I just read a great essay, I’m Afraid of Identifying as Asexual, by Olivia from the blog We Got So Far To Go. In it she discusses her asexuality and her eating disorder. This is rather relevant to my own situation, so I wanted to write a response of sorts.

I started out wanting to talk about my own concerns about the relationship between my asexuality and my eating disorder – I identified as asexual before I fell ill with the ED, but whereas I used to have a more or less typical libido, that has disappeared completely as a symptom of the illness. This has led me to wonder about whether or not it feels right or appropriate for me to identify as nonlibidoist, going off onto many tangents about fluid sexualities, validity of experiences etc. etc.

However, there was a part of Olivia’s post that caught my attention and made me want to discuss something much more general:

“Partially it’s that I’m convinced I’ll never know who I am, partially it’s that if something is going to replace the eating disorder in any way it needs to be quite strong, and partially it’s a fear: what if I try to find something that’s really me and it turns out it’s just the eating disorder in disguise? What if every part of me is just my eating disorder in disguise? What if I can’t even trust something as basic as my sexual impulses? This is deeply tied to the mental illness. I’ve been told so many times that I can’t trust things like my hunger cues, or my desires, or the voices in my head.” (Emphasis mine)

The fear of being unable to trust my own experiences is one I recognize – it’s not so much a fear as an unpleasant reality. And it makes me worry about describing myself as nonlibidoist, because what if allowing a symptom of my eating disorder to be part of my identity means surrendering to that terrible illness that could starve me to death?

When I started treatment, I was extremely wary of my therapists’ strategy of referring to my (eating) disordered thoughts and behaviours as being or coming from something separate from Me, the person. That did (does) not make sense to me. Those thoughts are arising in my mind, and I am the one acting on them – how could they be external? My therapists also use words that imply that the eating disorder has a will of its own – “it wants” bad things for me, “it dislikes” it when I eat properly and so on – and that made even less sense to me, because it’s in no way a sentient being. Of course, those ways of putting it are in a metaphorical sense, but I guess I, in my very literal-minded, autistic ways, do not like using metaphors to discuss something as real and serious as my mental health.

I eventually came to accept the rhetoric when I discovered that separating one’s unhealthy thoughts and behaviour from oneself does mean a lot for one’s self esteem and ability to recover, but the pragmatic philosopher part of me still question the division. Something bothers me about it, and the above quote illustrates exactly what that is.

My eating disorder affects and interacts with many other aspects of my life and my identity. So does my asexuality, my gender identity, my interests, my mental/physical health in general, my relationships … If my eating disorder isn’t “Me”, what are the conditions for something to be “Me”? Unchanging? Having been there all along? There are hardly many traits I share with 5-year-old me. Only healthy, harmless things? People aren’t perfect.

It’s an age old question: What’s an identity?

The way I see it, our identities, or Personhoods, are the unique combination of all those various things, small and big. This means that yes, it can change over time; I think many of us belonging to minorities or persecuted groups are afraid of admitting that, because society is constantly demanding that we prove the validity of our identities. Olivia puts it quite well:

“But I’ve internalized that you figure it out and then that’s it, anything else is wrong or improper or a LIE. You might be repressing part of yourself if you ever end up changing. You’re probably misleading your loved ones. You’ve probably destroyed at least one relationship asking for something, setting boundaries when you really didn’t need to, trying to be something that you’re not: there was no reason to ask for space to try something new if you aren’t going to identify that way FOREVER, and doing so was really quite selfish.”

But if we accept that our identities can change, maybe it will also be easier to figure out what our identities consist of (at the moment). And for me at least, that includes accepting my eating disorder as “Me”. It’s not a healthy or beneficial part of myself, it’s a part of me that I want to and need to change, but it’s me nonetheless. This also means I’m responsible for it – it’s up to me to recover. As for whether other parts of my identity might be my eating disorder “in disguise”: They probably are. They’re probably not even in disguise, but just there, part of both me AND my eating disorder. Maybe they will disappear when my ED does; maybe they won’t; regardless, right now they’re here and part of who I am.

We should never be afraid of identifying as something. We need to trust what we’re feeling – or rather, that we’re feeling it. I know I can’t always trust my hunger drive to tell me when I need food. But I can eat when I know, logically, that I need to, and accept that right now I’m feeling non-hunger. The case of my sex drive and sexual attraction is similar* – right now I don’t feel the need for sexual activity, and I don’t feel sexual attraction, but it’s possible that I will in the future. It’s also possible that I won’t.

