I recently discovered that I prefer using umbrella terms, instead of more specific terms, to identify myself.
Identity is a hard thing to grasp, even harder when you deal with imposter syndrome.
For those unfamiliar with these things:
imposter syndrome: the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.*
An umbrella term is a word or phrase that covers a wide range of concepts belonging to a common category. *
Anyways, I never liked more specific terms. They felt restricting, caused stress, made me question my identity and my entire self, made me wonder about validation, etc. These kinds of things aren’t good for my mental health.
I was never happy with people saying I’m ‘with Asperger’s’. Like many others, I was confused at first when they changed the DSM in such a way that Autism Spectum Disorder as a diagnosis and term contained all of the older diagnoses, even Asperger’s, which many people placed outside of the spectrum (and still do).
But that’s the thing about a spectrum: it’s diverse. No two people on the Autism Spectrum are the same, yet they’re all autistic nonetheless.
DSM: Abbreviation for the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” a comprehensive classification of officially recognized psychiatric disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association , for use by mental health professionals to ensure uniformity of diagnosis.*
This is something I cling onto with all my might as so many (mostly) non-autistic people invalidate this, speaking of severity and functioning and claiming I have a ‘light’ version of autism and shouldn’t speak for those with a ‘severe’ version.
I don’t like these measurements, as they’re created, maintained and used (mostly) by non-autistics. I have days on which I can function almost as well as non-autistic people, I have days on which functioning is very hard, and even days on which I can’t really function at all.
People see me masking away my struggles and immediately think I must not be having them.
They’re wrong. I can say I am fairly good at masking, because when I tell people I am autistic, tell them about my problems with depression and anxiety as (possible) comorbidities, and they tell me they didn’t notice.
In medicine, comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional conditions co-occurring with (that is, concomitant or concurrent with) a primary condition; in the countable sense of the term, a comorbidity (plural comorbidities) is each additional condition. The additional condition may also be a behavioral or mental disorder.*
Good, because that was my goal.
Good, becaus the moment people notice, their responses to my behavior are hurtful to me.
Bad, because it costs me a great amount of energy and I wish I didn’t have to mask away parts of myself – parts of my identity.
You may understand how imposter syndrome could play a part in all this.
I’m not just autistic, though. I don’t just suffer from anxiety and depression, though.
I’m also queer.
Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender.*
If I had to be more specific, I would say I am biromantic, or bi demisexual, or bi graysexual. But you can see how this may be confusing to both myself and other people.
Honestly? I’m just attracted to more than one gender, and I’m not sure if this is sexually or romantically or aesthetically or emotionally, etc. I just know it’s there and that it’s part of my identity.*
I know the word queer has a problematic origin, but what else could I use? I mean, the word Asperger’s has a bad origin as well, yet I understand why some people still prefer using it.
Heck, even the word autistic is used as a bad word, where I’m from. It is used to describe obessive behavior, and laught about said behavior. It’s stereotypical, and it erases OCD.
OCD in PSYCHIATRY: short for obsessive-compulsive disorder, having a tendency towards excessive orderliness, perfectionism, and great attention to detail.*
In all honesty, I even don’t like using the words anxiety and depression, because I was never officially diagnosed with those. I have the symptoms, reccuringly. But it’s a self-diagnosis and those are often invalidated by people.
I have mental health problems. I take medicine for those and go to therapy. They’re part of my identity, whether I want it or not.
So, there you have it. I’m autistic, queer, and I have mental health problems. This is my identity, this is me. I wish I could share these things with everyone, but I can’t. I mask, I hide the parts of myself that are stigmatized, out of fear.
That doesn’t mean these umbrella terms aren’t valid, that my experiences aren’t valid. What you see is what I present to you, not who I truly am.
I already struggle with imposter syndrome. I already have voices in my head telling me the same things people who invalidate me tell me, and even worse things.
I don’t need real people to join those voices.
*References for the definitions: