I want a wider range of behaviors and needs to be ok. I need respect for differences.
For so long, I’ve policed my own self for the comfort of others, which I learned before age 2, I’m guessing. I needed to keep the people around me liking me, so I could keep getting my needs met. Yes, toddler Laura-Marie, tamping herself down in order not to overwhelm the adults around me. So I could keep getting food, attention, cuddles, language, approval, and all the toddler needs.
That continued all my life and does today. Some extreme quietness I had was about that, and how I had been deeply disrespected, to the point where I saw no point in speaking. Why say words, if no one cared about the words? Disrespect damaged me.
Then that could get compounded when my quietness was disrespected also, seen as defiance, not a valid way to behave, or interpreted as something it wasn’t, such as anger. I was damaged badly by a culture that did not meet my needs–the damage caused me to have a behavior that culture didn’t like either, so I got damaged about that too.
Seems really unfair. The coping mechanisms I developed from being abused led to more abuse, for me. I suspect that happens to multitudes of people. It wasn’t my fault to begin with, that I was a kid surrounded by adults who didn’t know how to handle their own feelings, let alone the feelings of an innocent, precious child who wanted love, noodles, and to wear clothes that didn’t hurt me.
My needs were different from the needs of the people I lived with–my sensory needs, social needs, media needs. Noise level, foods I wanted to eat, clothes I wanted to wear. The people I lived with had more power than a little girl in a dress who existed to be cute and easy. I existed to meet the needs of boys and men, not to realize my genius or have fun or express my authentic experience.
That’s a reason I can get riled when I hear people say “we all need the same things.” That’s not true. Someone in a privileged bubble of living in a culture where their needs are standard can say that! But they are incorrect.
I don’t walk into a new space and expect my needs to be met–I expect I’ll be misunderstood and need to leave soon, because one or more of my needs will not be met. My differences aren’t accommodated, so it’s just a matter of how long until I’m overwhelmed. I’ve had my attendance at parties described as “hit and run.” I smiled, but I’m not leaving because I think it’s fun to stay only 20 minutes. I leave because I have to.
My dearest ones consider me and might try to make a space for me where I can be more comfortable. They learn over time the quiet I need, for example, and will turn off the radio. But many of my impulses are wrong; I stim too much, talk the wrong amount, or have trouble paying the right kind of attention.
I wish I could hand people a letter about my differences and needs, but who would read it. Maybe you’re reading it right now.
Moderating is hard for me, so it was easier for me to stop talking than to figure out the appropriate amount I was supposed to talk. That still can be a challenge today. In the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective meetings, our check ins have a five minute time limit. Someone is the timer, and kindly lets me know when I’m at the four and a half minute mark, so I can wrap it up.
It helps me to know a time limit because then I can talk without worrying too much about moderating the length of the share. The clarity of the boundary helps me feel safe. And maybe listeners feel safe too. If they’re getting tired of hearing my sentences of heartache, they know there’s probably only two minutes left or whatever.
I don’t like people needing me to have official diagnoses in order to respect what I need. Self knowledge is important to me, and lining the pockets of an already-rich doctor so he can tell me what I am is not my idea of pleasurable. Someone trying to cram me into a DSM or other kind of diagnosis–good luck, doc. I have a lot going on.
Often I pray to meet with someone who’s smarter than I am. Usually I encounter someone with a huge ego who makes snap judgments before I even open my mouth. The one I met yesterday felt like a cop–an authority figure getting off on power, and not afraid to hurt me for no good reason. Violent assholes become cops–subtle assholes become doctors. She didn’t beat me up physically, but I’m still dodging her, in my mind.
I wish doctors were above prejudice–I really need a doctor who is extra-great at comprehending the people they’re supposed to serve. We know that women’s pain is treated very differently from men’s pain, that fat people not being touched by doctors is a problem, that racism governs psych diagnoses.
Doctors are paid a fuckton of money and praised as successes, but are they skilled at seeing the human who’s actually in front of them? I don’t experience that. I experience assumptions about me, not being listened to, being shamed and lectured until I’m damaged, and needing a day at least to recover from any medical encounter. On top of the suffering of whatever issue I went in for.
I know diagnoses can help some people. But how about you respect me right now, as I am? I’d like to live in a world where a broader range of behaviors is ok, and ok-ized.
Respect for differences is part of justice. I’m praying that Mother God will help me have compassion, even if I don’t understand someone’s difference or know its name.