Within psychology literature, there’s a book that (supposedly) describes all the psychological conditions and their diagnostic criteria. IT’s been around a while, and revised a few times. We’re currently on the DSM-5 (I really should be able to remember what that stands for, but I don’t), but we still have sub-categories within conditions that are described as NOS – not otherwise specified. Which would be used when the diagnosing professional reckons, yes you have something that pretty much looks like this condition, but you don’t quite match our checklist so we’ll just call you that. It’s not very helpful. It speaks more to who you are not, rather than to who you are.
We can treat people like that. We can say that they don’t match our expectations, they don’t do what we would do or what we would want them to do, they don’t view life from our (narrow?) perspective. Therefore they aren’t a valid member of our group. They are a person, but only just, they’re a Not Otherwise Specified. I know. I live there.
I recently took Little Person for some assessments, and it’s been hard, describing all the things that she does differently, or doesn’t do at all. I have had arguments with her teacher about her homework, but the system rolls on, and she keeps getting the work that she cannot do, and she keeps getting frustrated. Because they have a checklist, and they teach to the average, and children aren’t allowed to be different. So now I have to fight to get the support she needs to be able to cope in a world that wants to put her in a box, until she is old enough to see that the box is the wrong shape.
I have a lifetime of experience of not fitting in the box. I have had people accept me for who I am – The Dude is one – and value how my difference adds a dimension that they would not otherwise see. I do things differently because I see things differently. I try to make the best use of that, to see it as a talent that can enrich the lives of others and help them achieve their potential, but today? Today I feel like it’s a diagnostic condition. Today I feel like that person (Not Otherwise Specified). Barely there, barely matters.
[And before all of you tell me to buck up and stop being so melodramatic, there are people in your world who feel just as different, just as ostracised as me. Reach out to them, why don’t you? I’ll be better tomorrow. They might take a bit longer.]