My mom is a very patient and loving person. But despite nearly-endless patience, she would occasionally get exasperated with me.
“Come on, cut the dramatics,” she’d say.
But I wasn’t being dramatic. I was being honest. What I expressed was how I really felt. I couldn’t think of any other way to say it. I couldn’t think of any other way to be. It never occurred to me that I was thinking and feeling everything so intensely.
As an adult, my brain often thinks of vivid, colorful, intense phrases to describe my experience of life. Then the internal logic police come swarming in and the self-checking commences.
“Is it really that great/bad?” the self-police chief asks.
On the surface, no, it isn’t. Someone else might not think it’s a big deal. Someone else might not be as fired up about it. But they’re not me, and I’m not them. I do sometimes feel what I’m feeling to the extreme. I may not prefer to be living on the edge, but it does add a dimension of depth and fullness.
I’ve come to the realization that I’m probably just living my experience in the rawest form, probably because I don’t know how else to live it. Is there a correct way of experiencing? Is there a right way to feel?
I’m pretty sure that it’s not I who was being over-dramatic. Perhaps it was my family who was being under-dramatic. Maybe I didn’t feel too much; could it be that maybe they felt too little?
I can never remember the specifics of these interactions. Therefore, I can’t provide any useful context. It’s my word against theirs. And being a part of the equation, I’m obviously biased.
But does that mean I can’t be trusted? I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. My experiences are what they are.
It’s all about perspective, and each of us has our own.
It stands, then, that my family did not understand my perspective any more than I understood theirs. It’s this mutual lack of understanding that gives each person the right to their own perspective and their own feelings, for no one perspective or feeling is The Right One.
And from my perspective, I often felt emotionally like an oasis in a desert. That is to say that from where I sat, my family could sometimes appear devoid of emotion, dry and barren, while I tended to feel more deeply, more intensely.
Maybe those emotions ran too deep. Or maybe theirs didn’t run deep enough. Who’s to say? Just because someone might be a member of a minority, does that make them wrong? We live in a “majority rules” world, but is that the correct approach? Sure, the majority are satisfied, but what about the minority? Are we insignificant? Should we be ignored? Do we not count?
We should be counted. We should be entitled to our own thoughts and emotions. We should be entitled to our responses. So long as we are not violent towards others, we should have free reign to be ourselves and we should be given to same respect as anyone else.
Whoops, I’m talking in terms of “we” and “us” again. I might catch hell for trying to speak for the whole group, when I can really only speak for myself. But should I only be advocating for myself and leave everyone else in a similar position out of the equation? Is there anyone else out there who deserves any less?
I don’t think so. Maybe that’s short-sighted of me, but (cue the black and white thinking) it just makes universal sense for this concept to apply to…well, anyone to whom it applies.
So I come on strong sometimes, comparatively speaking. OK, probably a little more than sometimes. Maybe I do this fairly often. But I am who and what I am, and if other neurotypes don’t have to change their imperfections, then I shouldn’t have to, either, and I don’t think any of us should.
Assumptions hurt. I think a better strategy would have been to ask me what was going on. What was I railing against? What did I feel so strongly about? It might not have worked 100%, but it’s a lot better than the 0% progress made by taking the path of making assumptions and heaping the criticism.
Unjust or undeserved criticism is only a further trigger for me, after all. Which only worsens the situation that much more.
I can’t stand drama, either–that is, people who are intense, but insincerely so, the ones who overplay what they’re truly feeling in order to manipulate someone into giving them what they want. That’s an annoying practice, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about expressing a genuine emotion in full, without holding back, and being called “dramatic” because it’s stronger or more intense than someone else feels like dealing with.
Rather than admit their own potential callousness, they turn the tables on me, and pin the Blame-“Tail” on my “Donkey” butt and say, “you’re being over-dramatic”.
As though I’m getting blamed for a manipulative behavior that I wasn’t even engaging in, nor did doing so ever cross my mind.
And besides, I was a little kid. Children don’t have the tools to express themselves fully. There’s also a power differential at play. And being autistic/an Aspie only made it tougher for me.
Although, this happens to me in adulthood, too. I don’t get the accusation in verbal form anymore. (I almost wish I did, so that I could set the record straight.)
Rather, I get the cryptic-but-palpable Disturbance In The Force, the change in their demeanor that I can’t quite fully decode. The kind that makes one want to say, “what–was it something I said?”
And it remains the elephant in the room that will never get discussed directly with me, but it probably will to other family members, who will then demote their impression of me.
I was innocent, Your Honor. I always have been. And I will always try to be.
The Defense rests.
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(Image Credit: Minjae Lee)