Monday, May 3, 2010

There is no spoon


Took a bunch of pics while walking through Eastern Market yesterday.

We mean well, mostly. But what is it about our species that always makes us go too far?

A client came to her session in tears yesterday. Her daughter has just been diagnosed as "on the spectrum," some weird jargon for slightly autistic. This client loves her little girl so much. Of course she was freaked out. I worked with this client when she was pregnant so you could say I've known her daughter since before her birth. She's a little character, that's for sure.

In a way it's great that people are looking more deeply into what makes each of us who we are. But I really detest the pathologizing of humanity. The criteria for what is "normal" becomes narrower and narrower as every little quirk gets categorized as a symptom of some disorder or another.

My learning disorder (I self-diagnosed a few years ago) probably has an official name, though I don't know what it is. When confronted with lots of information, I become overwhelmed and can not distinguish one thing from another. For instance if my housemate puts the OJ in the fridge on the left side, when I'm used to finding it on the right side, I literally can not see it. I'll say, "Where's the OJ?" Immediately afterwards, I am humiliated when he points to the OJ, sometimes right in front of my face. The Sufi acupuncturist says that my "sorting" capacity is weak. That's a nice way to put it. I take in so much, but then I am overwhelmed by it all.

It would have been beneficial if, as a kid, these kinds of little problems had been noticed and addressed. The Reya Disorder accounts for a lot of my behaviors, like my aversion to places like Costco or Macy's. There's just too much going on in those places. I freeze when confronted with All That Stuff, then I turn tail and run away as fast as possible. It may even account for my alleged introversion, who knows? That said, I am SO GLAD I was not pathologized as a kid. I had enough going on without having to carry the burden of some label.

It's ironic, isn't it, that no one is normal anymore? We all have our little oddities, eh? Here at the beginning of the new millenium, we are all diagnosable. Is that sad? Or funny? Both? You tell me.

30 comments:

Barbara said...

I think labels are a class thing to a large extent. Most of those diagnoses of the young are reserved for the top economic half of our society. The only label applied liberally to the rest is POOR. Maybe it's better to be just POOR among so many than to know you have a rare, life-time condition.

willow said...

I kind of liked back in the good old days, when we all had our particular oddities and just worked things out and made do.

ellen abbott said...

I agree with this so much. I really started noticing it when my own kids were in school. Teachers really only teach to a certain percentage of their students, the ones who learn well in a traditional classroom set-up. but so many of us humans learn better in different ways. that's one of the things the montessori system addresses. Then, when kids started getting 'diagnosed' left and right (and often by the teachers and not doctors) as ADD and drugged into submission, I said the same thing...normal gets narrower and narrower. It infuriated me that so many kids were being drugged because the teachers simply did not want to have to deal with a wider range of acceptable behavior. I'm not saying that all kids were unnecessarily put on drugs but I think a lot were.

And the trend just continues. Pretty soon, none of us will be 'normal' (whatever that finally turns out to be). We will all have one disorder or another. And, so what? Isn't that part of what makes us all unique? I don't think it's a terrible thing that you are overwhelmed by too many choices. I think we would all do much better with fewer choices, especially when the difference in our choices is so miniscule. Or that you don't see the orange juice on the right because your brain knows it's always on the left. that is not a disorder. It's a habit.

Paul C said...

It's even happening before birth. Now ultrasound can predict all kinds of things about the unborn child. It's almost Orwellian or out of the pages of Brave New World. We want to micromanage everything.

Reya Mellicker said...

I can't stay in a museum for more than a half hour, even if I really really really want to. I get filled up and that's that.

As for the OJ, because I don't mind being humiliated, I can always ask someone to point it out.

And I can live a long and happy life without ever going to Macy's or Costo, believe you me.

Barbara, that is an interesting viewpoint. I'm sure you're on to something here.

Reya Mellicker said...

Micromanaging? Oh yeah!! That is it.

NanU said...

