As someone into grammar and linguistics, who debates the requirements of a split infinitive and the correctness of implied antecedents and whether you can punctuate dialogue with semicolons, for fun, language is in my head a lot.
As someone with schizophrenia, not to mention autism, language gets messy.
I’ve pondered making a mini constructed language (conlang—a language artificially created rather than naturally evolved) based on superlatives.
Tired, tireder, tiredest.
The thing is that the difference between “tired” or “very tired” or “sleepy” or “exhausted” can mean very different things to lots of people.
To me, “exhausted” clearly meant, “I am about to fall asleep on my feet and it is hazardous for me to stand up.” I found out that apparently, other people use exhausted to mean what I call pretty sleepy—a strong urge towards going to bed as things got hazy.
Additionally, I separated mental and physical energy in a way a lot of people apparently do not. I can be ready for a long, productive writing session while barely able to sit up. Much less frequently, on the other side, I can be nonverbal and ready to run a mile. Their correlation is low if not nonexistent.
Plus, it can be hard to describe things that are incredibly subjective or an uncommon experience. How dissociated are you? How intrusive are the hallucinations? How bad is the sensory overload? This isn’t a new problem—say, pain—if you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office, you’ve seen a chart of smiley faces and numbers desperately trying to solve it.
So I pondered a sort of mini logical language—a conlang meant to remove ambiguity—that would use some extremely simple ways to describe certain spectrums, to be used between me and people its relevant to. I faced the reality that they would go “which one was that word again?” and I would tell them the definition, which meant I should just start with that definition. It still might be useful for journaling or something, and it’s still in my mind.
Say, tired, tireder, tiredest, sleepy, exhausted, mental and physical energy.
It could be given a rating system, maybe 1-5.
MentalTired1 – messing up a few words now and then, a bit slow to catch hidden meaning or jokes, not coming up with brilliant ideas.
MentalTired5 – nonverbal, non-responsive to language input, likely crying.
PhysicalTired1 – notable muscle fatigue, depending on cause, might be slightly short of breath/sweating.
PhysicalTired5 – it is hazardous for me to be sitting up unsupported; will be asleep shortly.
There’s also the kinds of overlap—mental distress that creates physical symptoms. Anxiety and muscle tension, nausea, chest pain. Depression and lethargy. Hallucinating and dizziness. Sensory overload and headache. Things that can be hard to explain in English if you have only ever experienced the symptoms independently, or only the physical side.
When tested for diagnosis, I took an IQ test, which I don’t find to be the one true measure of intelligence or all of what it’s sometimes made out to be, but it was interesting, and an example here—
My verbal reasoning? 130.
My spatial reasoning? 92.
I’ve almost assuredly written millions of words of fiction in my life, never gotten a B in English, but I both miss doorways for walls and still have to do the L thing with my hands to find left and right on a daily basis.
The difference between skills like that also influences how some days I can write a book but not sit up.
When those physical and mental lines get blurry and when adjectives don’t describe symptoms, language gets tricky. At least English—I may have to look into others.
What seems like a long time ago, I pondered going into a very specific form of being a therapist as a career based on what I would call constructed language therapy—like art therapy, but creating with language. While being a mental health professional is not for me, and I have no idea if that as a therapy type would’ve been really feasible, it was an interesting concept.
Words make people feel powerful. It’s why we reclaim slurs, cling to favorite quotes and lyrics, wear some labels with pride.
Surely there’s something to a therapy practice of building yourself up by making language that has failed you, work for you.
Just a thought.