Before discovering I had Asperger’s, I felt toxic.
Toxic to those closest to me. Toxic to my family.
There have been statements that Aspies do not have empathy. I could devote an entire blog to that, but not today. We DO have empathy. This meme below from The Aspie Coach explains it perfectly.
Compassionate and affective empathy can be VERY overwhelming for us.
Complaining is a big part of socializing for neurotypicals (NTs). I know everyone complains, but NTs do it differently than Aspies. They often gripe just for the sake of griping. Family members would talk to me about issues with their spouses/family. They would complain about how miserable they were and how unhappy their lives were. They would list all the reasons for their misery and I would be their biggest supporter. I would feel their pain and want to cry. They promised to take action, and I encouraged them. I would champion behind them, willing to help in any way.
The only problem was this: When neurotypical people talk about their problems, they often don’t want to do anything about them. (Really!) They want to SAY they are going to leave their husband/wife. They don’t want to DO it. They want to SAY they are going to tell their disrespectful stepchildren that they cannot borrow any more money, but they don’t really MEAN it. In fact, the next day they are kissing their spouse and lending more money to their rotten stepchildren. They seem perfectly fine. It’s baffling. Although the NT person had come to terms with their feelings, I had not. I was still feeling deeply hurt for them.
I often did not know what to do with these intense emotions. I still felt hurt/betrayed by the people who had hurt my family. My behavior showed it. I had a hard time being kind or friendly towards those who had hurt them. Instead of feeling supported, my family members would become angry with me for being hurt. They would say I was the person “causing problems.” I couldn’t understand. I was just trying to be supportive. To add insult to injury, my reactions would often cause them to become even closer to the person they were complaining about to begin with. Somehow everything would get twisted. It was no longer about the person hurting them. It was about ME reacting to the person who hurt them. It was my fault. I was toxic.
Wouldn’t it have been easier and more logical for the family member to say “I’m upset with my husband right now because he called me fat earlier today. I know tomorrow I’ll be ok, but right now I need to vent.” I can understand that. I can relate. I won’t get upset because I know you’re just venting.
But no. People raise their voices, cry, and say things like “I am done! I’m just DONE! I can’t take it anymore. We are OVER. I’m tired of him calling me fat. I’m tired of him making me feel stupid! I need to leave him!” They are passionate. I can’t help but want to help them. Do you need me to call women’s shelters? Do you want to stay here? How can I help make it better? Some NTs actually go as far as to make plans. But then the next morning, all that emotion is gone from them and they blame you if you scowl at the husband. His behavior – calling her fat – is now perfectly acceptable. My scowl is not. “But.. Pensive.. I didn’t want him to KNOW I told you that!” Then why tell me at all? Why raise your voice and say you are leaving? Why not just be HONEST.
You see – for the most part – Aspies say what we mean and mean what we say. We think others do too. Before I knew I had Asperger’s I felt like I was going crazy. People kept saying things they didn’t mean. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone because people LIE constantly. They would say their stepchildren were moochers who didn’t repay their loans in one breath and deny the statement with the next. Mamby-Pamby. Wishy-washy. Which statement is true?
Another fine feature of being an Aspie is the inability to hide disdain. If I don’t like something, it is obvious. I have a hard time masking it. Family members became upset and afraid I would reveal our conversations. They would tell me horrible things and then expect me to as if nothing was wrong. When I could not, they would say I was the problem. Toxic me. Again – it wasn’t about the other person’s awful behavior. I shouldn’t have pointed it out.
Since discovering I have Asperger’s I realized something. I AM NOT TOXIC. I am not. I realize that my beautiful brain has amazing abilities but it also has limitations. My brain short circuits around people who constantly say one thing but do another. My brain is wired for honesty. My brain wants to believe that you mean what you say. It is too exhausting to try to sort through every statement to figure out which conversations are true and which are just conversations to “blow off steam.” It’s too much.
I explained this to my family and it was met with mixed reception. My request was simple: If you’re just venting, please let me know. It’s a simple request, but some people could not honor it. Although it was hard, I removed people from my life who could not respect my limitations. Some are people I love dearly. A part of me hates that we are no longer close, but a bigger part of me loves that I am no longer TOXIC.
Does your family make you feel toxic? You are definitely not alone. ❤