A couple of weeks ago, some of my family threw me a birthday party. Many things went well and I did have a great time. There are certain things that my family thinks is funny to do. One is doing things like getting me a princess crown for my birthday and making me wear it. They know how much I do not like crowns or girly type of things like, PINK anything! Lol!
Or lots of hugging!
I do admit, that I have felt more comfortable hugging them in the last month due to changes in them and me. In the past, I was unsure if they were being mean, joking, or just plain insensitive. I now understand that many things that are done are simply because it has always been done. My dad’s side of the family grew up picking on each other and tormenting each other. They bullied each other. (There is a LONG history that goes into the why’s.)
They played tricks and spoke things that apparently some siblings do.
My mom grew up being picked on and tormented by her father’s family. My grandfather was sometimes the cruelest man I ever laid eyes on then, in the next moment he could be sweet as honey. I was confused by the mocking and picking on from both sides my entire life. It makes me sick to witness such things; it was detrimental to my mental state when I was the focus of mockery. I soaked in every word believing them to be true. My confusion would heighten when I would address it, and ask why they would say or do such mean things.
I was told it was “a joke.”
Why wouldn’t I think it was funny if a family member made fun of the way I ate, or laughed? Why didn’t I find it amusing if they made fun of the clothes I wore, what color my hair was, if I did not understand a joke and asked what they meant? Why wouldn’t I laugh it off if they called me a “spaz” or “dingy.” Why would I get my feelings hurt and feel horrible about myself when I was around them? I understood recently, that these things were not about me. I also, took note that on both sides of my family they did not do it to me as much as they did it to one another. I noticed that they made fun of all of their own quirks, sensory issues, obsessions, etc… as well.
The difference that I understood about myself was that I did not do that.
Throughout my life, I did not mock my oddities or myself until someone else started mocking me, or mocked their own that were similar to mine. I believe I have shared some this before. I did not tear apart my appearance until someone else started doing it to theirs, or nit-picked at my appearance. I did not feel badly about myself until someone made me feel as though I should. I did not see myself as being “wrong” or “flawed” until others implied it through their jokes and mockery, of either themselves or me. Once the self-deprecation and negative self-talk would start out of others mouths, I began to mirror. My mom did this constantly, she has gotten much better at stopping, but I grew up with it. After years of this, from my mom onto virtually every family member, I took on the script of self-deprecation.
I already had this realization a while ago.
However, what I am writing about now is how this no longer affects me in the way that it used. I understand that I mirrored that behavior in order to protect myself. I did it with my classmates, friends, significant others, co-workers, and family. I did it first so that they could not do it to me. This was learned. I watched my family become hurt or upset at the words or actions that other family members inflicted. I also, observed that their defense was to counter attack with another “joke” or “put down in a loving way” (sometimes not so loving) toward the person who started it. There were many innuendos and slides that I did not understand.
I did not catch many that were directed toward me.
I was either oblivious (still am) or it confused me so much that I would shutdown. None of this would catch up with me until hours sometimes days later. I understand that this family dynamic is most likely never going to change. The digs and jokes are their way of showing affection as well as indirectly speaking unpleasantries to each other. I have learned that many people communicate like that – I still do not get it. My mom and sisters do this with each other too. I find it all odd because it hurts me when these things are said or done. As I was thinking about this more, I realized that lately my family has been doing this even lesser than before.
I am grateful.
I think that the reason is that I have been so vocal about my confusion with these things and that I shared with them how I no longer had any idea if any of them loved me. That was the truth. I felt so unlovable and so broken that the thought of anyone loving me seemed impossible. I was also, so confused by the social dynamics in my family that I could not filter through their words or actions properly. They have stepped up and have tried to keep reminding me that I am loved and that I matter.
I hate the fact that I need this validation because it makes me feel weak.
That is a whole other issue, about me wanting to be independent and never needing or wanting anyone. I have observed in my family that only the weakest links share their emotions or express their need for validation. It is indirect and eluded to, but it is there. Several things have helped me to let some of that fear go. The changes that my family has made has helped, my uncle sharing with me on a facebook comment that he was diagnosed with depression and got help, and me remembering that I do not think that my quirks, oddities, or the way that I think is wrong.
I do not feel wrong.
I cannot change a person’s perspective about how I respond to things. I cannot change how people think about me as a person. I cannot change how people perceive my “Autismness.” What I can do is be honest and share what hurts me. I can tell people that I am not broken, I am considered disabled, and I do have many challenges, but I also have many strengths. This TED video Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity, I have watched several times now to help me process the word “disabled” and society’s perceptions.
