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end of year revue

I've been wanting to do an end/beginning of year post for a little while.

see, xmas was harder than usual to get through and I am seriously considering undergoing extensive testing for a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or what some call Autism Spectrum disorders--I see a lot of myself in descriptions of some of the behavioral signs and especially the diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) seems to me to fit with many things I have been told about my early development--things that, for the most part, I do not remember all that well myself, although I do remember the head banging and the difficulty in remaining "present" so that my parents could actually communicate with me when I was preschool age. There are things about Asperger's and Autistic Spectrum disorders that fit well with my difficulties with social interaction, but some that don't, which is why I think PDD-NOS is more likely to be appropriate.

but in any case, I'd like to have some clear answer as to why I cannot seem to tolerate human interaction in situations where most "normal" adults have no problems, and whether the constellation of behavioral signs that I know I exhibited as a young child actually add up to anything that anyone recognizes as a clear-cut disability beyond simple social anxiety.

that's what I have been thinking about lately and I haven't really wanted to write about it all that much because I've seen adults seeking these diagnoses get ridiculed as "lazy" or "losers" who just don't want to face the fact that they fail at life.

which isn't too unlike the flack that kids actually diagnosed with these conditions often get from those around them, so I suppose I shouldn't feel like a special case there either.

I've been meaning, though, to write down some very specific things that are going right with my life, just because dealing with the possibility of all the above feels somewhat akin to a kind of surrender to the elements where I have been told I should keep fighting--although I think that sometimes we have to acknowledge what is, bearing in mind that with any collection of symptoms that go together to make up a "disorder," there is always going to be a large component of arbitrary choices made by the society that supports these diagnoses to make them pathologial. and yet at the same time, the recognition that certain traits are maladaptive to the particular societal structures and constraints that we live under can be gratifying if one has felt for a long time, as I have, that constitutionally I am not cut out for living in this exact time and place, or according to the explicit and implicit rules for behavior and emotion that have been set down by the culture I am surrounded by.

it just so happens that many of the things that characterize my way of getting along seem to be categorized under this heading that qualifies one for "services" that partially compensate for the fact that my way of getting along puts me at a disadvantage from the start. if indeed I can get that recognition from the state and the medical establishment, then I might be able to get some of those services, which could take what has become an almost unbearable load off my shoulders. I spent most of xmas week feeling "more suicidal than usual," which means I was actively wishing no longer to exist and considering methods for accomplishing non-existence, but as usual, I was still too intrigued by life to give it up just yet. only when depression hits full force and I cannot enjoy anything or feel some sort of attraction towards some entity or another here on earth do I lose that engagement with life. that's when I'm seriously in trouble. I'm not there right now.

so. yeah. it's complicated whether seeking this diagnosis would be a good thing or a bad thing; I think it is a reasonable thing and something that is quite possible was missed a very long time back because 45 years ago no one was looking out for the sort of developmental cycle I was, when I write it all down together, rather obviously--by today's standards--going through.

thus I'm not thinking I need to balance this out with good things, or that this is so awful I should be devastated for myself--I don't feel that way at all. but because shit has been difficult for the last few months in reaching this place where I just don't think I can do it the way we are told to do it anymore and so am going to seek redress, I've been wanting to make a physical list of the unproblematic good things in my life.

for one, even though right now I am making $0/hour, I am still quite wealthy. I have such an overload of crap that, lately, selling off that which I don't use has been sufficient to keep me fed and watered. I'm not done yet either; it actually feels good to unload a few things, and to clear out some of the clutter that I kept saying to myself oh I'll sell that back someday. well now I'm selling things back.

there are a few things I will not sell, though. I might use them for the last fire that keeps me alive a few more hours before either the cold or the wolves come to do away with me: the first edition Gertrude Stein Wars I Have Seen, which bears an imprint on the copyright page that it was manufactured under wartime emergency conditions and conserves resources in every possible way (printed in 1945), and notes that on the cover is a photo of "Miss Stein," which strikes me as a hilarious way of addressing Gertrude Stein; my laptop, my camera, all my pads of papers and journals and pens and pencils and anything that provides a surface and anything that can make a mark on any said surface, my pendleton blanket, my les paul, and my camping gear, which might one day be my furnished home.

I won't sell any of my Nietzsche books either, nor any Patti Smith albums, even if I have mp3s of hers scattered across all the hard drives on my desk and even if I had digital copies of all of Nietzsche's work.

I won't make an extensive list of people for whom I am particularly grateful because I don't want anyone to feel left out. but I will say that lisagail and Nan are the two people most responsible for my still being alive (Patti Smith, Samuel Beckett, and Nietzsche have all done their parts too, but only one of them is still around and I still haven't thought of a way to thank her without sounding stupid). my housemate Sandy whom some know as Alex is the best housemate and friend one could have (lisagail notwithstanding), my cousin Karl has been instrumental in keeping me afloat this fall, and my closest San Francisco friends who aren't actually on this LJ thing, Brenda, AmywithbabyMiles, and Hugo in Berkeley: I am able to allow them to keep me company in ways that I won't allow most others to. I won't make an LJ-specific list but I know you all know who you are.

I have a decent landlord. in a city where landlords frequently take advantage of loopholes in the restrictive eviction laws to get rid of long-term tenants so they can take advantage of the outrageous rental market here, the family who owns our buildings seems most interested in having tenants who don't cause problems, period. they put up with late rent, they even put up with unpaid rent for a time, and for the most part they don't care who moves in with you as long as you don't make a mess or screw up the place for everyone else. I am lucky to have what I think is a fairly secure housing situation even if my finances take a temporary dip.

