me and mine

Open letter to sick kids and disabled kids.

Dear sick kids, dear disabled kids,

You may be facing a lot of adults who want to believe that your therapy is fun. You may feel differently. You may not be having fun. That’s ok. You’re not failing. You don’t owe it to anyone to enjoy the things that are happening to you.  

Even if you think the therapy is important, you might not think it’s fun. You don’t have to think that it’s fun. Your feelings are yours, and your feelings matter. No one has the right to tell you how to feel. No one has the right to insist that you think something is fun.

If you don’t think the therapy is a good idea, you have the right to have that opinion. Your parents or other adults may be able to decide what treatments you get. They don’t get to decide what you think, or how you feel. They can’t make things fun by loudly insisting that they are fun, or by making you smile.

It’s ok not to think that your breathing treatments are a fun game. Even if your mask is fish shaped. Even if you put frog stickers on it. Even if you had a lot of fun picking out the stickers. Even if you know that you need it in order to breathe properly. Push come to shove, it’s still a breathing treatment. You are under no obligation to enjoy it. If you’re not having fun, then it’s not fun. Even if people make you smile.

It’s ok if you don’t think a purple hospital gown means that the hospital is fun. Even if you love purple. Even if you put your favorite sparkly heart stickers on it.   Even if you want the operation or procedure you’re having, you don’t have to think that what you’re doing is fun. Even if the volunteers and play therapists are really nice. You’re still in the hospital, and it’s ok to feel however you feel about it.

It’s ok to dislike the tracing exercises your occupational therapist makes you do. Even if she says that they’re really fun and that she loved them when she was your age. It’s ok to think of it as work rather than fun. It’s also ok to think it’s a waste of your time. You are not her, and it’s not ok for her to tell you how to feel. She is not the boss of your feelings, or your likes and dislikes. You are under no obligation to have fun.

It’s ok to dislike singing silly songs with your speech therapist. Even if he tells you in an excited voice all about the great new conversation starter iPad app, it’s ok not to think it’s fun. Even if other kids seem to like it. Even if there are fun prizes for cooperating and smiling. Even if people frown when you don’t seem happy enough. You don’t have to think anything is fun. Your feelings are yours. You don’t owe it to him to like the activities you do, even if he expects it from you.

It’s ok to dislike the sensory diet an occupational therapist puts you on. You don’t have to like being brushed.You don’t have to like weights or weighted blankets.You don’t have to believe that squeezing a fidget toy is better than rocking, and you don’t have to think that chewing a tube makes the lighting and noise any less painful. Your feelings are real. If you like something, that matters, whether or not anyone else thinks it’s important. If something hurts, your pain is real whether or not anyone acknowledges it.

And so on. If you’re sick, or you’re disabled, or you’re both, there are probably a lot of things happening to you that aren’t happening to other kids. It’s ok to have whatever feelings you have about that, even if others desperately want to believe that you think all of it is really fun. It’s ok for you to think that something isn’t fun, even when adults speak in enthusiastic voices, put stickers on things, use fun toys, or whatever else.

It’s ok to think something is fun, and it’s ok to think it’s really not fun. It’s also ok to find something helpful without finding it fun. You have the right to like what you like, and dislike waht you dislike. Your feelings are your own, even if you have to smile to get people to leave you alone. 

It’s ok to like things, and it’s ok to dislike things. You are a real person, your feelings are yours, and your feelings matter. Illness, disability, and youth don’t make you any less real.

Trauma doesn't make you any less of a person

Some people are really creepy about survivors. (Or people who they perceive as survivors, often inaccurately.)

They treat trauma like permission. Like it gives them the right to boundless authority over you.

They see you as broken, and they think that means they’re entitled to fix you.

They act like you don’t know yourself, can’t know yourself, and shouldn’t think for yourself.

(And they may repeatedly trigger you on purpose in an effort to make you feel disoriented enough to believe them.)

They think that every opinion they have about you is the insight that will heal you. They think that you are somehow obligated to accept uncritically any purported wisdom they decide to bestow upon you.

They think that their love can heal you. They act like their desire to heal you with love means you’re somehow obligated to gratefully accept whatever expression of love they want to bestow upon you.

They act like their perspective should replace yours. They act like their desire to help you somehow obligates you to agree with everything they think.

They act like you’ll be better if you let them take over emotionally. Like you somehow can’t be trusted with feelings. Like you shouldn’t have feeling of your own anymore. Like you should have theirs instead.

People shouldn’t do this to you. It’s wrong, it’s creepy, and you don’t have to cooperate with it.

You are a person. You are allowed to have your own feelings. You are allowed to think for yourself.

You are allowed to decide who, if anyone, you want to be emotionally intimate with. You are allowed to decide whose advice you want. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to disagree with people, even if they mean well and want to help. You are allowed to make choices about what help, if any, you want to accept, and who, if anyone, you want to accept it from.

You are you. You are allowed to be you. And nothing that happened to you gives others the right to try to turn you into someone else.

knowing what you think - tools for thinking for yourself

Anonymous said to :

When I’m around people who disagree with me, I have trouble remembering that my own thoughts and opinions are valid, and I start thinking I must be wrong about whatever they disagree with me about.

Do you know any ways of getting more confident about disagreeing with people?

realsocialskills said:

To an extent, it’s a matter of practice.

Learning to distinguish between what you think and what others think depends on a few different skills. Some of them will likely take time and practice to acquire.

Some thought about what to work on:

It can help to get into the habit of noticing when your opinions change suddenly. If you’re susceptible to excessive influence by other people, it’s likely that this happens way more than you realize. Even just noticing it can make it easier to tell what’s your opinion and what’s someone else’s.

