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Autism: Trust and Lies

The challenge was they were going to be there. I wanted to be okay with that; really I did. But I was afraid.

I was afraid something would happen to get my ‘girls’ (chihuahuas) in trouble – like last time – and worried about what they would do. Worried about what she would do.

I was afraid that the forgiveness I had assured myself I had towards the past wasn’t… wasn’t strong enough to be in the same place as them. After all, thoughts of visiting the city where they live (one of my favourite places in the world, though I have only been there twice) brought me to panic. I mean, if we went, they would expect a visit… and could I visit them?

Forgiveness is all well and good in the abstract (notice I am not saying it was easy) but how would it hold up in such a close environment?

And trust? Now, forgiveness is one thing – we all struggle with something, and I know… I know that the failure and shame that I have had in my life wasn’t experienced without a lot of prayer, and study, and energy, and – everything I had really – given to succeed; yet I failed. Do they know that?

I wonder if those looking at my failures actually knew how hard I tried. Frequently it seems they don’t, for they are so angry with me for failing – as if I chose to fail! Really? When I say that I gave everything I had to do well, I actually did give everything I had to do well. So I have to believe that is true of everyone else, too. I have to.

So I forgave them. It wasn’t easy. What they did… what they set into motion… it broke me. Years later I am still broken from it, and I am not certain it can be healed this side of heaven, but… I forgave them.  Over and over again I forgave them – for it seems to me that forgiveness isn’t a one time thing. What was done hurts over and over again. It effects my life over and over again. It comes to mind over and over again.

And every time, I have to forgive again. And I do. I am convinced I do – yet when I am faced with being in the same place as the one who hurt me, I fear it isn’t true.

Trust is even harder. They hurt me once, or twice, or over a period of years, and it was… the worst thing ever. The very worst. And I know they have it in their power to hurt me again, and so I cringe from the contact – for it hurt so very bad the last time. That thing they did? It hurts still. Not a little bit – time doesn’t heal. Time gives perspective. Time lengthens the distance between the waves of pain. But it doesn’t heal it. This still hurts as much today as I think of it than it did then.

I forgave them believing that people fight their hardest to do well – and when we see their failure, we can’t know how hard they tried. But trust is harder for their battle hurt me so much, and I know they have the power to hurt me again.

So as I prepared for my trip, knowing they would be there, the panic grew moment by moment and day by day.

I wrote to my therapist who said, “they can’t take anything away from you but your sleep,” which I know not to be true. They can hurt me again. They can hurt me badly. I cannot lie to myself. I cannot accept other people’s lies – even if they mean well. Even if they are trying to help me find calm. A lie is a lie (whether they know it or not) and it makes the panic worse.

For maybe the worst doesn’t happen to other people (it seems therapists are trained to say our worst fears don’t often happen, and they use that to try to calm people) but my worst fears have happened to me. Again and again. And to tell me that doesn’t happen, or that can’t happen, only makes me feel more alone, misunderstood, and afraid; for the worst does happen to me, so I know it can happen again.

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Autism: I Long For The End

How can my life be fixed?

How can I move forward when the past continues to cry out for redemption?

Broken as I am; standing on a fine line between sanity and insanity; how can anything good, or true, or righteous come out of my existence?

I dream of things that are wrong, or impossible… and when I wake, I still desire them in part.

Even in longing to belong to God, I still desire things which God has determined are not right for me. In the battle between flesh and spirit, the flesh frequently lays the stronger claim.

“Oh wretched (person) that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

I am filled with a restlessness and a discontent which nothing in this evil, broken world can satisfy; and I long for escape.

Where others find joy and connection, I see a world filled with pain and despair, and feel powerless to help at all. And evil as I know I am, this overpowering desire to ease the pain and suffering (which I have carried for all of my life) only breaks me further as I come to see that my presence, and my very best attempts only serve to cause more pain.

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Will I ever make it home?

What more will I cost others along the way in my weakened attempts to serve some greater purpose, and remove just a little bit of the hurt in this broken world?

Some days I long for the end, for… “the end is where we begin,” (Captain Jack Harkness – Torchwood)

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Autism: The Greatest Love

The other night, as I was lying in my bed reading a Christian book that I had downloaded to my tablet, I came across a chapter that brought out a strong and sudden response.

The book was non-fiction, but this chapter was about a vision which the author claimed to have experienced… as if it were real. It might have been real. I do believe that some people do experience visions – and if I hadn’t believed it was real, perhaps it wouldn’t have upset me as it did.

In the vision, the author was speaking with Jesus, and said, “some people have strange opinions on Christianity,” or something on the lines of that, “some believe they will see their dogs in heaven.”

