Feeling guilty

I haven’t exactly been feeling guilty for not blogging much, but I’m still going to back-date this post so the February archives link doesn’t come up empty – because that “Page not found” thing annoys me. So. Yeah.

I don’t do guilty well. It’s an emotion I’ve never really gotten the hang of. Either I’m powerless to change an outcome, in which case feeling guilty isn’t going to help much, or I’m personally responsible for the outcome, in which case DOING something about it works much better. I’m sure that guilt is a far more complex feeling in others, but I have trouble with emotions anyway.

My silence here isn’t something I feel guilty about. Even though I love writing, I simply haven’t felt that itching in my fingers. Too much stuff going on in my life to be able to process it verbally. It’s one of those times where it really becomes clear how verbal thinking, no matter how verbal I may seem, isn’t my primary coping mechanism.

I’m slowly getting back into the verbal, but I’m not rushing myself. The words will come when they’re good and ready.

And in the meantime, here is a pretty picture.

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Autistics Speaking Day 2013: Fear

I want to speak to you about fear.

I am autistic. And I am afraid.

Fear of not being seen as fully human when I lose my words. Fear of losing my words because I have so much to say. Fear of not being listened to.

Afraid of getting my experiences discounted, of being told that I can’t understand something because I’m autistic. Afraid of being told I have no empathy.

Fear of losing my job. Losing it again and again. Fear of losing my house. Fear of seeing my safety destroyed.

Afraid of big crowds. Bright lights. Afraid of loud noises. Afraid of tiny noises that are impossible to identify. Afraid of clothes that seem fine one moment and unbearably itchy the next.

Fear. Of you looking at me and seeing a loser. Fear of you telling me that I should stop feeling sorry for myself. That I should try harder. When I’ve been trying so hard all my damn life. Fear of becoming too tired to continue.

Afraid of getting judged for not being able to keep my house clean. Myself clean. Myself fed. Afraid of getting judged for not doing the things that normal people do.

Fear of being told I have no feelings.

Afraid that nobody will understand and I will end up alone. Forgotten. Discounted. Ignored.

Fear that people will only see my defects. Not my strengths.

I am speaking of fear.

And you?

You who tell me to look you in the eye. You who tell me to stop fidgeting. You who tell me I’m smart enough to figure it out. You who tell me to use my words when you mean your words, because that’s the only ones you’ll listen to. You who tell me I’m cold and distant because I don’t show my emotions in a way that you recognise. You who tell me lying is bad and then punish me for speaking the truth. You who tell me every person is unique and then tell me I’m too different.

Will you also tell me I have no right to feel afraid of you?

Words are fucking difficult

Apologies for the NSFW language. But not really. My words have decided to go play hide and seek again tonight. Not as badly as the night of my first blog post, because I can still write, although it takes a bit more effort than usual.

But the talking?

Yeah, not so good.

What Others Had to Say: Love, Overwhelm, Violence

OK this is pretty awesome. Also because I got quoted (whee!) but seriously, so many parents and autistic adults sharing their experiences with upset turning into violence. Make sure to read the original post and comments as well. There is support. It’s here, in our voices, in knowing what you’re going through. You’re not alone.

Emma's Hope Book

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled, When Upset Turns Violent.  I wrote it hoping for feedback from those who may have at one time, or currently have felt so overwhelmed they strike out and from parents who are on the receiving end of children who become violent.   I wanted to get a better idea of the kinds of support that might be beneficial to all involved.

As the comments came in, both here and through email, I realized a few things.  One was the shared feeling of shame so many felt. Tremendous shame was described by almost all the parents of kids who express themselves violently, as well as some who become so overwhelmed they become violent.  Exacerbating, or perhaps a part of the shame, was the feeling that this should not be spoken of for fear of ridicule, blame and judgment.   Many people remain silent, which…

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Crying

There was this moment when I had job coaching. I started job coaching because I’d gotten fired a few months previously, from a job I loved. And it wasn’t the first time I’d lost my job. And I figured maybe I could use some help figuring out why it always went wrong.

