Out of Anxiety Meds & Body Dysmorphia

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I’ve had a rough few days. I think the main problem is that I’ve been out of my anxiety meds for a while because Buspirone is on national back-order for some reason, and my pharmacy doesn’t know when/if they will get it back in. I contacted my psychiatrist today to ask him to prescribe something else, hopefully he will do so soon. I was going to try to just hang on until my appointment with him at the end of the month, but I am having some real anxiety issues cropping up without my meds.

For one thing, I’ve been having some body dysmorphia issues, which happens now and then. I’ve heard that issues like these are common among high-functioning autistic people. I’m not trans or anything like that. I don’t want to be a man. But, for some reason, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve always felt kind of uncomfortable in my own body. I’m not sure why. I don’t think I’m extremely ugly or anything like that, but it is like there is some kind of disconnect in my brain when I look in the mirror. I feel like my body looks wrong somehow or like it isn’t the body I should have. It is hard to explain.

I think part of it has to do with always feeling unfeminine. Like I said, I don’t want to be a man, but I’ve always felt like I’m not very good at being a woman either lol. I feel like a tomboy, I always have, yet sometimes when I look in the mirror I look more like a woman than I feel. It is weird. I also have always wished I was thinner, more flat-chested, and athletic-looking overall, but my genes just don’t cooperate with me. It is funny to me when I hear women saying they want bigger boobs. I’m always like “why would anyone want that?”, but I know everyone has their own insecurities, and some people obviously have different ones than I do.

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Identity Crisis

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Lately I’ve been feeling a little bit of an identity crisis. Mainly because I have two conditions (Aspergers and Bipolar Type 2) that color my world, outlook, and personality so much that it leaves me wondering what is left that is actually me if you took those two conditions away? Who actually is Maranda Russell without the neurological disorder and the mood disorder? I like to think that the heart of me is just me and not caused by some condition outside of my control, but I’m not sure if that is true. After all, the creativity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, child-like innocence, and sensitivity I am often known for and complimented on could all be well known traits from the Aspergers and Bipolar. So who am I beneath all that? I really don’t know.

A short bit of creative advice

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After a few years of being a professional writer/artist, I have come to a sad yet seemingly true conclusion – in order to be a success in any creative field, you have to adopt somewhat of a f***-it attitude. In other words, you have to stop caring so much what people think. Yes, some people will hate your work no matter how great it is…but on the up side, some people will love your work even when it sucks. Hopefully in the end it evens out.

If you dare to create work dealing with important subjects, you are bound to eventually come under attack from people who disagree with you. Many times it won’t be your work they dislike but your point of view…unfortunately most people are unable to be objective about anything relating to subjects they are passionate about. Learn to shrug your shoulders at the oddities of human nature and let it go.

Remember that in the end it is yourself you must please as an artist. There is nothing wrong with making money from your creations or even becoming popular, but always make sure to stay true to yourself. Make what you love. Make a contribution that only you could make.

High-functioning autism and the struggle with feminine identity

John Collier's painting "Lady Godiva"
John Collier’s painting “Lady Godiva”

*Disclaimer – I want to make sure I state that this blog post was inspired by my own experiences. Not every person with Asperger’s Syndrome or high-functioning autism may feel the same way or experience the same issues, although from what I have read, these issues are not uncommon among females with autism.*

I have had a long, complex relationship with my own femininity. Growing up, I never noticed a huge difference between myself and other girls until I hit middle school. In elementary school I was just a “normal” little girl who was into books, Barbies and ponies. I did have some sensory and social issues, but they weren’t huge red flags back then and were easy to ignore. When I got to sixth grade it seemed like the whole world suddenly changed. Girls became obsessed with makeup, hair and clothing. They also read fashion and relationship magazines so they could learn to draw attention from the guys they liked. I was still into books, Nickelodeon, Disney movies and playing outside. I really couldn’t care less about my looks or guys. I didn’t care all that much about making friends either.

It was at this age I first experienced real bullying. I was made fun of because I didn’t start shaving as soon as the other girls did. I was picked on because I didn’t dress in style, wear makeup or have a “cool” hairstyle. I was picked on because I still liked many of the same things I liked as a little kid. I was called a lesbian or ‘butch” because I was a tomboy who was socially clueless in many ways and had no interest in guys yet. Middle school was hell for me in many ways. I was lucky to have a few friends who were outsiders in their own way, but I often felt very much alone. I was constantly told that I was unfeminine, so I started to believe it and wonder what was wrong with me.

Things got a bit better when I reached about 16 or 17. By then I had learned to “fake it” to fit in better. I still didn’t wear makeup or jewelry but I did try to look enough like everyone else to fly under the radar. I started wearing jeans and cute little t-shirts like everyone else (even though I really don’t like the feel of jeans). I adopted a hairstyle that was simple but not “weird”. However, flying under the radar didn’t always work and I started having different issues. As I matured, some guys started to find me attractive and hit on me. This made me want to run & hide. I was uncomfortable being an object of physical appreciation. I didn’t want to be called names like before, but I didn’t want to be seen as a sexual object either.

During this time I actually started to find it easier to relate to guys than girls…as long as the guys didn’t see me as more than a platonic friend. I did start to develop real feelings for certain guys around 17 but was still terribly shy and uncomfortable with the whole ‘dating’ thing. I never really dated until a couple years later when I met my husband, who I got to know online before we ever met in person. Even when we met in person we were friends for a while before we started anything romantic.

As an adult I have developed a better relationship with my femininity, but I still face judgment sometimes. When I got engaged I received real disdain from some women because I didn’t wear my engagement ring all the time (sensory issues). I often feel bored or left out when women talk endlessly about shopping, parties, clothes, weight, guys or gossip. I still don’t care that much about looks. My hairstyle is wash and dry, my clothes are simple and comfy and I haven’t worn makeup since my wedding day. Occasionally I still get a comment about how much I am “like a man” or something along those lines.

Because of these experiences, I somewhat look forward to growing older even though most women seem to dread it. I have hope that as we all age, looks and other superficial things will start to matter less and less to my peers. I don’t want to be invisible anymore like I once did, but I still don’t want to be judged by appearances. When others think of me I hope they think of intelligence and kindness. I hope they think of someone who is creative and passionate. To me, those qualities are what make someone a “real” woman anyway.