writing on maintaining self-esteem with invisible challenges
July 14, 2023 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I struggle with living life in my second language and probably have ADHD and autism on top of that. The result is that I present with a variable level of social, linguistic, and intellectual functioning. One day I might be near-fluent and outgoing, the next I might struggle to even follow basic directions or make eye contact when speaking. This is really tough on me, since I also have all the baggage of the the typical gifted kid who based their entire self-worth on academics and then crashed and burned in college. I'm looking for writing by people with similar "invisible" challenges to help me to find a way to reframe my self-image to view myself as a person of worth despite the facts that (1) I really am painfully, visibly below average in social situations, absorbing verbal information and basic daily-living tasks and (2) since I seem 'normal' sometimes, I'm often perceived as moody or lazy even when trying my hardest.

Please do not leave comments suggesting therapy/psychiatric interventions; I'm looking into this but it is slow going considering is very difficult to find professionals who even understand that adults can have ADHD or that autism is a spectrum that includes adults who can live independently in my current country of residence.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I could have written this exact same question, including the second language thing.

Not sure if this quite fits what you’re looking for, or maybe you’re already aware of it, but the only thing I can suggest is maybe autism twitter (one starting point could be the hashtag #actuallyautistic). Actually, just browsing twitter now I stumbled across an author Pete Wharmby who has written a couple of books.

Feel free to send me a private message if you’d like to chat to someone in the same boat.
posted by iamsuper at 7:38 AM on July 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

I would read:
https://humanparts.medium.com/laziness-does-not-exist-3af27e312d01 (I think this one is the best and most important, if you like it, read the whole book)
Laziness Does Not Exist and Unmasking Autism by Devon Price
Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby
Strong Female Character by Fern Brady
Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison

As for me personally: I am also AuDHD and very bad at doing things. Growing up, I was taught that the only acceptable way to be autistic was to be very smart and to have some sort of savant skill that makes up for my shortcomings in other areas. I do not have one of those.

I’ve since read a lot about capitalism, our culture, the Protestant work ethic, and similar that’s made me come to the conclusion that:
- We’re animals. We don’t need to be “good at” anything. Every other animal is content as long as their basic needs are met and they’re comfortable. Why should we torture ourselves with things like ”legacy” and “achievement”.
- People who can make those around them feel good are incredibly valuable. This only sometimes came naturally to me, but making it my focus was a lot easier than trying to get really good at some random skill. You do not need to be socially skilled to do this. I still insult people by accident all the time, but I also make them feel good more often than not. I would not have been able to do this while masked. (Of course I have to do some, but you’re allowed to be much more awkward than you probably think.)

Feel free to memail me if you have any questions or want to talk more. I love this subject.

Oh, and psychedelics helped me a lot. Particularly nitrous oxide for self esteem/feeling comfortable with myself.
posted by wheatlets at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2023 [5 favorites]

living life in one's second language is SO EXHAUSTING. Every little thing is harder. And the irony is that the more fluent you are at the second language, the less "slack"/patience/understanding you receive from the folks who might otherwise be patient with a foreigner! It's rough.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:06 AM on July 14, 2023 [4 favorites]

Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine is focused on chronic physical problems, but there's a lot of overlap in the emotions at play.
posted by matrixclown at 10:33 AM on July 14, 2023

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