I don’t write here much, but I’m on twitter a lot more! Follow me there at @theoriesofminds.
I started this blog because I wanted to tell some of my own stories, and was apprehensive about it.
Often people grant authority to narrators of stories to the extent that they’re working with an already-established, straightforward narrative. For example, there is an established homeschooler narrative, which involves (among other things) being a poster child: brilliant, well-behaved, mature for your age, and without any socialization issues. This is also a straightforward narrative: your traits are due to your homeschooling (and not because of socioeconomic status and/or parental education and/or personality traits, etc).
Going off-script can go badly, especially if the script is positive and your experience was not; people may question your right to work with the narrative at all (see: No True Homeschooler). And a complicated narrative can just be confusing to people – it doesn’t make for a very compelling story when I say “I had problems with socialization and some of it was probably due to homeschooling but some of it may have been due to Aspergers but also a lot of my Aspergers symptoms went away when I took supplements while trying to treat muscle weakness and I don’t know why that happened”. Consequently, I usually leave some of my story out when I tell it to people, if I tell it at all – but that eats at me. Complexity is part of life, too, and it’s a real and genuine, if sometimes unwanted, part of my life.
A lot of my narratives are off-script and complicated like that, in part because many of my experiences are not representative ones for the categories I fall into. I find myself asking whether I can legitimately speak up about any of my experiences…and after a while that question starts to feel like kicking myself in the face. So this title is a way of acknowledging that complexity, and acknowledging that I can’t write a clear, simple narrative, while finding a way to speak up anyway.
In late 2013, I discovered Homeschoolers Anonymous and a community of bloggers who had been homeschooled in conservative Christian traditions. I was unschooled in a secular setting, but shared more experiences with some bloggers than I had expected – severe difficulty adjusting to mainstream social settings, the sense of being permanently exiled in a foreign land, and academic underpreparedness.
Four years earlier, I had been diagnosed with Aspergers, in my late twenties. I had described chronic difficulty navigating social interaction to many, many mental health providers prior to that in attempts to obtain support/treatment. I identify with many of the narratives I have read by women with Aspergers, especially surrounding overcompensation for disability and the resulting invisibility [pdf].
In early 2013, after an extended and stressful saga of medical self-advocacy, I was tested for and then diagnosed with an autonomic disorder, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Some of the symptoms mimic anxiety (tachycardia, adrenaline surges) and depression (exhaustion, difficulty thinking, difficulty sleeping and eating). Trying to function normally with an undiagnosed chronic illness can also cause anxiety and depression. I have had symptoms of POTS since I was thirteen, possibly earlier, and have had unnecessary amounts of experience with both real and pseudo-anxiety and depression.
In mid-2013, I started having muscle weakness in response to normal physical activity, as well as some other weird stuff. I became severely ill and mostly housebound. Because my doctor’s office was not responsive to repeated requests for help, I began looking for people who had symptoms similar to mine, and came across descriptions of kids with mitochondrial disorders. I tried a number of supplements that are used for treating mitochondrial disorders, and one of them was so helpful I was able to begin working part-time again. It also made social interaction much, much easier for me, although I do not know why or how; I’m just able to think about what other people are thinking more easily.
I was raised UU (Unitarian Universalist) and, like 90% of UU children, fell over the cliff when transitioning to adulthood: the adult UU worship traditions did not have what I found valuable in the youth culture, and I tried repeatedly to go back and could not find a home there. Over a decade later, I discovered the depth and breadth of Judaism, and fell in love. I found a wonderful local Reconstructionist community and rabbi and, in October 2013, completed my conversion to Judaism. While writing my conversion essay, I read some books about how to write memoir, and discovered that I wanted to write a lot more of it.