I’m jealous of your Asperger’s

I’ve met a lot of different people with Autism and Asperger’s and sometimes I get a little jealous. Maybe I shouldn’t admit it out loud, but I don’t know where else to say this.  I guess I’m jealous.

I go online and talk with other adult Aspies,  Many of them don’t work.  They live at home with their parents. They spend their days focusing on their special interests. They are online as often as they want to be.  They don’t have to get up early. They sleep in. They set their activities to their own circadian rhythm. The collect their shiny things. They flap their hands/stim when they need to. They are basically free. Free to be themselves.

I realize not all Aspies have supportive families, but many of them do.  Their parents are accepting and supportive of their disability. They have been sheltered. Their home is a safe place. The only downside is having to follow the rules their parents establish, but hey.. it is their parents’ house. Sometimes I get a little bit jealous of all that.  I never had that.

Although my mother was never officially diagnosed, I am quite certain she was bipolar (manic/depressive) at the very least. My mother had two moods: Angry and Sad. Occasionally, on the very, very rare occasion she was happy. But she was never just comfortable. She was never content. My childhood was very turbulent and maybe some day I’ll find the strength to write all about it. For now, just for now, I’ll give you a few small details.

Image

**Photo Description: Me and my Mother **

My mother was a very emotionally unstable person. She had only an eighth grade education, and not a very good one at that.  Her lack of education made her very defensive. She believed there were only two sides to everything. Her side and the wrong side.  If you disagreed with her, you were on the wrong side.  The wrong side brought her wrath – physical and emotional abuse.  I spent my childhood tip-toeing on eggshells.  Although the adage is a joke, in my house, it rang true: “If momma ain’t happy, Ain’t nobody happy.”

My mother had no friends, so I was expected to be her best friend and agree with her no matter what. To side with her always. To be her champion. To defend her even if she was wrong.  For any child this would be difficult. For a child with Asperger’s it was even more difficult.  I was torn between my desire to avoid my mother’s wrath and my strong Aspie compass telling me to always defend what is right no matter who was wrong. Stimming behavior – flapping hands, etc was not allowed. I pulled at the skin of my lip. I still do today. It was the only thing she couldn’t stop me from doing.

I was never allowed to recede to my room and disappear. I wasn’t allowed to meltdown ever. A meltdown would have brought on more physical and mental abuse. “Why are you crying? Do you want me to GIVE you something to cry about?!?!”  I learned quickly to keep my feelings inside. My mother’s love was always conditional. She only loved you when you were doing something nice for her. This behavior taught me to be codependent from an early age and believe my self-worth was based upon my actions. I felt unlovable unless I was doing something to deserve love. The sense of worthlessness she instilled in me took many, many years to overcome. Like many abusers, each violent outburst was followed by gifts.Toys.Things. Because THINGS equaled love. Deeds equaled love. Yes, she had hit me, but she had BOUGHT me these toys to SHOW how much she loved me. And you could not reject those gifts or you were rejecting her. They were meant to be displayed and exalted. It was an emotional roller coaster.  It was exhausting to be her daughter.
Image**Picture descrition: Me with my shelf full of toys. Mon chi-chi’s, Benji dog, Mickey mouse, etc. All to show how much I was “loved.”

I felt trapped growing up. I felt like I was never allowed to be myself.  Because my mother’s moods were so volatile, there was never a way to predict how she would react. For a child with Asperger’s, this is the equivalent to living in hell. We need routine. We are black and white thinkers. We need cause and effect. These things help us feel like things are under control. In my house, the same action did not always bring the same reaction. Having a mother who throws dishes at your head if you forgot to clean out your cereal bowl yet doesn’t bat an eye if you intentionally misbehave makes life extremely unpredictable. I never knew what to expect. Never knew how she would react. Never wanted to go home. Anxious isn’t a big enough word to describe the anxiety I grew up with. I felt caged. Trapped. Pacing back and forth in my too-small container unable to break free.

I had my first job when I was 15 and had my first apartment at 17. I am sure I did terrible at my first job. I know I was terrible at managing my first apartment. I left home to escape her. To escape her cruelty. To escape her emotional demands. To escape that house.  Without meaning to, without realizing it, my mother forced me to learn the skills I have used to survive in the non-autistic world. I had to get a job to get money to leave home.  I had to get out.

