If I Could Have Any Pet

Today’s topic for Fandango’s Dog Days of August (#FDDA) is “pet”. One of the suggested topics is to talk about which animal you’d have if you could have any pet. I am going to use this topic as a starter for today’s blog entry.

As regular readers of my blog might know, my husband and I have a cat. We first got a cat, Harry, when we were first planning on living together in 2013. We’ve had Harry since kittenhood. However, he was pretty hyperactive, so we got Barry, thinking the two might make great playmates. Well, they didn’t, so we ultimately rehomed Harry. Now we still have Barry.

I always grew up with cats. The thing with them though is, they invariably seem to sense my inadequacy. Whether this is due to my blindness, I don’t know.

Regardless, cats aren’t quite as confortable with me as I’d like them to be. I still hope I will someday have a cat that will have a true liking for me, but that’s not in cats’ nature, I’m afraid. They’re more introverted than some other animals. Or maybe that’s just been the cats I’ve had so far.

All that to say that, if I could have any pet I wanted, I would like a dog. However, I’d for sure like it to be a psychiatric service dog as well as a trained guide dog. That seems a bit much, maybe, but I know some blind people whose guide dogs also help them with their mental health issues.

I may also want to have a pet rabbit or guinea pig. Rabbits generally need a lot of space, though my sister-in-law keeps three (if I’m correct) in her house. She does have a garden, so I hope they’re able to roam about there at times too.

In general though, I don’t think I’m that much of a pet person. I fed Barry dutifully when I still lived with my husband, and though I did take delight in it, I wouldn’t say he’s like my child or something. I’d love to develop more of a connection to Barry and to whichever future pets I might have. I do care deeply about them, but I just don’t feel the natural attunement to my pets that others do. I can’t say it’s an autistic thing, as a common autism stereotype (thanks, Temple Grandin) is that we have a strong connection to animals. I guess I for one don’t.

Empathy

I’ve been thinking about empathy lately. A few weeks ago, I wrote that I have been looking at my personality from a highly sensitive person or empath theory perspective. Though this is still somewhat fitting, I indeed experience this strange mix between low empathy and hyperempathy.

I mean, I pick up on the general atmosphere in a room pretty easily. I also absorb others’ emotions. I feel when other people are sad or angry in distress. I cannot pick up on happiness as easily, but I’m learning.

Then again, when presented with a social situation, be it in theory or in real life, I show very little empathy according to neurotypical standards. I have absolutely no idea how to articulate how people are feeling.

I recently saw a post by Ashley on alexithymia. Ashley contrasted alexithymia with borderline personality disorder, in which people are overly emotionally sensitive. Well, I have both. Or maybe I just have the autistic women’s general mix between high and low empathy.

The interesting bit about alexithymia is, when being assessed for it in 2017 as part of my last autism assessment, one of the scales was on interest in talking about emotions and such. I scored normal if not high on that one. Similarly, when taking personality tests like those based on the MBTI, I usually score higher on feeling than thinking. That’s because I somehow want to see myself as a sensitive person. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I am though. Like I said before, my husband sees me as an obvious INTJ.

My community psychiatric nurse signed me up for a psycho-education course on autism this past week even though I know quite a bit about it already. Looking over all the criteria, I thought: “That must be so hard to deal with… Oh wait, that’s supposed to be me.” There was a bit about lack of empathy too and that made me feel awful. As much as I “wanted” an autism diagnosis when last assessed for it, I don’t want to be seen as having low empathy.

This post was inspired by today’s RagTag Daily Prompt.

Valid? #SoCS

I’m not sure I’m valid. I joined some groups for highly sensitive people and empaths on Facebook. I relate to literally almost every trait associated with being an HSP/empath. Then again, I’m also autistic and this means I don’t have the cognitive ability to know what’s expected of me in social situations.

I’ve heard there’s some theory about autistics being hyperempathetic where it comes to feeling others’ emotions but less able to know what another person needs. Something with cognitive empathy being lower than emotional empathy. Or was it the other way around? I have no idea and am too lazy to google it now.

I always feel like I want to see myself as a lot more positive than I am. I mean, some people close to me have said I even have some narcissistic traits. Some people think of me as a pretty stereotypical autistic and I’ve always felt good about that, as it validates my feelings of being different and my need for support. Empath/HSP only validates my feeling different.

Yet sometimes I feel that my seeing myself as somehow highly sensitive, is a way of obscuring my negative traits. It’s not that I don’t see them, but that I label them positively in a way. I mean, 90% of empathy traits are worded at least somewhat negatively. For example, have you been told you are “too sensitive?” Do you need alone time a lot? When a friend is distraught, do you feel it too? Heck, I sense negativity a lot, but isn’t that just me being a generally negative person?

I have a feeling that part of the reason I want to see myself as unique somehow, has to do with an external locus of control. I don’t want to see my huge flaws and instead go label them as assets or blame them on my childhood trauma.

And yet most people say I have a negative self-image. My CPN from mental health wants me to do a module of cognitive behavior therapy on helping me get a better self-image. Maybe I need to learn to see myself as just the ordinary person I am without either negative or positive stuff that make me different. After all, when I say I’m a pretty good writer, people close to me often say: “Well, about average for someone with your education.” Apparently I’m quite arrogant in this respect.

So am I allowed to feel different or is that just an excuse to set myself apart from the herd? Remember, feeling like you can only be understood by certain people, usually those with high status, is a narcissism trait in the DSM. I’m not sure. I want to feel okay about myself, but doesn’t that mean seeing my negative traits too? And seeing them as well as the positive ones for what they are: just traits? I guess I’ll learn this in the module.

I’m joining in with #SoCS, for which the prompt today is “val”.