Fat, Major Depression, Asperger’s: Where the Social Model Meets the Medical Model

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2009

This is my first-ever post for Blogging Against Disablism Day! Which actually was yesterday. But I did write it then and didn’t get a chance to post it until now, so hopefully it will make the list. If not, click the picture and go read the awesome posts there anyway!

Until very recently, I would have refused even the very idea of considering myself a “person with disabilities.” (And please note the plural, about which more later.) It’s not that I didn’t always have conditions which limited my ability to live the kind of life I thought I wanted to be living, or which caused me great pain. And it’s not as though I thought being thought of as “disabled” was icky to me or anything. It was more like, how dare I? How dare I call attention to myself when other people needed and deserved the attention more than I did? I have a job, albeit one where I telecommute. I can get up and down stairs, albeit more slowly than most people. I’ve used assistive devices only for short periods of time when I had an injury. I don’t have a degenerative or terminal physical condition or horrible, intractable physical pain. I can bend, stoop, twist, reach, cook meals, shop for groceries, drive a car once in a while, manage to get my cable modem bill paid before they switch it off, clean up cat vomit, read, write, wash my clothes without ruining them (usually), crochet, pick up a musical instrument once in a while…all kinds of things. If I take birth control pills, I can even avoid the five-alarm menstrual cramps and killer PMS and migraines I used to get when I was younger (and don’t get me started about the first GYN I saw, who refused to prescribe them because “there’s a death rate on the pill” and thus I couldn’t get them before my mid-20s…gah). By those standards, I am not a person with disabilities, to be sure.

But now that I know something about the social model of disability (i.e. disability is subjective and depends upon being able to complete the tasks society expects of you, which may or may not be reasonable) and the medical model (i.e. you, PWD, are deficient and something to be fixed), it’s interesting to compare the two models with all the medical records, thousands upon thousands, I’ve created over the years. People don’t just go to doctors or hospitals when they have serious, physically painful or life-threatening problems; often they wind up there because in America (and not just here, either, although that’s the part of the world I know) between the ages of 18 and 50, maybe later, you are expected to be a bundle of energy and accomplishment. And millions of people, gods know how many, can’t hack it. You are supposed to sleep only five or six hours a night, grab a cup of coffee, and go go go go go. You are supposed to be able to handle (most of) the following, and probably more, for those 32 years without a hitch:

– working and going to school at the same time, often “full-time” at both

– having a healthy, honest, loving monogamous relationship (and commencing said relationship young enough to “start a family”)

– raising a family of well-behaved, happy, safe, wonderfully nourished children (note plural!) who are thrilled to eat all their greens and run around the neighborhood with a group of equally wholesome friends who all remain so up until they go away to college (and of course your children must all go to college!)

– lifting heavy objects and hoisting them up and down stairs for hours at a time

– driving defensively but not overly so every single day without your head exploding from three hours of horn-honking traffic

– being able to keep jobs through multiple rounds of layoffs because of how completely cheerfully industrious and useful you are

– staying trim, lithe, and youthful-looking even if your family tree is going to fight you on that every step of the way

– always eating lots of veggies and whole grains

– always avoiding sugar and fried food, and having the presence of mind to feel guilty when you do cave in and eat them

– never smoking or overindulging in alcohol or drugs

– if you are pregnant, never ingesting anything “bad” or being too sick to work as hard as you always have right up until the moment of delivery, and being ready to pop right back to your desk undistracted the minute the episiotomy heals

– working out every day without your workout and diet program leaving you too injured or ill or stressed to continue

– having a mortgage, a reliable car, sparkling clean credit and lots of savings

– always being able to smile, smile, smile and act like you’re on top of things when you know the people around you can’t handle how you’re really feeling (and they usually can’t)

– having enough of a social life that people don’t become suspicious of you, but not picking the “wrong” people to associate with

– developing a career (or having a partner with one) that will impress people when you tell them what it is

– and never, ever be too sick, too tired, in too much pain, or too overwhelmed to beg off from your appointed duties for more than 48 hours (longer if you are more affluent and have people who can cover for you)

You’d think that those expectations existed because the vast majority of people aged 18 to 50-whatever could actually keep all this up. But really, it’s not true. The reams of medical records I’ve created is the proof in the pudding that what we expect of “healthy” people in this world is ridiculous. A lot of people can’t even think about living that way; a lot of people start out living that way until serious illness or injury arriving out of the blue throws them a curve; a lot of people try, try, try to live that way thinking they have to and break under the strain, sometimes for good. It’s not just that people are considered to have disabilities because they don’t live up to society’s standards, it’s also that society’s standards themselves often create disability — i.e. actual loss of ability and serious pain — where it otherwise might not exist if we weren’t so rough on each other.

I’m one of the ones who can’t even think about measuring up, and never could, although I felt plenty shitty about myself about it and spent untold energies clobbering myself for it.

For starters, I am fat. I started out being merely a bit heavier than average, thanks to polycystic ovarian syndrome; once I started on psychiatric medications in my late 20s, I gained more than half my body weight again. Being fat in and of itself does not impede my functionality, but it does more or less eliminate me from many people’s Good, Attractive, and Capable Person Lists. People thinking you can’t do stuff, and thus not getting the chance, often winds up materially identical to not actually being physically able to do it. Looking “healthy” is much more important in this world than actually being “healthy.”

Which brings me to major depression. When I say I had serious depression from the time I was 11 years old, I am not kidding around. I mean that I felt like I wanted to die, and came close to acting on that wish, enough times that it really did threaten my life, and the rest of the time felt like walking through rapidly hardening cement. Depression was like a pack of trolls living in my brain alternately spewing razorblades and ether, telling me I was complete garbage and deserved nothing but censure, then taking a vacuum hose and sucking up the last of my adrenaline so I couldn’t fight back. It cost me time from work, it cost me friends, it cost me fun, it cost me achievement, it cost me relationships, and most of all, it cost me ME. Being fat is a million, billion times better than that any day of the week, let me tell you.

And then we come to Asperger syndrome. I have gone back and forth on whether I consider this a “disability” or a “difference.” There are things I’ve come to love about being aspie; I like that my brain comes up with things a neurotypical person might not. Given my very late diagnosis, though (age 44), and all the years I had to struggle with this not knowing what the hell it was, it’s been suggested to me that the severity of my depression is linked strongly to having my reality denied for so long from such a young age. (I’ve seen studies that have put the rate of suicidal ideation among aspies at around 50%; I’m not surprised.) And since so much of success in life is connected to being able to decode and respond immediately to people’s unspoken wishes, and be physically graceful, and squelch what you are really thinking and feeling for the sake of propriety, of course we aspies are usually shut out of the rat race. We must find another way to live, and tell all those expectations to go stuff themselves, or we die.

Fat, major depression, Asperger’s: linking rings. Hard to separate one from the rest. You could, if you wanted, make the argument that my true disability is the depression — and really, if I could have one of those three things “cured,” without causing myself undue harm in another department, that would be the one I would choose. I am not one of these people who romanticizes this condition; it SUCKS. There is nothing romantic about not being able to sit down with your favorite musical instrument because you think every sound you make is the sound of horseshit. There is nothing romantic about thinking that anyone who claims they like you just feels sorry for you, even if they have chosen to co-own a bed and three cats with you. There is nothing romantic about being scared to fucking death you’re going to swallow every pill in the house or go have something dry cleaned just so you can have the bag to suffocate yourself with. There is nothing romantic about feeling terminally stuck in the driveway in neutral for decades upon decades. There is nothing romantic about having to miss work, and even lose jobs, because you can’t stop crying for days even though nothing bad actually happened. You can KEEP that shit. KEEP it. I’d gain 100 more pounds if it meant I’d be guaranteed never to feel like that again. You cannot possibly imagine the sweet relief of remission unless you’ve experienced it. This, because nothing else has ever worked for me no matter how hard I’ve tried, I need doctors and their evil annoying pills to keep under control. Maybe forever. If people think that’s something about me that actually needs fixing — a disability according to the medical model — I can’t in good conscience argue.

But would the depression have gotten that bad without the sheer hate heaped on fat people (especially fat female people) in this society, or without the thousand-tiny-cuts hostility that NT people demonstrate towards those of us on the autism spectrum? I’m sure it would still have existed — it’s not like I don’t have plenty of thin, neurotypical wet blankies in my family tree — but would it have been THAT bad? Kill-myself bad? Everybody-hates-me bad? Hard to fathom. When are we going to ask, as a society, “are we making people feel shitloads worse, both physically and mentally, than we really need to?”

I’d like to know, and so would my doctors.

33 Responses to “Fat, Major Depression, Asperger’s: Where the Social Model Meets the Medical Model”

  1. jazzy Says:

    As another fat, depressive Aspie with PCOS (and throw in chronic fatigue on top of that), THANK YOU for this post. I’ve only just recently figured out that the American Dream (TM) is unrealistic and unfair and shitty, and that I’d be quite happier being poor and unpopular than have to run in that hamster wheel my whole life. I never know what to say on this topic to convince people that it isn’t worth it, but you’ve articulated it perfectly. Thank you.