I find myself in a limbo type state of understanding my own disabilities, but not feeling disabled. (That I am still pondering.)
I have had to go through a process of self-acceptance, especially with discovering that I am Autistic. I am still unable to share with many family members because I do not feel that they will be able to accept it. It is not because they do not love me, but because it is a hard to grasp. It is difficult to process that the person you have perceived one way your entire life is not that way at all.
They are not thinking like you in the slightest.
The way they interpret the world is so vastly different that you are unable to comprehend it in the least bit. There are also the revelations of all the times you have hurt them or damaged their psyche without even knowing it. I would think that those who care for you would be heartbroken if they discovered that their actions and words contributed to PTSD. I have gone through my revelations of how my actions and words have been misinterpreted causing pain to my family.
Granted all I can do is move forward and little by little explain how I think and why I do the things, I do.
That opportunity would never have opened up had I not shared the severe pain and isolation I was feeling. I took a chance because I had reached the point of despair. I no longer had anything to lose. I knew that I had to reach out and if I was rejected then, I knew! It was a choice of moving on without them or moving forward with them. I am thankful that my family is trying and they are accepting me where I am, but I am in control of what and when I share. I am determining what is healthy to share for me not because of them. (I hope that makes sense.)
I may be able to share that I am Autistic one day with them.
However, I realize that my attitude before was too abrasive and demanding. I expected them to change immediately with my sudden changes. I went through many stages of feeling hurt and rejected by the ways they have responded toward Daniel. When I finally, accepted and understood I expected them to do the same. People do not work like that. They do not accept differences and changes instantaneously. They do not change their wording from “wrong” to “right” in a day. They will not see “disabilities” in a positive way the second someone says, “Society needs to change.”
Changing minds and perspectives is a gradual movement.
It happens little by little, those who change their mind rapidly normally have not built a strong foundation for their own thoughts. They usually sway with whatever the new perspective is in the moment. Whatever facebook or Twitter is telling them today is what they believe and fight for. In the last month, what I have noticed in the home front is my family being more open to listen about Daniel. They have been more accepting of his behaviors and interacting with him more comfortably. They have not been looking at him in the distance, but they have not been pressuring him to interact either.
All of this has made me feel more comfortable and not on the defense.
I have dropped my expectations of wanting my family to accept that I am Autistic. I feel as though since, my defenses have gone down they have become more accepting of him. Is it my perceptions changing or theirs? I think it is a little of both. My thoughts about all of this has given me even more reason to believe that the way we can change the perceptions of Autism is to find the bridges to communicate.
It requires breaking down defenses and being open-minded.
It is hard to find that balance. It is hard for me not to get offended when I hear negative words used to describe Autism. It is hard for me to try to be compassionate toward people who speak about Autistics as though we are broken, wrong, and/or disabled. It is hard to keep a positive image of myself when these things are said about me and generalized over Autistics. It is reality, people still feel that way because we live in a word that needs labels, distinctions, “us vs. them,” normal and not normal even though neither can be accurately defined.
I still see a world that requires a wrong or right.
Until we can all accept the gray areas, it will always be here. All we can do is impact as much as we can in our space on earth allotted to us and be satisfied that we have done our part. I am slowly changing the dysfunctions that were ingrained into me growing up. I am picking them out piece-by-piece and making dramatic changes in myself.
I no longer fear going to family events.
I no longer feel the need to push understanding on them. I no longer feel afraid that I will fall into mirroring self-destructive behaviors when being around them. I no longer fear that they will hurt me. I see with clarity that all of my fears and defenses caused me more harm than, they did.
I know who I am in this moment. (I will reach some other level of me later, I presume. )
I am accepting myself more each day. Their support and validation has helped a great deal, but I could not have gotten to this place without doing the work in myself first. Families all have their dysfunctions, but they do not have to control or define who we are. Something that I have learned in a new light is that I CAN create my own healing even in the midst of dysfunction. I did not think that was possible before, I thought I needed to escape or isolate, but I do not.
I have the strength to change even when others around me may not be.
It is not always easy; there are some people who have to be distanced or even cut out of your life. That decision has to be based on how toxic they are to you and your mental state. There is nothing wrong with getting away from toxic relationships. However, if their most damning of torture is to make you wear a princess crown on your birthday, I think they can stick around.
Some pictures of the event.
4 people like this post.