Saturday, February 13, 2010

Real Name, No Gimmick

Am I really prepared to say on my one and only public blog to which is attached my real name and real picture things like "Walgreens-brand Adult Glycerin Suppositories saved the day?"*

I would have like to come back to this blog under better circumstances. I would have liked to be living the suave, writer-ly life in Chicago. Hitting the open-mic circuit. Drinking good wine, partying with my friends and old school pals.

I never liked change at the best of times, so I'm still lost in the Kubler-Ross matrix of Denial, Depression, Anger etc. I try to remind myself it's only been two months since I was diagnosed and I owe myself some recovery time. I just started physical therapy. I just started seeing a treating rheumatologist. Maybe it's okay if I don't rush back into full-time work, and if society says that someone has to be working full-time to be decent person, maybe that's society's shame and not mine.

One of my sillier doctors thought I might be on the autistic spectrum. This is, of course, patently absurd. But it did get me thinking about the spectrum. I'm trying to find a good book on the subject, one neither geared to parents of affected children nor pathologizing the condition.

I'm starting with Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures.... And it's very interesting, because although Grandin isn't typical of every autistic person, the way she describes her thinking process is exactly the opposite of the way I think.

I think entirely in words. I have almost no spacial reasoning. I can't tell you the naked panic I feel when I see bathrooms that aren't marked MEN/WOMEN but instead have pictures. I have to pause... the figure in the skirt...means me...means women. Otherwise I might walk into the mens' bathroom seeing the stylized figure of a man and how my woman's body superficially resembles it. I'm not exaggerating.

On the verbal front, I'm so well-developed that I pick up languages in a heartbeat, even without trying. After living in Chicago for three years and seeing many things written bilingually, I can read simple Spanish.

But I read Thinking in Pictures... and glaze over as Grandin describes the livestock dip vat she designed. The water/pesticide mix is seven feet deep...much deeper than a cow or calf is tall. So the animal walks in. They float? Do they sink to the bottom and then float? I try to impose the rules of buoyancy on my imaginary cows. Where are their centers of gravity anyway? I give up ultimately and turn the page.

Then she mentions that autistic people have trouble learning anything not easily visualized, the way I have trouble with anything not easily rendered into words. As I read on, she talks about discover visual correlates for abstract ideas like 'getting along with people.' What verbal learners pick up through social cues, she had to first translate into her visual system.

It's fascinating stuff.

*they did

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