  2. Ellie Says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been severely depressed since at least junior high, possibly earlier, and even after a therapist and a psychologist diagnosed me as depressed, even after I “knew” that I had a medical condition that I couldn’t control … I’ve never been able to cut myself any slack for not being able to do everything I thought I should be doing. Just hearing that someone else has gone through the same thing really makes me feel more forgiving toward myself. And I don’t think I realized until right this minute how very, very unforgiving I still am.

  3. peggynature Says:

    Meowser, I…I just love you. This is fabulous, and you’ve given me so much to think about.

    I have experienced so much of what you talk about, especially the depression, that this really speaks to me.

    And I’m totally on board with what you say about our society expecting the impossible from “healthy” people — and in fact, I think this is MORE than tied to the current definition of health as a state of “optimal” functioning. My husband will also, I’m sure, get a lot out of reading your list of what people are “expected” to do, since he’s never had one of those jobs you can chat about at cocktail parties, and it constantly grates on him, since society naturally expects him to be the breadwinner and take care of lil ole me.

    Anyway. This is awesome. I will go away and think lots about it.

  4. buttercup Says:

    “There is nothing romantic about feeling terminally stuck in the driveway in neutral for decades upon decades. ”

    I love this post so much, but especially that line. I know so so so well how that feels.

  5. The American Homemaker Says:

    My husband has Aspergers. As his wife, it’s extremely hard to deal with, I struggle to even imagine what it’s like for the person who actually has it, but we’re just trying to make it through one day at a time.

  6. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    First, let me say when I saw the title of this post on the feed, I got all excited thinking it was maybe a post from you. Yes, just thinking you had written a new post, and on this topic, got me happy and excited.

    And then the post itself just blew my mind. You laid it out so clearly — the empty and unattainable expectations, the ways that these three things intersect. Wow.

    I have mild depression that has been at times severe, I have fatness that has felt at times severe and oppressive, internally and externally, I’m probably as NT as they come.

    If people want to talk about costs — medical and societal and social and human ones — let’s talk about the costs of cruelty, stigmitization, oppression. I haven’t lived many other places, and I’m not sure the places I’ve been are better if not worse than where I am now (my town is pretty safe and caring, relatively speaking, which is why I live here) but people can be so shitty and make people feel so freaking bad.

    Thank you for this. I’ll be re-reading it for some time to come, and sending it to a few people to read.

    I also think the idea of wanting a “cure” for something that is threatening one’s life makes perfect sense, but for anyone else to presume that a person NEEDS to be cured can be patronizing. I sort of got this before reading what you wrote, but now I comprehend it much more.

  7. DRST Says:

    That whole post hit so close to home for me.

    I’ve considered seeing a therapist about my body image issues but I never follow through because while my problems may be problems I always end up thinking “there are so many people out there who are in much worse shape than me and that’s who therapists are supposed to help, not someone like me who isn’t really impaired.” Which may be a cracked out way of thinking about it or a self-defense mechanism but it’s my pattern.

    I slipped into a suicidal depression before my hypoglycemia was diagnosed. I’m actually reluctant to call it that most of the time because 1) it sounds melodramatic, like I’m playing for sympathy even though I did have self-destructive thoughts for several months and b) it was because of not eating right which makes me sound slightly crazy. But I remember after I finally got a diagnosis and went to a nutritionist, and a month later it was like the sun was coming up for the first time in 6 months. The relief isn’t something people who haven’t experienced that kind of depression even temporarily as I did, can understand.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to make this all about me. I think you’re right that being fat and not NT probably increase the burden significantly in a lot of respects, though I’m sure thinner people who appear healthy have their own share of problems because people look at them and have a different set of expectations that are just as painful for the person who appears normal/healthy/typical.


  8. Piffle Says:

    Boy, I see so much familiar in this post. My eleven year old is depressed, possibly ADHD, and has social difficulties. Plus he’s starting to get plump and I know he gets teased at school for his differences. We do have him seeing a psychiatrist, and the fluroxitine is definitely helping him quite a bit. (The depression is no surprise, both hubby and I are on SSRI’s and hubby takes Lamictal too.) We also recently found a nearby group that is working on getting kids with Asperger’s together and working on social skills, Tim has some similarities and they aren’t exclusive, it was just that their kids were aspie. So it looks like we may have found a social group where he fits reasonably well. Another plus is that the parents seem to be more like me than most people, with their own careful approach to others.

