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autism: freeing my feelings

July 4, 2016

A friend had suggested as far back as 2003 that I blog. At that time, I had nothing to write about. In late 2009, after my last job ended, I realized I had things to say, although I didn’t know what they were. I began blogging to find out what I had to say.

Blogging has been the best therapy I’ve ever had.

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My thoughts and feelings are so tangled up, I usually don’t know which is which. I write to unravel.

Many many times while writing a blog post, I suddenly feel tears; until the moment they arrive, I don’t know I’m feeling an emotion that would bring them on. That’s why I generally write something like, “huh, I’m crying right now”.

Once I remember writing that I was self-harming. I included that because I knew it must’ve been prompted by an emotion. I wanted a record of the entire sequence.

= = =

I’ve been in talk therapy over and over. But I didn’t keep a journal. So to remember particular insights that arose out of sessions, I have to re-create in my mind the whole thought process. If I can.

Sometimes I can’t.

= = =

People in my family of origin don’t talk about their feelings. A bunch of them do act out their feelings, especially hostile ones. Violent ones.

Histrionic is normal.

= = =

Being autistic (although undiagnosed all those years), it takes me many more iterations of every social thing to figure out what a pattern is.

For the past year of knowing I’m autistic, I’ve wondered if maybe some of us take so long to figure out social things not just because of how our brains are wired, but because we ourselves are so often treated poorly, or wildly inconsistently, that it’s impossible to figure out a pattern.

My mother was either smothering, or emotionally neglectful. Sometimes she fell into rages that, I laboriously figured out, came from something like “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” — that is, had nothing whatsoever to do with anything I did or did not do.

My parents deliberately sent us to Catholic schools, to teach us their values. I learned in religion class to stand up for people who were being mistreated, people who were helpless, people who were weaker than their tormentors. But the behavior I actually saw modeled in Catholic school, by teachers as well as my classmates, was Might is Right. Bullying people who are different is fine. Tormenting people to tears is fine. Teachers watched and did nothing.

I took refuge in logic because at least it made sense. But emotions often don’t seem to make sense. I tried to shut mine off. Then the world sucked so much worse, everything was grey despair, I had to bring them back online.

In 11 years of Catholic schooling (I began in 2nd grade), I had two teachers who were kind to me: one in fourth grade; one my junior and senior years of high school. The one in high school challenged me to make my very best efforts in her classes. She did not know, or seem to care, anything about me as a person. The biggest class assignment due senior year occurred during Christmas break. I experienced an unforeseen conflict that did not allow me to finish it. Really, the problem was I couldn’t even work on it all, although I tried many times. We were in Albuquerque for my cousin’s wedding. We were staying at my cousin’s house. He is a live wire at the best of times. The house was a madhouse 24/7. I couldn’t hear myself think, I definitely couldn’t read political magazines and synthesize what they said, then write about it. When I told my parents my difficulty, they laughed in my face. Suggested I do my assignment sitting in the unheated car, in December. I told my parents if I didn’t get this assignment done, I would flunk senior year. They didn’t care. Told me that was my problem.

So I lied to my teacher: I told her I’d mailed it, and it must’ve gotten lost. Those were days when the only backup copy would’ve been handwritten, too; no one would’ve expected me to have one.

Ironically, my parents’ car broke down, after the mailing deadline had passed, and we were stuck in my cousin’s now-empty, now-quiet house, for 3 extra days.

I had to lie to Sr. Connie’s face, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I practiced for days ahead of time. I don’t know she believed me — if, in my desperation, I was actually convincing — or if she realized that something awful must be happening. But she didn’t ask.

No one ever asked me how I was doing.

{Tears.}

It’s taken me all my life until this moment to realize my (other) cousin is never going to ask how I’m doing. No one in my family cares how I’m doing. They didn’t 32 years ago, and they don’t now.

So I guess I’m feeling grief.

= = =

This blog exists as a way to explain me to me.

Insights are recorded, and I can read them as many times as I like. I can revisit points of contention, and write about them from different perspectives. Some of my insights contradict each other. Writing this blog has helped me learn to live with conflict, ambiguity, uncertainty.

This blog is a journal that other people can read.

Other people do read my blog but I don’t know who, or how often, or when.

Three years ago my aunt mentioned in passing that she read my blog. I was astonished, and kind of disturbed. She has never commented. She never mentioned anything I wrote in a letter. I don’t know if she still reads it. Should I write every blog post that refers to her as if she’s reading it? Well, I don’t. It’s my journal; I write for me.

When I was seeing P, my last therapist (2014), to save time in sessions, I sent her copies of some of my blog posts about my past. Later, I sent her URLs. It did occur to me that she might read other blog posts that I hadn’t directed her to. After I stopped seeing her, she did in fact find blog posts where I thrashed out how I felt about her encroachments upon my boundaries. She got angry and defensive, and sent me a nasty note in response to the friendly Christmas card I’d sent her.

If I hadn’t written about any of that stuff, where and how would I have figured out what was really going on? And more importantly, what I could do about it?

I write this blog for me.

Writing this blog has (sometimes) saved me from sending the angry histrionic letters I’ve written to my relatives. “Angry and histrionic” is normal for our family, as I said… but it’s only well-received if you’re high status. And I’m not.

Bridges were burned before blogging helped me figure that out.

I’m autistic. It takes me many many many iterations of a social thing before I figure out a pattern. If it’s an upsetting, potentially-traumatizing thing, I have to write about it enough times that I neutralize being overwhelmed by it. That’s way more times than probably anyone wants to read about it. I’ve written, here, about things I never want to think about again, but since something is apparently still unresolved, I find I still have things to say.

I want all my emotions to feel welcome.

Even if they’re embarrassing.

Just feeling emotions. Sitting with them long enough to be able to identify them (especially when Mrs. Nocerino is screeching, “Self-indulgent! Ridiculous!” in my mind’s ear). It’s revolutionary. Not something I can take for granted, nor do I.

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