So when I moved out, there simply wasn’t an option to return home. I had to learn how to get a job and KEEP it. I had to learn to survive on my own. I am not saying my parents never helped me. My parents loaned me money. My father helped me on many occasions. I would be lying if I said I did it all on my own completely. But I never wanted to go back. Home was not a safe comfortable place for me. There was no one to wrap their arms around me and tell me it was ok that the world was so rough and that I could try again tomorrow. That was a fantasy. A Disney movie. That wasn’t my life.

So I’m a little jealous when I see these grown adults with Asperger’s that still live at home. They have supportive parents who hug them and love them and tell them “everything is going to be OK.” Their parents tell them they are perfect just the way they are. They don’t have to change for the world. Their parents don’t force them to ever take a step outside of their comfort zone. Their home is their sanctuary. They don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not to survive.  I see that as a sort of freedom I never had.

The freedom to feel safe with my own family.
To feel loved unconditionally.
And I’m a little jealous.

But it’s a little catch-22 for me.  While I have some jealously towards those who live the life I never had, for the first time in my life, I feel some gratitude towards my mother who didn’t baby me, didn’t coddle me, and didn’t allow me the option to fail. Because her actions pushed me out of the nest so forcefully, I had to learn to fly. And I did.  I wonder if I would have learned the skills that I have now if failure had been an option. If I had been allowed to retreat to my room and hide under the covers, would I have ever pushed myself?  If I knew in my heart that I could always go home and home was a safe, fuzzy place, would I have succeeded? If my parents had sheltered me from every failure because I was different, would I have tried as hard as I did? Would I be the person I am today? College educated? Married? With children? With two jobs?  Or would I still be living at home, single, free to flap my hands and fidget with my shiny things and have my meltdowns. Free to be exactly who I am all of the time.  I’m not sure. I’m just not sure.  And then I wonder…which one of those things really is free?

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28 thoughts on “I’m jealous of your Asperger’s

  1. Although I’ve never been jealous of a specific person with autism, I kind of understand what you mean. It’d be nice to just be able to be ourselves sometimes. I’ve often wondered where I would be if I hadn’t been forced to learn all of the things I had to learn to get by. I’m a little too involved with the “normal” world now to want a completely free Asperger’s life, but I sometimes think it’d be nice to be able to really get involved in a special interest or just have a place where I could make mistakes.

  2. Just now read only enough to know I have to resume after a night’s sleep. Thanks for your courage. I’m not ready to do the deep work you’re thinking about, so maybe I’m not ready for your whole post this week. Take-a care you.

  3. When you were talking about ur mother I could relate since I too had a mother with Bipolar and it was hard being the eldest of 2 other children so I do empathize with you having to deal with that as an a Autistic person. I think you are right about being independent, my brother is a non verbal autistic child and its clear that he will always rely on my dad and home is a safe place for him but I dont think its the best option for someone who has the best ability to go out there and do something with their life like you 🙂

    • I was also the eldest of two children. When I moved out at 17, my 15 yr old brother moved in with me for a while. He was always braver than me. I would just try to appease her to keep her calm and he used to love to antagonize her. Siblings. So alike and so very different.

      • Realy? Thats exactly the same as my brother, he would just wind her up and make her mood go from very cheerful to very angry, For me its just VERY different xP

    • I’m the oldest child too…of four kids. Sometimes I think I broke my parents in but between me being “the protector” and my brother being the only boy, we got the brunt of anger/punishment. My oldest son has Asperger’s as well. Hmm…maybe we should start a club! lol

  4. I feel so sad for the child you were but so admire the adult you have become. You should feel so proud of coming through that and becoming the strong individual you are today. Your writing is honest,powerful and from the heart. It also is thought provoking for me as a parent of five asperger children because it is so easy to try and protect them from everything (actually not so easy as they are getting older!) but maybe we fall into the trap of overprotection. People with aspergers are amazing,fascinating and wonderful (yes, I have it myself but I’m not blowing my own trumpet, I mean all of the amazing children and adults I have met!) we shouldn’t let them hide away too much as they need to go and shine. They just need the safe retreat of home!!! Your story today touched my heart and I thank you for that. Debby.x

    • Thank you Debby for your heartfelt response. ❤ I think it is important to provide a safe place for our Aspie children yet at the same time, I feel it is also our place to help them challenge themselves to move forward and grow. I would compare it to teaching them to ride a bike. They are going to fall down a couple of times. Our job is to help them get back up and try again. If we swoop in and rush them in the house and coddle then they will never learn to ride. 🙂 ❤

  5. An important essay for all regardless of neurotype. Your ending question ranks above “the unexamined life is not worth living,” because the focus is clear. Thank you, Pensive. World class.

