I’d like to respond here to a comment left on my previous post by an anonymous reader. He wrote just one simple question:
“Doctor shopping for validation?”
I don’t know about you, but when I first read this comment I found it quite invalidating, got triggered, and then proceeded to perseverate on it, vacillating between wanting to ignore/delete it entirely and writing some scathing and satirical rebuttal.
But neither of those responses align with my recent therapeutic commitment to strongly favor validation over invalidation in my interactions with others. However unpleasant may be this comment with its implicit accusation that I might actually and deliberately go from doctor to doctor, embracing those who confirm that I’m autistic and rejecting those who don’t, in the end this sort of feedback is a perfect opportunity for me to walk my validation talk.
So, here goes (please let me know what you think, if you like, in the comments below):
For starters, I guess I should have explained in that previous post that the therapist I’ve been seeing for the past two years is starting a private practice and so is leaving his employer — my health care provider. He’s also taking a few months off so he can work on setting up his new practice and has recommended to me that I continue with this new guy.
So, to answer the basic question: no, I was not doctor shopping for validation. I needed a new therapist and this guy was recommended by my old one.
Also, although I do find his “borderline” theory about my own level of autistickishness invalidating and uncomfortable, in the end I must acknowledge that it’s really never been my primary objective to “be autistic”, whatever that might mean, but rather, to find my place in this world. To find sensible answers to questions such as “what is my purpose in life?” or “where do I fit in Society?” has been my primary objective for as long as I remember, and to this day it remains unanswered.
It is a publicly observable fact that I have never achieved any sort of stable, long-term success in the domains of school, work, friendship, romance/marriage, or fatherhood, and only a person who hasn’t actually observed those facts might claim otherwise.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had significant periods of success. After struggling through my first 12 years of Public Education, and then one very rocky year off for some desperate “soul searching”, I underwent a profound transformation in my understanding of how to self-accommodate in an academic setting, went to college and had a very successful undergraduate career during which I won a scholarship award and completed the requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In the decades following college, I had one job that lasted 5 years, and several that have lasted somewhere from 3 to 24 months. I’ve been in romantic relationships with women who toughed it out with me for 5 years, 3 years, and most recently 9 years before they just couldn’t take any more of me as a boyfriend/husband. I have one active friendship with a woman who’s been my friend for over 30 years, and only two people in my family seem committed to hating me for the long haul. With everyone else in my family we’ve always managed to resolve our differences.
But these islands of success are surrounded by a great deal of turbulent water. As one general, high-level measure of that turbulence, consider first that over the course of my life, listed in very roughly chronological order with the number of employers who have paid me to do that kind of work following in parentheses, I have had the following kinds of jobs for varying lengths of time and levels of pay:
- birthday party magician (3),
- greeting card salesman (1),
- yard worker/landscaper (5),
- golf caddy (1),
- snow shoveler (5),
- deli sandwich maker (1),
- kitchen helper (2),
- janitor (2),
- car parking attendant (1),
- delivery driver (2),
- house painter (5),
- math/physics tutor (2),
- chauffeur (3),
- factory worker (1),
- school teacher (2),
- carpet cleaner (2),
- news writer (1),
- waiter (1),
- ad copy writer (1),
- car salesman (1),
- multi-level marketer (3),
- software developer (10),
- telemarketer (1),
- stand-up comic (5), and
- IT production support analyst (3).
So that’s 25 kinds of work that I’ve done over the course of my life and 64 different employers who have paid me to do it. Since I’m 55 years old and I did my first paid birthday party magic show at about the age of 10, that works out to about 64/45 = 1.42 employer changes per year over the course of my “career”. I don’t know how that number compares with others (you can let me know below in the comments if you’d like), but I doubt anyone would consider it a strong indicator of job stability.
I could provide you with other kinds of measures, like my net worth, the number of times I’ve been fired, how many people never want to see or speak to me again, but because employment is so important to every other aspect of life, I think the fact that I’ve changed jobs nearly one and half times per year for 45 years says enough for now.
Considering just my erratic job history I’m pretty sure even my harshest critics would agree that there’s “something wrong” with me, whatever the cause. They might not believe that I’m actually autistic, or if they do, they might not believe my autism to be especially relevant; they might believe me to be merely lazy or an asshole or an idiot, or some combination thereof; but I don’t think anybody who knows me well enough to have a meaningful opinion on the matter doubts the basic premise that I am some in some important sense a social misfit.
And it is the resolution of this one indisputable problem that is my number one priority, as it has been for as long as I can remember.
Sometimes I like to comfort myself by thinking that my real purpose in life is simply to find my real purpose in life, but to be honest, that seems like a cheap trick.
No, I actually want to find my real real purpose in life, and although I do currently and sincerely believe that my “being autistic” has something very important to do with that purpose, to the point where it makes me feel invalidated and uncomfortable when someone, especially someone like my new therapist questions whether or how much I really “am autistic”, at the end of the day, it’s the facts of the matter that actually matter, and so if I’m not really, as such a matter of fact, autistic, then screw it, I want to know the Truth, and perhaps this new therapist has glimpsed it.
As it turned out, I had a great session with him on Friday afternoon and the subject of my “borderline” autism arose only briefly when he brought it up and even then I chose not to dwell on it or get sidetracked by how I felt about it. The fact is, it honestly seemed to me that we had more interesting matters to discuss.
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