  9. Twistie Says:

    I’ve been through one bout of serious depression, brought on by a huge landslide of horrible in my life at the time. Eventually I got past it with time and better things happening, and the help of a couple of very special people. But even though my case was caused by events more than chemistry, and even though I got through it without drugs or formal therapy, I’ve had that sense of sitting in neutral in the driveway of life, unable to even consider picking a gear, let alone get anywhere. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone for a nanosecond, let alone decades.

    I have two brothers who have been in that driveway for years. And while she was never formally diagnosed, I believe my mother spent a lot of years in that driveway, too. The fact that she accomplished so much for so many even in the face of her own demons makes me admire her even more. It’s hard enough to do a quarter of what society expects even when you are the norm or close to it, because, as you say, those expectations are so damn unreasonable.

    In a lot of ways, Mr. Twistie and I have opted out of societal expectation, but in other ways we are tied to it, no matter how we try not to be. It’s everywhere, so in the end we must either bow to or battle it. We pick our battles as best we can, but in the end our lives are defined by those battles. They are defined by which ones we choose to fight, which we choose to pass by, and which we win or lose.

    Meowser, I bow to you. This is a beautiful and powerful piece of writing. You freaking amaze me.

    Someday, when I grow up, I want to write something this good.

  10. Kat Says:

    Great post! Yes! I’ve been trying to sort out all these things lately and it is SO hard.

    Sometimes I feel very alone with my problem of fat/chronic depression/AS/being female/being in my late 40’s, so thank you for writing about it Meowser!!

  11. Emerald Says:

    This is so spot-on, Meowser. As a fat woman who’s suffered from depression and while never formally diagnosed, has always shown a bunch of Asperger symptoms, I can identify with so much of this. Especially this:

    it’s been suggested to me that the severity of my depression is linked strongly to having my reality denied for so long from such a young age.

    Medication and support from compassionate people helped, but it was this revelation that was the clincher in me recovering from my third, most recent and first diagnosed bout of depression some five years ago now. Hadn’t considered AS then, just knew that every time I was forced into a place where I had to be something I wasn’t – blam, back came the feeling of the walls closing in on me.

    I can safely say that if anyone had come to me in my teens and presented me with a list of those ‘shoulds’ as guidance for life, it would have sent my serotonin straight into a nosedive…oh, wait. With some omissions, the expectations being typical ones for the 1950s (which were in many ways equally demanding and impossible in their own time, let alone in the 1980s), that’s more or less exactly what happened. Which might have a lot to do with why I more or less sleepwalked through my eighteenth to twentieth years in a haze of shittiness.

    My underlying tendency is, I know, genetic (my mother almost certainly had it, but was a WWII child and a stern believer in self-discipline conquering all ills, and refused treatment even when the rest of the family suggested the possibility). But unrealistic expectations have a lot to answer for. They impact most severely on those of us whose brains work (or don’t) a certain way, but they’re ultimately damaging to everyone. Perhaps, and it sounds horrible to say this and don’t take it the wrong way but, the flipside of this misery is that at least we realize that those expectations don’t work.

  12. bigliberty Says:

    Fat, major depression, Asperger’s: linking rings. Hard to separate one from the rest.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I.e., that in an attempt to winnow out various identities, one can lose much of herself. Am I the girl who once had an abusive partner? Am I the girl whose grandpa tried to kill himself because he was an undiagnosed Aspie, and his engineering job was his life and he couldn’t bear being forced to retire? Am I the woman who married a man twice her age? Am I the fat recoverer of a ten-year bout of undiagnosed anorexia and exercise binging? Am I a rape victim? Am I the daughter of a self-centered a**hole and a chronic depressive undiagnosed Aspie? Am I the physicist/mathematician? Am I the artist? Am I the girl with a mixed race family? Am I the middle-class white Northerner? Am I the classic liberal and lover of liberty?

    I’m all of those things, and none of them without mentioning the other. As an Aspie, I see my world in a uniquely brilliant way, which adds to my artistry; as a physicist/mathematician, I can puzzle and logic out nearly anything with a formula, which helps my writing and my fat advocacy immensely; as a fat person, I received some abuse I would not have gotten if I hadn’t been fat; and so on.

    Our traits are like nodes on a giant network, the connections to and from each node making us less one thing or the other, and much more a giant, tangled ball of everything we have been and want to be, influencing everything that we are.

