My mother’s narrative was that her mother was a bitch. Even after I gave the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral when she died at age 99, my mother still wanted to tell me how angry she was.
Now, that didn’t stop my mother from writing three or four 8 page letters to her mother a week for most of her life, but it was there.
As I started to have to take care of my mother full time, I began to see my grandmother in a different light. I understood how wilful, ungracious and demanding my mother was, and I began to understand how that was rooted in the way that her mind worked, the patterns first described by Dr. Asperger.
My grandmother had a unique thinking daughter on her hands, one who was hard to satisfy, hard to control, hard to understand. Is there any surprise that she got frustrated, or that when she tried to use the Victorian parenting techniques she learned in the 1890s in the 1930s that they didn’t work very well?
I began to have compassion for my grandmother and her challenges.
In the 1920s, my father’s mother spent hard earned money from the farm to take him to a doctor to understand why he was different. He held up a pocket watch to my fathers ears and asked if he could hear that. He could, so diagnosis over. Even as a kid, my father was upset at the waste of scarce cash.
They sent me to a therapist for the trans and other stuff when I was in seventh grade. I agreed to go if they would help my parents. They didn’t of course, but the therapist did tell them to stop using my family nickname of “Stupid.”
I am so angry and upset that nobody helped us. I know that the modern understanding of how minds work was barely coming into focus even when I was young, so there was no textbook to inform or explain, but, damn, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t crushing.
I understand the challenge of Families of Adults Affected by Aspergers Syndrome. The Aspies can’t give us the support we need, and the Normies can’t understand what we are facing in every minute of our relationships, so we are just SOL.
For me, it was a double-barrelled challenge, where both of my parents minds worked the way Dr. Asperger first described. I had no place of safety, no refuge except my own mind. I also knew I had to throw myself on the grenade; my sister got angry at me for trying to help her by teaching her to fight for herself, because her brain was just more on the spectrum than mine.
I know that the mechanisms I developed to address those childhood wounds are good, useful and even universal. As a wounded healer, my wounds lie at the core of my healing, and the power of my healing approaches has been valued by many people. They appreciate how I can go into dark spaces and find words, never really understanding how excruciating it was to have to do that work of understanding the lost.
It became clear to me that it isn’t that some brains are normal and some are broken, rather that each brain offers trade-offs, strengths and weaknesses, that when brought together in a diverse, embracing and compassionate human band can offer the group much more than everyone thinking the same way ever could. This helped me understand the core of queer theory, helped me value the individual over group identity.
Yet, I didn’t have that rich community experience that would have supported my healthy development even though my parents both had similar brains. Nobody was there to see and understand my distress, to enter my world and help me grow inside of it. Add to that my transgender nature — just another way some brains are — and I was slammed.
As I tried to explain through the years, I was just thrown into the too-hard bucket, like so many other people with non-normative minds. Nobody had the attention to enter our world, nobody had the tools, so it was easier to just drop or silence me. I was thrown out of lots of relationships and groups in my time.
It’s not hard for me to understand what I am never going to have. I was adultified early, having to protect myself and my siblings, having to care for my parents, so when my peers were going through a passage, I just missed engaging it. That lead to so much loss in my life, so much support that I just couldn’t be there for, couldn’t take advantage of.
Much of that loss comes from the way my family kept failing to be able to be there for me. Events like my sister’s attempts at “emotional manipulation” or her failure to take responsibility for roles she accepted, leaving me broken. That history, well, it is never going to change.
My sister’s ex-husband once came into the dining room of my parent’s house to find me there alone, finishing a story. I hadn’t been alone when I started the story, but in the habits of my family, people had just walked out on me instead of listening. I was just sick of it, so I finished the story to an empty room.
That’s what this blog has been for the past eight and a half years, of course, just me finishing a story to an empty room, assuming that others will not consider me as they follow their own impulses. That story is constrained by my training to communicate to those with Asperger style brains and by my expectations of how that audience can react.
Look, I know that my parents loved me in the best way they could. I was never hungry or beaten, always comfortable. I am grateful for what I got. And I know that as a grown-up, I have responsibility for my own choices.
And I know that the people who might have reached out and helped me just didn’t know much about Aspergers or what it is like to be held hostage by Aspies during the years that you need to be developing your own tools to succeed in the world.
Ending up a handmaiden to Aspergers wasn’t my plan, but caring for others and being committed to family was something that I was trained to do and as pure an expression of my loving feminine heart as I can imagine. My life experience made me who I am, for good and for bad, and as any wounded healer will tell you, humanity isn’t just one thing or the other, it’s the whole megillah.
There was really no help available, partly because no one understood and partly because I was so far slammed that I couldn’t just accept what other people could offer. I didn’t have the programming. And staying in a world where I had to connect with Aspies everyday kept me in rigid mental habits that just squeezed out most play, except for what I could squeeze into concierge mode, or what I did in my own little zone.
Today, there is so much more help available, especially people using the internet to share experiences and strategies, to get educated on the challenges of those living with AS challenges, even challenges in relationship with AS people.
Just like understanding transgender, having language helps, something I didn’t have about AS until about five years ago. My mother was sure I was just blowing smoke until she saw a programme about a gent with AS on cable, telling my sister with surprise that he was just like my father.
In order to become new, I need to be someone who isn’t locked in by the habits nd expectations that other people will respond like people on the spectrum, will have those limits.
And I have little idea where to find help with that challenge.