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).

Ways in Which My Life Has Improved Over the Past Few Months

Lately, as I’ve been recovering from COVID and as the news of the war in Ukraine has been intensely scaring me, I’ve focused more than I would like to on how my life has seemed to have spiraled out of control. Staff changes at my care home also contribute to my feeling of insecurity. This combined leads me to feel that I am worse off than I was a few months ago and getting worse by the day. For this reason, a prompt that I came across in one of my journal writing books, is particularly compelling to me right now. It asks me to describe in what ways my life has improved over the past couple of months. Here goes.

1. I sleep better. I am pretty sure this isn’t entirely due to the lingering effects of COVID, though they do play a role. I am pretty sure the new medication, pregabalin (Lyrica), also helps. I feel a lot more rested when waking up, have fewer nightmares, etc.

2. I am less anxious. Though I still experience night-time anxiety, it has significantly decreased particularly over the past couple of weeks. I am pretty sure this is thanks to the pregabalin too.

3. I have been able to be more creative. I have truly discovered my artsy side over the past couple of months. I do still stay somewhat in my comfort zone, but am exploring ways to step outside of it just a little bit too.

4. I have started on a healthier food plan. This is hard, but it is more doable than I initially expected it’d be. Though I let things go a little when I had COVID, I only gained like 0.2kg from before I got sick. Overall, I’m not disappointed.

5. I have developed some more trust in some of my staff. This is still fragile and it is even more so with the staff changes. For this reason, we have let go of the word “trust” for the most part when referring to my relation to the staff and called it “acceptance”. I feel proud of myself for admitting that I am beginning to trust a couple of staff members rather than just accept them.

Though some of these things seem to be outside of my control, they really aren’t. I mean, I have to thank the pregabalin for my decreased anxiety, but I also do practise relatively good self-care by sleeping with my music pillow when stressed, for instance. I think, by the way, that it helps to hold the view that, though my life isn’t in my hands, my choices are within my control.

How has your life improved over the past couple of months?

Where I Think I’ll Be in a Year’s Time Based on My Current Daily Actions #Write28Days

Hi everyone. Welcome to day four in #Write28Days. Today’s optional word prompt, “nesting”, didn’t quite speak to me. I also wasn’t really inspired to write any sort of in-depth personal growth article. Rather, I picked up a collection of journaling prompts called The Self Exploration Journal and chose a prompt I hadn’t used on this blog before. It asks us to reflect on where, based on our current daily actions, we can expect to be in a year’s time.

Now I know that my future is in God’s hands, not mine. I have no way of knowing where I will be one year from now. That however doesn’t mean that I can’t take daily actions to hopefully live a healthier and more enriched life. Today, let me share some things I’m doing to take care of myself and some things in which I could still improve on and what I think these will mean for my future.

First, last month, I started on a healthier diet. It’s been a rocky road and I’m still struggling to find my balance on it. During the first week, I felt like I was just eating lettuce and carrots and was disappointed that I’d lost only 0.5kg. Now, I think I’ve found a better balance, but I might’ve swung slightly too far to the other side again. After all, this week, I had a sausage roll for lunch on Wednesday and a cheese roll today. I still am losing weight (or at least, I had a maintain this week). Based on my overall daily actions, I can expect to probably have lost a few kilograms next year, but I can’t expect to be anywhere close to a healthy BMI. Then again, that isn’t my goal.

Given that I hardly walk or exercise in other ways lately, I can’t expect my physical fitness level to improve. It’ll probably have declined by next year.

Mental health-wise, I can expect to still be in treatment and take my medication as prescribed, but I can also expect to still be quite vulnerable. Of course, I am always hoping that the next med tweak or change of treatment will be the thing that’s going to help me stabilize forever, but I have to be realistic: that’s not going to happen.

In the creative department, I can expect to experience ebbs and flows. I will probably have improved my polymer clay craft, having explored mixed media. I will likely still be a blogger, publishing several posts a week at least.

Given that, even though I look at other living places almost daily but haven’t actively decided I want to move, next year, I’ll likely still live in my current care facility. I’ll likely still be married to my husband too.

In summary, I can’t expect anything major to change for the better in the coming year but I am hopeful that I won’t make a turn for the worse either. I am hoping for slight improvements in the healthy eating and crafty departments. And, of course, I do really need to get my behind off the chair, but we’re talking current daily actions and that’s not happening right now.