I cried so long, and so hard, that when I woke in the morning my eyes were still heavily swollen. In one sentence, the author had re-awoken a trauma that, while it hadn’t healed, was at least not as… loud anymore. It was as if my dog had been taken from me all over again, and it hurt just as much as on the day when I unexpectedly lost him.

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“I need him, Lord,” I cried. “I need all of them.” If my animals aren’t in heaven… how could it be heaven then?

This is difficult to explain to people who don’t understand. And I know that this is something that Christians disagree on. But…

You see (and I know God knows this about me, for He put them on my heart, and He gave them to me to love) I really struggle to form connections with people. No matter how hard I try, and no matter how much I like them, I just… I am always afraid, always uncomfortable, always ashamed of who I am when I am with people.

I try to be myself, and I try to be known, and I really do try to connect – but at the end of the day, it is my ‘babies’ that I feel closest to – and they aren’t people.

All of my life, it was them. It was the animals that carried me through. It was my animals that kept me going. Even as I cried over this sentence in the book I was reading, my cat verbally questioned what was wrong (not in English, of course, but I understood him) and my girls came to lick the tears off of my face.

My husband walked by, but it was my ‘babies’ that came straight to me to ensure I was okay. I wasn’t.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love ” 1 Corinthians 13:13. God gave me my babies to love. All through my life, they have been there to love – and I have. I really, truly have. So if love remains, why wouldn’t they? I cried myself to sleep that night praying, “Please, Lord, I need them.”

The next morning I woke with this verse on my mind: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20. This verse has been used as a comfort for here, but also in heaven – and for heaven to be “abundantly more than I could ask or imagine,” my babies would have to be there.

They would have to be… wouldn’t they? The thought that they might not be there has me crying still – two days later – and has re-opened wounds that the presence of those still with me have worked to heal. “I need them, Lord. Please.”

 

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Autism: Shattered

In a moment, everything can change. This is true of life, as it is true of my mental health. One comment, one moment of awkwardness, one memory, and I can be plunged into despair.

It has been nearly twenty years. I would consider the summer of 1997 to be the hardest one of my life – though the summer of 2008 would come in a close second. Both contain memories that nearly destroy me every time they come, and they overcome me often.

That summer, my cousin got sick. She had been doing well, when suddenly she caught Pneumonia. With her Cystic Fibrosis, that was especially dangerous. The Pneumonia set off a virus that had lain dormant in her system for many years, and in six weeks, she was dead. She was 21. I was 20. She died on Canada day.

Most of my life all of us cousins had known that she and her older brother didn’t have a long life expectancy. It worried me, but that was always sometime in the future. Suddenly the present and the future collided, for the first time in my life, and it shattered me.

During the time my cousin was struggling in the hospital, our grandfather had a heart attack. When she died, he was in the hospital having a triple bypass. He survived the surgery, but had cancer, and died of complications just before Christmas that year.

My grandfather, my cousin… these were my family, and I loved them more than life. I don’t deal with any pain or loss well. That summer was impossible for me to well survive.

In the summer of 1997, my son was just over a year old. I was at home (on welfare, having never been able to even get an interview let alone a job, and being far too intensely anxious to live with my family,) so my aunt asked me to babysit her infant son while she went back to work. I had always loved children, and I had always been good with them.

Babysitting that summer, though, was a huge mistake. My functioning was extremely low that summer. I couldn’t think well. I didn’t respond well. I was so exhausted that I was literally crawling, unable to stand, much of the time I was watching the children. I didn’t know I was Autistic. No one did. I thought if I tried hard enough… but I failed, and in twenty years, I have never been able to overcome the failure of that summer.

That summer my son’s birth dad and I had split up. He hadn’t wanted us around, so I moved to an apartment across the street to give him space. Because I ‘left him’ he broke up with me.

And then there was my childhood dog. My parents were divorced. My dog went with my mom until I left home and she moved into an apartment where she couldn’t keep her. My dad took her to the townhouse where he and my older brother lived, until he moved to an apartment where he wasn’t allowed to have her. He gave her to a friend, who (without a word) dropped her off at the SPCA.

My dog (for good reason, though this had always been true of her) had bad separation anxiety, and couldn’t be left alone. She would howl, and tear things apart, and… My dad ‘rescued’ her from the SPCA, and my mom (being at home most of the time) took her despite the complaints she got when she went out.

Then my cousin died. And my mom decided (mostly because my dog had a lump that the vet said might be cancer) that she would be ‘put to sleep.’ Murdered. My mom asked me to come along – though I don’t remember the wording in that. It is the only bad thing I can ever remember my mom asking me to do – and I guess I went for my dog. I guess I went because I couldn’t think that summer. I guess I went and accepted it because that entire summer was surrounded in death and loss. I don’t really know why I went, but I did.

