Saturday, February 9, 2008

Difficulties and Will Power

It would be an understatement to write that my time in Minnesota has been a challenge. After this most miserable, humiliating week, I spent today wondering if I am capable of finishing my university program. My self-doubt and self-criticism were familiar to me, and to my wife. It is depressing, for lack of a better word, to feel isolated from the university, my peers, and even my instructors.

When a professor or a peer seems to dismiss me, I need to rebuild myself. I need to prove to myself that I am not worthless simply because I lack social skills. I should not be ignored simply because my mind is so atypical.

My wife, loving and caring person that she is, reminds me that others do benefit from my existence. My words do help other people. My impulse to say what I think might shock and even offend, but maybe what I am driven to express needs to be said by someone like me.

I do become defensive, in order to salvage my own sense of worth. I need to remind myself that I am not only intelligent, but rather literally a "genius" on some silly IQ scales. (At some point it became politically incorrect to use the term "genius" and I was then "exceptional" or "superior" — which seem even stranger than "genius" to me.) Anyway, I have to be elite somehow. I need to feel like I have some special value, or I would surrender to the negativity. Silly, childish, and egocentric, I need my Mensa card to remind me that I am not worthless.

This need for self-affirmation is not ideal, but I need the extrinsic. I need someone else, some other group, an external measure, to reassure myself that any wounds to my ego are temporary. It isn't conceit that compels me to these external validations — it is the perceived insults of others. It is the need to remind myself that I am equal to those around me, even if I lack some skills that would certainly improve my life.

Sometimes, I wish for a brain that was silent. I have tried meditation. I have tried to control myself... but without success lately. There are simply too many external stimuli for me to relax. As a result, I am in physical and mental "overload" in this environment. That other people cannot accept my limitations makes me feel like an alien, an outsider, and even an intruder.

This leaves me with nothing but my external validations. My wife telling me I'm worth something, especially to her (and the cats) helps me push ahead. Autism mailing lists and newsgroups remind me these feelings of awkwardness are part of who I am. Mensa discussions also remind me that I am, for lack of a better word, disabled. I am atypical — but that's not a bad thing.

These are the random thoughts of someone fighting to stay and work and succeed in an environment that values the very skills I lack: the social, the interpersonal, the human. I am torn between wishing I were normal and trying to assert that my difference, my curious brain, is special and valuable. If there were no people like me, the world would not be a better place.

In fact, I believe something would be lacking without us odd, weird, alien, geniuses. So I refuse to surrender. I will prove myself equal to the challenges. I must.

2 comments:

  1. Hi,
    Cheer up. There are good days (sometimes, weeks) and bad days (weeks).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Indeed. Though the last 18 months or so have been particularly rough. The environment here is inhospitable in both the literal sense (-35F) and the intellectual sense. I feel sorry for my wife, having to deal with my increased anxiety.

    ReplyDelete

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