I’ve been recently processing the fact that I often don’t feel like I can identify a single emotion like every textbook or research paper I’ve ever read on the subject says I should. I think that is because I don’t have one congruent emotion a lot of the time – I have up to three, there could be more – and they often conflict logically according to what we’ve been told.
My whole life I’ve been told I feel things too much, and I should stunt my emotional range. This is what anti-depressants did for me personally, it reduced me down to a small version of my range. It blunted me.
Everything I thought I knew about myself that had been told to me about myself ended up being a false representation of who I am as a person, that’s not to say that I am free from any wrongdoing – I have a checkered past – substance use problems, oppositional defiance, bad work history, bad academic history – but a lot of these were due to a lack of reasonable accommodations, or maladaptive coping mechanisms to survive.
I never really talk about how I feel to people, because I never felt anyone understood me, and that changed when I went on neurodivergent Twitter and started embracing my differences.
I started talking in terms that I understood myself, and a lot of people have related to the way I talk now – this has given me more confidence to start speaking about how I actually see the world – rather than through the pathology of doctors, researchers and other contributors to the medical model of mental health.
It led me to asking this question:
What if instead I just accepted that I am an emotional person, and that’s actually ok?
The cause potentially
Ableism. Rife ableism I believe – I was told I was too much my whole life, and I ended up making myself small. I like to call myself pre-acceptance an ‘Unwilling Chameleon‘ – I’ve always been able to blend in, but that’s meant masking everything about myself.
I have had so many masks on that I am almost a performance art piece. Masking for so long in this way caused me to implode last year, and I nearly lost my life. The masks I’ve identified so far are:
- an ‘intelligence’ mask – (Note the critique: I need a better word here but I can’t think of one)
- a moral mask
- a stimming mask
- an emotional mask (and the worst to actually hide because it invalidates my experience)
Since imploding I’ve picked apart other root causes I have that were never identified – I am Autistic, ADHD / OCD and I have CPTSD.
Naming these things is what I needed – understanding who I am and just allowing me to be me free of the judgment of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
I’m sick of my personality being framed as a deficit – rather than a lack of acceptance – I’ve been made to feel bad about caring about justice, caring about others, feeling a lot, having a moral code. There are challenges to having my mental health differences and some are just pain (CPTSD can get in the trash), but I like the positives too.
I am working on a counter to this called the ‘Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Neurotypical Disorders’ (DSM-N1) which I hinted at in this Twitter thread.
So anyway here goes – pathologize me – I’m ready.
[TW/CW: strong emotions, pet death]
I as a neurodivergent person experience more than one emotion a lot of the time.
It was reading Naoki Higashida’s book – ‘The Reason I Jump’ – that actually let me realise that my concept of time is far different to how neurotypical people experience it – and that also comes with emotional complexity.
How te ao Māori (Māori worldview) talks about time is my experience…
Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua: ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past’
This conceptualisation of time does not leave the past behind; rather one carries one’s past into the future.Journal Article
I hypothesize that I experience time in three ways at the same time:
- Emotionally – can be past/present/future
- Sensory – always the present
- Thinking – can be past/present/future
The first ever multi emotion I was able to identify and name because of this is to do with my cats:
“Sad crying happy at the same time. Completely conflicting emotions. Cause I’m petting a cat I always know is going to die before I do. And I don’t get to not think about that ever.”
I think I have been masking lots of additional emotions I am feeling in public, because I have learned that it’s socially acceptable to only show certain one at a time, ones that people expect – and how do you even express this? No wonder I look flat.
If I cry when stroking my cat at home – my wife will worry. I am ok – I just experience a lot of emotions all the time.
What if I just accepted I am ’emotionally unstable’, ‘too emotional’, ’emotionally volatile’ and leaned into it. By using emotional language to identify more than one emotion even if they conflict – it allowed me to focus in on the one that I wanted to have.
The judgment from being told that this was not ok damaged me far more than experiencing rapid mood changes in response to emotionally difficult things ever did.
When I saw parents recently discussing clearly abusing their neurodivergent child I found a new one.
Ahh yeah “rage sad calm”.
Such a sweet emotion:
- Rage that this is still happening. (present)
- Sad that this was my past. (past)
- Calm because rage consumes the soul. (future)
I focus on the calm – to get through it.
Does this work – is this a thing?
It works for me, but I have no idea if it actually exists.
There’s no science here. Most of the time things science have said about me have been wrong – or based on a neurotypical interpretation of the problem.
Other people have been wrong about me and have constantly been gaslighting me.
Now I am just trying to be me. I had this realisation the other day:
I’ve tweeted myself into better mental health! Far better than any mental health medicine has ever made me feel. Or drug. This is what I’ve needed, confidence to believe myself. Confidence in my knowledge that I’m not defective, the standards I’ve been held to are.
I’ve come out on Twitter as bisexual.
I’ve announced I am ADHD.
I’ve discovered I am Autistic.
I’ve discovered I am morally scrupulous.
I’ve discovered I’m not alone.
I’ve discovered ableism.
I’ve undone ableism. I’m picking apart the knots of NT standards.
I’ve been honest about trauma.
I’ve been honest about abuse.
I’ve been honest that my life has sucked for most of it.
I’ve come out as non-binary.
I’ve been honest about substance use.
I’m no longer small. I’m no longer weak. I’m me. Finally.
I’ve been honest as someone who needs that implicitly as someone with moral scrupulosity OCD. I’m crying because I’ve never felt this good about me. Ever. Ever!
Taking inspiration from one of my favourite feminists – Mona Eltahawy – I am saying “Fuck you!” to being a small ‘Unwilling Chameleon’.
Instead I am moving toward being an ‘Emotionally Unstable Octopus’ – I use my camouflaging to adapt and win, not to hide – not anymore.