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Autism: Mea Culpa

On Christmas day my son and I opened our presents from my husband, and were pleased with the chocolates and Thomas Kinkade puzzles he had got us. There is very little that we all have in common other than being introverts who enjoy spending time on our own things. Puzzles are something that we all love to do, and can do together. It was a good gift.

My puzzle was a ten-in-one, with the largest puzzles containing 500 pieces. My son’s was a 1000 piece puzzle of a cottage, lighthouse, and water. We started on that one, for the only way we would get it done was to work on it over the Christmas holidays.

We started it Christmas day, and worked on it at times throughout the next five days. We were doing pretty good – it was a hard puzzle after all. My son was getting the sky done (he often chooses the harder parts, for he is amazingly good at puzzles; always has been.) My husband and I were working on the house and trees, for it was easier for us to find the pieces.

As I said, things were going well.

For a bit of background information, a little while before Christmas we had bought cat grass to stop my cats from eating my avocado trees. When it sprouted, we put it on the table by the dining room window, since the one cat especially had been spending a lot of time there. They liked the cat grass, although the tiny plastic container that was provided, along with the peat moss, did not actually make a good place for the grass to grow – the cats would chew the grass, the peat moss would lift up, and the container would fall over.

I put it in a ceramic container, and it was better, but then I went over to the table to find Finn, our Siamese, had peed on the table. She had never done that before (she did have a preference for rugs as a protest whenever the weather got to bad to go outside, but the rugs had been removed.) My guess was that the grass on the table confused her to thinking it was ‘just like’ being outside (despite the fact that the container of grass was smaller than a tub of margarine.)

Finn

I cleaned it up, and moved the grass to another spot off the table, and the problem didn’t repeat itself.

Enter in day five of puzzle making. My son had been working on it in the morning, and things were dry then. I went over closer to lunch time, and the box with the sky pieces in it were all wet. Finn! Sure enough, the cat grass was right next to the box of sky pieces (my husband having placed it there to get into the freezer on top of which the grass had been moved, and he forgot to put it back after.)

My son’s Christmas present. Five days of work. Time with my family. All destroyed in one mistake.

My husband was out when this happened. My son was in the basement on his computer. I was the one who found it. I was the one who had to tell them. I was the one who had to figure out what to do (not that there really was an option, but in my feelings of guilt and shame, I could not think straight.)

Logically, I know this wasn’t my fault. Logically, I can see that in most things it is not my fault; not fully my fault, or at least not only my fault. The thing is, though, I do not often function from a logical standpoint. All things stem from my heart, and my heart condemns me for everything that goes wrong in everyone’s life – even if I had nothing at all to do with it, or wasn’t even around when it happened.

Mea Culpa: I am at fault. Always. In everything. As if my very existence means ruin for the rest of the world. Such shame… such a heavy weight of shame I have carried since early childhood.

And people respond to this look of guilt in me as if I must be truly guilty. I understand that. I do. But I wish they would understand that just because I look guilty, feel guilty, seem guilty… doesn’t mean I actually am. It is hard to defend myself when my heart condemns me for everything.

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Autism: Scapegoat

As a child, I was often blamed for things that I didn’t do. Something would happen. Something might get broken. Someone might have been hurt. Someone might have lied, or done something that they weren’t supposed to, and I would be blamed.

school

I never understood where that came from. I could barely talk, and lies were not commonly something that came from my mouth. Yet I was often accused, and stood condemned before the one in judgment over me. I could neither defend, nor protect myself.

It wasn’t that I was always innocent. A relative encouraged me in stealing when I was very young, and while he was able to outgrow it, I struggled with the abstract thought that things in stores actually belonged to someone, and that it was wrong to take it. This took me years to overcome – however, I would never steal from an actual person. That I knew was wrong.

My younger brother, due to his disability and the medications he took for it, was a very aggressive child and teen. He terrified me, and as a result, I usually met with him in defense mode. Often our interactions would end up in fights, and some of them were my fault.

My older brother (J.) and I didn’t fight often, and when we did, it was often over the younger one (M.) There was that time, and I remember thinking at the time that it always happened that way. J. was babysitting, and was in the basement. I was on the main level, and was walking down the hallway towards the living room. M. was standing at the end of the hallway (around the corner, so I didn’t see him.)

When I came close to him, he screamed – yet I hadn’t touched him. J. came running up the stairs, blamed me for attacking M., and threw me into the table in anger. I tried to say I hadn’t done anything, but I wasn’t believed. I was rarely believed – though, as I have mentioned, lying was not my struggle. What could I do? I ran away. Again.

Then there was the friend I had in the later parts of grade school, and the first year of high school. She got into things such as smoking, drugs, and sex. Her parents determined that I was a bad influence on her (though aside from being molested during that time by my father, which no one knew about, I did none of those things.) They moved her to a new school, and didn’t want me around.

There was the time I was blamed for stealing the encyclopedia in Grade 8 – where the entire school blamed me. I admit, I did have trouble with stealing during those years, but from stores – not from libraries or people. I guess that made no difference to them, and I can understand that, but when they found I hadn’t done it, there was no apology made. An apology in that moment, I believe, would have had a very positive impact on my young self.

And then there was that time in the later part of Grade 11. I had a traumatic event happen to me, which set off a severe case of PTSD. It started with me smoking, which I had been completely against until the night before I started (when I dreamed of smoking, and began craving it.) I had only been smoking for a week, when a friend brought me along to her cottage with her.

She had been a smoker for years, but her parents didn’t know. We would walk down the street, away from view, to have a smoke. Then we would wait a while (to get the smell off of us) before returning. And then her parents went to play golf. She decided it was safe to smoke on her deck, which was where her father found us. She was terrified, so I said she could tell him I made her do it (though I didn’t.) Her parents refused to let us be friends after that.

And here we come to my children. I have written my part in the reasons that the child were taken, and according to the ministry, all was my fault. However, I was neither alone in this, nor were my methods secret from those close to us. Above that, there were things that happened in foster care, and in respite homes, that were both against the rules of the ministry – and I felt were worse than the moments of discipline with my children.

I don’t believe that the children were being abused in these cases, but I also do not believe it was fair to say that all was my fault. I took the blame. There was no reason to bring others in on it – but here, I am the one terrified of the judgment of others, yet being no worse than the rest of them. It isn’t right.

Scapegoat. Someone has to be blamed, it might as well go to the one who cannot defend herself… and besides, “it is always the silent ones,” isn’t it? But I am not so different in guilt than the rest of them, and it seems so wrong to lay all of this at my feet. Is it any wonder I fear the judgment of people?

 

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