Our identities change, just like our needs, behaviours and experiences do. It’s just a matter of letting ourselves go with the flow.

*Luckily, unlike food, sex isn’t required for survival (despite what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs might try to tell you). So you don’t have to force yourself to have sex if you don’t feel like it, and it might be easier to accept your lack of desire in that area than your lack of desire to eat. (Everyone please eat healthy amounts of food, though.)

I only write poetry when I’m feeling broken.

Ugly, hopeless poems that reek of death and decay. Because when my head is messed up it goes into my words and my hands and renders me incapable of writing and drawing anything that’s alive in the way that only fictional beings can be. Left is only dying poetry. It’s one of the reasons I don’t want to be a poet (other reasons include my being too literal-minded). I don’t want to identify as that creature in pain jotting down its deceased thoughts that I am sometimes in the same way I identify as a writer and an artist. The latter two are central to the person I view myself as and responsible for the majority of the true happiness I feel, while the former is an unfortunate but necessary consequence of being alive. Since my mental state has been less than great the last year of so, I’ve felt like I’ve been losing grip of the writer and especially artist in me, which doesn’t exactly improve the pain.

 There’s the classical narrative of the suffering artist channeling their pain through what they write, paint, compose, what have you. It’s a narrative I’ve always sort of felt like I ought to live, but I’ve never seen myself in it. There has definitely been pain present in the stories I’ve written and pictures I’ve drawn, but I’ve never intended it to be my pain. My therapists have suggested, when I’ve mentioned that writing makes me happy, that try and write about what I’m feeling, but it’s always felt forced and not quite right. It didn’t feel like the stuff I usually write – that I like writing.

However, I’m starting to think that this is partly because I’ve never really been in touch with my pain – I’m getting better at that now, after many therapy sessions and intensive soul searching. It seems to be working. A few days ago, I drew this:

 
 It was a night when I was feeling – well, exactly like that. My head was full of thoughts that I couldn’t control or organize, they were spinning out of control, and I felt like the sheer chaos of it all was preventing me from seeing or thinking about or doing anything. So I sat down and drew that and, surprisingly, it helped a lot. I’ve heard so many stories about people using their creative outlets of therapy, but it never worked for me. I could only write or draw when I was feeling (relatively) happy and healthy. But that night it suddenly did work. I felt calmer and slightly more collected with each stroke of the pencil. The drawing is certainly not a happy one, but the fact that it made me feel better sets it apart from the ugly, broken poetry I usually produce, because those poems never did. I might feel a satisfaction in having created something, but the words didn’t heal my pain. If anything, they allowed me to seep in it. 
 

Now I wonder what will happen to the ugly poetry and my art in general. Maybe I’ll feel more connected to either of them – be able to put more of myself into the works that make me happy, and perhaps also consider the act of writing poems something more and different than a drawn out suicide. I might start taking care of the creature in pain instead of standing at a safe distance staring at it as it writhes and whines. Or maybe I’ll stop writing poetry all together, go back to coming up with stories and images that are in no way a reflection of myself, and process my emotions in some other way. I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve missed drawing, missed writing things I love, and if this will make me do those things again – I look forward to figuring it out.

 
 
 

Tid til et indlæg. Nu skal det være.

 

Jeg har i øjeblikket umådelig trang til at skrive et eller andet og udgive det her, men samtidig må jeg også være fuldstændigt blottet for tålmod, for rent faktisk at opstille en disposition og skrive et ordentligt, gennemarbejdet indlæg virker ikke særligt tiltalende lige nu. Det kunne måske have noget at gøre med det faktum, at jeg har fire-fem halvfærdige essays liggende, som ikke rigtig flytter sig ud af stedet. Jeg tror egentlig, at jeg vil sætte mig og prikke lidt til dem om lidt, men i skrivende stund har jeg brug for at skyde noget ud i blogosphæren (er det stadig et ord, man bruger?).

 

Så derfor dette: En slags stream-of-consciousness om et par ting, der har rumsteret i hovedet på mig i løbet af sommeren.

