Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freedom In Autistic Parenting Link, Being Misunderstood and Freedom as an Aspie.

As of late, I have been feeling like my brain is rapidly misfiring and I have lost much of my former intelligence. I felt this way when my hormonal brain was in charge way back when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. Recently, I have wondered if I may have lost a few brain cells in the last year or so? My question proved true when I looked up chronic anemia and brain cells...I guess a few of mine have suffocated. Ha! Anyway, my state of being has been both beautifully peaceful and continually in crisis. It's a roller coaster that seems to follow the state of my health. I can look and feel so put together, young and vivacious yet sometimes in the same time frame I can suddenly go into zombie me- the pale, drained, barely even able to move because of pain- zombie mode me. All that to say, excuse this post because I feel like it may be a in-cohesive mess of thought? I am shamelessly going to quote people who seem to have more mental clarity than I, at the moment, to convey the thoughts going on in my head. Please check out their intelligent, helpful posts in the links provided.

My Asperger's Syndrome diagnosis was the greatest discovery for me because all my life I felt like I had to constantly explain to people why I was the way I was. I excelled at mimicry, which most aspies do, especially the ones who are accepted into society. Unfortunately, this lasted until after my diagnosis and into my parenting. After my diagnosis and subsequent research  I discovered crucial truths that  S. R Salas in her blog (click for link)  expresses eloquently:

"Growing up I knew I was different. It wasn’t until my son was diagnosed with autism that the pieces began to come together. I was diagnosed a short time later and then my oldest daughter after me, and let me say parenting got a heck of a lot easier after that! And it wasn’t the diagnoses of my children that clinched it, it was my own because I finally stopped working myself to the bone observing and mimicking all the other Moms.
I wasn’t worried what these women thought of me I was worried that my kids wouldn’t see me as one of the Super Moms!
When it was just the kids and me I was awesome wherever we were, but when we got in group settings: kids’ birthday parties, school functions, and play dates, I was always in last place (or so I thought). I couldn’t keep up with those women! They were three-ring circus leading, crafting, face-painting, treat-baking dynamos. Holy cow, how could they do it? How could I?! The answer was, without a lot of stress, anxiety and hidden meltdowns, I couldn’t. At home with my kids we found comfort in just being together or in close proximity to one another. We could grab a book or a spot at the computer and keep to ourselves if we wished. It was like a well-run library. Calm, peaceful and orderly we could do! And just like my kids, I didn’t like the crowds or the noise. And until my youngest came along, foisting her imagination on us all, we didn’t see the point in dress-up or crafts or anything else that caused a mess. Learning I was Autistic helped me see that I am not a bad Mom because I hated doing crafts, dress-up time, and three-ring circus-like events, it helped me see I am a different kind of Mom.  And it just so happens that it is helping my kids have a much calmer more autism-friendly childhood because we do everything within their comfort zone, which luckily for me, looks a lot like my comfort zone. And I am a heroine to them because of it! I always give them the option of whether or not to go to parties or play dates because I didn’t like going to those things. I didn’t want to assume that because they’re children they would automatically love them, or because they are Autistic they would automatically hate them, so the decision is theirs – sometimes we go (yikes!) and sometimes we don’t...." S. R Salas in her blog (click for more on this post.)
I strongly recommend the rest of her post and her blog in general. She later writes that she found freedom in Autistic Parenting. I was also on the same diagnosis path after my son and daughter  and I found the same expressions of self. While I admired other mothers, I found their lifestyles exhausting. I never enjoyed the parties, milestone celebrations of childhood, or even the mother talk that often happened at events. I would attend and come home a mess of meltdowns for days because of the sensory overload, executive functioning fails I experienced, and the overall alienation that I couldn't possibly explain.

 I have often heard the phrase, "Everyone feels misunderstood at times." While this is true, being a minority with a very different way of being in the world that is not often socially accepted is NOT the same experience as being misunderstood sometimes. Even my own parents still don't get the real me- sometimes they think I am expressing a fear or trying to get attention when I am actually being completely different. In those moments I go with it because the times I have tried to explain ended up in more of a mess than just letting it go and dealing with my own personal awareness of the situation. It helps that I can digest these scenarios with my understanding husband or best friend, but most of the time, I need to rely on my own strong sense of self to pull me through the many misconceptions that happen in a day with those I love. Luckily, this does not apply to my children and they have a wonderful understanding built in environment because of me. However, when I was growing up at school daily life was a minefield of misconceptions about who I was.