My job coach asked me to describe my wishes and goals. And somewhere along the line, I can’t remember how, I mentioned that all I really wanted was for my employer to accept me the way I am.

And I felt tears starting in my eyes.

The horrible thing was, my job coach noticed too. And she asked the dreaded question, “How does that make you feel?”

Please. Don’t ask that question. Don’t remark on the fact that you see the tears in my eyes.
I cannot cry. I MUST NOT CRY.

Not where you can see me.

I don’t know why I feel such a near-instinctive aversion to letting others see my vulnerability. It’s not reasoned out. As soon as I start feeling a “bad” emotion, my reaction is to STOP. HIDE. I feel bad about crying in private too, bad to the point where I will slap myself to stop crying. But when someone else is there it feels far, far worse.

I can vividly remember the times I sobbed like a child in a public place in the last 20 years. At the funeral of the mother of a friend of mine, when I thought of how the rest of the family would miss her (I didn’t know the woman at all). When I was managing a store all by myself and I had my first angry customer (I was 17). When a boyfriend broke up with me completely unexpectedly. All through the second half of the film “Once Were Warriors” (seriously unstoppable sobbing). When the manager in one of my jobs told me she didn’t want me to come back to work the next day, even though the company had offered me a permanent contract and we were in the middle of negotiations. When I was told in my last job, the job that I loved, that my putting in overtime to get the job done wasn’t appreciated. When I admitted that I wasn’t able to keep track of my finances and that I’d probably get evicted from my house very soon because of all the letters that were lying unopened on my bed. I mean the kind of sobbing that makes you gasp for breath. Buckets of tears. Uncontrollable.

And every time I felt so angry and embarrassed and awful that someone would see me like this.

It’s probably normal. Nobody likes crying.

But I never got that sense of “release” that other people kept mentioning. That I could “let it all out”. Crying just made me feel worse. Even when I cried in private. I just felt tired afterwards. But not relieved. It was all still there. Crying didn’t solve a thing.

And yet.

In the past few months, while I’m working on getting diagnosed, I’ve cried. I’ve cried so many times. Reading other people’s experiences. Their feelings. Their hopes. Their fears. I cried and cried and cried every time I recognised something. Something that touched on that idea of being accepted the way I am. So much crying. It’s always in private, but it’s a lot of crying.

I’m crying as I write this.

And weirdly enough, it doesn’t feel all that angry and embarrassed and awful. I haven’t slapped myself to make it stop. It’s not my idea of fun, but still. It feels a bit like at least it’s OK to cry. It’s a sad cry but also a happy cry. A forgiving and compassionate cry.

I cannot believe how much I’ve been crying.

And it feels like it’s going to be OK.

My grandma

I have wanted to write something about my grandma for quite some time now, but I have no idea where to begin.

My gran even took me to Pere Lachaise. None of the other grandchildren had insisted on that. She thought it was a bit odd but she enjoyed the visit.

My grandma died in 2009, at the age of 95. So she’s been around a long time. When I was growing up, we lived about 40 km away. In the Netherlands, that’s not very close (although not extremely far away either). I can still recall every kilometre of that car ride. When I graduated from high school and started at university, I moved closer, but of course that didn’t mean I visited more often. That’s what happens.

I loved my gran a lot, though. When I was 15, she took me to Paris, like she’d done with her other two grandchildren as well. Just the two of us, doing touristy stuff. I had a lot of fun. I also got into a lot of arguments with her. I think that was the first time I realised that my gran and I were very much alike. Infuriatingly alike.

A couple of days back, there was a special guest post on Musingsofanaspie.com written by her daughter. The way she described her mother reminded me how parents nowadays are able to have much more open and affectionate relationships with their children than back in the 40s and 50s. Because my grandmother was never able to have that kind of relationship with her children – my father and my uncle.

