How the fuck my brain matters to me (a biography)

Well, a partial biography. A very partial biography. Partial as in incomplete and partial as in biased.

Anyway, IQ. I’ve been thinking about my brain, and memorization, and my level of intelligence. It starts, as it has been for over a week now, at work. I have to memorize the prices of various donuts, cookies, and pastries. And there are a lot holy shit. And the prices are all different and hard to group together and yes, there are cheat sheets around, but customers are in a hurry and it’s a really fast-paced business, to compete with Dunkin Donuts and other chains. It’s a small family-owned business and it has to keep up. So do its workers. It’s demanding.

Now, keep that in mind, and bear with me as I provide some backstory. See, I was one of those really precociously smart kids. The smartest and quickest in the class (though the worst with homework; it could never keep my attention, which was too focused on Richard Adams books from age 6 onward), I was also, and did not know it at the time, autistic. I was very different. And I was weird. I was too focused on people, too intense, too…much. I was too much for any kid, and I was shunned because of it. I wasn’t particularly attractive or skinny, I was anxious and…well, you get the idea. I was different.

The only thing people complimented me for was how smart I was. Never that I was pretty, or funny, or interesting, or creative. I now know that I am and have always been all these things. But when I was a kid? Not so much. Home life didn’t really enforce that I was worth anything. But everyone, everyone (except my sister, but that’s another story) complimented me on how smart I was.

So naturally, considering my entire self-worth was based on it, I was very proud of my intelligence. As soon as I turned 18, I took the MENSA practice exam and got a 169. I was fast, I was smart, I was worth something. I didn’t do very well in college, though–again, the homework problem, also helped along by being able to skip classes whenever I wanted and spend it with my brand new boyfriend (and future husband) playing video games and doing the naughty times and getting drunk. I was free from a bad home life and a horrible abusive relationship that had haunted me in high school and I was too busy living my life to go to class. So I kind of wasted my gifts for a while, and ended up taking a year off. But then, once my then-husband Keith came back from a deployment from Iraq (Marine Corps infantry, in a really combat-heavy zone, so it was not very nice), we moved back to his hometown to be around his family while we both went back to school.

This is another story, yet again, but we ended up losing everything, and I had to drop out of college again. We lost our jobs, we lost our home, we lost our backup plan, we were homeless and broke and I was pregnant, and so we moved back to this area with MY family taking us in and helping us back on our feet.

(We got back on our feet, victoriously so, though it took a long time and we’re JUST starting to make ends overlap instead of just meet, and it took about five years. But that’s not the point of this story. It’s about my brain.)

But I had a new child! And no job, and a disability, and untreated depression and anxiety, and I was only sleeping two hours at a time, which is what my son gave me for the first ten months of his life. I have a record of everything I wrote during that time, otherwise I wouldn’t remember anything that happened, and even now it’s still really fuzzy. And when I finally started getting sleep and treatment, I started noticing–something about me is different.

I was slower. I was fumbling with my memory. But I discovered, and thus stopped fighting, my autism, and I found that once I released that control I thought differently. I’d been training myself to think “normally” for so long that I was stifling myself. I suddenly started writing like I had never written before. Words flowed out of me for years without stopping. I wrote two books, one of which I started and finished in a month. I wrote over half a million words in a fandom. But I was still lacking some spark I had before. I felt dull and slow. I took the MENSA practice exam again–this time I scored a 148. I dropped 21 points in the five years from high school to having a baby, probably mostly the sixth year with the sleep deprivation and severe mental stress of chronic pain, mental illness, and loneliness during abuse (yeah, my husband used to abuse me–that’s another story).

I suffered very deeply for my self-worth. I know, I know–I’m speaking from a point of privilege and whining because a little bit of my privilege decreased to a point where it is still clearly privilege. I’m like a billionaire whining about losing one million. But I didn’t recognize that at the time, and I hadn’t come to recognize what I’m about to tell you I recognized.

It took a year and a half, but my son started showing signs of autism. We got him tested, and…well, it was clear he had some delays, and some unique ways of thinking. He lost all his words, though, and wasn’t talking. I was desperate to hear him call me mommy–he never had. But we got him therapy, and we got him all through the tests, and we got him treated, and…and we got an IQ test for him.

It came back at 79. Middling low. I suddenly realized I had thought that low IQ was bad, somehow. Not different, bad. But that’s not the case at all, and it took seeing my son’s score to realize that it doesn’t fucking matter at all. My son is bright, he’s been progressing beautifully over the years, he has the most active imagination, he’s hysterically funny and he picks up everything he’s not supposed to like he was born to it. Seriously, I have a habit of loudly stating “Jesus Christ!” whenever I am frustrated, and frankly I’m not even a little bit religious. But soon enough, Edwin piped right up. “Aw, Jesus Christ!” Woops. His daddy didn’t like that.

The point is, his IQ doesn’t matter one fucking bit. It doesn’t change who he is or his worth. And therefore, it doesn’t change mine. Wow. Like, yeah. My mind was blown. Epiphany style. And it’s been about two years since that test and since my little breakthrough.

Moral? Don’t judge. Especially yourself. We’re all doing exactly what we can and being exactly who we are. We have to learn to forgive ourselves and value ourselves. And it’s a never-ending process.

 

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