Autism: On Sharing

13 Oct

When I have a pack of smarties, or other coloured candy, I will empty the pack, separate the candies into colours (I do realize there is little to no difference in the flavour most of the time) and two of each from the largest section of colours at a time.

If the numbers end up being uneven, I will bite half of one colour, half of another, and then stick them together before eating them. I know it seems unreasonable, since I already ate half at a time, but to finish by eating only one of each colour leaves me feeling unsettled.

When I share food – or anything else for that matter – I divide the food up as equally as possible (to the point where I might be pouring a few drops of pop into a glass, so it ends up on the same line as the other glass.) If one person ends up with more, it has to be my own desire for generosity that allows it, or I will become distraught, and upset at the person who took too much.

This means that if I bring a desert to share, I have to mentally prepare myself that some people may take a lot, while others may get little. In order to be able to accept this, I will usually have extra at home for myself. I have found no other way around it – I have to treat myself in order to accept that others don’t share the same way as I do, and that is really hard for me.

When I was a child, I was sick on every birthday and Christmas. I think I was just so overwhelmed, and my stomach was always sensitive, that my shut down always ended in sickness.

So while the other children were playing at my birthday parties (I don’t even remember who the children were, as my parents must have set this up, and I don’t remember seeing the other children except while they were singing Happy Birthday to me – and even then I only saw them as a crowd, so I must have been in full shut down mode by then) I was sitting at the table (often in McDonald’s) waiting for it to be over.

When they cut the cake, they set aside a piece for me – so while the other children were eating theirs, and I was too sick to eat mine, I was okay with that. I knew that it had been split evenly, and my piece would be there to eat when I felt better.

Imagine my distress then, when I went to eat my cake, and year after year, my younger brother had gone into the fridge to eat my icing. I was hurt. I was angry. I could not do anything about it, and I felt helpless. How could anyone be so greedy as to take more than their share, I wondered. Obviously over the years my hurt has remained, though I do believe I have forgiven him on this, it still comes back again whenever anyone in my life eats more than their share.

Fast forward approximately 30 years into the future. I am now married, with a son. As my son was raised almost exclusively by me – he was even homeschooled, and so we know each other very well, having spent so much time together – he accepts my need to separate things this way. In fact, I think it even comforts him.

My husband, however, is quite different in the way he does things. I could be wrong, but to me, the way he sees sharing is to take what he wants, and leave the rest. Since I tend to eat a little at a time, and look forward to having more of my portion in the future, this causes me any amount of trouble.

It has been said that I am controlling, especially in matters of food. They may be right. To say that I haven’t tried to work on this would be unfair – but when I work around it, I still can’t let go of my belief that sharing means equal – and to let go of this always means that I end up with less.

That means that if I “allow” food to be shared under the idea of taking what you want and leaving the rest – or if you snooze, you lose (a saying that can instantly bring out anger and tears in me) – it means always sacrificing my portion to someone else, or gorging myself until I feel sick just to ensure that I eat what I feel is mine.

It also means being reminded frequently of exactly how I felt in the moment I found out that my younger brother had eaten my birthday cake.

I can’t. I just can’t. And I wish they understood.

I was upset with my husband to the point of many tears every time I thought about the incident with the ham for nearly 24 hours after. It took me another two days to overcome the exhaustion that I felt from being so overwhelmed with that.

Should I have let it go? Most likely. Did he mean to hurt me so much? Probably not. Could I have responded differently? No! I know who I should be. I have tried for so many years to be that person, and always have felt like such a failure for always ending up being the person I have always been.

To not only have to deal with how deeply these things hurt me – but also to the feeling of failure as others respond to me as if I were the only one in the wrong, by how deep my response was – is too much for me to bear.

Instead I ask from those closest to me that they would understand that this is who I am – and maybe, just maybe, leave my portion alone. How much does it cost them to share equally? I am guessing not nearly as much as it costs me to try to be okay with them taking more than their share.


Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Autism: Reality


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3 responses to “Autism: On Sharing

  1. kazst

    October 13, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    While I do understand that there are deep issues involved here, I’m not going to comment on those, but I will say something about the more practical aspect of the situation. You know what I would do? I’d get a plastic container, write my name on it with a marker, and then my portion would always go in that container. It might not solve the problem, but maybe it would. It depends on whether he’s doing it deliberately or mindlessly.


    • Walkinfaith925

      October 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      Very likely, knowing my husband, it is not deliberate. He honestly doesn’t understand. I do separate and even hide things, such as pop, chocolate, etc. that I buy for myself – though I feel bad, as he doesn’t do that to me, and if I asked him not to eat them, he wouldn’t. However, I need to do that for my own sake, and it is hard for me to find the words to explain it to him.

      The things we do share – meals, desserts, etc… I mean, most people it seems do it like my husband does – take what they want, and leave the rest. It is my own inability to think that way, or to share that way, that causes the problem. If he understood, I am sure he would be supportive – the trouble is explaining in a way that he understands, and doesn’t feel attacked. I am not good at that, and this is where a lot of people say I am rigid and controlling.

      It is hard when all I can say is, “I was planning on eating that,” and they don’t understand why I get so upset.


      • kazst

        October 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

        I’m not sure if most people do it like he does. I’m well aware that my husband and I are probably not representative of most people (I know I am certainly not!) but we both always say things like, “Are you planning to eat this?” Or “Do you have plans for the leftovers?” It seems only a very thoughtless person would just eat everything without thinking their spouse might want some. I agree it’s probably not deliberate, but a little effort to be considerate shouldn’t be a big problem. I’m sorry you’re experiencing this. I understand how hard it is to be assertive without making the other person feel attacked. I usually get it wrong when I try too.



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