Another topic that in hindsight didn’t get its due coverage (during the early days of my Asperger’s/autism spectrum discovery) is that of letting go. During the first few… (weeks? Months?) after my revelation, my inner scaffolding would get tossed about, as though at the mercy of a restless sea (which is probably closer to reality than I might like to admit). One minute feeling liberation, the next minute seething with long-term resentment and hostility.
I wasn’t even on shaky ground; everything was a torrent.
Let me back up a minute…
All my life, as I progressed through ages and stages, people around me adopted certain sets of expectations. Who I’d be. How I’d conduct myself. Who and what I would become. How I was “supposed to” live. And so on.
I used to pummel myself, for not living “up to” those expectations.
My vernacular has changed; I live “up” just fine. I simply may not live “according to”–or I may not “fit” those expectations. Those are much more neutral-sounding words. Neutral is good. Neutral is rational, pointing out facts of life without any hint of undertone or implied judgment or hidden meaning.
Rational is good, too. And by now, we all know how I feel about judgment and hidden meanings.
As I came to realize that there was indeed a name for “this thing” (called Asperger’s/autism) and I came to understand just how much of my chaotic and miscellaneous self could indeed be shoehorned into this neat little package, I began to feel a sense of vindication. And with it, for a time in the early months, a sense of resentment. Resentment toward anyone and everyone who had made me feel inadequate, incompetent, lazy, outcast, immature, or otherwise somehow lesser. Toward anyone and everyone who had made me feel like I had a stubborn set of rip-roaring character flaws that the onus rested strictly and solely on me to change. That somehow I was the broken one who needed changing. And that it was I who had to make all the effort.
I was bitter and dark then, shrouded in newfound validation, but pissed off for having been convicted of a crime I did not commit and persecuted for a way of being that is not actually even a crime.
Sometimes that continues to purge little hints of “us vs them” or me against the world. Those feelings arose from my experiences, and I have a right to them. After all, for far too long, they were (and occasionally remain to be) one of my only defenses against an onslaught from a cold world in which expectations were (are?) placed upon me by outsiders who didn’t bother to stick around to witness the effects, or even to care enough to follow up to make sure I survived.
I acknowledge those feelings. Their gradual, uneven dissipation does not suddenly remove my right to them.
With rights come responsibilities, though, and though I have a right to set myself apart at times in the interest of my own mental health, and adopt a little therapeutic autistic pride (I’m only making up for a lot of lost time, after all), I also bear the responsibility of continuing to learn, grow, change, and evolve.
Part of that process includes the sub-process of Letting Go. Forgiving those who had inadvertently wronged me, judged me, criticized me, held me to impossible metrics using incompatible units of measurement, blaming me for not fitting the mould.
I’ve had to come to the realization that everyone was just doing the best they could with the information they had at the time, which was practically nil. I was doing the best I could with the feelings of invisible division between myself and the world at large, and everyone else was “coping” with me and my oddities the only way they knew how.
No one had websites to google back then; research meant trips to libraries and the tedious combing through overwhelming reference sections. And that’s only if you knew where to look.
None of us did. Even if we’d had the plethora of internet websites back then that we do now, we weren’t aware of the right search strings. And had we begun to look any sooner than, say, 2011-2012, we would not have found accurate information. Even if we had looked at Asperger’s in 1994, most people didn’t yet have the internet at home, and Asperger’s was being eclipsed by ADD/ADHD anyway, because hey–there’s a drug for that! And in the US especially, the odds of being diagnosed with something seem to be directly (almost suspiciously) proportional to the availability of a drug to treat its symptoms. And by then, I was going on 17 years old, with the bulk of my mandatory scholastic career already behind me.
So many factors wove themselves together.
We didn’t have any tools. Nobody did.
All my parents knew was that the world is a cold, indifferent, sink-or-swim kinda place. And if I was going to survive, I had better learn to swim.
Everything everyone expected of me, every impossible milestone I had to meet, every challenge I had to overcome, every quirky facet I had to mask, and every “desirable” personality trait I had to force and fake, was all for my own good. For my survival in an unassisting world.
It was tough. And there was no way around it. The only way around it was through it.
I need to let go of the resentment I felt/feel toward those who made accusations. Those who set impossible standards. Those who judged. Those who chastised.
To continue to harbor hard feelings doesn’t affect them; it affects me. And it will continue to do so until my Letting Go process is complete.
I’m working on it. 😀