Words as a source of both power and empowerment: Part I, the introduction
Diagnosis is a complicated issue, so is labeling oneself, if you’re a member of a community who’s experienced a history of marginalization via majority culture (or those with considerably more power — be it social power or political power), can be considerably difficult. But words can also be a source of empowerment. I have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) along with being my Aspergirl self. Sometimes it helps to be able to say to other or even myself, “I’m ____________. That’s why I _______ (verb) and/or ________.” It’s like Mad Libs in a way, except I’m explaining experiences in my intrapersonal world and sometimes disclosing how my mental health condition (GAD — being an Aspergirl is a bit of a personality thing, actually) affects my social behaviors, especially when they may appear seemly odd to those outside my close-knit circle of friends.
I’ve been a worrier most of my life, and the “rumination is like a washing machine metaphor” has resonated with me since I first heard one of my undergrad profs describe how people with chronic worry experience it. The metaphor is as follows: Your brain spins worry around and around and around… (you get the idea) until you find a way to break that pattern — what I like to call opening the washing machine. “Opening the washing machine” (e.g., quelling the worry) could involve anything from using cognitive behavioral strategies, going to see a friend, taking anxiety meds, listening to calming music, deep breathing, or even visiting the local cafe for a cuppa tea and ridiculously casual conversation.
I’ve noticed that my therapist is very sensitive about language use. She even uses my words (e.g., “socially different” for some of my Aspergirl traits) as a way of attempting to connect with me / create a stronger therapeutic alliance, which I find strangely comforting since I come from a mental health background myself, while also using related services. Words can be a source of empowerment, even when they’ve been traditionally used to debase traditionally marginalized people. Primarily I’m thinking about the following groups: Aspies / people with Aspergers / Aspergirls (using Aspergirls as my descriptor of choice since I’m writing primarily about women’s experiences on this blog), feminists, and QUILTBAG* people. (1)
So, dear readers, today’s the introduction (although I suppose for some of you, it’s already tomorrow). Tomorrow or the following day, we’ll hopefully begin a dialogue about word usage amongst Aspergirls, feminists, and QUILTBAG* people and self-perceptions of labels. I would love to hear your input as we continue this conversation. Just leave your questions, concerns, or general feedback in the comment box…
Word usage is a complicated issue, but I’d love to at least begin the discussion together. Madeleine L’Engle said, “Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”