CoA prompt for Oct 2019 – “Aromanticism and Aloneness” [Call for Submissions] [tumblr crosspost] [Roundup]. The tumblr post was on 30 Oct 2019 and the link included in the roundup; this post has been scheduled after the roundup to avoid link/pingback confusion.
The first draft got unwieldy with a metaphor about dog and cat ownership (including comparing romance repulsion to a dog dander allergy and aplatonicism to a cat dander allergy), and the second draft got a little bogged down by thoughts on offline community spaces (perhaps better salvaged for another prompt).
The third draft (titled Let’s Be Alone Together) unpacked that the focus on living alone in some aro reblog chains brushes up against cultural and familial baggage about the failure to live independently and self-reliantly from one’s family signaling a failure at being a real adult, which means I haven’t really been coming at the discussion objectively in the past.
Fourth time’s the charm.
I have bounced around from draft to draft and tangent to tangent this past month in part because other issues have required a higher priority ranking in the mental queue. Among the various topics brought up with/by my new general practitioner [GP] during this month’s follow-up was counseling intake, which will feature a bunch of questions off a template and hopefully some relevant questions about the diagnosis I’d like to confirm (or figure out my symptoms are actually from X) over a few appointments.
(For non-regular readers, I haven’t had health insurance since undergrad ended in 2016, so there have been a few changes to the identities I tote around. The Counseling and Psychological Services [CPS] offered on-campus did include therapy, but I’m not quite a good fit with Grad students who change every semester and require reintroductions, re-explaining, and ignoring personal details when I just don’t want to bother with an LGBTQIA+ primer. My last therapy visit with CPS that wasn’t a ‘the semester started’ drop-in was in the later part of the spring semester of 2015.)
I did ask to not be paired with someone who’s never had a trans patient before because I’m just not up to walking my therapist through the bare bones of Trans 101, but I won’t really know their familiarity with LGBTQIA+ basics until the first intake appointment in November. It’s possible they might know some identities but not all of them, and I may still need to break out a little 101 even for relatively more established identities (ex. nonbinary). However, the most relevant of my letters collected for this post is the A for aro-spec (specifically quoi/greyro), which is currently the most recent personal identity (2019) and, afaik, the youngest community when it comes to awareness.
Aloneness, Isolation, and Loneliness
On a literal, physical level, the prospect of going to therapy doesn’t really fit with being alone (“having no one else present”) or aloneness (“a disposition toward being alone”). But it edges along a nebulous mixture of talking about being alone, geographic isolation, and possible loneliness or isolation. The bridge connecting this nebulous alone/isolation idea with being aro-spec and facing intake for counseling:
Talking about being alone. It’s going to be a smidge related to context for past events, but it’s like a cloud on the horizon that I’m trying to ignore when it comes to talking about the future and/or future goals. I’m going to have to admit that it’s currently unwise to live on my own to someone’s face, so I don’t want that to be a goal of our sessions. Like, I’m really going to have to admit that my symptoms have gotten bad enough in the past that I would rather plan on having a roommate than risk being a danger to myself again.
The geographic isolation specific to living in a rural area that’s not exactly the intended ‘local’ area for the closest LGBTQIA+ resources and communities, especially if you get a-spec specific. It can range from some resources not being applicable when you live in a different county to inconvenient differences in meetups (it’s great to only have a 5 minute walk to a coffee shop for a casual meetup for the locals, but if I live over an hour’s drive away, I expect something a little more substantial to justify the driving and need enough advanced notice to actually drive there).
It doesn’t really feel like loneliness, but it doesn’t quite seem like a type of isolation, and it’s just this mixed feeling that I’m not going to have a choice but to be a teaching moment because I’m going to be the first aro-spec patient for this therapist. True, I have no way of knowing how many other aros are in this area, but unfortunately, I have no way of knowing if I’m the only aro-spec person around. It feels unbalanced and isolating that I can’t just walk in as an individual, and I now have to be careful as an ambassador of sorts.
