BIID, Therianthropy, and a family of Identity-mismatch Disorders

The following is something that I have been wanting to discuss for over six months now. It has taken me a long time to find the right way to explain the topic, and in terms of content it happens that every time I come close to completing it, I discover more relevant information. Fortunately for me, a reader of my blog asked me about this matter, which I hinted at in the postscript to one of my previous posts, and I was thus forced to put it down in words. As such, I finally found myself with the basis for a blog post on the topic.

This is a matter which I have been thinking about for quite a long time. Many people with BIID, or who spend time in BIID communities, are probably familiar with the frequent comparisons between BIID and GID. It’s been suggested many times that maybe BIID and GID are one in the same thing, just different variants. As inconclusive as those discussions normally are, I found it hard to accept that they could not be the same thing – after all, I was able to take the DSM-V criteria for GID and replace “gender” with “disability” and then fit almost all the criteria myself. But yet, how can gender identity and disability identity have anything in common?

And then I found the key. Or rather, I experienced the key first-hand. When my BIID involuntarily went away, I found myself with another identity-mismatch. Not a mismatch of my non-disabled body to a disabled identity. And not a mismatch of a male body to a female identity. This was something different.

Enter Therianthropy.Read More »


BIID is common

BIID is common. Well, relatively common. More common than one would expect.

I have for a long time suspected that there are many more people with BIID than either we or medical researchers are aware of, that although there are maybe only in total a few thousand people with BIID posting on the internet in reality there are probably more like one or two people with BIID in every few thousand. Why do I believe that BIID is so common?

Many comparisons have been drawn, from multiple angles, between BIID and other formally-closeted topics such as homosexuality and transgenderism, and with regards to the present discussion we can draw another important comparison. Think about how common homosexuality is these days – chances are you might have spoken to a person who is homosexuality, or at least know of one personally even if you haven’t spoken to them yourself. Transgenderism is coming up in the news all the time, as celebrities from all areas of life – athletes, actors, singers, you name it – are opening up about their gender identity and, where applicable, their transition to the gender with which they identify. But think about how seemingly-uncommon these things were a hundred, or even fifty, years ago. The fact is, only once society opens up to something and accepts it as real and legitimate, then you start hearing about it. That’s when people with it are not afraid to hide who they are but are more willing to open up and talk about that particular side of themselves, sometimes even in very forthcoming ways.

If we apply the same pattern to BIID, then, which it seems like the logical pattern to apply, we are naive if we don’t expect BIID to be more common than it currently appears to be. Only once society opens up towards those with BIID will we be accepted enough for us to be willing to talk about ourselves, to pretend, to even participate in medical research, and ultimately to become the people who we need to be.

But what real evidence do I have to prove that BIID is more common than first meets the eye? To tell the truth, in the 18 or so months since I discovered BIID, I’ve seen at least two people who I can pretty certainly say have BIID. I told one of my non-BIID friends about this and while he found the idea of a “BIID radar” amusing he didn’t really believe that it was possible. But what would you say when you’re stopped at a pedestrian crossing watching the most inexperienced wheelchair user that you’ve ever seen (as evidenced by her pushing style), with the biggest smile on her face (the kind of smile that says “nothing else matters right now, because I’m in a wheelchair and that’s all I care about”), fail repeatedly to get across a road with the slightest hump in the middle (as most roads are), and refuse any and all offers of help (as people with BIID usually do)? Or a man with his eyes closed behind very weak refractive glasses (as evidenced by the thinness of the lenses and the lack of much visible refraction through them) walking with a white cane? (At least when I pretend in public I take my glasses off…) These things, that most people would never notice, jump out at me, because I understand them, because what most people would write off as “that doesn’t make sense” and immediately forget about are to me the obvious signs of BIID.