There is way too much categorization going on all over. Nobody is left in the 'normal' class except the person doing the categorization du jour. I'm surely 'on the spectrum' too, and what of it? Still happy to be me.

Rick said...

My grandson son was recently diagnosed as "exhibiting signs of conservatism". Luckily we caught it early, and the shock therapy seems to be... doing something.

Linda Sue said...

Diagnosed with being blonde at an early age- also with youngest child syndrome- Not much was expected of me so I gave very little, did not "measure up" - I grew two inches in height after I left home- after I was adult-and grew immeasurably intellectually, spiritually, artistically- still maintain some ditsyness, mind you, but now it is a diagnosis of AGE!
Everyone has quirks- they are not illnesses- they are being human- Schools are the worst - teachers would have all of the kids be predictable and receptive and quiet...there are drugs for that and we almost went down that road- the pressure was on. Woke up, home schooled until it all settled- all's well. Ellen says it best!

Mrsupole said...

We are what we are and that is life. Seriously people need to stop with all this labeling everyone. What will be, will be. Life would be so boring if we were all exactly alike. The differences among us is what makes everyone interesting and is the basis for those of us who like to people watch.

My one crazy thing is that I cannot look into a drawer where all the silverware, knives, or whatever is in it is not organized. I will get an instant headache and I cannot focus. It has something to do with my lack of dept perception. So actually anything chaotic drives me crazy. I can handle organized chaos but I cannot handle disorganized chaos. It seriously drives me crazy and I cannot look at it. And I mean not at all, I will close my eyes, grab my head and try to get away as fast as possible. People think I am crazy but it makes my head start throbbing so bad that I cannot take it. So I guess crazy is as crazy does. I am crazy. Yup, totally crazy. I like that label.

Okay, labels truly suck.

God bless.

Minka said...

mean well, but go too far - I think that describes it perfectly. except - where is the line when it becomes "too far"? Because some labels definitely help people to address their problems and oddities nd learn to live wih them.
I don't think we will ever know.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I'm so glad I was born before people really got into labels... or maybe it is that I was born in a small, Southern town where life was easy. Later on I "diagnosed" my mother & myself as being introverts. It is something I have tried to overcome, but sometimes just wish I could be a hermit. Forget Costco, department stores & malls... too overwhelming.

Pauline said...

I have the Popeye syndrome - I yam what I yam. My mother used to joke when I did something deemed 'peculiar,' "Everyone in the world is weird except for you and me and sometimes I wonder about you..."

Teachers are often forced to agree with a school counselor's or psychologist's diagnoses. It has been my experience that the teachers themselves don't have a lot of say in the diagnoses and/or treatment. As a teacher myself, I would much rather the kids be able to be kids without being first labeled problematic and then drugged into submission.

e said...

As someone once falsely characterised as unteachable, who should be institutionalised, the labelling thing happens at all levels...what saved my ass was my mother who knew better and told the authority figure whose edict this was to sod it...

John Hayes said...

Naming something is a very powerful act, & as such it can be very negative--or very positive, depending on the context. I do think there may be a trend toward too much pigeon-holing--categorization for its own sake. On the other hand, when I was 22 years old & was able to admit I was an "alcholic & drug addict," I was able to get help. & a couple of years ago when a therapist took me thru a list of fairly stock questions about depression, I was able to admit that, yes, I'd been depressed for many years & had done many things to hide it from others & myself. Of course, these "namings" came as an adult (more or less). With a child, I'd think if it's in response to an actual problem that is causing the child trouble, then it may be positive if it leads to a positive course of action. If it's just random info from some standard test, without reference to anything else, then it does no good whatsoever.

Funny--the things about not being able to find something right in front of you if it's not in its usual place & disliking large, bustling stores are also very true of Eberle!

Reya Mellicker said...

So Eberle and Linda Sue suffer from R.S. (Reya Syndrome) or should it be R.D. (Reya Disorder)?

Rick you are so damn funny. I love you. I do.

