Friday, February 22, 2008

Community

I've never fitted in very well.

At school I was the silent one who didn't feel the need to speak. If I didn't open my mouth until lunchtime, whose business was that but mine? As a teenager, I didn't feel an overwhelming need for any kind of social life - my own company was generally more diverting than that of others my age, who tended to have odd obsessions with things like boys (that was always going to go well) and clothes (even better) and make-up (are we seeing a pattern yet?)... Sixth form was a bit better, when I was discovering interesting music that others appreciated too. I had several people I talked to at breaks and even occasionally on the phone. Always one at a time, of course - groups were never my thing.

At university I was a bit distracted by some quite serious mental health problems, which kept me from noticing that I was still very uncomfortable with people. I didn't know how to act in groups - they made me feel strange, and I couldn't be myself or say what I meant in them. I formed intense friendships that turned out to be largely one-sided. I was uncomfortable with my own oddness. At the time I put most of this down to my dodgy mental state. It was only later that I realised it was mainly just a continuation of weirdness that had always been there.

Internet forums were a delightful alternative to conventional socializing. I found two messageboards in particular, around this time, where I learnt that there were ways to communicate that didn't involve the discomfort and exhaustion of face-to-face discussion. It seemed almost possible to avoid the negative side of the group dynamic altogether in those particular online settings. No awkwardness, no shyness, no having to think on my feet when my brain doesn't work that way, lots of time to consider what I was saying, lots of ways to avoid discussions that weren't helpful or interesting or possible.

I don't know why my early experiences of internet messageboards were almost entirely positive, but they were - I can only remember a very small number of negative experiences related to these two posting boards. Maybe part of it was that the internet was still new as a setting for discourse. Whatever it was, though, I haven't been able to replicate that experience in an internet forum since. And I do keep trying.

Today I was again reminded that now, even on the internet, I can't escape the 'group fear' and the not-fitting-in. Group dynamics are everything, online or not. Strong personalities take charge. People hand out roles and fit themselves into boxes. Inconsistencies are everywhere. There is no justice. I don't speak the language, I don't know the rules, and I'm always falling behind everyone else. You could even call it 'disabling'. If you wanted to.

I'm hugely lucky that I have friends who understand that I mostly need one-to-one interaction, a girlfriend who thinks like me on this issue, and people in my life who don't mind my social quirks and oddities. But still. Sometimes I'd like to fit in *just* a little a bit better, even so.

TG minus seven days

5 comments:

shiva said...

Wow. I could have written that, almost word for word (except for the bit at the end about having a girlfriend :( ). Seems like every other blogger i know is describing my experiences better than i can at the moment...

Can i ask when you were diagnosed with bipolar? I ask because there's quite a history of people on the neurodiversity spectrum (particularly dyspraxia and/or Asperger's) getting misdiagnosed as bipolar due to breakdowns which are basically reactive to the stresses of living with undiagnosed (and thus unaccommodated) neurodiversity. I thought i might have been bipolar for a while, before discovering the far better hypothesis of undiagnosed AS/HFA...

(Of course, this is me coming from a perspective of "all psychiatric diagnoses are fairly arbitrary "boxes" drawn on an infinite and in reality not cleanly divisible spectrum"... i really need to put together that post i've been planning for a while about the relationship between "mental illness" as a category and neurodiversity...)

Sweet Cocoa said...

just wanted to say *your cool*! I enjoy your blogs and interactions here and on other boards --when I am around. I appreciate your perspective !

lilwatchergirl said...

Shiva: I was recently un-diagnosed with bipolar... or told that I'd never had it... or something. I don't really understand psychiatric 'boxes' (your description there is very much along the lines of my views). My diagnosis was back when I was young enough for it to have been wrong - I was 19. I do think I'm cyclothymic, or something similar. And I have issues with something very OCD-like, and an undefined form of eating problem. So I do have some mental health issues. But I could well believe that most of my issues were/are really about dyspraxia. The more I get to know myself and the way my brain works, the more I see difference where I used to see disorder. Does that make any sense? Of course, since I've not yet had a formal diagnosis of dyspraxia, I can't be sure of anything. But what you're saying is very, very familiar. (What's HFA?)

Cocoa: Thanks, mate :) Sorry I don't get to your blog as much as I should. You don't have a 'feed' link from it, and I use feed readers for my blog-reading. But I will try to visit it more!

Sweet Cocoa said...

no problemo-- i have been blogging more on the Chronique site if and when I do. I am also reconsidering a new link to my blog because some stalker types have a link to it even though its private. ( a story for another day) HUGS!Cocoa

shiva said...

HFA = "High Functioning Autism" (I don't agree with the labels "high functioning" and "low functioning", but that's for another discussion when i have more brain cells available than i do at 4am...)

Mostly an American term, people who get it as a diagnosis in the US would probably get diagnosed Asperger's in the UK, much as people diagnosed with "NVLD" (Non-Verbal Learning Disability) in the US would most likely get diagnosed with Dyspraxia in the UK. There are a few other US-centric labels too, like "PDD-NOS" (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not otherwise Specified), which to be honest i have no idea who is covered by...