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Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hey, weirdo. Yeah, you.

weirdo photo of weirdo
 statue  from weirdo
friend's weirdo home
Don't feel like you exactly fit in?
 Join the club.
      For a country that celebrates individuality and independence, Americans sure have trouble dealing with differences.  This culture is market-driven. There's money to be had convincing you that you aren't quite right, but hey, we can fix that if you buy this car, wear this brand, live in this zip code.
      Marketing works by preying on common insecurities and the biological need to identify with a group (read: safety in numbers).  Even outliers look for their herd. Witness the popularity of "alternative" fashion chains in American malls.
      Still, people who are on the edges of bell curves of ability, appearance, gender, creativity and cognitive styles-- to name just a few of our lovely genetic variabilities-- find self-acceptance difficult.  The internet helps.  Never had an interest in sex, be it bi, straight, gay or otherwise?  Googling "asexuality support" brings up over a million resources. Wondering what to serve at your Chinese-Italian wedding in a French speaking province?  There's a link for that.
   Despite this glut of information, I meet dozens of people a year who feel like no one will understand their crazy intrusive thoughts,  the depths of their sadness, why it is so hard for them to organize their day or how it is they feel like a phony after 10 successful years in their field.  They feel weird, ashamed and alone.  Even if they have heard about other people with the same problem, they are sure theirs is somehow more shameful, more repulsive and that they are more personally responsible for it.
   Visible differences present other challenges.  While people in the previous examples may worry that everyone knows their difference, if you are biracial, albino, missing a limb, scarred you don't have a choice but to have that difference reflected back to you on a regular basis.  Biracial clients tell me that "What ARE you?" is the most tiresome question they hear. " Human," is the response many wind up giving in exasperation.
     Persons with physical challenges such as cerebral palsy tell me they get tired of being addressed as if they are retarded, and persons with cognitive challenges such as retardation tell me they get tired of being treated as if they are children.  Children tell me they get tired of being treated as if their thoughts and feelings aren't valid.  And on and on.
   Here's the deal.  We ALL have our stuff.  Some of it is private, some public.  Some of it, like learning differences, depression and OCD is usually invisible to others.  Other variables, including physical challenges such as vision impairment and paralysis, are all too obvious and can block out the individuality of their bearers.
     And yet under all the labels-- crippled, crazy, queer, whatever-- is a person.  A person who reflects, cries, dreams, fears, longs, creates and loves.  And if you can't relate to that, well...
    You're really different.

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