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.
**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.
**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?