We walked her into the vets office a day after I had watched my cousin die. She was wagging her tail, full of trust for us as we went into the office. The memory is so traumatic that at least a dozen times a year for the past twenty years I have spent hours, often days at a time, crying for my dog. I never overcame it.

I was shattered that summer, and twenty years of striving, and counselling, and faith, and new relationships… twenty years and still the pieces won’t go back together.

Last night, after a decent day, I walked into the bathroom to get ready for bed when suddenly I was hit with this memory as if I had walked into a brick wall. I cried myself to sleep, with deep sobs of overwhelming pain, and woke up feeling much the same. My dogs and cat came to soothe my tears away, and I thought, “I don’t deserve you.”

Twenty years of being shattered, and everyone I have touched in twenty years has been hurt by the summer I have yet to overcome. Every failure. Every loss. Every struggle. All of it tied to the summer of 1997.

Twenty years. I should have lived it in isolation. I should have lived it alone. I do not deserve the love or the friends I have had, for always it ends in pain. I have tried. I have strived. I have worked so hard to heal. Yet twenty years later, I am still the same broken person that summer brought out of me.

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Autism: Judged and Frustrated

The thing was, I was starting to feel good. It might not have seemed like much to other people, but had anyone been familiar with how my thoughts have been fixated for the past… thirty years, really, they would know that this has probably been the biggest breakthrough of my life.

Sure people respond as if to say that when a dream doesn’t work out, accept it and move on – and I admit that might be good advice; but it is not me. Believe me, I have tried to let this one go. Especially since the loss of my children, I have tried to let it go. What good has it done me anyway? It has only led me on a path of failure and pain.

Yet for all the reality of it, I still wanted to be able to have children. I still ached for this. I still wanted it bad enough to dream of horrible circumstances I could find myself in that would allow this… fixation to become a reality. I knew this was bad for me, bad for my marriage, bad for my relationship with my son – but I letting go of this demand in my heart and mind for children,which drowned out anything that might have been a blessing to replace it, was impossible.

I had my son, and I ran my daycare, and I had children in my life for a time – and then it was over; and I still wanted them. The adoption fell through, and it more than broke my heart; it traumatized me. I am still living with the trauma of that. I was left broken, and I was given my Pomeranian, and I loved him. So I got up, and I tried to live again in the world where I not only didn’t belong, but where others – by look, action, or word – told me over and over I didn’t belong (and it was my fault.)

And I failed.

I still had my dog, and I loved him. I enjoyed my time with him – yet still felt that something, in the form of children, was missing from my life. Then he died, and my heart broke again, and the trauma and fear grew.

So I was given another dog. The pain was still overwhelming, yet she brought me joy. I love that she is tiny (6.5lbs) and follows me everywhere, and wants near constant attention. She filled a place in my heart that has been aching to be filled for decades, and I found contentment with her. I was happy enough that when her previous owners asked me if I would take her mother, too, my initial answer leaned towards ‘no.’ (So very unlike me for this type of thing.)

Yet happily, after months of consideration, I decided to take her. Now I have ‘my girls,’ and I have felt so content with them that it… doesn’t replace, but instead answers my desire for children. A better blessing for a person like me.

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So I went into the doctor’s office feeling thankful for this contentment that was the end of a 30 year battle that others rarely understood the depth of – and she was disappointed in me, and wanting to give up on me, because I wasn’t visiting people more, and I was still so anxious over work.

She wanted me to contact a couple of places about work and behaviour therapy for people with Autism – and I did… yet what I got from them was more of the same: judgment and disappointment that I wasn’t healed enough to allow them to help me work (after all, that should be the goal of every adult, yes?)

Okay, so I am not ready to go back into their world. I wonder if they had experienced what I have lived through if they would be able… but then the success stories they keep talking to me about (as if that should be my goal) is for people who hadn’t been able to go to college – then did, or hadn’t been able to find work – then did… they forget that when it comes to me, I am on the other side of this: I have been to college, I have worked, I have gone out there and tried – and I failed so bad that over and over the trauma grew.

I don’t need to “go out there” to find that I can do it – I need to be healed from my time “out there” because I couldn’t do it.

Besides that, they miss the point. They are looking for some huge goal that looks normal to them, and missing the huge battle that has just been won: I can’t have children, and I am finally okay with that. I was feeling good about that, and was met with judgment and disappointment…

Another small moment in their world… just a short time… and by their look, words, and actions I hear that I don’t belong – and I never will. Another failure. Another failure that says I can’t, and they get frustrated with me when they tell me I can, and I don’t believe them.

 

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