Longing for Belonging As an Enneagram Type Four #Write28Days

Welcome to my first post in #Write28Days, a writing challenge I use for self-exploration too. Today’s optional prompt is “Longing”. I haven’t had ideas in mind for what to write about many of the word prompts, but for this one, I definitely have.

That is, the first thought that sprang to mind was not really a thought, but a feeling. A feeling of wanderlust, of always seeing that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. The actual feeling in my body is hard to describe. I could probably best describe it as a longing for perfection.

I am an Enneagram type Four. As a Four, my core life strategy is that I must be understood uniquely as I am. In the real world though, there is no-one exactly like me, so who is going to completely understand me? No-one is!

Yet, like most other Fours, I long for this elusive ideal of a perfectly fitting life. I see this in my constant search for the perfect care home. I know all care homes have their drawbacks, but in my heart, I always feel there must be somewhere where I will be fully understood and, as a result, my needs will be completely met. Newsflash: there isn’t.

Most Enneagram type Fours experienced some early trauma, distress or loss and keep chasing after that lost sense of belonging. I feel, in a sense, that so do I, but in a sense, I also feel as though I never belonged. Yet my longing to be fully understood, as well as my belief that there must be someone, somewhere out there who will, shows that I have the capacity deep within me to belong. If only I could stop fleeing from that capacity towards the apparently greener grass of a new external source of belonging!

Misunderstood

I am currently reading Forty Days on Being a Four, a book of reflections by Christine Yi Suh, who identifies as an enneagram type Four. In the day one reflection, she discusses the story in Luke 7:36-50 in which an unnamed, sinful woman enters the house in which Jesus is eating with a Pharisee. The woman’s dramatic display of emotion makes Christine Yi Suh think she’s a Four. Indeed, she is greatly misunderstood by the Pharisees, who see just her sinful lifestyle and don’t understand that she is in fact displaying her faith, love and devotion towards Jesus.

The reflection ends with the question in which ways I, being a Four, have been misunderstood. Well, for one thing, I’m often not even seen as a Four. Others would most likely describe me as a Five, because I’m such a thinker.

In fact, one of the main ways in which I feel misunderstood, is that my intellect is overrated and my emotional life underrated. As a child, I was described as self-centered, selfish even. I often got the feeling that I was seen as unfeeling. I am not and never was unemotional at all.

Indeed, I do feel that the depth of my emotional life is often misunderstood. I used to joke that I should give my parents the table of contents of the DSM-IV (we were still in IV era at the time), so that they could pick a random disorder to label me with when I wasn’t being my desirable, intellectual self. I mean, they often labeled me as dramatic, psychotic even. I wasn’t.

People who really know me, know that deep down, I’m definitely sensitive. I may not show it on the outside as much as the unnamed woman in the story does.

Another way in which I am often misunderstood, is in terms of my behavior. Too often, my challenging behavior has been seen as a willful act of defiance. In this sense, I do relate to the woman in the story, who lived a sinful lifestyle up till the point she met Jesus. Like Jesus saw beyond her acts, so He hopefully sees beyond mine. Like this woman was saved by her faith, so hopefully am I.

I also see that other people who know me, look beyond my distant, intellectual façade and also beyond my dramatic emotionality. They don’t see my intellectual and distant appearance as a sign of lack of emotion. They also don’t see my dramatic displays of emotion as mere manipulativeness, like my family used to. They, in fact, see me as a sensitive but also caring woman.

Like the woman in the story, I am sinful. I mean, my challenging behavior was there when I was a child and in some ways still is there. However, I recognize that I am not just my behavior. Like Bobby Schuller says, I am not what I have, I am not what I do, I am not what people say about me. I am the beloved of God.

Starting to Explore the Enneagram

A few days ago, I read on another blogger’s post about the enneagram and suddenly got interested in exploring it. At first, I thought it may be against Christian values, so I shouldn’t be exploring it if I’m serious about being a Christian. Then I checked out some books on it anyway and discovered that several actually look at the enneagram from a traditional Christian perspective.

I first got Helen Palmer’s book The Enneagram, which explained the basics of how the enneagram works. I honestly had no idea at first. I mean, I saw it as just another personality typology just like the MBTI and had little idea that the points are actually connected in several mathematical ways.

I took an enneagram test and it showed I’m a Four with a strong Five wing. I’m still undecided whether that’s correct or I’m really a Five with a strong Four wing. After all, I really do feel deeply (which is consistent with type Four), but I don’t easily verbalize my emotions.