 

For det første. En gennemgribende følelse i mit liv lige nu er en fornemmelse af, at jeg er ved at lægge et puslespil om min egen mentale tilstand. For nylig gik det op for mig at den spiseforstyrrelse, jeg troede først tog fat i slutningen af 3.g., i virkeligheden har spiret de sidste syv år. Mindst. Det er ikke bare årsagerne til forstyrrelsen der har været med mig så længe, men de faktiske, konkrete, alvorlige spiseproblemer, som jeg bare enten ikke har lagt mærke til, glemt, eller ikke opfattet som problemer på nogen måde. Og den åbenbaring har videre ført til, at jeg har opdaget alle mulige andre årsager til forstyrrelsen, ud over dem jeg allerede har haft fat i.

 

Det er en overvældende oplevelse. Og når det lykkes mig kortvarigt at glemme hvor skidt jeg har det i hovedet, faktisk også lidt fascinerende. Det er utroligt, så komplekse mennesker er.

 

Opdagelsen slog mig imidlertid fuldstændigt ud til at begynde med. Puslespilsbrikken afslørede pludselig et billede, der syntes at se radikalt anderledes ud end sådan som jeg troede, mit liv havde været. Jeg var klar over, at jeg havde haft problemer som teenager. Selvfølgelig var det ikke helt godt, så meget som jeg spillede syg for at slippe for at skulle i skole. Men at det var slemt …  Jeg opfattede mig selv som var glad og trivedes med mit liv, selvom det ikke lignede mine klassekammeraters. Det kunne da ikke passe at jeg havde været syg de sidste syv år?

 

Men jo. Det kunne det. Kan det.

 

Som 20-årig synes jeg godt at jeg nu kan kalde mig voksen, og jeg oplever, at det at være blevet voksen i høj grad handler om at opdage at livet hænger sammen på en meget anderledes måde, end man troede. Pludselig at få øjnene op for en hel masse detaljer, man før ikke kunne se. Og det involverer åbenbart også detaljer om ens fortid.

 

Nøgleordet her dog ‘detaljer’. Det er, alt til trods, kun detaljer. Efter at jeg har accepteret at jeg har været syg, kan jeg også acceptere at det ikke er alt jeg har været. Mit ‘gamle’ liv og den opfattelse jeg har haft af det er stadig gyldig og rigtig, selvom der er kommet nye oplysninger på bordet. Ja, det viser sig at jeg var ensom og havde nogle alvorlige sår på selvværdet – men jeg var og er stadig også en person der er introvert virkelig kan nyde og få meget ud af sit eget selskab, og en person der er bevidst om mange af sine kompetencer og gode kvaliteter. Ja, jeg var ked af det og smertedes, men jeg var også glad og fik gode ting ud af mit liv. De to kan nemlig godt sameksistere. Viser det sig.

 

Om præcis en uge begynder jeg på universitetet. Jeg er ellevild, glæder mig som sindssyg (min mor har sagt at jeg altid har været god til at glæde mig. Som barn ville jeg, når julen var slut, være glad, for så kunne jeg begynde at glæde mig til min fødselsdag). Ikke bare er det en ønskedrøm der går i opfyldelse, men det føles også som starten på et nyt kapitel (selvom det kan være farligt at tænke på sit liv som et narrativ på den måde). Med mig vil jeg tage denne viden om, at jeg har et bedre og mere fuldbyrdigt begreb om mit liv og min person. En viden, der kan hjælpe mig til at få så meget ud af livet som muligt. Om 5 år er det sikkert endnu bedre. Men det må jeg tage til den tid. 

 

Lykke til jer alle.

 
 
 