But that’s not where it ends. The real inspiration for this post is that, despite having posted nothing new in exactly a month, my blog has still been receiving a steady stream of traffic of on average at least five page views a day from at least three visitors (some days I get over ten views from over five visitors, and other days I get just one or two views). Most of this traffic has, understandably for such a quiet blog, been coming from search engines (actual searches that people have typed in, not search engine crawler robots). Sadly doesn’t give me many of the actual search queries that readers are searching for (Google hides that information from the site visited but Bing doesn’t), but guess which posts have been the most popular? Not random rants about administrators of IRC channels. The most popular posts over the past month have been the posts about BIID. The posts about my experiences as a pretender, my tips for dealing with BIID, and the most popular post of them all: Current BIID support groups. In fact, almost all of the Bing search queries were along the lines of “biid support group”, “biid support”, “support group for biid” and so on.

What does this tell me? That BIID is as common as I have, for a long time, believed it to be. There are people out there who are afraid to talk about their feelings, but who come to my blog as another step in understanding themselves. Some of them need to talk, but don’t know where to turn to find people who will understand them. But the bottom line is that there are people with BIID out there, and until the medical community catches up with the situation we must offer all of the support that we can. We need to tell people where to find us, and when they do find us, we need to give them what they need – whether that’s someone to talk to or just a few blog posts to read before slipping back into the closet, better prepared to tame the beast that’s been holding them captive for as long as they can remember.

I would also like to use this opportunity to highlight an important personal matter, which I have not until now known how to address. It’s a long story, but the short version is that I do not believe myself to have BIID any longer. There are very few stories of people being cured of BIID, but it does happen. In my case, however, I do not believe that I was cured, thus I cannot offer any advice in this area, but my BIID has gone away by itself (perhaps there is such a thing as transient or short-term BIID, or perhaps there is another reason why my BIID went away, but the truth is that I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter – the important thing is that it’s gone now). Nevertheless I did have BIID for a time and I have written this post from the perspective of myself as a BIID sufferer, because after all I have been a BIID sufferer in the past and I understand how BIID feels and how difficult it can be to manage. I do not want this postscript to lessen any of what I have said in this post, or in the past, as it does not lessen any of my knowledge of or experience with BIID.

I would also like to introduce a greater matter that I feel is important, regarding the “bigger picture” surrounding BIID, as it were. BIID does not exist in isolation, but to me it appears to be part of a bigger spectrum of “disorders”. I am afraid of saying too much at this stage as some of what I want to discuss is controversial in the BIID community and I fear that I may be ridiculed, but it is an important matter which I feel I must make known somehow, and in due course I hope to discuss this further on my blog, when I have enough information to properly formulate a discussion on the topic.

This will probably be my last post about BIID directly, and certainly my last post as a BIID sufferer, but as someone who has once had BIID but no longer has it I am able to see BIID from both a first-hand and an outside perspective, just as pretenders are able to see disability from multiple perspectives, and this has enabled me to see a bigger picture surrounding BIID and many other issues, tying together multiple “disorders” that have so far been regarded as completely separate (to the extent that I could safely say that those experiencing one of these “disorders” probably have no knowledge of many – if any – of the others) but which are actually different manifestations of the same thing, for when I read of them and of people’s experiences with them I see in them parallels with my own and others’ experiences with BIID, to the extent that the “disorders” themselves are self-evidently a parallel of BIID.

Everything’s under control

When you’ve got music blaring, a storm raging outside, your electricity supply dipping every few seconds, your burglar alarm screeching, and both of your phones ringing, that’s when you feel in control of everything. Seriously, it feels good.

Micheal Johnson

Why aspies don’t swear

I’m not going to say that aspies never swear. Sometimes we swear a *lot*, in response to the increased frustration that we feel about the world compared to neurotypicals. But what you’re not going to find many aspies doing is throwing swear words into every second sentence like a lot of people do. Why? Why don’t we use swear words the same way as other people?

Swear words are redundant

Most times when people use a swear word, they are used to add emphasis. This is redundant. Think about it: why should we say “it’s fucking cold outside” when we can say “it’s very cold outside”? Or maybe we don’t need any word in there at all: just say “it’s cold outside”, because after all you’re just trying to explain why you’re wearing a scarf and gloves (which really shouldn’t need explaining at all, just sayin’ ;-) ).