  13. Richelle Says:

    I’ve been lurking a while ’round here, and this post made it time to de-lurk. I’ve gone around and around the rings myself with depression and epilepsy. I’ve learned some really important things: 1) I will never have the life you nailed above, so I just better stop trying to plan my future based on it. (I tried to mix both identities for a while; I was a financial consultant with a top-drawer company and I was also disabled, but I couldn’t do it. Every time I had to ask for one of those dispensations you mention above, I could swear I was getting the furry eyeball. Nothing overt, just a “this changes my opinion of you, and not for the better” feeling. That said, all my respect to anyone who has managed to do what I haven’t.)

    2) If I wake up in the morning on any given day too tired to perform to expectations, it’s not worth the trouble figuring out what’s causing it. It really doesn’t help me to know whether it’s the epilepsy or the depression, unless I think I’m getting some bad medication side effects. I just need to take the hint and do what’s needed to feel better.

    However, here’s the kicker: if taking that time or that effort involves getting out of a commitment of some kind, like work, I will probably never, never bring myself to invoke the depression by way of explanation, if I have to give one. I will always, without fail, say it’s the epilepsy. It’s just so much easier. As sensitive as we’ve all gotten to mental illness, I still feel like I’m making a much more compelling argument with the epilepsy than the depression. After all, very rarely have epileptics been told to just snap out of it, perk up, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Depressives? Hell, yes, and I think a pretty strong whiff of that still lingers.

    Also, I will do consciousness-raising for epilepsy endlessly. When people are genuinely curious and want to learn, I will spend hours describing what goes on in my innermost psyche if I think it will help them understand. Depression, no. I find that hard to discuss even with a medical professional. But then again, people seem a lot less curious about depression than epilepsy–at least they ask fewer questions!

  14. Richelle Says:

    P.S. Sorry if anyone’s bugged by my violation of the people-first guideline for talking about conditions. For some reason, I’m really careless about that when it comes to stuff I have!

  15. Lindsay Says:

    Given my very late diagnosis, though (age 44), and all the years I had to struggle with this not knowing what the hell it was, it’s been suggested to me that the severity of my depression is linked strongly to having my reality denied for so long from such a young age.

    This is certainly possible, and of course you’re the only one who can determine what roles different factors played in your life, though what I can tell you is that even Aspies who were diagnosed younger have elevated rates of depression and anxiety.

    Most of the studies I’ve seen of depression in Asperger syndrome have been done on (usually male) young adults and adolescents, diagnosed at varying points in their lives. (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a study that particularly looked at age of diagnosis as a contributing factor, though!)

    You might find this post on age of diagnosis interesting: the author says there are good and bad times to learn one is an Aspie. Apparently, very early childhood and middle age or later are good — later childhood, teendom and young adulthood are apparently angst minefields.

    Also, in my own experience, knowing I was autistic as far back as I can remember did not protect me from (very severe) depression. It had a lot less to do with a poor self-image, though; it was just random crying spells and suicidal compulsions, completely void of thought. I also have a pretty strong family history of depression, though, so I suspect with me it was just a matter of winning the genetic lottery.

    (Also: Hi, Meowser! I read your Shakesville guest post and figured I should probably begin reading you regularly.)

  16. meowser Says:

    You guys all continue to rule. Thanks so much.

    Linsday, thanks for pointing out that article to me. I’m not sure I agree with some of its conclusions, though. I certainly was NOT “settled into my ways” when I was diagnosed at 44; in fact, the reason I sought therapy was that I couldn’t seem to “get settled” no matter how hard I tried. I had no idea on earth I’d be diagnosed with this. And I also don’t think I’d have “rebelled” as an older child or teenager against being told I was aspie. I was one of those kids who asked to see a therapist; nobody had to make me. I think the sooner I’d have found out, the easier it would have been for me.

  17. Lindsay B Says:

    What you wrote about depression hits so close to my core that it’s not funny. I’ve felt exactly the same way, from when I was 10 years old onwards. I count my blessings that I’ve only had to deal with it for about 13 years, and was able to get a proper diagnosis and medication. (Clinical depression with an extra dose of dysthymia for good measure; I’d never get above a certain level of happiness, but I’d travel the spectrum of total self-loathing like a person with bipolar. Only, I only had the one end of the damn pole. )

    What frustrates me, ENRAGES me, is that people who don’t have that deep dark depression can not, and WILL not understand just how much it hinders someone from performing. My father didn’t believe me when I said I struggled with school and getting work because my depression killed my self-worth and motivation, and essentially told me to “get over it”, because when he was depressed over his divorce from my mother, HE was able to get over it; clearly, so could I!