Jackson and Santiago have no idea how much better they make life. especially the sleeping portion: they are the two most reliably sleepy cats I've ever met. very very rarely will they wake me up to be fed. more likely Santiago will wake me up so that I will lift the blanket and let him crawl under to curl up behind my knees, which of course is extremely relaxing and we will both lie like that, unconscious, for hours.

there's more but I'm getting hungry. and wondering if this is particularly interesting at this point. perhaps I will make a more concise list for myself offline. after I eat.

oh. today I'm grateful I have an ipod and not a zune. =8)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 1st, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
>adults seeking these diagnoses get ridiculed as "lazy" or "losers" who just don't want to face the fact that they fail at life.

it's just tragic that anyone could so lack compassion as to ridicule anyone else this way, but yeah, i'm sure that happens. it sounds to me that looking into a diagnosis of this kind is a good idea. i'd never heard of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, but i knew a kid when i was growing up who exhibited the traits you describe. if you do pursue this, please let us know what happens. it would be great if you could get some support from the state.
Jan. 1st, 2009 04:25 pm (UTC)
when you've spent as much time in the mental health system as I have, you come to know the DSM-IV pretty well. :) PDD is an umbrellas term that covers Autism, Asperger's, a few less common childhood developmental reversals, and then this PDDNOS which is where they classify people who don't fit all the criteria for any of the others but who may be "too social" or too well-acquainted with language or in some other way not fill out the whole slate of indications for Autism or Asperger's. I've identified with some of the traits of both since the first time I read about autism, when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and it was still thought to be caused by very distant mothering (slowly psychiatry stops blaming Mom. it'll continue to stop doing so, I suspect..), but I've always not fit with some of the criteria. it only just recently occurred to me to look to see if there were a "lesser" diagnosis available. looks like there might be.

we'll see what happens.
Jan. 1st, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Happy New Year Erik, and i hope the New Year brings hope and clarity and some relief -- and creativity and yes, a bit of prosperity. You do have some things going for you, like your PhD, and your tech skills and your ability to enjoy that type of work and learn more. I would recommend not giving up on that route, or on possibly tutoring or doing some type of teaching. These things pay well, very well, for the small amount of time you would put in relative to a grinding 40 hour week. But, I know things are tougher for you in some ways than the ordinary person, and I do hope you find a way to make it better, or more bearable, all the issues you have. You're a good guy and it shines through here. We will get together in 2009, at some point I'm sure and talk poems. It is nice to know someone else who can talk poetry with me once or twice a year (!)

So, Happy New Year - don't give up!
Jan. 1st, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC)
I'm not giving up yet, but I am going to investigate avenues for alternative ways of being in relation to a culture that I don't fit into very well. it's not a matter of whether I have skills I could use--I have plenty of those, but I cannot seem to tolerate the social dimension that even my telecommuting jobs have had to them. tutoring would be a special nightmare, dealing with both students and possibly their parents--ironically, perhaps, tutors at the university level get paid way less than private "college prep" tutors, but there's no way I'm going to put myself in a position to have to negotiate between a student's particular difficulties with school and their parents' expectations of both them and me. there is a high demand for such tutors, but I won't be trying my hand there.

mainly I intend to write. I don't know how all this is going to come together, but expending energy on negotiating social mores in the world of work wears me out to the extent that I will often stop writing when I have enough work to pay the bills. it's much like the "spoon theory" lays it out--if you have a limited supply of spoons you have to be more careful how and where you use them. my spoons aren't a physical disability, so they tend to be invisible. but emotionally and mentally, I've got a certain number of them and they run out quickly in what are, for many, simple everyday situations.
Jan. 7th, 2009 08:19 am (UTC)
Just getting back to this... I agree, that from what you report, you have an "abnormal" amount of social anxiety and this would make it very hard to work. Although yes, you can work inside the home, at computer jobs, but if even small contacts with others, even over the phone, are stressful, than that is an issue.

BTW - I have only visited in person with you a few times, but just so you know, I could never guess you were feeling any anxiety. If you are, it is not evident. So, I hope you find that reassuring.

I do hope you find some peace. And, don't give up that you won't. I have never been crazy about the work world myself, but things have changed. It is true that while I always feel like a weirdo there, I also feel liked (usually) and I have had jobs I've enjoyed. However, I do get bored and restless to an extreme degree. I prefer working at home now, and yes, I prefer to write. That is one of the things we have in common, the writing. This is the perennial writer's problem, even without anxiety disorders, how to make enough money to live and have time and energy to write. I am not writing much these days, but that will change, because it must. I know you can do it also.

I hope you can find a way that works for you, and getting some help from disability might be a key. They just don't give much, but it would be something.
Jan. 1st, 2009 06:16 am (UTC)
"oh. today I'm grateful I have an ipod and not a zune. =8)"

Ha! Me too.

Happy new year, erik, it's been nice to get to know you from your journals.
Jan. 1st, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
Happy new year to you too. and thanks for letting me read your journal--I enjoy listening to you and the dogowner talk about your life together.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 1st, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
heh: "lost" posts. somehow there's something significant about that typo--I assume you meant "last"? unless you are being metaphorical on purpose. :)

thanks for reading. hope you are having a good 2009 so far, though I know you are sick at the moment. may that clear up very soon.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 2nd, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
ah, long posts. thanks. I'm glad somebody finds them interesting! :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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