I Am Not Alone: Reflections on Being Different As an Enneagram Four

I have been watching videos about the Enneagram recently. One I watched, talked about the differences between a 5w4 (Enneagram type Five with a strong Four wing) and 4w5. One of the distinctions the YouTuber made was that Fours tend to take pride in their being different, while Fives try to hide their difference. That kind of hit a nerve with me.

I always saw myself as so uniquely different from others that it’s almost impossible to be true. Not just in the “You are unique, just like everybody else” type of sense. In fact, I always thought that I belonged to just a little too many minority groups to be real. I thought that there must not be anyone else in the entire world who could relate to my combination of minority statuses.

At the time, I was about fourteen and just identified as blind and possibly queer. Well, I know quite a lot of blind people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community now.

Then came being autistic, having dissociative identity disorder, my childfree status, etc. My fourteen-year-old self would certainly have believed no-one in the entire world would belong to all of these groups. Well, quite truthfully, I’ve met several people who belong to most if not all of these minority groups. That’s the great thing about the Internet.

About ten years ago, I read something on Tumblr that should’ve struck a chord with me, but didn’t. I read that, if you are white, but belong to a hundred minority groups, you are still white. Of course, the point was to prove that white privilege isn’t negated by other minority statuses. I at the time started writing a list of ways in which I was privileged, but didn’t realize these are also ways in which I am part of the majority. Ways in which I belong to the human mainstream.

Instead, I still focused my attention, aside from that one blog post and acknowledging when I’d reacted out of privilege in safe spaces, on ways in which I’m different from the mainstream. And still I somehow couldn’t believe there were people who genuinely belonged to at least as many minority groups as I did. I still somehow saw myself as the most special person in the world.

Isn’t that a bit grandiose, narcissistic even? In fact, feeling that only a select group of “special” people will understand me, is the only legitimate narcissistic personality disorder trait I have.

The truth is, everyone is special and everyone is unique and everyone has some parts of themselves that ar ordinary at the same time. At the core, no-one is fundamentally different from everyone else. And isn’t that a wonderful thing to realize? After all, it means that, at the core, we all have something in common which connects us to each other. That of course doesn’t mean I need to associate with all seven (eight?) billion people in the world. It just means that there will always be someone out there who can relate to me. Just like there is no-one exactly like me (God created us all individually for a reason, after all), I am not radically different from anyone else (we were all created equal, after all).

How I Cope With Loneliness

Today in her Sunday Poser, Sadje asks us about loneliness. She describes the experience as the feeling she gets when her family or friends can’t celebrate something important (such as the seasonal holidays) with her. This is one aspect of loneliness indeed. I feel lonely, left out even, knowing that my sister will be celebrating St. Nicholas with my parents next week and I haven’t been invited. Okay, she has a child for whom this holiday is more meaningful than it should be for me as an adult. Still, I am reminded of the last year we celebrated St. Nicholas with my family, or rather, the first year we didn’t. That was because of me: I had been admitted to the mental hospital shortly before and my parents didn’t want the hassle of having to watch me while I was on leave, so at first they suggested they celebrate the occasion without me. That year, my sister refused and the celebration didn’t go forward at all. Now that my sister has a child, there’s no way she’s going to care about whether I’ll be included or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’d rather have me excluded.

Loneliness, however, can take other forms too. Like I mentioned last month, loneliness comes from within a lot of the time. That’s why you can feel lonely when you’re surrounded by people. I often felt this way in the high school cafeteria.

I find that what helps me cope with loneliness is to surround myself with positive influences, both in the form of people and activities. I mean, I could dwell on my family’s rejection of me, but I do have a loving husband and loving in-laws. I also have caring staff and nice fellow clients, some of whom I consider friends.

It also helps me to engage in fulfilling hobbies, such as writing, reading and crafts. Through my blog and Facebook groups, I feel a genuine sense of connection to the outside world. Reading helps me escape my problems, including my sense of isolation. Crafts distract me and help me feel that I can be productive in a way. All of these help me overcome my sense of loneliness.

How do you deal with loneliness?

Loneliness Comes From Within: Some Reflections

I am still struggling badly. I have been having flashbacks of the time when I lived on my own in 2007. When I told my husband this tonight, he asked whether any traumatic events happened there. Not really in the classic sense of the word, but I did suffer intensely. The “cage”, as I called my apartment, was a filthy, dark and gloomy place. Neither I nor anyone else had ever thought of making it into a home.

I was intensely lonely during the three months that I lived in that place. Nonetheless, people did reach out to me. I was in touch with several of my fellow students in the linguistics program at university, one of whom lived in my housing complex too.

When I mentioned this, my husband said that loneliness rarely comes from the environment. It wasn’t that no-one cared, as had been the case during most of my high school years. In fact, multiple people reached out to me, but I was closed off to contact with others. I was so convinced that I was unloveable that I didn’t attempt to form genuine bonds with people.

Sadly, it’s still mostly this way. Just a few days back, I was telling my husband that all caring staff eventually leave, referring to the idea I’ve gotten in my head that my assigned staff is not coming back. Indeed, a number of staff have left in the past or told me they had to distance themselves from me due to my behavior. However, a number have stayed too. In particular, my support coordinator from when I lived with my husband, stuck by me till the end.

Of course, staff/client relations are different from friendships. Staff might leave for reasons that have nothing to do with me. Others will come in their place, sad as it may be. Friends though will not necessarily be replaced. And that’s where it hurts more: I feel intensely incompetent at forming friendships.

I mean, though I did have contact with fellow students and people in my housing complex while living on my own, I mostly sucked up their energy. I feel intensely sad about this. I still feel like I’m not able to make friends ever at all. However, there is hope. Now that I (hopefully) am in a stable living situation, I may be able to build on some genuine friendships after all. I already consider some of my fellow clients my friends. I don’t need to rely on them for support, as I (hopefully) have my staff for that. That should be a relief.

I Am a Rock #SoCS

Today’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) is “roc”. I didn’t know that even is a word, but we can use words with “roc” in them too. I was immediately reminded of “rock” and then of the Simon & Garfunkel song “I Am a Rock”. As I assume most of you will know, it goes like: “I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”

This reminded me of the fact that, at around age thirteen, I would describe my class as a country with lots of states and one of them, me, would be an island. Think Hawaii. This, of course, symbolized the fact that I felt like an outsider or even an outcast in my class.

One day, I showed a girl in my class the piece about the island. This girl promptly decided to type on my laptop and let my text-to-speech read: “Astrid is my friend.” She probably felt pity for me, as the friendship never lasted. It was rather based on rules, as was my entire class’s associating with me.

Like, before I found my way around the school by myself, classmates had to sighted guide me around. There was an entire schedule which had the girls be sighted guide and the boys carry my backpack, until I decided, with a little nudging, that I could carry my own backpack. I mean, yes, it was heavy with my laptop and all, but so is every early secondary schooler’s backpack. From then on, the boys would sighted guide me too.

This meant I had to sit with them during recess. After the island story incident with my “friend”, she and her clique allowed me to sit with them everyday during recess even if it wasn’t their turn to be sighted guide.

At the beginning of my second year at this school, I decided I’d had it with sighted guides and especially with the schedule. I tried to find my way by myself, often struggling, but this was better than to have people assigned to me who didn’t want to associate with me. Quickly, that became the entire class, including my “friends”.

I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. Literally. By the end of my second year in this school, I had mastered the coping mechanism of detaching from my surroundings and myself. I felt like I lived in a movie. I still feel that way at times, even though I have no need (I hope) to escape my current life.