Nedenstående er mit bidrag til en kronikkonkurrence med temaet “Det lykkelige liv”. Teksten fik ikke en placering, men til gengæld kan jeg frit lægge det ud her.
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En stor del af den danske befolkning kan betegnes som psykisk sårbar. Ifølge Det Sociale Netværks hjemmeside er mere end hver femte dansker i kontakt med det psykiatriske system, og dertil er der et betydeligt mørketal. Psykisk sårbarhed er et vidt begreb, som kan skyldes både psykiske lidelser, såkaldte udviklingsforstyrrelser som ADHD eller autisme, andre former for mistrivsel eller en kombination af disse. Selvsagt er der stor forskel på at have en udviklingsforstyrrelse og at have en psykisk lidelse (ligesom at det slet ikke er en selvfølge at man er psykisk sårbar, blot fordi man falder ind under en af de to kategorier), selvom at personer, der har det ene, har en forhøjet chance for også at have det andet. Men når det kommer til samfundets syn på de to grupper, er der ikke så stor forskel. Uanset hvad den psykiske sårbarhed skyldes, er den stigmatisering, man risikerer at blive udsat for, den samme. Vi lever nemlig i et samfund, der går højt op i at gøre de ulykkelige lykkelige igen. Det er dét formål, systemet er bygget op omkring – at blive lykkelig, rask, rigtig og funktionel igen. At komme ud på den anden side og væk fra den ulykkelige fase. Men selvom hensigten er god, er der en alvorlig ulempe ved denne tankegang. Hvis vi altid stiler efter målet “det lykkelige menneske”, glemmer vi, at et menneske, der har det skidt, stadig er menneske og fuldendt person, frem for et slags proto-menneske, der skal justeres og fikses, før det kan deltage ordentligt i samfundet. Konsekvensen er, at de, der sidder i ”den ulykkelige fase” stigmatiseres og faktisk får det endnu dårligere.
Der har i lang tid været megen debat om danskernes mentale sundhed. Det stigende antal børn, der bliver diagnosticeret med fx ADHD eller autisme har været et ofte diskuteret emne, hvorpå den seneste reaktion synes at være idéen om inklusion: De diagnosticerede børn skal ud af specialklasserne og omgås de øvrige elever. Formålet er efter sigende at børnene skal få en ”normal” hverdag på lige fod med de ”normale” børn, men kritik af politikken lyder, at børnene ikke får de vilkår, de har brug for, fordi lærerne ikke er klædt på til at håndtere opgaven. Inklusionsprincippet har ellers været et alternativ til det problem, at specialklasser, om end trods gode hensigter, mest af alt har haft den funktion at gemme børn med særlige behov væk, så de ikke generede andre elever. Så inklusionsidéen er på sin vis god nok. Problemet er bare, at man går for langt i den anden grøft og opfører sig som om de diagnosticerede børn slet ikke er anderledes end de neurotypiske – skønt de jo har særlige behov. Der er opstået en idé om, at man er nødt til at ignorere folks diagnoser og atypiskhed, hvis man vil se dem som mennesker på lige fod med andre. Dette gælder også for folk med psykiske lidelser: Hvis deres kompetencer og nyttighed bliver anerkendt, er det på trods af deres lidelse. Det bliver tilfældet, at de er værdifulde selvom de har en lidelse, og ikke at de er værdifulde og har en lidelse. Men begge dele – både deres værdi og deres lidelse – er en del af deres person.
Vi bør anerkende dette. Og behandle folks psykiske vilkår som blot et faktum, frem for noget, der nødvendigvis er negativt og et problem, der skal løses.
Det er nemlig noget der gælder generelt for mennesker. Vi er ikke problemer, og vi skal ikke løses. Det kan ikke bestrides, at det rent økonomisk er mere gavnligt for samfundet, når folk er raske og derfor er i arbejde, produktive og betaler skat. Dertil er det naturligvis ikke en behagelig oplevelse at være psykisk sårbar, uanset årsagen til at man er det. Det langsigtede mål for de sårbare er skam at få det bedre, om det så er ved at få indrettet sin hverdag, så den passer til ens neuroatypiskhed, eller om det er at komme helt af med en skadelig psykisk sygdom. Men vores nuværende måde at håndtere psykisk sårbarhed på, navnlig at gøre det skamfuldt at have det skidt og insistere på, at det skal overstås så hurtigt som muligt, er ikke hensigtsmæssig. Det dehumaniserer folk, netop fordi det gør dem til problemer, der skal løses. En person med depression kan få at vide, i bedste henseende, at hun nok skal blive sig selv igen. Men hvis hun ikke er sig selv under depressionen – hvem er hun så? Antydningen at man på en eller anden vis har mistet noget af sin menneskelighed, er ikke noget der skaber velvære, og det gør ej heller det pres, der lægges på én, hvis man ikke gør fremskridt hurtigt nok. Man skyder sig selv i foden ved på denne måde at fortælle folk at de snart skal blive raske.
Undertegnede har selv især på det sidste kæmpet med psykisk sårbarhed. Iblandt de ting jeg i den forbindelse har opdaget om mig selv er, at jeg har en autismespektrumprofil og at jeg har en spiseforstyrrelse. Det første opfatter jeg som blot en del af min person og den måde mit sind er indrettet på, i sig selv hverken negativt eller positivt, mens det sidstnævnte er en sygdom – men fælles for dem er, at de begge gør mig sårbar og forvolder mig smerte i visse sammenhænge. Men jeg er kommet frem til, at en stor del af den smerte, jeg føler, ikke har så meget direkte at gøre med hverken min spiseforstyrrelse eller autisme. Det er derimod noget jeg har valgt at kalde ‘meta-smerte’ – smerte jeg føler, fordi jeg er i smerte. Det er den smerte jeg føler, når jeg kommer til at græde ved tanken om, at jeg har en spiseforstyrrelse og derfor “er i stykker” og ikke fungerer som jeg skal. Den smerte jeg føler, når jeg hører om neuroatypiske mennesker, der har måttet droppe ud af deres studier eller blive førtidspensioneret, fordi deres omgivelser ikke var indrettet til dem, og fordi jeg selv glæder mig så utrolig meget til at begynde på universitetet. Jeg får med andre ord det skidt – får dårlig samvittighed eller bliver bange – fordi jeg har det skidt. Jeg er sikker på at jeg ikke ville føle den smerte, hvis ikke jeg gennem indirekte beskeder i samfundet var blevet fortalt, at der er noget galt med mig. Men det er jeg altså.
Hvis folk skal have lov til at tage sig af deres dårligdomme i eget tempo, er det for mange oplagt at spørge, hvordan man sikrer at de stadig bidrager til samfundet og ikke blot tærer på resurserne. I en ideel verden ville det måske ikke være nødvendigt konstant at skulle bidrage til noget, men når det er sagt, er det for de fleste også tilfældet at en følelse af at være nyttig fører velvære med sig. Og hvis man vælger at se veje i stedet for forhindringer, kan psykiske problemer skam føre megen nytte med sig. Hvor megen litteratur og kunst er ikke kommet ud af de mørkeste sind? For den enkelte person er der også noget berigende at hente: Modgang medfører værdifulde erfaringer og nye perspektiver, som man kan tage med sig videre i livet og drage nytte af. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, som man siger. Der er desuden det faktum, at folk, der selv har været psykisk sårbare er i en meget stærkere position til at hjælpe andre. Det er langt mere gavnligt at kunne snakke med nogen, der har følt det på egen krop og som forstår, hvor altoverskyggende og gennemgribende ens tilstand er – at sårbarheden er ens person og hverdag – frem for en, der måske mest har henblik på at gøre en “rask”.
Man kan endda stille spørgsmålstegn ved antagelsen om, at psykisk sårbare nødvendigvis er ulykkelige: Hvis man fjernede stigmatiseringen omkring det at have særlige behov, uanset om de skyldes en lidelse eller det at være neuroatypisk, og i stedet fokuserede på bare at opfylde de behov … Mon ikke det ville give ro i sindet for mange?