    But, if there’s ever a blessing in disguise, my depression and self-loathing has taught me empathy for others who are suffering, and when the world goes, “So what? Get over it!” to someone else, I’m one more person who says, “I understand. Let’s see if someone can help you get through this.” Perhaps more importantly, I can relate my mantra of, “This, too, shall pass”; that if you can suffer the hard times and come out the other side, you will be stronger and appreciate the joys in your life all the more.

    I wish I was even half as articulate about this as you are, though. :\

  18. meowser Says:

    Lindsay B., you’re doing just fine.

    Richelle, I think that’s why they have a language amnesty at BADD. Not everybody prefers “person with X” terminology, and it especially varies from one country to another. Besides, I think you’re allowed to describe yourself however you like. See this post at Diary of a Goldfish (the origin blog of BADD) for more.

  19. sannanina Says:

    I thought about this post for quite some time, particularly about the depression part… and I am still not sure I am able to sort out the thoughts and emotions I have as a response to it.

    I am not an Aspie, but for most of my life I had the strong feeling that I am “different”. Sometimes I think I can put a finger on how I am different. For example, I often have strong urges to sing out loud while walking down the street (it doesn’t matter if I am sad or happy, only the songs change), and I used to have a far stronger emotional reaction to “small” things, (like a flower growing between railway tracks, or a rainbow, or a frozen puddle). And boy, I seem to be a bag of contradictions – very analytical, on the other hand very emotional, shy to the degree of social phobia and yet someone that loves the stage and public speaking, etc. At other times I think I am wrong and I am not different at all – and my friends usually assure me that my inability to “feel” the beauty of things around me is simply due to “growing up” and nothing else – except that I react differently from most of them to this loss of wonder because it triggers the question in me if life is worth living at all.

    On top of that I got teased/ bullied as a kid. Part of the reason was that I am fat, but I cannot stop thinking about why not every fat kid is teased, and importantly why I was teased even by fat kids when I spent six months at a kind of boarding school for fat kids as a teen (and yes, it was all about weight loss). I know that I had a couple of other things going on – for example I have atopic dermatitis and since it gets worse with stress my hands were basically looking like raw flesh for a while when I was eleven or twelve – diseased raw flesh I might add – and the other kids were pretty disgusted by it which again resulted in more teasing and exclusion. Something similar happened with my weight – I got depressed for the first time in early teens and during that time my already wacky eating habits (I guess mostly due to pressure to lose weight from an early age on) turned into full blown binge eating disorder. And yet – while I think those things have contributed to my depression all those things seem pretty harmless when put into perspective and a person with a different personality structure might not have reacted by getting depressed (while I did – which obviously made things worse).

    However, the problem with this is that I like the parts of my personality that make me vulnerable to depression (or at least that I think make me vulnerable to depression). I am a perfectionist – there are certainly downsides, but hack, yes, I do want to be a perfectionist. I am someone who probably cares too much about what other people think of me and that takes criticism very carefully, but that’s not just negative either, it also means that I am less likely to brush of valid criticism than a lot of other people, and that gives me more opportunity to learn. And I am someone who likes to analyze everything and who (at least I believe so) has fewer positive illusions about herself than other people. And although I am quite aware that positive illusions are adaptive I have a hard time to see illusions as something that is just good. And yet – no I don’t like to be depressed. I don’t like to think about killing myself every single day and than getting stuck between fear of death, longing for things to be over and this incredibly anxiety and paralysis that makes it hard to do anything productive at all. I don’t like to thing about how I got where I am now again and again and again without ever finding a solution. I don’t like how egocentric I have become because of the depression – how hard it has become for me to see the needs of other people. And I also don’t like to have the people around me worry about me constantly – not just because it causes them pain and drains their energy (which it does) but also becaus it makes it threatens the relationships I have with them when it goes on over a long time.

    The thing is, I am not sure I can seperate my depression from all the aspects of my personality that are not just negative but that still contribute to it. One thing I know: Most therapists I have met don’t seem to seperate that two. Usually they imply that I should be less of a perfectionist, I should just consider possible positive interpretations of things to be true without questioning, I should expect less from life, and I should except a stable neutral mood without the bliss I used to feel whenever I saw something beautiful (note: I am NOT bipolar – this is really about reacting strongly to something on the outside, I also never felt particularly self-confident). And that makes it hard for me to say that I would like to get rid of my depression – because it seems so tied up with things I like and that seem to be part of what defines me.