Swear words are imprecise

Furthermore, swear words don’t accurately convey what we’re trying to say. So many reviews for, for example, smartphone apps say “this app is so crappy”. Why use the word “crappy” when we could use a much more meaningful word? What about explaining *why* the app is crappy, by saying something like “this app is so difficult to use” or the even more helpful “the navigation menus have too many layers in them”? In the statement “my day was a pile of shit” we’re left wondering “in what way was it a pile of shit?”, and we see no reason to use a word that omits this information completely when we could just as easily express what we had in mind when we made the statement.

Even if we’re trying to insult someone, I can think of many better ways of doing that without using a swear word. Instead of saying “why the hell did you do that?” I’m probably going to say “why did you do such a stupid thing?”. Not only have I added the information that what they did was stupid and that’s why I’m complaining about it, but I also score a point for calling the other person’s actions stupid ;-) .

Swear words are meaningless

They’re overused and lose their meaning because people are saying and hearing them all the time. ‘Nuff said.

Swear words are lazy

When someone swears at us, we don’t take offence; we think “couldn’t you think of a better word?”. Swearing just shows laziness: laziness in not thinking of something more original to say, and laziness in not trying to avoid words that many people don’t like. Or laziness in not thinking of a better way to insult us.

We don’t want to look lazy, and as aspies we have a natural tendency to want to do something the best way, not just the easiest way, so we prefer to think more carefully about the words that we use.

Swear words are offensive

We might not always show it, but we really don’t want to offend or upset people. So why use a word that’s intended to do just that, just to tell someone how friggin’ cold it is outside?

Inquisitive Girl

Many transabled people have written about the young, open minds of children when it comes to disabilities. It even features in a lot of fiction written by transabled people for transabled people. After all, we have a unique perspective on the world, experiencing it both as a disabled person and a non-disabled person, and we can take an outside view on the way that people with disabilities are treated by society, having experienced this ourselves first-hand. And now I have my own story to tell.

I was heading towards the bus stop while pretending, and I must admit that I was a bit lost. This bus stop has two shelters and three places where the buses can stop, and even though I knew which part of the stop I needed to head for¬† knowing which part of the stop I’m actually at is a different matter. Presumably I looked lost too, for as I approached the stop an old lady (at least, I assume she was old because her voice sounded weak and worn) grabbed my arm – yes, I know it’s annoying when people do that – and asked me “are you OK?”. I said that I was needing the number 6 bus to Middleton (I’ve removed identifying details from this post) and asked if I was at the correct stop, which she confirmed. She then guided me to the bench in the bus stop and begged me to sit down, with which I complied considering that I had just missed the 15:42 bus and would have to wait half an hour for the next bus.

I hadn’t been sitting there long before I heard a young girl’s voice (about ten years old) at my two o’clock, and she seemed to be talking to a middle-aged woman who had arrived on my left (the latter of which was not her mother but did seem to be related to her in some way). She was asking the older woman to sing a song “from the 21st century”, although of course in the style typical of children her age she didn’t wait for a response before explaining that her mother was born in the 20th century but she was born in the 21st century and that the 22nd century would come in the year 2100. Feeling that such a comment would be appropriate for her age, I interjected in a casual manner by saying “yes, because the centuries are counted from 1 but the years are counted from 0”.

A few more minutes of silence ensued, and during this time I contemplated what I would say if anyone asked me about my blindness. This isn’t something that I’ve really had to consider before, and I was perturbed by pretending in public on my own without having a cover story ready. And rightly so, because just then the same girl that I had heard speaking before asked me “were you born with your eyes closed?”.Read More »

Three requirements for BIID treatment

In considering possible therapies and treatments for BIID, I have been trying to determine what functions effective BIID treatment must perform. I have come to the conclusion that there are three requirements for BIID treatment to be effective, and that these relate closely to the three ways in which identity is determined:

  • One’s state of being
  • The way one experiences oneself
  • The way one is experienced by others

Thus effective BIID treatment must allow the sufferer to:

  • Take on the physical state of having the required disability
  • Experience oneself as having the required disability
  • Be experienced by others as having the required disability

I’m going to look more in depth at these and then look at how potential treatments relate to these criteria.Read More »

Why wheelchairs are triggering

As regular readers of my blog will know, my particular BIID variant concerns blindness, not paraplegia. So why are wheelchairs triggering to me? Why does seeing someone in a wheelchair, or talking about wheelchairs, make all my BIID feelings return?