Til eventuelle danske, autistiske læsere: Hvad kunne gøre det offentlige rum mere psykisk tilgængelig for jer?

stud.aut. - cand.aut.

Onsdag d. 25 juni kiggede jeg forbi paneldebatten i forb. med et arrangement om socialitet i autisme, der blev afholdt i Århus.

Det var skønt og berigende – omend der var mange mennesker, og jeg var komplet smadret da jeg kom hjem. Jeg ville gerne have været med til hele arrangementet, men så tør jeg slet ikke tænke på, hvor træt jeg ville have været. Jeg skriver sikkert et indlæg senere om emnet.

Hvorom alting drejer sig, blev der stillet et yderst relevant spørgsmål. Formanden fra Kredsforening Østjylland, Marianne Banner, nævnte at hun sidder i handicaprådet, og at der jo snakkes om fysisk tilgængelighed, men når der så snakkes om psykisk tilgængelighed har hun svært ved at indkredse og forklare, hvad for eksempel autister kan have brug for, for at gøre omverdenen mere tilgængelig for os.

Jeg kan godt forstå, at det er et besværligt diffust område, at tage op…

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I’m in the process of writing an entry with the working title “Give me autonomy from my body”, but first, I’m working on a contribution to a contest held by a newspaper I read. My topic is going to be mental health, going through rough times, and how the expectations and reactions of society can make the whole thing much worse. I have a lot to say on this, but I would love to hear from others, too.

So: Have you gone through a rough time in your life, perhaps involving mental illness (perhaps this time is going on right now)? Did you experience additional challenges in regards to this, such as a pressure to get better, or to experience/handle your problems a specific way? And on the other hand, did you gain something positive from this time?