Gran was born in 1913, just before the start of World War I. Her father was a dairy farmer in a small village (half the people still living there are my relatives in some way). She told me that when she was around 9 or 10, her father left the local church and decided to raise his children in the anthroposophical way, after the tenets of Rudolf Steiner. I do know that my gran wasn’t at all religious, which seems to fit that story.

oma-pothoedWhen she was older she was allowed to go to secondary school and get a diploma, which was not unheard of but certainly not common for a farmer’s daughter in those days. It enabled her to work at the fairly big flooring manufacturer just outside the village (and yeah, I’m pretty proud to say that that same local factory is now a global enterprise). I’m not entirely sure what she did there, she said she did lab work and after an accident with hydrochloric acid the director allowed her to work in his office as an assistant while she recuperated. She sounded very proud of having worked for this man.

The reason why I sound a bit careful when describing my gran’s stories is because sometimes she felt the need to appear of a higher social standing. For example, she always said her dad was a “gentleman farmer” or “landed” when I know he was nothing of the sort. My parents have discovered some things through genealogical research that don’t quite match up with her stories either. Since I’m not entirely sure which ones are fake and which ones aren’t, I’m simply going to describe things the way she told them to me. I do think most of them are true. She was a marvellous story teller though.

That’s my gran all caught up in a story she’s telling on my 4th birthday. The girl in this video isn’t me, by the way.

opa-oma-louwAnyway, when my grandparents met and got married in 1934, they started their own business. My grandad was a carpenter and upholsterer. It was hard at first, because of the depression, but business increased gradually and they were able to buy a big house with a store underneath after a few years. That’s where my dad was born just after World War II. Because someone had to manage the store while my grandad was out doing assignments, my gran became a businesswoman. She did the books and finances as well. My grandad was doing client acquisition and making social calls and being an all around nice guy with a gift for interior decoration. The business pretty much shifted from upholstery to interior design. They started becoming a household name in the upper classes of the area. I think that’s where my gran’s ideas of having to maintain a certain class came from – after all, you can’t have an ordinary farmer’s daughter advising you on which candlesticks to buy.

From the way my father tells it, the store was everything to her. After the store was handed over to the next generation, she took pride in her cooking and her garden and her quilts. She wasn’t very involved in the lives of her two children and didn’t show them much affection. When she did show interest in someone else, it was always with clients or acquaintances. With her children, she kept her distance. But then again, my grandad was fairly authoritarian and not very touchy feely either, which wasn’t considered abnormal in those days.

After she died, I was expecting to hear people describe my gran as “egocentric” or “tough”. However, hearing her described as “unemotional” and “loveless” on top of that shocked me to the core. My mother, her daughter-in-law, said my gran was incapable of showing love to those closest to her. But what about me then? Well, I was far younger than her first two grandchildren, so more distance meant more love. Apparently. I don’t want to discount the experiences of my mother and father in relating to her, but it’s just so different from how I saw her.

oma

My weird grandma. Opinionated, infuriating, stubborn gran. Emancipated, rigid, fairness-in-everything gran. My grandma who actually respected me for standing up to her. Gran who grilled every man I dated to make sure they were good dating material and wouldn’t let me squander my talent on housework and childbearing. My grandma who spent hours on the phone talking about her life and her interests and hardly ever stopping to ask how things were with me. Gran who yelled at me for not being able to boil an egg and loved explaining to me how to make meatballs after I begged her to show me (she complimented me afterwards by saying mine “were nearly as good as hers”). My gran who had the craziest sense of humour and who loved staying up until 4am with her weird opinionated infuriating granddaughter to drink lots of alcohol and talk about Life, the Universe, and Everything.

On my 7th birthday. She’s pointing and laughing because we’d built a huge heap of fallen leaves in the front garden and were diving into it. The little girl is me.

I still miss her.

I’ve been told I’m probably the only one.