  20. sannanina Says:

    Oh, and just because I used the term “growing up”: I am 29, so yeah, I am usually considered an adult.

  21. Tiana Says:

    I just love this post. I’d say more if I weren’t so tired, but uh. Too much to comment on, too little brainz. As for the people-first thing, I’m one of those who aren’t too happy with it … I always feel like “person with disabilities” makes it sound as if the disabilities were a part of me, or at least inseparably attached to me, while “disabled person” can be used to express that I have been (or am still being) dis-abled by a combined effort of nature and society. There are so many things that make life hard for me that do not come from within my body.

  22. Sharl Says:

    This fat, depressed Aspie (no PCOS as far as I know), who lacks a desire to have children, work a desk job, and be chirpy and upbeat no matter how bad things are, thanks you from the bottom of her cynical little heart.

  23. Richelle Says:

    meowser, I definitely see the wisdom in a language amnesty. Tiana, you make an interesting point. In my case, I have no preference either way, so I tend to go for verbal economy.

  24. Meowser Says:

    Sannanina, did you ever read Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert? He says there have actually been studies that show depressed people have a more realistic view of what’s going to happen to them than people with a “positive” attitude. Which I think is kind of a mixed bag; sure, it’s nice to be right, but fantasy has its uses too. Whatever gets you through the night, and all that.

    Me, I kinda differentiate life-threatening depression from the other kind. Most depressed people don’t have suicidal ideation, or experience it fleetingly enough that it’s not a serious threat. Being terrified of what I might do to myself is the kind of thing most depressed people don’t experience. Please don’t kill yourself, that’s all I ask.

  25. sannanina Says:

    Meowser, please don’t worry about that me. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but at the same time there is a whole spectrum of of them, and I have been pretty stable on the end of “but there are many reasons not to do it”.

    And I completely get what you say about mixed bag – I know that positive illusions are a good thing for people. It’s a very complicated issue, and it partially has to do with my frustration with most mental health care providers which left me quite disillusioned and distrustful unfortunately. (Which again is a hot topic because many mental health care providers seem to believe that lack of trust towards them is something that is inherently wrong with YOU, not something that might be rational as a reaction to experiences you have made.)

  26. FlowerPower Says:

    “are we making people feel shitloads worse, both physically and mentally, than we really need to?”

    In a word, YES. My fondest wish for humanity is that we simply accept each other for what we are and live in peace. I think life could be so beautiful but then we make it so hard with unrealistic expectations.

    The gap between unrealistic expections and reality is where depression shuffles in on scaly dragon feet (no offense to dragon fans, the image just came to me while typing).

  27. Harriet Says:

    Great post, Meowser. Just great.

  28. Lori Says:

    Meowser, this is a beautiful post, and I love what you say about the pain of having your reality denied. I’m not an aspie, but I totally understand that. I have panic disorder, and have had severe panic attacks pretty regularly since I was a small child (I can remember having them at 5 and 6, and from stories I’ve heard about my behavior was I was younger, I honestly think I’ve probably been having them my entire life), and for so long I was just told what I was feeling was all in my head and there was nothing wrong with me. Now, to a certain extent that was right–while panic disorder isn’t “all in your head,” how you are thinking definitely plays a large role, and there really wasn’t anything “wrong” with me either physically or mentally–but it didn’t acknowledge the fact that what I was feeling was real. There’d I’d be with my heart racing and skipping beats and shaking and feeling like I can’t breathe and being absolutely convinced that something awful was about to happen, and all I’m getting told is, “There’s nothing wrong with you. Snap out of it.” I spent most of my childhood and teens years convinced that either I was crazy, because if something “all in my head” could make me feel that bad, I must be crazy, or that there was something really physically wrong with me that nobody could find.

    I can remember the first time I actually read about a panic attack, and how validated I felt to learn that not only was I not the only crazy person out there who felt this way, but that the physical feelings were real. They weren’t going to hurt me, but they were *real*. It’s kind of shocking to me now that nobody ever told me that, and it does sadden me to think how much struggle I’d have been spared if when I was young somebody had just said, “What you’re feeling is real, it’s a natural reaction to a release of adrenaline, it is scary and it sucks, but it can’t hurt you and you’ll be fine.” But nobody did. They just denied that I really was feeling the things I was feeling.

  29. sassyblonde Says:

    Once again you completely astound me with your writing! Thank you so much for putting that all out there for the world to see. The passion you exhibit posting this nearly brought me to tears. I admire you for your courage to look things squarely in the eye and deal with them on YOUR terms.
    You have my admiration and respect!