 A small example of daily misunderstanding for an Autistic would be Autistic empathy and "one upping" which Lynne Soraya writes about in THIS (click) post. I often will exchange my personal stories with someone who is sharing a hardship, because that is how I try to convey that I understand where they are coming from and want to express my compassion. However, in most of society this is thought of as selfish "spotlight hogging." (Please read the above linked post for more on this topic.)

 Not only is empathy misunderstood but often simple statements from me are misread as fear, sadness or anxiety ect...when most of the time, I am devoid of any such emotions people apply to me. I am too used to the misunderstandings and too tired to give my energy to explanation. What is the point? It usually does not end well. Most people who misunderstand will continue misunderstanding even with an explanation. While this hurts and sometimes I have a bit of a cry over it, there is not much to be done about it. I made the mistake of sending out links and attempts at explanations in my twenties and learned the tough way that it wasn't well received. Now, I save the energy of explanation for the very few people who actually ASK to hear and DESIRE to understand differing points of view because they are enriched, in their lives by me. They also enrich my life. I  do have to constantly pep talk myself into letting others believe their beliefs. This way of living  (and let living:) requires me to have a very STRONG sense of awareness, intuitiveness and belief in myself.  Sometimes I want to break but at the same time feel immense gratitude that I have this wisdom to begin with.

 These thoughts are tied into a post I read recently written by M. Kelter from Invisible Strings (CLICK link)about what he wishes adults would have advised him during childhood. He writes a list of phrases and ideals he wishes would have been expressed to him. These  three points especially struck me:
"6. Social awkwardness is your social radar; when people react poorly to it, you know to avoid them. When people are accepting of it: they’re the ones to trust. Your awkwardness: love it; use it.
7. When you feel shame, it means you’ve absorbed the values of the wrong people. When you feel at peace, it means you’re living on your own terms.
9. Many people do not value difference, and that’s okay. What’s important is that the right people value difference. Avoid the former. Surround yourself with the latter."
Today I realized that even a little amount of the wrong people during a vulnerable time can crush the strength I need for my family and for my personal survival. When I DO feel shame it is because of my absorption of ideals and beliefs that are NOT my own. My awkwardness is not embraced by many but those who do value it ( and in turn do not talk about me behind my back) are colourful threads in my tapestry.  Freedom as an Aspie is found in embracing myself and those who are able to value all that is different. My hope for those who are also on the spectrum is this wisdom. Read the links above and know you are not alone. For those who are not on the spectrum but desire to love those that are, learn and think outside the box, read and find some understanding.
Be Free.

P.S. For any of you who believe or heard that mental differences were once again to blame for the recent tragedies down south read this post instead: It is not mental differences that are leading to increased crime as I wrote about here:    perhaps our cultural understanding of most things and our collective refusal to be educated is causing violence? Unfortunately one can not force feed ideas to people who believe the ideas to be pure perhaps our culture is at a stand still until we can slowly, one person at a time, intelligently challenge our own positions on every matter? I feel it is a case of futility but maybe it's the fool (or the wise?) in me that dares to hope...
Song Choice: Cup Of Tea- Kacey Musgraves. "You can't be everybody's cup of tea...some like the bitter, some the sweet. Nobody's everybody's favourite so you may as well make it as you please..."


Anonymous said...

I was just griping about one-upping and the hazards of conversation with people to my husband the other day! If you say "I'm sorry", you sound condescending and patronizing. If you share a personal experience to show them you understand, you're one-upping. If you try to offer advice, then you're bossy and meddling. If you say nothing at all to avoid those social faux-pas, then you're rude and disinterested. It's a no-win situation! (Unless you're talking with somebody who knows you really well and understands what message you're trying to convey.) I'm definitely going to read the blog you linked, because I can't think of any other possible way to interact with that situation that doesn't end badly.

You make a good point about shame there. I can't count the number of times I was uneasy because I got caught or how many times I avoided doing something "bad" for no other reason than I just didn't want to listen to all the whining other people would make over it. I have made a few slips and done something I didn't agree with, and then spent a lot more time than an average person worrying, fretting, and trying to make it right. :P

Kmarie Audrey said...

Shame is awful and I no longer live where shame is. Brene Brown's book Gifts Of imperfection really helped me deal with the shammers:) actually I have a whole pin board for that:

Yes one upping is so hazardous of a mentality. it is so shallow actually to perceive people that way and the fact that so many people have thought I was doing that when sharing my story makes me a little concerned about our society...and we are supposed to be the ones making the social faux pas ??? Luckily, there are people who know us well who simply understand...and those are the best type of conversations!