions are the same as obsessions, and perhaps for a neurotypical person they would be. As a person on a spectrum with an obsessive personality, the two are drastically different, as shown in the next section.

I am obsessive.

Got plans for an upcoming event or social engagement? You do now. I would thrive as a planner in a professional environment, except that in my experience most if not all plans fall through and have to be reworked at the last minute, and I’m not about that stress. “Proactive” is my middle name, purely because being “reactive” literally drives me crazy. Not “crazy” as in the albeist slur, but actual insanity that keeps me up at night. I have quit jobs and walked away from people who like to flip the script after I’ve already psyched myself up to do a particular thing.

(Luckily, my current group of coworkers like to self-identify as “OCD,” which is problematic on its own but much preferable to the alternative.)

I also get addicted to things super easily. I am the literal definition of a fanperson–a fanatic who binges on canon, hoards media, and can discuss character dynamics for hours. Once I decide to get into something, I have to know everything right away, from conception until that very day. Then, I read the fanfiction. It’s a cross between emotional involvement and instant gratification that fuels the obsessions.

Those are the good aspects of it, anyway. I don’t want to give away all my secrets up front.

I am a fighter.

There are different definitions of activism, dependent on the individual person and how they want to describe their resistance to injustice. Many activists march and protest, write and call legislators, and/or “call out” every instance of problematic behavior and microaggression. I am not shaming any of these; I wish I could do them all without risking my own health. What I do, do (doo-doo!), is set an example by living as a decent human being whose actions and decisions reflect the “change I want to see.”

I immerse myself in cultures unlike my own and support media creators who do the same. I join groups and committees where I can work behind the scenes to support social change. I volunteer, I promote, and I encourage. I boycott people and brands who hinder progress. I point out harmful social constructs in popular culture, such as white-washing and heteronormitivity, in person and on social media, and I link to others who have said it better than me.

I don’t give up, even though I feel like it sometimes, because it’s not only my battle. I’m standing up for many marginalized communities who are negatively affected by this world in a multitude of ways. Besides, if I’m not using this white passing-cis privilege to shut down white cis supremacy, what good is it for?

I am a writer.

I have been creating fictional content since I developed the motor skills to put pen (or crayon) to paper. If you could get my womb incubator to shut her racist cunt mouth for two minutes, she would tell you that I used to write and draw anthropomorphized versions of our cats. This evolved into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fanfiction and fanart, where I gave the warriors of the underground heteronormative families because it was the 80s and I had not yet been exposed to life goals aside from getting straight-married and having babies.

(I could argue that I wanted to introduce strong female characters into the male-saturated canon, but I can assure you that none of the missus were career-focused or even wore pants. Seven-year old Max wasn’t very woke aside from their sparkly yellow “anything boys can do, girls can do better” T-shirt.)

Today, my writing is more persuasive. Even before I earned a master’s in media psychology, my storytelling rebelled against social norms. Ten years of gratuitous homoerotic fanfiction will inevitably include problematic trends to which I had not yet been introduced (internalized misogynistic and transphobic narratives come to mind), but for the most part, my writing represents the unconventional identities and relationships I would like to see across all creative outlets.

My foray into non-fiction is new and intimidating. I suppose social media rants were a prelude to organized blog posts like this, but every communication class I have taken says that emotion-fueled rage is not a good way to get your point across. This is where my passionate and obsessive natures clash; I have strong feelings about anything I would want to post about, so it’s difficult for me to provide a structured, objective narrative on the topic.

After a lifetime of adapting social behavior into fictional environments, my biggest challenge will be writing about my actual experiences in the real world in a way that speaks to readers instead of alienating them. It won’t be easy, but I will do my best. If I can write dystopia AU, I can do this.

I am a cat.

There might have been some self-identification in my anthropomophric cat fic after all. The more I notice the differences between felines and humans, the more I lean toward the feline end of the spectrum. Below is a list of behaviors and characteristics I display that normally attributed to cats:

  • Wants to go out after coming in
  • Leans toward the hand that pets them
    • but only on their terms
  • Whines when there is no food
  • Heat butts mean “I love you”
  • Runs away claws-out at loud noises
    • and hides for hours
  • Hisses at forced conformity
  • Fussy about being clean
  • Everything is about my comfort

Awhile back, when I was obsessively absorbing everything I could find about autism, I came across a book called, “All Cats Have Asperger’s.” With that association in mind, I relate more to my prinx Eevee (see userpic) than other human beings. I have even been known to instinctively follow a laser pointer and rotating ceiling fan with my eyes. Princess Carolyn from Bojack Horseman, despite being portrayed as cishet femme, is the closest I’ve come to seeing myself represented on TV.

Telling people that I am a cat somehow enforces my personal boundaries better than when I tell them I am autistic. No one questions that a cat is a cat who does cat things, but drop the A-bomb and suddenly they want to ask about coping methods and “healthy” ways to adapt to the neurotypical world. Hard pass.

I am a scholar.

Okay, I don’t have anything published (yet), but I have three degrees and am working toward a fourth. I read every possible thing I can get my paws on when I become interested in a topic, take (free) classes and workshops whenever I have the opportunity, and use the critical thinking skills that have been drilled into my head every day when processing this information.

I can speak with authority on media influence and related psychological theories. I have Communication 101 memorized, even if I disagree with most of it. I can APA format in my sleep. I have read so much social justice discourse that I can find something problematic in every piece of media and type up an essay with sources explaining why it is hindering social change. My current party trick is to denounce most interpretations of social studies that the media likes to inflate as “proof” of a thing. (The foundation of the scientific method is not to prove a thing, but to disprove it.)

I just started a PhD program, so this will only get worse.

That is a just non-exhaustive list of who I am, as I am always moving and changing. The only thing for certain is that nothing stays the same. Every day is a new me, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.