What I was after in describing subcultural differences wasn't things like emo, goth, punk, straightedge types of subcultures, but smaller. Differences like the unique cultures within families, groups of friends, schools, etc. There are things that are perfectly normal within those subcultures that look weird, perhaps even crazy, to outsiders; but these things are pretty innocuous and totally acceptable on the inside.
In my social circles, most people are probably of above-average intelligence. We use words that others consider "big" and we are willing to ask if we don't know what a word means. We make puns, we tease grammar mistakes, and we acknowledge what we do not know. This is the world I live in. In my social circles, no one ever considers that I have Asperger's because when I get confused by ambiguous grammar.
In mental health care, these things that are normal in my social circles is misunderstood and cause for them to suggest I have Asperger's:
- When I use words they don't understand, they don't ask for clarification or definition. They seem to assume that whatever partial understanding they get is correct and then also assume that I use these big words to distance myself from people.
- When I giggle after my doctor says, "we'll have to keep an eye on that," in response to my concern about a blurry vision drug side effect, the professionals look at me funny, just because they haven't noticed the pun.
- When I object to the staff telling me, "today will be a better day than yesterday," while telling me that I can't know that today will be worse, they act like I'm just making trouble. They react to it like I am just doing something to annoy them and express my displeasure, not like I am reasonably criticizing the content of their treatment. Even when I explain that they can't know that today will be better anymore than I can know that today will be worse, they still don't understand me; they don't understand that they are wrong even according to their own rules.
- When we took yarn to make a circle of how big we thought our waists are, our ideal waist size, and our actual waist size, there were exclamations about the yarn stretching when we measured our actual waists. The staff said that yarn does not stretch even after I, having spun my own yarn, explained that it does stretch, as a property of its creation.
- After reading an article that very carefully defined and contrasted "self-worth" and "self-esteem", an art therapist told me to describe my current self-worth and what my self-worth would be if I was non-eating-disordered. However the article had defined "self-worth" as being immutable, everyone's value being infinite and unchanged by anything they did; while "self-esteem" was defined as one's appraisal of his or her value, which usually does not match their actual value, which is "self-worth". So asking me to describe my "self-worth" with and without the eating disorder made no sense. According to the article, my self-worth would be the same either way, and every person's self-worth is the same as everyone else's. I suspected this was not really what she wanted me to describe, and that I was really supposed to describe my self-esteem, but when I asked, I was accused of being needlessly pedantic. I really didn't know which to do though, since it seemed plausible that she would want us describing our self-worth to make the point that it shouldn't change between having an eating disorder and not having one. She wouldn't help me understand, so I made four lists, self-worth and self-esteem with and without an eating disorder.
In these situations, I'm right. I'm in touch with reality, I am not having any strange thoughts, I'm not pointlessly obstinate, I'm not doing anything wrong or against any rules, I am not expressing any symptoms. But I'm branded as resistant to treatment, as having Borderline Personality Disorder; they tell me I am wrong about physical facts of the world, they chide me for not wanting to get better. If their subculture was similar to mine, they would understand me better. They would understand the words I use or be willing to ask me to clarify, they would understand when I point out that they contradict themselves, they would admit that I know more about yarn than they do. If they were willing to allow for subcultural differences without knowing mine, they might ask how I know that yarn stretches or why I object to their statement that "today will be better." That is harder than asking me for my religion and ethnicity to determine subculture, but it is equally important. Mental health care is one of the places where I find it most important to be understood correctly, because the stakes are so high, and one of the places I am least understood.
(Situations like this make me wonder how most people manage to communicate. Mental health care professionals are not careful to say what they mean, even when asked for clarification, nor are they careful to listen to what I actually say. But most people don't seem to have nearly as much trouble communicating with them as I do. Are people on both ends making the same assumptions, ending with no confusion due to more or fewer assumptions? Are most people equally sloppy with grammar, that they are all making identical mistakes, therefore understanding correctly? When grammar is ambiguous, how do these people automatically assume the correct meaning?)