Eg, let’s say Susan and Jane are eating out together, and they’re looking at the dessert menu:

  • Susan: I want chocolate ice cream.
  • Jane: Chocolate is a disgusting flavor and it’s way too high fat. Raspberry smoothies are a million times better.
  • Susan: Ok, that does sound better. I’ll order that.

In that instance, Susan wanted chocolate ice cream, then suddenly changed her mind when Jane said it was bad. If Susan does this a lot, she may not even have noticed that it happened. Noticing this kind of sudden opinion change could help Susan to realize when it’s happening against her will.

That leads to another skill that can help: Remembering the question “Why?”:

If you just changed your mind suddenly, why did it happen?

  • Did someone say something you found persuasive?
  • If so, what?
  • Are you responding to the force of someone else’s personality?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Did you hear a new idea that sounds like it might be right?
  • Do you need time to think about it?
  • (It’s ok to not know right away.)

Asking other people “Why?”:

  • If someone says something, you don’t have to agree
  • And you don’t have to assume they have a good reason
  • If they’re saying something that is your business, it is ok to ask “Why?”
  • (Sometimes it isn’t your business and “Why?” might be a rude question. Eg, if someone says that they feel sick when they drink milk.)
  • (But if it’s something like: “Republicans are evil”/“Democrats are ruining America”, “Why?” is a completely ok question.)
  • Getting in the habit of asking for reasons can help you to understand and to think for yourself
  • Some other ways to ask for reasons: “What makes you say that?”, “Can you say more about that?”, “I hear a lot of people saying x, but I don’t really understand why they think that… Would you be willing to explain?”

Remembering that it’s ok to need time to think about things:

  • Sometimes you hear a big idea or an unfamiliar perspective and it makes things feel different
  • Even just knowing that someone thinks something can make the world seem different
  • (Or meeting someone who thinks something)
  • That can feel really weird and confusing or disorienting
  • That’s ok. It’s ok to be disoriented and need time to think. Some words that can help (either by saying them or thinking them to yourself):
  • “I never thought about that before.”
  • “I never thought about it that way before.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “I’ll have to think about that.”
  • “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • “This has given me a lot to think about.”
  • (Sometimes it feels like people are asking you to immediately agree with them when what they’re really asking is for you to listen to them. Saying one of these things can help in that situation.)

Paying attention to fear

  • Sometimes people are afraid to disagree with someone else’s strongly held opinions
  • Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid someone will hurt them
  • Sometimes that’s because they’re afraid doubting someone would make them a bad person
  • Sometimes it’s both
  • It’s actually ok to think for yourself. Reflexive agreement out of fear doesn’t help things.
  • Even when there’s a clear right side and wrong side, it’s *still* important to think for yourself and understand things
  • Agreeing reflexively won’t get you the kind of understanding you need to meaningfully be on the right side of an important issue
  • (And you can’t know what side that is without thinking about it, anyway)
  • Thinking about it until you understand will make your agreement much more meaningful (and actionable)

Paying attention after the fact to what you think:

  • Some people have personalities that loom very large
  • Some people are very good at sounding right
  • It can be very hard to tell what you think in the presence of these people
  • Sometimes it may be hard to tell what you think in the presence of other people
  • The effect tends to wear off after you’re away from them
  • If you’re having second thoughts after you’re away from someone, take those second thoughts seriously
  • Sometimes you will have really good reasons
  • (And even if you ultimately end up agreeing with them, it was *still* important to take your second thoughts seriously so that you can understand for yourself)
  • If you know that you have that reaction to someone, try to avoid agreeing to anything binding in their presence.

Remembering “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to be sure what you think
  • It’s ok not to be sure what you want
  • Saying “maybe” can be really powerful.
  • If you get pressured into things a lot, it might help to default to maybe
  • It’s usually a lot easier to say “Maybe”, or “I need to think about that” than it is to say “Yes”, and then “I thought about it and I changed my mind”.

Journaling or blogging can also help:

  • If you write things down, it can be easier to track changes in your opinion
  • It can also be really helpful as a way of processing and figuring out what you think
  • (Tumblr *can* be good for this, but it can also attract hostile attention that makes thinking for yourself harder. Sometime more private like Livejournal or Dreamwidth might be better.)

Another thing that can help is paying attention to how people are treating you:

  • Are there particular people you’re afraid of contradicting?
  • If, so, why?
  • Do they treat you badly when you contradict them?
  • Do they treat others badly in your presence?
  • Do they spend a lot of time aggressively mocking people for not understanding, for disagreeing, or for asking questions?
  • If a lot of people in your life act this way, thinking for yourself can be really hard.
  • Seeking out people who treat you and others better can help a *lot* in making it possible to figure out what you think.
  • Not everyone with passionate opinions or commitments is a jerk
  • (Related: It is entirely possible pursue justice and other important causes without being horrible to everyone who disagrees with you or has an imperfect understanding or things.)

Learning to hold on to your thoughts and sense of self is going to be hard at first. Realizing that it’s going to be hard can make it more possible. (Especially since some people are really, really skilled at making people feel that their thoughts are invalid.)

As you get more experience intentionally paying attention to what you think, it gets easier. It will still be hard and confusing sometimes, but it won’t be as hard and confusing all of the time.

tl;dr It is important to think for yourself even when you’re uncomfortable or others don’t want you to. There are a lot of reasons this can be hard. There are some skills that can make it easier. Scroll up for concrete suggestions.