I have spent considerable time contemplating this, and I have come to the conclusion that there are a number of different reasons:

When I read about paralysis-variant BIID sufferers, I draw comparisons with my own feelings about blindness

This is perhaps the most obvious one. In reality, the wheelchair has nothing to do with it but what’s actually going on is that I’m reading about their feelings about paralysis and their experience of being in a wheelchair, and I think about my feelings about blindness and my experience with pretending to be blind. I read their account of getting their first wheelchair, and I think about how I felt when I got my white cane. In short, reading about other BIID sufferers – whatever variant – reminds me of my own feelings, for better or for worse.

Seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID

This is an extension of the previous situation. Because most of the BIID literature concerns wheelchair “wannabes”, either because of amputation or because of paraplegia, one who reads a lot of BIID literature starts to associate wheelchairs with BIID. So seeing a wheelchair user reminds me of BIID, which reminds me of my feelings.

As a BIID sufferer, I am a lot more aware of disability issues

As someone with BIID, I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about disability in general. When I’m in a public place, I think about the accessibility issues that people with different disabilities – not just blindness – may have. Furthermore, I am a lot more aware of disability issues because I have read a lot about the issues faced by both naturally disabled people and disability pretenders. And for me, disability is strongly linked with BIID, and thinking about disability tends to remind me of BIID. So seeing or talking about wheelchairs (or any other disability or assistive aid or anything related to disability in general) is likely to remind me of BIID.

Self-harm, play piercing, and endorphin regulation

A lot of aspies self-harm. Even more used to, until they were told to stop by either their parents, their therapists, or their inner conscience. Most of those that do wouldn’t admit to doing it. But yet they all feel the need to, and they all carry on doing it even when they want to stop. They like the feeling of pain. They need the feeling of pain, and the mental state that it brings with it. And it truly helps them to feel better.

Then you get the neurotypicals who poke needles through their skin because they like the way it feels. They call it play piercing, and they say that they not only enjoy the physical feeling but that it gives them this intense rush of happiness inside, which gets ever increasingly intense as they add more and more needles, sometimes hundreds all over their body.

What do these have in common? They’re both in some way penetrating their bodies in a way that causes pain. And they both like that feeling of pain. But it’s not just the pain that they’re after; it’s the brain’s response to the pain that they associate with the pain, and which makes them seek more pain. A sensation of pain causes the brain to release chemicals called endorphins, and the endorphins inhibit the transmission of the pain sensation. In short, endorphins are natural painkillers, which the brain releases in response to pain. So by causing pain intentionally, one can intentionally cause the release of endorphins.

But it’s not the painkilling aspect of endorphins that self-harmers and play piercers seek. Endorphins have other effects too, and one of those other effects is that they invoke a feeling of happiness. In fact, endorphins are the chemicals that control happiness – when we’re in a situation that makes us happy, our brain releases endorphins and that causes us to experience happiness.

So by intentionally causing oneself pain, one can intentionally trigger the release of endorphins, which will make one feel happier. Indeed the experience of happiness resulting from self-harm does not feel the same as true happiness, but superficially it is similar and it is similar enough for both groups of people to keep wanting it over and over, just as one wants to feel happy.

So what the play piercers are doing is triggering an intense endorphin “rush”, leading to a sudden feeling of happiness, which they enjoy. And what the self-harmers are doing is releasing endorphins into their body to make up for the absence of other happiness.

Here then is the link between self-harm and depression: depression either causes or comes as a result of a lack of endorphins. In either case, increasing the concentration of endorphins in the brain will help the depressed person to feel better. By self-harming, the depressed person feels a little better, and can continue getting through life. Here, too, is the link between self-harm and Asperger’s: aspies tend to feel depressed easily as a result of their more intense emotions. By self-harming, they can balance out their depression and feel a little more positive about life.

So let’s put the play piercers aside now and think about self-harm and depression: by intentionally releasing endorphins, one can reduce depression, thus endorphins can be considered a kind of natural anti-depressant, and self-harm can be considered a natural way to regulate one’s endorphin level to keep oneself from sinking too deep into depression. See what I did there? Yes, self-harm can be used to manage depression.