  6. You raise some interesting questions and paint a great picture of your life growing up. You have managed to achieved many things so are in a much better position than many others, based on your achievements. It’s a double edged sword. Thanks for the very thought provoking post

  7. Thank you for sharing this. My parents never booted me out but I needed more. Everything I learned about love I learned from my dad. My mother sounds much like yours without the toys. I usually say she’s an equal opportunity hater. Anyway… My son is not as high-functioning as I am but I won’t boot him out. Instead I am introducing ideas, concepts and plans to eventually get him independent. He’s 19 and a work in progress but I want to give him the best chance to succeed at independence because I am not going to live forever. It would be a great injustice to him if I left him with no skills.

    • I think there is a balance. As parents, I believe we have to push our children a little. Not forcefully, but a little. If we ushered them back in the house and coddled them the first time they fell off a bike, they would never learn to ride. I think sometimes parents of children with disabilities can shelter their children to the point of making them codependent on that shelter. You are on the right track. The goal is independence because one day we won’t be here for them. ❤

  8. I’m in shock. Many of your words could be mine. I have Asperger and my mother was bipolar (happy, or very sad, or very angry against me, or somebody she criticized during hours and of course I had to do the same, no matter I didn’t agree, like you, I always had to do what she wanted me to do to survive at home) And, I guess, she was Asperger too. I just discovered I was Asperger when I started to suspect my 3 years old child had autism, so very recently, and this element gives me a totally new understanding of my story and who I am. Thank you so much for this blog 😉 Leti

  9. I have Asperger’s Syndrome (ASD) and I can honestly say that I’ve never felt comfortable as myself. I’ve always felt different and alone. Like something is missing in my brain. To be around other people I have to mentally drain myself faking it to the point where I’ve suffered from agoraphobia for 10+ years. Being around other people and leaving my safe place is just too much most of the time. I also don’t really have any friends. Most of my closest friends live far away. Socializing just isn’t something I’m equipped to deal with. I am constantly misunderstood as appearing aloof, unfeeling, cold or mean when I am everything to the contrary. But I feel like that with a lot of things.

    I know there are Aspies who have good families to depend on, but mine is NOT one of them. I constantly feel like I’m in cage, because even though I would probably do a lot better in the right enviornment, I’ve never been able to take care of myself on my own. I’m always dependent on other people. I do not feel happy about this at all. I feel constantly ashamed and embarrassed. I’m also rigid and extremely inflexible – to the point where I cannot work with other people, have never worked, and I HAVE to do things my way or I become unresponsive. This also applies to living with me. I NEED things – like I need to breathe – to be a certain way or I cannot function properly. Any changes in routine can easily cause me to break down in my schedule and just flounder around. I also have a lot to say, but I lack the grace and efficacy in which to say them efficently. And I never feel as though I’m expressing myself the way I want to.

    Really, you can very much think of me as a train. A train that can only go in one direction even if there’s another train coming headlong. There’s nothing I can do, simply put, but crash into it. That’s how life feels to me.

    Even my best qualities aren’t working out so well in this world – I’m extremely honest to the point of offending people; I make people uncomfortable because I can’t even fake it very well; and people are constantly taking advantage of me because I’m timid, naive and innocent. I feel as though I have a huge target on my forehead that attracts the wrong people and I lack the tools necessary to actually identify who the right people and wrong people are.

    Really I could go on and on, but that would take all day. My brain feels like a puzzle that’s missing pieces needed to function well. I, too, very much feel jealous of these Aspies you speak of, because I am most definitely not one of them. I’ve even lost interest in my special interests because of deep-rooted feelings of failure and inadequecy. And what’s an Aspie without their special interests?

  10. “Why are you crying? Do you want me to /give/ you something to cry about?”
    When my mom became depressed during my middle school years things got very tough for me in a lot of the same ways you described here. I /did/ have it better than you; Mom was at least fairly predicable and gave me hugs not toys when she was feeling better. And eventually she found the right medication and went back to being the Mommy I remembered. But learning how to suppress my tantrums and crying and especially how to suppress ‘correcting’ her no matter if she /was/ being illogical and there /was/ a better way to do the task assigned… I don’t think anything could have better prepared me for peers who would shun me if I tantrumed and bosses who would fire me if I couldn’t just follow orders. I’ll never be grateful exactly for the experience but I definitely wouldn’t be as successful as I am today without it.
    I gather here that you feel the same way

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