Yesterday as I found myself thinking about college/university programmes, living arrangements (not written about that but I thought about it) and the actual situation with my social/behavioural problems, ie. “realism”, I realized that “realism” can be looked upon in several ways:
- Collecting every little detail about my situation, from my high school GPA calculated to three decimals to exactly how many minutes it’ll take me to clean the bathroom;
- Believing that, with time and experience, the right picture of my situation will form itself;
- Actively experimenting, for example by experimental scheduling, in order to create the most workable picture of my situation;
- Exploring different pictures to see which fit(s), and/or letting others do that for me (ie. label me).
All of these have their good points and their bad points and have, to different extents, been used by me in the process of getting my situation clarified in the past nearly nine years.
In the early days of trying to clarify my situation, I focused on my behavioural problems, cause at the time (1998), these were what blocked my transfer to regular educaiton. At this moment, I wonder how bad they really were, cause I cannot remember having been physically aggressive to people or objects nearly as often as I’ve been recently (to objects) in the past four to seven years and my difficulty communicating didn’t become really serious till sometime in late 2005 or even 2006, but that may’ve been cause people didn’t demand as much self-sufficiency in my communication as they do now and/or the people in my environment were more eager to react to inappropriate/unclear ways of communicating. Probably, still, the behaviour was quite bad, cause I used to identify with a mildly intellectually impaired and autistic adolescent who was in the news in 1997 or 1998 cause she was tied to her bed in an institution cause no-one knew how to handle her behaviour. In fact, I think I have to admit to wanting my behaviour to have been less severe then than it is now, cause a clear increase in behavioural problems still allows for a decrease. That’s a form of second-type approach logic, which is in different ways the opposite of the first type and the fourth type: it’s opposite to the first type in that it’s looking at the whole picture instead of the details, and it’s opposite to the fourth type in that it uses an individual situation that should be unfolding itself instead of labels that should be stuck on me or that I should find. In any case, in my approach to the questions of 1998, I used the fourth type of “realism”, as the identification with the girl in the news illustrates. I didn’t know about labels at the time yet, so I just used the terminology from the 1998 report and made up my own fictional interventions that I thought might work if only there were people willing to recognize I had an actual problem.
I kept my half-scientific labels (interpretations from the 1998 report with the knowledge and understanding of a 12-year-old) till sometime in 1999 just after starting regular high school. What approach I started using then, I don’t remember, but it was less label-focused and more situation-focused. Like, in 2000 when I was in Russia acting curtly (not aggressively, I might say), I explained the behaviour from the point of view from the actual situations in which it was happening. At the same time, I started looking historically at my behaviour and came up with the famous 1993 thingy, but that never got to be a real theory till sometime in the second half of 2001. Mostly, the way I looked at my behaviour was similar to the way I’ve been looking at it recently: what factors in the current situation contribute to my acting this way? I classify this as a “type two” approach cause it is very open-ended: this is my situation in the here and now and that may or may not remain the same for a certain period of time. The advantage of this way of looking, that is the main reason why I’ve used it primarily in 2006, is the open-endedness: it assumes that change can always happen if I set my mind to it or if I learn certain coping mechanisms. It is an attractive approach, cause it claims that I can essentially become whoever I want to be or think I should be or think I can at least be, or whatever. That may sound like a drawback cause I don’t know who I want to be, but actually, it isn’t, cause I am far more in control of my situation if I say I behave badly cause I am confused about my situation, than when it’s the other way around.
In one sense, the approach I silently used in 2006 – and that I used between 1999 and 2001 -, is not looking for “realism” at all, but hoping for some magic change to occur. Look at the college programmes in yesterday’s list: even though there is no consistency amongst them and the most important confusion revolves not around *which* programme I want to enroll into, but around whether I can actually hold on in college at all, they all have a more or less relevant social component, which is exactly my weakness. There is no point in being confused about not knowing into which of these seven (well, two) programmes I want to enroll in, even though this is exactly what has triggered several recent tantrums. There is far more logic in wondeirng whether I could actually hold on in college and whether my two selected programmes aren’t still too socially demanding for me and whether I feel there is any use in studying anyway and in what living arrangement I belong. These questions cannot be solved in a type two approach, cause this approach includes neither decision-making (which is essential, cause neither labels nor details have any intrinsic value as for their implications) nor definite conclusions (which are necessary for predicting my future), but it *is* really appealing to use this approach for an indecisive person like me who also has a lot of inner contradictions in herself, cause it means a kind of “anything goes” approach – which is simply not true.
By 2001, I started using a more historically-focused approach to my situation, with the well-known 1993 and adjustment to blindness etc. paradigm at the centre. It was more definite than the former paradigm, but was still grounded in the belief that anything that has been learnt, can be unlearnt. This is, of course, not in line with the psychodynamic perspective the theory presumed, but at the time I hadn’t heard of that yet and was using “here and now” problems related to blindness and all that as the focus, where I presumed the general approach to be learnt years earlier but never forgot that the behaviour took place in 2001/2002. I was more clear in terms of broad theories for explaining my behaviour than I’d been before, but still used a pretty open-ended approach to how my situation would evolve, in that I believed that I could change my behaviour radically by learning better coping mechanisms, and I in fact believed that learning better coping mechanisms was a relatively simple thing if I had the support/resources for it. In early November, 2002, as I wrote my article What I Realised, I genuinely believed that realizing some of my recent thinking errors could get me to pretty radically change my situation. This is the exact approach I was using in October, 2006, too, even though the 2002 type of looking at “realism” can be said to be the second, while in October, 2006 it was obviously the third. I think these approaches lie on a continuum.