Convergence of Mental Illness & Aro-spec Identity
Based on a quick search of Arocalypse, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a unique feeling to me, but that greyro pov post included revealing my connection between my mental health and feeling like I’ve become aro-spec. (Link covers why I’d rather not directly link to the post in question, namely personal growth. With a dash of embarrassment.) And yes, I said that I feel like I’ve become aro-spec instead of feeling like it’s been a static identity that I’ve always had.
I think the life events I went through – most strongly noticed after surviving suicidal shit – were the equivalent of the body prioritizing heating the core instead of the extremities in extreme cold. The vital to living parts of me made it through.
My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction when signaled in media? It’s not impossible, but it’s usually particularly scripted examples. My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction signaled in other people? I still have a chance at getting that right, but it’s not guaranteed. My ability to correctly interpret romantic attraction when I might be experiencing it? Nope, that didn’t make it through. It’s like a fixed red-blue-purple color array that’s suddenly showing orange. It’s like looking down at your phone one day and realizing everything’s been switched to a language you only know a limited amount of (for me, Spanish). It’s like trying to wrap your head around imaginary numbers after you thought you were keeping up in Algebra II.
At this point, romantic attraction is a rather distant memory and feels like it happened to a different person. I’ve made peace with not knowing if I’m orange or red-orange, and I could stumble through figuring out more words in Spanish, but I don’t think proper management of my symptoms will “restore” what’s been lost. No amount of talk therapy is going to unlock those memories, and the right medication isn’t going to lift the fog of confusion. Maybe red-orange is close enough to red to count (non-normative romance factoring into maybe, sometimes experiencing something close to romantic attraction a la greyro), but I don’t want to pretend I know what i means.
I don’t want a therapist to get sidetracked by “fixing” me because I’m alright chilling out here on the aro spectrum. Maybe I’ll be able to live on my own at some point, or maybe I’ll have a roommate. Maybe the stars will align and I’ll find someone who’s alright with me being red-orange and mostly confused as long as we figure out each other’s love language(s), so to speak. Maybe I’ll have a collection of friends, but I won’t ever really partner with someone. I’m not sure. Those questions are too complicated and too far off into the future for me to answer when I’ve got to douse the embers my brain decided to light in its resident dumpster before they grow into a full fledged fire.
However, based on my experience with CPS, I need to be prepared for questions about my relationship status. Their intake process included screening for domestic violence, if my memory serves me right (single = skip that section), but I also remember a soft inquiry into who might be involved in my support network where it was relevant to establish that I had friends but no romantic partners to warrant referring to my significant other. Just based on the preliminary paperwork that’s a copy of what I had to fill out for GP, there’s a section for choosing from their offered gender and sexuality options [includes Other and lines to write in responses].
I didn’t really feel like getting into a ton of detail with GP, but it feels different when it comes to counseling and eventually a psychiatrist consult. If I’m going to compile a bullet point list of my identities, offer brief explanations, and point towards aro resources, I’d rather get that all out of the way in the beginning. Once it’s all on the table, I don’t have to dance around topics or play the rephrasing game where I avoid coming out part way through an answer. Maybe me offering up AUREA can make it a little easier for the next patient who’s aro.
Maybe I don’t want to ignore or downplay my connection to an online aro community, as tenuous as it may be at times, because I feel a little less alone. I don’t have to frame changes in romantic orientation as being broken. I have an alternative narrative for being the heartless monster who’s a bit too cold and less than human. I don’t have to take the negative impression that an inability to romantically love someone (or an unclear answer) means that any sexual attraction, desire, or activities amount to manipulative ‘using’ as truth. (The social connection to a community can be used to whack a self-isolating brain.)
Ultimately, prepare for disclosure, so I don’t feel caught off guard or forget differences in how resources define a word and how I relate to it. I can play it by ear during the intake process, and if I don’t actually want to disclose to the therapist, I don’t have to.