I got a book off Bookshare called The Enneagram Type 4 by Beth McCord. This book is rooted in the Christian faith and the enneagram alike. The first chapter explores faith and the enneagram from a type Four perspective. It starts out by giving an overview of the type.

In the first part, Fours are described as having a deep and rich emotional life. My gut response was: that may be me, but is it truly me or is it what I want to be? Then the explanation goes on to talk about how Fours see themselves as somehow apart from the rest of humanity. They often feel that they’re missing something that everyone else has. Wowah, that’s so me! When I read on, I got a flashback of my father telling my psychiatrist shortly after my admission to the psych hospital, that I just want to be different. Maybe he’s right in some way.

Fours also long for the ideal life and are constantly seeking to change their circumstances and themselves to try to find that “missing piece”. Wow. I read somewhere that most Fours keep the door even in a committed relationship ajar, always keeping the possibility open that their truer love will come by at some point. I don’t do this with my marriage, but I certainly do this with my living situation.

At the end of the chapter, there are some questions for reflection. One of them is about rescuing yourself or bringing about change on your own. How have you attempted to rescue yourself?

Well, for me, I’ve constantly been on the lookout for a better living situation. Even just yesterday, for no apparent reason, I started looking at another care agency’s website to see if I might fit better into one of their homes.

I feel constantly insecure because of my childhood trauma. Then again, maybe I’m also hopelessly looking for an ideal that doesn’t exist.

A thought that has been on my mind for a while now, is what one of my fellow patients at the locked unit told me back in 2007: I need to work on me, not on circumstances. This ran totally counter to my admission’s objective, which was to find a suitable living facility for me. However, now, over thirteen years later, it’s truer than ever. I am in the best possible living situation already and there’s no perfect place. Besides, I always take me to whatever place I go.

The last question for reflection is how realizing you belong to Christ helps you? It is still hard for me to truly surrender to belonging in Christ, so I’m not 100% sure how to respond. However, when I can get myself to understand that I truly am God’s beloved child and belong to Christ, it will radically transform my life. I no longer need to be on the lookout for the perfect life, since I’m made whole through Jesus.

What I Like About My Body #Write31Days

Welcome to day 17 in #Write31Days. Man, this challenge gets hard and I have almost half the month still in front of me. Then again, I can show my persistence by continuing with it anyway. Today, I have yet another post about my body for you. I am going to describe the aspects of my body I like.

My body image tends to fluctuate a lot. Some of my insiders are not adjusted to living in an adult body, and as such they hate my feminine figure. I am quite curvy with large breasts, so I understand that’s difficult for the child and young teen alters. I must say though that most of the adult insiders are pretty content with my feminine body. It helps that my husband is attracted to my curves too.

The first thing I like about my body is my hair. I have long, dark hair. I need to make a hairdresser’s appointment soon, as it’s been almost six months since I had a haircut.

I also like my femininely narrow shoulders. My husband occasionally uses a quote from Schopenhauer about women with their narrow shoulders and broad hips being inferior. He doesn’t mean it seriously though and I also like my hips, although they’re not terribly broad.

Another thing I like about my body are my hands. I have pretty thin wrists and fair hands. Skip my nails for now, as I tend to bite them.

Lastly, as of recently, I’ve developed a greater appreciation of my feet. I used to have terrible toenail fungus. That is, until my husband sent me to the doctor and I got oral medication for it, since the topically-applied stuff wasn’t working. I still don’t really like my feet, but I don’t hate them as much as I used to.

What parts of your body do you like?

Resisting an Impulse #Write31Days

Welcoe to day 16 in #Write31Days. Today, I picekd yet another prompt from The Self Exploation Journal, but I twisted it around. Thhe prompt was to write about the last time you did something impulsive. Instead, I am going to write about the last tire I resisted a destructive impulse

I have been struggling a lot over the past few weeks. My husband has been working extremely long horus this past week and has been very stressed about it. Thankfully, he contacted his manager on it today and will be working slightly more normal hours from tomorrow on. However, today he wasn’t home till 9:30PM.

I hadn’t slept very well last night, because my husband was stressed out yesterday and I took over his stress. In my mind, it became worse and worse, until I was imagining my husband dying in a crash with his truck today. Needless to say, I was quite tired when I got to day activities in the morning.

