Forgiving Myself

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 1:32 PM

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It's a truism for children with abusive childhoods that the wounds inflicted therein are not ever really gone. Sometimes they hurt less, sometimes more, and the ramifications of what we learn about ourselves are on-going.

I learned a lot of things about myself in my childhood, not the least of which was that some fundamental social and personal deficit made me a bad person, and essentially unloveable. Certainly this is exactly what my parents told me. The on-going feelings of inadequacy, rejection and an incredible, un-shiftable feeling of isolation. I genuinely thought I was damned to a life in which I was close to no one, even when I wanted to be (which was not all that often).

I've been holding a grudge against myself for years that was unable to be shifted by reason, by research or by my own efforts for not being the sort of person who could be loved, directly as a result of being raised by two people who did not love me, and my on-going problems connecting with people.

The other big revelation, after officially being diagnosed with Asperger's, is that I no longer have to keep coming back to my own unknown deficiency as a reason why I am, on some level, unloveable. Seems a little weird, but stay with me: biology is not mutable, though it is able to be worked around. If this deficit is a function of my personality, then I must (on some level) want to be isolated. It is not, however, a function of personality. As a function of biology, my desire to connect or not to connect (my therapist spent a lot of time before the diagnosis wondering why I didn't seem to 'want' to be more social) is immaterial to the fundamental difficulties I have.

Or, to put it another way, my understanding of myself as someone able to understand and narrate their own experience has been validated. There was some question, for me, about my ability to know myself based on genuine efforts to get to know this or that person that blew up, sometimes catastrophically.

Emotionally, to the extent that I am emotional, this means that I can forgive myself. That nagging sense that I must somehow be sabotaging myself and what that meant for my ability to know myself can be dismissed.

And that? That is more a relief than I can easily explain.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 1:13 AM

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Last week, I finally got a definitive diagnosis of Aspergers after years of fill-in-the-blank, this-is-what-I-feel-like-today diagnoses given by the professionals I've contacted over the years. (And really, I'm incredibly grateful diagnosticians are actually looking at autism as a diagnosis for people with consistent social, but not academic, delays.) I've had one of everything so far, even though the diagnoses are contradictory, and sometimes radically at odds with my experiences. When the new results came back, it was all I could do not to stand up and yell, "fucking FINALLY."

Most of the people I know don't understand why the diagnosis is so important to me. After all, it doesn't actually change the way I go about day to day living. It's true, I'll still get up in the morning and go about the minutae of my day. However, the diagnosis itself has a series of pervasive, ameliorating effects on how I treat myself and what I know to be true of myself.

Here's the thing: I am BAD at social stuff. Interacting with people, especially with large groups of people or multiple neurotypical people is nerve wracking in ways that I can describe, like the constant tedious balancing act of running through non-verbals that are considered to be validating, while paying attention to what they say, and in ways I can't describe. How can I describe why extended eye contact with unfamiliar people makes my eyes water or why when I'm asked to remember a place, I "drive" there visually?

Hell if I knew--and in fact I didn't know other people didn't visualize the way I do until last week. I didn't know that other people don't dream vividly and in color, with music (and text) until about four years ago.

For many years, I had thought I should somehow manage to figure out how to not just behave the right way, but to be the right way. I've felt incredibly guilty and, frankly, defective--how smart, I thought, could I actually be if I couldn't possibly manage daily conversations?

It is a relief to find out that rather than some deficit of personality, there's a neuro-chemical problem. I don't have to blame myself for not being smart enough or somehow being subconsciously self-defeating. If I fail at social tasks, it is not a punishment, nor is a punishment necessary.

But more importantly, I don't have to be quite so bitter. If I don't understand the confusing (and sometimes cruel) behaviors of people who are neurotypical, it doesn't mean that they're playing a game with me or being offensive on purpose. You see, I'm not normal, and no game they play could be more confusing than what they are.

The answer to why I don't see some things (or over-see others) is not their cruelty, nor is it my own ignorance or stupidity--it's biology.

The urge to yell finally is for this reason: I can finally stop kicking myself.

I can learn better behaviors because now I know where to start. That particular light at the end of the tunnel is the most beautiful thing I have seen in some time. It means that while different, I am whole.