And Minka you make a good point - we really should think about where that line is. My guess is, it varies from individual to individual.

As always, great thoughts here! Big ole gassho to all of you!

debra said...

I don't know from syndromes, but I do know that I absorb others' energy easily---that I am highly sensitive. So places like Costco and other crowded ventures with bell, whistles and lights are a lot for me to be around. So. I. leave. Then I ground myself, and choose to return. Or not.

Reya Mellicker said...

John I agree with you that naming is a very powerful act. It also solidifies what is being named, though, and sometimes plants a seed in the minds of those who are pathologized, i.e. "I am a depressive," as opposed to "I'm in a depression now, but that's not all of who I am."

I think you're so brave to admit this publicly! I salute you.

Reya Mellicker said...

I have to say: I LOVE that picture of the two t-shirts at the top of the post. Wow. Cool. Shot by accident, of course.

Reya Mellicker said...

NanU, you're on the spectrum? That is so cool. Can't wait to meet in person.

Chris Wolf said...

We're all weird, why does that surprise anyone?
If you don't like the word weird, how about special, quirky, unique, gifted? One of the quotes from the Incredibles movie was something like 'everyone is special, so that makes us all the same." It sort of bugged me, 'cause it made all the beauty of people the same color...if you know what I mean...

Ronda Laveen said...

It is nice to know if there is something seriously wrong that needs to be addressed. But too often, the diagnosis is used to cut individuals from the herd. Little kids shouldn't be saddled with such large labels.

There is a term for what you describe with your oj. Can't remember what it is but I could find it. I read it in the book "Lost in Translation" by Temple Grandin, an autistic PhD. She is an amazing woman.

If I remember correctly, a study she cited showed that if you don't expect something to be there, you won't see it. It was done with air traffic controllers. I think it showed a simulated runway with a big plane sitting in the middle of it. The controllers were in the process of landing an approaching plane. Because they didn't expect there to be a plane already on the ground, they never saw it at all and landed the incoming plane right on it. The mind is a tricksy thing.

Angela said...

Great stories here, as usual. I like your honest thoughts, Reya, and those of your readers. Me too, I was a "strange" child, with an invisible friend (John), and pretending that I, too, had a magic hood so that no one saw me. I talked loudly to myself (while nobody could see me, haha)(before the days of cellphones. Now everybody does that) and played whole dramas with many roles while walking on the road. How would they have categorized me? Luckily I was a third child and not paid much attention to... and now - well, I still must remind myself that I am NOT invisible sometimes. But I can live with it.

Steve said...

Sad! Kids are just kids, with their own quirks and foibles. There are autistic children, sure, but in the cases of minor autism or learning disorders I think it's more dangerous to label them than it is to treat them as merely individuals with their own individual quirks.

Steve said...

Oh, and I'm not sure your "learning disorder" really IS one, frankly. I think we ALL become overwhelmed to varying degrees when confronted with the excesses of modern society. You're merely feeling what all of us feel. If I'm accustomed to finding something in a particular place it can trip me up when it's moved elsewhere. That's just human! Don't you think?

Reya Mellicker said...

Ronda, it's a slightly differen thing that I suffer from. It's not connected to expectation but rather is about being overwhelmed when confronted with too much information. So I can shop in small boutiques but department stores completely blow my fuses. The fridge is jammed with stuff all labeled with graphpics, etc. That's why I get confused looking there.

I'm thinking it should be called TMID - Too Much Information Disorder.

Merle Sneed said...

Barbara makes an interesting point in the first comment. Autism is mostly a Yuppie disease.

Reya Mellicker said...

Temple Grandin has been one of my heroes ever since Oliver Sacks wrote about her in one of his early books. She has written a book about animals I'm very interested in reading. She rocks!

Reya Mellicker said...

Angela, is having an invisible friend weird??

Barbara Martin said...

Having an invisible friend is not wierd, Reya. As for your 'condition' perhaps its only something you have to work out from a past life. Reiki will help with that.