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On the Naming of Cats (and other Things)

It’s been a while since I’ve been competent to write. Which is sort of a problem all around, given how much of my life and my work are built around the writing.

A bit less than two weeks ago, I decided to read through a couple of webpages that had discussion of traits that are common to the stereotypical AFAB presentation of aspie-style autism.

I cried a lot, afterwards.

And there are ways where this is similar to when I got the Hashimoto’s diagnosis. There’s a long of anger in it. (For those who aren’t aware: I have a family history of thyroid issues, a personal history of needing thyroxine in my teen years, and asked my doctors to monitor my levels of relevant hormones at every visit. Twenty years of this later, a new doctor saw fit to check my antibodies, and get me on a version of thyroxine that actually leads to a noticeable difference in my physical condition.)

(This was a lot better than, frex, the medical person who gave me an utterly disbelieving look and said, “You’re hypO?!” Yes, I’m hypO. Sorry I don’t look like a walking stereotype for you. Yes, even my probably-autistic ass can read that level of blatant contemptuous telegraphing of incredulity.)

There are things that I have been struggling with my whole life – some of which I’ve been in and out of therapy for since I was literally a child – and nobody figured anything out. (Even after awareness of spectrum stuff became more common.) And that makes me angry, and it makes me tired. There was an article I read recently about late-diagnosed ADHD that had a line in it that I felt keenly. Something like, “You were performing acceptably, so nobody noticed you were struggling.” Like that. Different problem, same thing.

All of these things that I wound up… having embedded in my psyche. A deep conviction of incompetence that got solidly installed when I hit the wall. Profound uncertainties about so many things, a conviction that there was something wrong with me that I would never, ever feel at home in a situation, was always waiting for the sense of belonging that the neurotypical world told me was an inevitable part of being really there.

But I could have had a name other than “failure”. Some other label. I could have stopped looking at the rows of PTA moms with their indistinguishable haircuts and identically fashionable outfits and wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t figure out how I could even begin to fake that. I could’ve felt like something other than a hollow dummy who didn’t get half the stuffing I was supposed to get.

I could have just been an ordinary aspie, and been able to go, “Okay, that’s not my problem.”

(I mean, I mostly went “that’s not my problem” but it was always one of those places I didn’t measure up. Because I never got rid of the sense that the measuring stick I was supposed to use was the conforming one. What justification do I have for not… etc.)

Having this other possibility, that sense of being within the ordinary of something, of being so very like what I am in a way that has a communion, a commonality, and the possibility that there’s some sort of help for figuring out how to get done the things I want to do? Some way of structuring my approach that is actually working with my cognition rather than fighting it every step of the way? That’s amazing.

Sorcery.

This prospect, this hope for something, it’s amazing, and it’s exhausting, this feeling that so much pain was just… unnecessary. And I go through fits of being so very angry, because damnit, when I was a little kid I was in therapy because of social adjustment concerns or something like that, and I didn’t really talk to the shrink but I algorithmically solved how to reliably beat her at Mastermind, Battleship, and this other thing with shapes that were blue on one side and white on the other and were flipped like Go pieces when surrounded.

Anyway.

But seriously, this is basic magical theory, and that’s why I’m writing it here. There’s a power in naming things. A power in claiming the names for things, in embodying the right ones.

Because humans are naming apes, and if we don’t have the right ones, the wrong ones will stick to us.

I’d rather have “autistic” and “aspie” than “failure”, all things being equal.

Useful naming magic opens to power.

And I’m writing here because I want to name it, and because I think that other people might find it… useful? Helpful? To see that it can be named, and it can matter, and that thing that is a constant struggle might be something that can be put down gently, now, and perhaps not with a huge amount of resenting having had to carry it for so long. There’s something cleansing in finding a right word, something that doesn’t fit like a garrote.

I mean, also the world is too loud and everything is exhausting, but aside from that.

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