And that’s the point here: we need to stop thinking of self-harm as a negative behaviour and instead start viewing it as the body’s natural response to depression. Is it a better anti-depressant than medication? Is it better to let a depressed person manage their depression themselves, through self-harm, as necessary? Is self-harm actually a protection mechanism, just like shivering when one is cold, rather than a way to mutilate oneself out of hate for one’s own body? The truth is, we don’t know. And we won’t know until more research is done. But that research won’t get done until we stop viewing self-harm as something to be stopped as soon as possible.

The fact that the depressed person instinctively turns to self-harm as a way of dealing with their depression tells me that it’s supposed to work as a way to regulate one’s emotions.

Hypersensitivity vs Hyperawareness

As part of a recent assessment, I was asked a number of questions about my sensory experience. One of the questions was “Do you tend to notice sounds that others don’t notice?”.

Of course the answer is “yes”, but when I went into more depth and started analysing *why* I notice sounds that others don’t, I realised that it is probably somewhat related to why I see things that others don’t. No, that sounds like I hallucinate; what I mean is, that I notice things in my field of vision that others don’t, just like I notice sounds that others don’t.

The seemingly logical assumption for the reason why one would notice sounds that others don’t notice is that they are hypersensitive to sound – as in, their ears (or perhaps their brain) experiences aural stimulation as louder than how other people experience it. They notice these sounds simply because, while for other people the sounds are below the threshold for “being heard”, the sounds come through “loud and clear” for people who are hypersensitive.

So why then do I see things that others don’t? Visual hypersensitivity generally causes everything to appear brighter than for a normal person, just like aural hypersensitivity causes things to sound louder than for a normal person. Indeed, many visually hypersensitive people find a well-lit room to be painfully bright, and I can’t say that I don’t experience this at times myself too. But just because things are brighter doesn’t mean that I’m going to see things that others don’t – indeed things that “hide in the shadows” for normal people may be clearly visible for me, but that doesn’t even begin to account for the number of extra things that I notice.

The key, thus, is in the word “notice”. It’s not necessarily¬†that the things are more prominent due to being louder/brighter; my hypothesis is that it’s to do with sensory awareness. Whereas normal people may well see/hear these things, they filter them out because they focus only on the input that they are actively processing – such as a conversation that they are having – and ignore anything else. And that’s a good thing at times, too: it certainly means that they can have a conversation even if there is a lot of background noise, unlike me who can’t even hear what the other person is saying! So thus we can conclude that I *don’t* filter out other sensory stimulation; I process absolutely all of the stimulation that enters my senses. That’s why I see things that others don’t: they don’t even notice them because they are not processing that stimulation; I do notice them because I am processing all of the stimulation that I receive. That’s why I call it “hyperawareness” – I am exceptionally (excessively?) aware of background sensory input.

That’s also why I can’t hold a conversation when there’s too much background noise: I can’t block out the background noise and separate out the person’s voice!

When BIID bites…

The past few weeks have been very quiet for me as far as BIID goes. Yes it’s still been there, but I haven’t thought about pretending for a long time and I can’t say that I’ve felt as if I need to pretend. I’m not sure why this is, and I still suspect that it might be a mental blockage spilt over from the incident at college which continues to haunt me to this day (I have flashbacks almost every day to that moment when I was told not to use my cane at college – I didn’t quite capture in that post exactly how much it hurt me), but nevertheless it’s been that way for a good few weeks now and I kind of hoped that maybe I was “recovering” from BIID, or whatever this blindness thing of mine is.

But no, I was wrong. It only takes one small thing to set it off again. Testing the screenreader on my new computer didn’t do it. Disposing of Braille labels that had worn flat didn’t do it. Neither did packing my cane away in the garage on Friday last week (considering that I wasn’t using it anymore) do it. Yes, it really seemed like I was cured. In some ways I was loathed to lose this “other part” of me – this blind, but not physically blind, part – but nevertheless it would be better in the long run if BIID went away. But as I say, it didn’t. For some reason it started coming back to me again last night. Although I think that happens every Saturday night, probably because Saturdays were always the days when my mother and I went out with me pretending to be blind. But that’s not what I’m talking about now.Read More »