Years ago, I had a journey of self-discovery. At the end (or I should say middle because that’s an ongoing road), I slapped some labels on myself. At first, I found the labels to be a comfort. There was a reason why I acted the way I did. In the words of Jessica Rabbit, “I’m just drawn that way.” In my elation for explanation I overshared my conclusions. But over time, I have grown quiet about my labels. Not because I am ashamed, but because of the reaction I have learned comes from finding out what makes me tick.
To be clear, because I am not ashamed of my labels here is how I see myself. I am an introvert with high level functioning social anxiety and some HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) traits. Again, not official diagnoses but more of self-awareness. These are the labels I feel best describe me and more important indicate my behavior.
Because I throw in that “high level functioning” descriptor I feel like I am more of a fence sitter. There are some things that my anxiety governs but there are other things it doesn’t. So, please, do not change your reaction to me based on your knowledge of my anxiety. And don’t bother comparing me to other anxiety sufferers you know. Comparisons never line up.
For example, there are some things I can’t do. As if in, I can’t make myself do without having a panic attack. Calling people on the phone, visiting, that kind of thing. If you ask me to do such things and I decline don’t start berating me or lecturing me. Just accept the fact that instead of promising to do something and then not following through I am being honest from the start.
Tolerance of my behavior because of my anxiety can come across as condescending. Empathy is showing respect because you see me struggle and not needing to know the why before showing respect. I’m just going to say, as imperfect as I am, I deserve respect with or without you knowing about my labels. You finding out about my labels should not alter your reaction to me.
Another example. I heard someone talking about being at a performance for her child. Her child is involved in a competitive activity with other children. One of the parents complained about one of the children on the squad not performing as well as the others. She was loud about it and rather obnoxious until one of the other parents informed her the child was special-needs. At that moment, the mocker felt bad and said something about how she was probably going to hell now.
My question, why was it okay to mock a “normal functioning” child and not a special-needs child? Neither scenario is acceptable to me. Why did it take her finding out the child was special-needs to realize her mocking was not appropriate?
If diagnosing people with issues is what it takes to be nice then maybe we should all assume everyone has some kind of issue. But really, shouldn’t we just be nice for the sake of being nice and not wait to find out why someone acts the way they do?
Just a thought.