  30. Starling Says:

    Oh drat it. Birth control is a side effect of what we now call birth control pills. The original use for the drugs was for painful periods for young girls. Which is why it took 20 years for them to figure out that the people taking them didn’t get pregnant.

    Where did I hear that? From my OB/GYN in 1962. She was so pleased that the price was coming down and she could give them to her patients because they used to be so expensive that no one could afford them.

  31. Sun Says:

    Yay Meowser! I was a late DX Aspie too, at 39. My ex is a mental health professional, and I spent 18 years being pychologically and emotionally abused by him. When our son was DX-ed mild AS, and I severe AS, the doc turned to my ex and remarked “You treated her like that, and you’re a psychologist? Very interesing….” Of course we never saw that doc again, as he was labeled a quack by the ex. This jerk dragged us to doc after doc, begging them to put our 6 yr old on medication to make him “normal”. I finally put a stop to it, after I got help for being abused by him. He STILL tries to do things like that to our son, enough so that MY therapist has labeled him as probably having Munchausen’s By Proxy. But then, what does she know, she’s a fat quack, according to him. 😉
    You go Meowser, like I tell my son, we’re not disabled, we’re just DIFFERENT!
    Lori, I know how you felt, when I was DX-ed, I was like “So THAT”S why I think/feel/act the way I do!” My mother had me tested for retardation when I was 8, and I remember the testing center telling her I was ‘highly advanced’ in many subjects, and her telling them that I was a lying cheater, no way was I that smart. Then I got to listen to her telling me all the way home how I had wasted money and time by telling lies and making her friend, the psychiatric nurse, recommend the testing, and how worthless I was, and oh, don’t forget you’re fat too, so no one will ever like/love you. A mother’s love, huh. I never knew what that was.

  32. Blimp Says:

    Did your shrink mention the Evil Empire? The Evil Empire promotes fat-phobia in order to hide poverty: if most of us are “overweight”, that means we’re well-fed and not poor, right? Why are more poor people than rich people “overweight”, especially poor people with little education? Because they’re lazy and gluttonous, right? Because they’re alcoholic, right?

    Wrong. Rich or eddycated people worry more about what others think of them, so if they’re fat, they hide, sometimes using their money and education to divert public attention from their physique, which works, because money and Sophist education are attractive. Sometimes the money and education is used to purchase or manipulate a skinny stand-in to serve as the rich person’s public face. Fat, uneducated and poor people aren’t afraid to show themselves, because they’re already regarded as trash, so they figure they have nothing to lose.

    The Evil Empire wants to manage the world’s population like a herd of cattle, and boast that the “sun never sets” on it. The Evil Empire will humiliate anyone who refuses to be a cow or bull. If you don’t know the enemy, this humiliation can make you feel depressed. But the more you know the enemy, the more patriotic you become.

    What is the Evil Empire? Don’t look for the evening news to tell you. The Evil Empire owns that! Ditto Wikipedia. Look, rather, for the people who run the institutions that urge us to submit. Institutions that blame poverty on the poor, or blame any problem on overpopulation. Institutions that urge us not to use our intelligence to solve problems, but to “turn it over” to some Higher Power. Impotent conspirophiles who tell us that the enemy cannot be beat, because he’s everywhere and controls everything. Institutions that tell us that technology is evil, or that the only way to deal with pollution or depletion of resources is to “tighten our belts” and use less, implying, of course, that fatties must lose weight. Institutions that promote euthanasia and living wills and suicide, using health care costs as a pretext. Institutions that insist we must recycle everything, and live in eco-librium, and give up space exploration, because people are just animals, and are not competent to explore the heavens and conquer the stars. Institutions that promote fear of nuclear power and radiation, telling us that it’s too big for us, and nuclear medicine will make us live too long, and nuclear “proliferation” is unstoppable and must lead to nuclear war, because anyone who doesn’t already have a giant nuclear arsenal, and desires national sovereignty and independence, is a terrorist and a dictator.

    Track down the directors and controllers of these institutions, and before long, you will be face to face with the same enemy that patriotic Americans have known since the Pilgrims landed on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

  33. May 1 is Blogging Against Disablism Day! (This Saturday) « fat fu Says:

    […] Day at Diary of a Goldfish will be this Saturday, May 1. I decided to participate last year at the very last minute; this time, I will actually make an advance commitment to do it and have it up after midnight that […]

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