In June, 2002, of course, another paradigm emerged, which was the idea that I had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This led to a revival of the same approaches I’d been using in 1998/1999, but now with a lot more knowledge of official terminology and the perspective of an intelligent 16-year-old, in other words, a lot more defined and refined ways of looking at myself through ASD-coloured glasses.
At the same time, the way I was looking at myself scared me, cause, as I said then, “I already have a story”. The actual thing is that an ASD, or any other mental health problem (by the summer of 2003, I was obsessed with about half the DSM-IV, but ASDs remained my main concern), creates a definition of my situation that is incorrectable. I resisted the idea that I might be autistic on the basis that an ASD is a pervasive part of one’s personality and you can’t “unlearn” an ASD (unlike what the behaviourists think). Still, as 2002 and 2003 went by, I got more and more accompanied to the idea that really, behaviural problems, social awkwardness and communicative difficulties were an essential part of who I was and how I had to approach my situation. I never really got to approach my situation in any way, cause the ASD thingy was only one picture I’d selected to be “me”, while others had selected completely different pictures and weren’t going to allow this form of “realism” to dominate. Besides, I wasn’t busy thinking about my future or anything yet – all I wanted was an explanation of why I was getting stuck everywhere in the here and now.
Of course, this paradigm ceased to exist on April 11, 2004 after already having been dormant for several months, cause by then I realized that I’d gone too far in my obsession with ASDs. Still, I realized that my difficulties were real even if they didn’t need labels. I still used the fourth type of approach to “realism”, cause I still believed my profile was defined even though it didn’t have a DSM-IV label anymore.
I kept using the labelist focus – or the “selecting a picture” way of looking at my situation – till sometime in late 2004. Then I learnt about rehab and decided this might be a good way to improve my situation. Of course, I was mostly talking about my practical skills deficits, but in 2002-2004 I’d pretty much presumed my daily living skills problems being due to a disorder (other than blindness, like ASD), too. Also, by then, I adopted a more blindness-focused paradigm about my behavioural problems, so it fit quite neatly in the general way of viewing my situation.
I started future planning in late 2003, but never really took it seriously. I had gone to the info evening in 2002, of course (that same thing that was last Tuesday), but I’d only been to psychology and pedagogical studies info rounds (cause the ones I actually wanted to go to weren’t being held) and was wise enough to conclude that I wasn’t the type of person for them, even though I found them interesting of course. So planning actually started with my visit to Radboud in 2003, and I immediately picked English/American studies as my major and never let go of it till March, 2006. That was – and is – not the main problem: the problem was that I couldn’t cope in a college environment and I couldn’t live on my own. The first was cause, in high school, I didn’t need to be as communicative / assertive as I would have to be in college (cause, even though initially my parents always expected me to solve my own problems, they almost always ended up solving them for me), and the second was cause of my lack of daily living skills. So I went for rehab and completed the programme but, till about my fourteenth week, never let go of my determination to be an American studies major in Nijmegen and live on my own there by September, 2006. This was my parents’ perception of me and it was my teachers’ perception and it was what the NFB expected blind people with no other disabilities to be, so there.
Of course, the question whether I had these additional disabilities, remained, but more silently than it’d been before. I used the hydro thingy in 2005 to dig into possible neurological complications of my prematurity, but stopped this in January, 2006 as I got to know a fellow client here whose hydro led to brain damage and to whom I didn’t want to compare myself. It wasn’t a major factor in my looking at myself, cause that is not what rehab or training home were/are meant for.
My first use of the word “realism”, of course, relates to my vision impairment and was of the first type of approach: by now, I feel ashamed about all the detailed questions I asked Kira last year, that really hold no relevance. Vision and the lack thereof is the clearest example of why details say nothing about their implications: it was the fact that I, apparently noticeably, used my vision that sometimes made it necessary to explain, not the details about my visual acuity or field of vision.
“Realism” got a broader meaning in the spring of 2006, when it was in my list of reasons why I didn’t want to go to university by September yet. I thought that “realism” could be achieved eventually, but I kept using the second type of approach for half a year and never got a step closer to actually clarifying my situation. This is in part due to my black-and-white way of thinking – whatever I found was either too easy/low-level or too difficult/high-level or both, so I defied any attemtp at clarifying my situation routinely -, but it is also related to the fact that my situation is the integration of my behaviour, my abilities and difficulties, etc., and these have been quite unstable over the months, and can look different depending on how I approach them, so I think that if I keep using this approach, I’ll never get a step forward.
In October, I started experimental scheduling, which is the third type of approaching “realism”. This is based on the idea that, no matter the technicalities (labels and/or details) of my situation, what I make of it all depends on decision-making through experience. It is different from the second approach, in that experimetnal scheduling requires actively manipulating the situation, while achieving “realism” solely through experience is a passive process. I fell back onto the second type after several weeks, but realized that this was as much my decision as my decision to schedule experimentally had been – or, at least, I couldn’t blame anyone else for it. This has, for me, triggered a “type four” tendency, in that, if my current situation is “realism”, I want to know why. I’ve always wanted explanations and I in one way hate that, but it makes some sense, in that everyone I know says that a blind person whose only disability is blindness shouldn’t achieve as little as I do. I’m not sure if my current situation is the final one – I still hope it isn’t – and some form of explanation (like “You’re blind, so …”) cannot solve this, but that’s why I said that each of these four approaches have their good parts and their bad parts.