If you’d like to share with me, feel free to write a comment below (if you have an account allowing for that), or send me an email at e.hjorth@hotmail.com

Below: A series of snippets that I either haven’t been able or just haven’t bothered to turn into full-length entries. Some may grow at a later time. For now, I think they make a nice collection here.

ONE

I don’t talk to myself; I just talk while there’s nobody else around.

I feel it’s an important distinction to make. Not that one is better than the other, mind; I have no doubt that there is much to be gained from having conversations with yourself, and I’ve tried my hand at it several times. I’m just not very good at it. I keep wanting to interrupt myself, and I tend to get very disheartened when somebody interrupts me. Then I have to apologize and assure myself that I really do respect my opinions and no, I wasn’t trying to be rude, and I have to try and regain the flow I had in my arguments, but the mood isn’t quite the same, I’ve lost track somewhere, and – yeah, it’s not fun for anyone. But just talking when no one is around to listen – that’s different. Somehow, much easier.

TWO

I sometimes feel unable to keep up with my own thoughts. An idea will take form in my head, but before I’ve ”finished it”, before I’ve properly comprehended it, I’ve already thought of an answer, a counter argument, a continuation. And then the same thing happens to that thought, and the one after, and so it continues ad infinitum.

But quite frankly, it doesn’t make sense. Once I’m aware of a thought, how is it then logically possible for me to feel that I haven’t finished thinking it? I know I can think faster than certain other people, but how is it possible for me to overtake myself?

THREE

Whenever I see a large gathering of people, it’s impossible for me not to think of them as animals. The resemblance, or maybe contrast, between the scene before me and those of the nature documentaries I spent my childhood watching is too great. I’m not intending to sound like a cynical, nihilistic stereotype when I say so; I feel no disdain or disgust or anything like it upon making this observation, no feeling of superiority (or inferiority for that matter) crosses my mind. At most I feel fascinated, and, in fact, a deep sense of peace of calm. There’s something weirdly harmonious about a group of human beings participating in the same activity, whether it be a bunch of music fans dancing at a concert, a room of quiet students taking an exam, or a group of commuters waiting for the bus. It’s the knowledge that at any time, one could decide to break away from the flow and do something else, but doesn’t. Or how no one in the flock is thinking about how they’re all doing the same thing, no one is thinking about the act itself, but rather they’re all immersed in doing it. They’re just living their lives normally, because that’s what it is – their lives. Our lives.

But once I stop to consider what’s happening, it’s a though I get detached from the whole experience. I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of being inhuman as soon as I’m aware of this particular part of human condition. I want to draw a loose analogy to quantum physics, where the act of observation changes the situation itself. Humanity is a sub-atomic particle: intangible and unstable.

FOUR

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”

Wittgenstein said that, if I’m not mistaken. (I know quoting philosophers is sort of pretentious, but he’s my favourite). I agree entirely, and more often than not, the shortcomings of my own vocabulary frustrate me to no end. I lack terms for so many things, mostly things I feel and think. Throughout my life, I have said the words “My stomach hurts” countless of times, but my stomach never just hurts; there are different types of pain, different positions they occupy, some are snakes biting at my insides while others feel more like nausea – and lumping them all under the term “stomach ache” is frankly ridiculous. But that’s the word I have, and its limitations affect my mind as well. I feel a thousand different things that are supposedly all the same, and as a result I live in a world where many things are confusing and overwhelming, too big and unmanageable.

FIVE

I sometimes feel bad about my need to categorize and label myself, the desire for something more specific than “person”. But then I remember that the many cases and genders and inflections and grammatical engineering of the German language are what make its sentences so mechanically beautiful and strong, and then I feel better.

SIX

I took a class on Buddhism and Psychology, and my professor talked about his personal meditation, stating that he had an experience of not-self in the sense that when a sensory input such as bird song entered his body, it didn’t feel different from any input that might have arisen in his body, such as a tingle in his foot or a thought in his mind. And so he felt that there was not much of a boundary between him and the rest of the world.

I realized that this is a surprisingly accurate description of how I feel most of the time. Being on the autism spectrum makes me very sensitive to sensory inputs, and I think the above is part of what causes my regular sensory overloads. Someone once asked me to describe that kind of overload, and how I experience sensory inputs in general, and I told them that “it feels like everything I hear and see and smell is inside my head, and not somewhere outside.”