Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Getting Better ≠ Becoming More Socially Desirable

I was feeling angry about a lot of things last night, and I went for a bike ride around my neighborhood. I didn't feel any better. Exercise generally does *not* make me feel better when I'm upset. Especially in a public space like my apartment complex where people will walk by and expect me to behave in a non-angry way. So I did something that I've never done on my bike before: I began talking out loud to myself. I spoke out loud, in a normal tone, not trying to hide it from anyone. I kept repeating the same things over and over again. I did not stop speaking out loud when I passed by other people. I kept talking, kept asserting my right to talk out loud to myself. Most people didn't notice. Some people looked up at me briefly, then back at their phones. I continued talking and it felt so amazingly empowering.

I should add that I did not say anything that was hurtful or threatening, but the mere act of talking out loud to myself while biking could be enough to make people uncomfortable, or to wonder what was wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me, and I no longer care about suppressing myself so that others can feel comfortable in situations such as this.

People often think that getting "better" means becoming more socially desirable, more neurotypical, more "normal." But getting better doesn't always mean that. 

Getting better can mean becoming more argumentative in cases where you used to pretend to go along with things that you never actually agreed with.
Getting better can mean questioning things that you used to accept without question because you were scared.
Getting better can mean saying no to things that you always felt pressured to go along with in the past, even things that most people always thought you were okay with.
Getting better can mean telling someone that no, you are not okay being anywhere near them if they are going to chew gum, click their pen, or anything else that bothers you. It may seem to them that the problem just arose out of nowhere, when in reality, you've been suffering in silence for years.
Getting better can mean telling someone that you don't want to hear about something because it's triggering to you, because you were never really okay no matter how many times you listened to it before.  
Getting better can mean starting to wear earplugs or headphones, or getting other accommodations that you need, again, not because the issue just arose, but because you didn't have the guts to take care of yourself before, and now you do.
Getting better can mean wearing fun, bright-colored earplugs instead of the skin-tone earplugs you used to wear hoping that no one would notice.
Getting better can mean *not* holding your phone up to your ear while pacing in circles and talking to yourself just so that other people feel more comfortable with your behavior.
Getting better can mean that you don't automatically stop talking to yourself when you come into contact with another person, because you no longer feel self-conscious about it.
Getting better can mean *not* lying and telling people that you are "just getting some exercise" when you are actually jumping or spinning around for purely emotional reasons.
Getting better can mean taking more sick days because you no longer have anxiety about calling in sick.
Getting better can mean asking for help and support more often than you used to, because you're not afraid anymore.
Getting better can mean getting out of a situation that is not okay for you, no matter how many people disapprove, because you have the courage to do what feels right for you. 
Getting better can mean speaking out about bad things that have happened to you *more* than you ever did before because you feel more like your story is valid.

Getting better won't always mean that you are a more pleasant person to be around, or that others will be more comfortable around you because you act more "normal." Getting better won't always mean being more socially desirable. Getting better won't always mean acting like someone who doesn't have anything wrong. Getting better doesn't mean that everyone will like you better. 

My goal was never to make other people feel more comfortable around me, in the sense of acting more neurotypical or socially desirable or "normal." My goal was never to *act* more okay with things as they are, or more okay with other people's expectations of me, or just more okay with things in general. I am never going to be that way.

I am going to get better.

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