Got milk

So I was reading this really funny and insightful post on Notesoncrazy.com about trying to get milk from the hardware store. Where milk was supposed to be maternal care and nurturing and how you shouldn’t expect your mother to give you milk when she’s not a grocery store. Or something like that. It was insightful. I’m doing a really bad job at explaining this.

© Nicholas Watts - Fotolia.com

© Nicholas Watts – Fotolia.com

Anyway. I started to write a comment, thinking of making a joke about how I never liked milk anyway and maybe that would explain why I never go looking for milk. Or maybe why I don’t have any maternal feelings. I’ve always said I don’t have maternal feelings. I like taking care of people though. But no maternal feelings.

And then I suddenly got hit by lightning.

Well no, not literally. Just this bright flash of really painful light *inside my brain*. Thoughts connecting. Sparks flying. Maybe some short circuiting going on. It felt painful. It still does while I’m typing this, but for a different reason.

You see, other women always told me that at a certain age, I’d get over my disinterest in babies and suddenly I’d feel those maternal urges welling up. (Or like the men said, my ovaries would start rattling). And then I would be able to think of nothing else and end up having children and love them to bits. Happens to all of us, apparently. And I would be deliriously happy even though it would be the complete opposite of how I felt about babies now.

I turned 30 and those feelings didn’t happen. I turned 33 and thought I wanted to have babies with someone, but it seemed more like a feeling of sexuality and horniness, not maternal anything. And the guy turned out to be a jerk so that was a narrow escape. And then I turned 36 and I sort of felt like maybe I do want children? Because it’s kind of sad that maybe I will no longer be able to in a few years time. But not an urge or anything. I held my little nephew and even though he was the cutest baby I’d ever seen, it didn’t awaken any feelings in me. So I was right, I simply don’t have that maternal instinct. I don’t think puppies are all that cute either. Kitten are extremely cute, but just as cute to look at as adult cats. See? No maternal urges.

I even said of myself I must have faulty brain wiring for not going gooey over babies. Because that’s supposed to be biologically hardwired. Big eyes and big mouth = need to nurture. So I must be faulty.

I made jokes about having a faulty brain.

© MAK - Fotolia.com

© MAK – Fotolia.com

All that based on what other people were telling me I was supposed to be feeling.

And I never considered that maybe I feel things differently from others. Even when I started figuring out that maybe I’m autistic, I still didn’t think that this might mean I simply feel things differently from others. That it doesn’t mean I don’t have emotions. But that how others describe those emotions simply isn’t related to how I feel them.

Until I started making a joke about how I don’t like milk.

The thing is. I think I do have maternal feelings. They just feel different from what I’ve always been told they should feel like.

I want to keep a child safe inside me. I want to know what it feels like to be pregnant and grow and learn new things about my body. I want to feel a child’s first kick. I want to feel the pain of contractions.

I want to keep a child warm and safe and sheltered during those first confusing days and weeks in the big world outside, all the bright lights and loud sharp noises unfiltered and all coming at them at once. I know what that feels like. I want to help them learn how to cope with that.

© annems - Fotolia.com

© annems – Fotolia.com

I want to feed a child and learn what is yummy and what is yucky all over again. I want to see their personality develop in their likes and dislikes. I want to see if they like soft blankets and dancing in puddles as much as me. Or maybe they will like something else and I will discover that joy through them.

I want to support a child and teach them that it’s ok to be curious and enthousiastic and passionate. I will help them understand things without shaming them for not knowing things right away. We all have to learn new things. I want to learn new things as well through teaching and supporting a child in their journey of discovery. I want them to teach me as well.

I want to care and give love. Even if that love isn’t expressed the way some people say love ought to be expressed. I know my parents love me, even though they sometimes expressed it in odd ways. I’m sure a child will know I love them too. Just as much as I love kittens.

I have no idea what to call this feeling.

But I know how to describe the feeling that I’ve always believed myself to be cold and uncaring and not maternal, because I trusted that others knew more about emotions than me.

That feeling is sort of anger and grief mixed up. I think.

And too many tears to count.