On top of that, one of the regular staff was off sick, so there was a substitute. Because this regular staff would remain on sick leave tomorrow, the staff worked out who to find as a sub. Wednesdays are the busiest days at day activities, so I was quite scared that one staff would need to handle the full group on her own.

By 2:30PM, I was very irritable. I didn’t understand the jokes people were cracking. I was constantly worrying too about how to make it through the evening. I got an impulse to elope. Instead, I decided to try to walk around the building on my own while the staff checked on me tha tI was headed in the right direction. I did fine.

My staff did notice that I wasn’t coping thoguh. She asked whom I could call if I wasn’t coping while home. I decided to call my mother-in-law right then and she informed me my husband had already asked that I could eat with my in-laws.

Had I actually given in to the impulse and run off, people would’ve been a lot more worried than they already were. Besides, since this was my second time going to day activities for a full day, I might have been suspended. I don’t think I’d have gotten in any physical danger had I actually run off, as the day activities place is in a very quiet neighborhood. However, I’m still glad I didn’t give in to the urge.

Four Skills I’m Pretty Good At #Write31Days

Welcome to day 15 in my #Write31Days challenge on personal growth. Today, I have another list post for you. One of Lisa Shea’s journaling prompts on self-esteem has us write about our skills. What things are you pretty good at? Here goes.

1. Writing. I’m by no means a bestselling author – I have only had one piece of writing published in a book so far. I also make a lot of typeos in my writing. Overall though I consider my writing to be pretty good.

I started writing at about eight-years-old, wanting to become a children’s fiction author once I’d grow up. Now my husband is one of my worst critics when it comes to my children’s fiction, saying my stories aren’t very imaginative to say the least. Then again, when he compliments me on my blog posts, I take it all the more to heart.

2. Calendar calculation. You didn’t know that’s a skill? It is! My husband can’t tell whether October has 30 or 31 day without looking at the calendar, so I’ve got to believe that calendar calculation is a skill. It refers to being able to tell what day a given date in the past or future falls on. I’m not nearly as good at it as I used to be some twenty years ago, but am still pretty good.

3. Researching topics of interest. When a topic captures my interest, I can research it for days on end and will quickly get to know a lot about it. As such, I know a lot about psychiatry – more than some so-called professionals would like me to know. The flip side si that I cannot convert all my knowledge into practice. For example, I know a lot about soap making, but after those first few attempts, I haven’t tried making soap on my own again.

4. Relating to other people in a unique way. Particularly to people with cognitive, intellectual or developmental disabilities. I consider myself pretty good at relating to my fellow clients at day activities. As such, I have been known to come up with some ideas for sensory activities.

What skills are you pretty good at?

Ways to Take Better Care of My Body #Write31Days

Welcome to day 14 in #Write31Days. Last week, I wrote a post on the topic of what my body is telling me. Today, I’m writing on a similar theme. The prompt from The Self Exploration Journal I’m using today supposes that your body is a temple. How could you better take care of it?

There are many ways in which I could take better care of my body. I’m already doing a lot better though than I used to. Like, until I was eighteen, I wouldn’t touch toothpaste and would brush my teeth with just water. Then, I went to the dentist to find out I had seven cavities. Filling them (without anesthetic) was horrible. From that point on, I started using toothpaste, buut I still had trouble sticking to a regular teeth-brushing routine. I struggled with this for many years to come and have only recently been able to consistently brush my teeth twice a day. I’m still not doing it very well, but I’m getting better.

Another way to take better care of my body is by getting off my behind. As a child, I was fairly active, but my activity level declined sharply in my teens. I got a computer, which meant hours upon hours of screen time. At this point, I’m still pretty sedentary, although I love walking. Since I cannot leave the house on my own, I need to think of ideas to fit in more activity at home. I already go on the elliptical regularly, but I’m thinking I could be dancing too.

Sleep is another aspect of body care that I’ve improved in. As a child and teen, I’d get no more than five to six hours of sleep a night. Now, I make sure that on week days, I get eight to nine hours of sleep. On week-ends, I get much more. That probably means that I’m still not fully rested from those eight to nine hours on week days, but I do’t know how to fit in even more sleep.

An aspect of body care in which I really need to pick up the pieces again, is food. I am doing better than I was when in the institution, when I’d binge on candy twice to three times a week. However, I’m still snacking a lot more than I should.

In what ways could you take better care of your body?