Throughout my life, people have called me overly sensitive, fraught, too cool, naïve, self-involved, loud, quiet, picky, shameless, sneaky, PC, competitive, provocative, earnest, confusing, and crazy. Clinical psychologists have diagnosed me as alexithymic, anxious, and depressed, and have said that I’m suffering from adjustment disorders, and eating disorders, and neurological disorders. I've been called an "*sshole" or a "narcissist" in the comments section of some of my articles. And when I've written about being autistic, my words have been changed from "I'm autistic" to "I have autism."
I haven’t had much of a say over what I’m called, or how I’m described. No matter how hard I’ve tried to explain myself and what I need and why, it hasn’t helped. I continue to be categorized and labeled by people who don’t know what’s happening inside my brain. Friends and family will still say things like, "you shouldn't worry so much," or that I need to "stop taking things to heart," or "isn't everyone a bit on the spectrum?" This only ever amplifies my sense of alienation, because these kinds of statements imply that my struggles are imagined, and exaggerated, and only to be taken seriously if they are readily visible.
Most people would prefer to call me "obsessive" or "hilarious" and move on, rather than take the time to understand me. So I’d like to move on, too. I’m tired of trying to contort myself into someone that I’m not, because I’m scared of what others might call me.
I’d like to be known as a diva. Think Mariah Carey, and all the memes about her. I mean I love glitter, and sparkles. I speak honestly, and I feel comfortable not knowing things. I regularly experience the joys of saying no, and my voice becomes high-pitched when I’m excited. I arrive late to most appointments because I carry out elaborate rituals and routines, which I refuse to change or let go of. Technically, I’m impaired. So it’s important to care for myself. Being a diva lets me sit somewhere between being a bitch and being disabled, and I feel at home there.
I do card readings throughout the day, and drink warm cups of tea and coffee, and listen to healing hertz music, and wear silky fabrics, and eat leafy greens, and burn rose geranium essential oils. These rituals calm and ground me. They create a foundation, and having that foundation enables me to give back to the community. Whatever you choose to call my rituals and routines — or me — pales against their significance.
I’m going to try and share what I think and feel in as sensitive a way as I can, in the hope that you don’t take it the wrong way.
I’m also very particular about my space, and how I use my time. I’m not going to answer when you call unexpectedly, or entertain you when you choose to pop by announced. I don’t communicate with anyone on the go, and I’m not going to answer the door unless I’m expecting a parcel, which most likely contains more holistic cosmetics that I can neatly line up on my dresser alongside my crystals, perfumes, and Kinuko Y. Craft picture books, which are arranged just so.
Send a text, or an email, and I might get back to you. That is, once I’ve finished what I’m doing, because the mere idea of being interrupted sends waves of rage through my entire system, which I’m going to have to find an outlet for later via intense cardiovascular exercise or smacking a pillow against a wall.
Call me rude, call me selfish, call me whatever you like. Calling me something doesn’t make me that something. And as Annie Lennox sings in the 1992 track “Why” from her first solo album, Diva: I don’t think you don’t know how I feel and I may be mad / I may be blind / I may be viciously unkind / but I can still read what you’re thinking.
So I’m going to wear sunglasses inside like my homegirl Mariah, because fluorescent lighting physically harms me, and I’m going to leave the house with all four rings on, and my earplugs in, and a gua sha board in my handbag. Then, once I get to the café, and find a table outside — because I don’t ever want to sit inside — I’m going to order what’s not on the menu, and I’m going to try and share what I think and feel in as sensitive a way as I can, in the hope that you don’t take it the wrong way.
I’m a diva, and I want to laugh when I’m being misunderstood, and cry with joy when I see myself doing things differently from how other people do them. Because maybe, just maybe, doing and seeing things differently isn’t such a burden after all. And maybe the job of a diva is to do things her own way, and to inspire others to do the same.