For decades, my mom’s asked me, “What are you going to write about me?” and while I used to answer, “Nothing,” this doesn’t seem like the right response.
These stories are my stories, and my point of view was hardly heard as a child, so as an adult, I turn to my child-self, pick up this metaphoric child on my knee, then say, “It’s time, kid. Tell ’em what you have to tell.”
The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.
These are stories I need to tell, because I can’t be the only Aspergirl who bumps heads with her neurotypical mother.
These are stories that could help someone else out there, so they don’t have to feel the loneliness I felt.
And the potential to help someone is the only way I think I can heal.
I hope you write to heal, too. You’re the only animal with a brain capable of that form of healing. Some people heal in a quiet diary. Others, through music, mathematics, things we forget are languages, but they retain their essence just the same. I heal by telling the story in paragraphs, poems, chunks, fragments.
Nothing heals us like letting people know our scariest parts: When people listen to you cry and lament, and look at you with love, it’s like they are holding the baby of you.
@Middle 😱 I Hid in a Closet
For the last month, one-to-three times a week, my mother would call to complain about her upcoming trip to Fresno;
specifically, she was upset I’d invited my aunt;
so I explained to her: I only meant to give my aunt a motherly experience, because my aunt never had any children; I thought, when else is she going to help with a wedding?; and ’round and ’round we went, so that I was being dosed ritualistically with anxiety;
then my aunt invited my grandmother and my other aunt, and my mother called to announce, “great, she just invited my mom and your other aunt,” until I nearly lost my mind in which responses were acceptable and unacceptable behavior;
where, if ever, could I draw a boundary;
or instead, which face
did I need to emulate
to maintain the reality
manifest by my mother;
then after a moment’s silence, I asked my mom, “tell my aunt, stop using her siblings as an intermediary to make announcements to me,” because I have a cellphone, and while I may not answer right away, it’s still faster than this first-grade telephone game;
since everything fell apart
and I collapsed wholly into my personal
computer, the writing, the only way left for speaking
is my one reliable bridge
I neglect the phone again
they must remember when depression
consumed me last time, hid me
within myself, and that
and so for weeks, my mom and aunt had been stoking these fires, from far away;
eventually, my mother let her paranoia consume her, fearing my aunt was going to attack my future mother-in-law—the woman who’s been, from day one, a treasured mother-hen-of-a-mom to me—this angel of a Fresnan who constantly reminds me, “You make my son happier than he’s ever been; whatever’s happened to you, it’s been a blessing those experiences made a person as beautiful as you, as special to him;”
she justified her fear with a story of my aunt revealing my other aunt—not the other aunt, an other/other aunt, half sibling, broken family, long white people story—lives with her significant other, not her roommate, thinking to shock my religious grandparents with the big lesbian news, “playing dumb about it,” my mom explained, “oh I had no idea they didn’t know,” spinning me in webs of family drama until I’m unable to decipher the healthy from the sick;
🚨ARE YOU STILL WITH ME🚨
🚨🚨BECAUSE THIS SOCIAL SITUATION🚨🚨
🚨🚨🚨OFTEN MAKES ME🚨🚨🚨
🚨🚨🚨🚨FREAK THE 🦆 OUT🚨🚨🚨🚨
once, I tried to tell my mom these conversations fueled my anxiety—and I’d been home for weeks, suffering from daily panic attacks, bed-ridden depression, recovering—but when her voice fluttered into deadpan, like a dove shot out of the sky, “you, you mean I make you sick?”
my stomach roiled like a Nascar wreck flickering off my father’s television;
all of this tension, building and building;
then the toilet paper incident—
At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal, remember that in all cases, it’s a miracle that any of us were conceived and born. Earth is forgiveness school. It begins with forgiving yourself. Then you might as well start at the dinner table. That way you can do this work in comfortable pants.
—Anne Lamott, @10:00 of “12 truths I learned from life and writing”
Back when my mother woke me up at 5 a.m., after my aunt called her,
if I hadn’t been so sensitive to the cellphone light, if I hadn’t screamed, “Fuck!” twice, maybe I never would’ve heard my mother-in-law’s story, as a comfort, as the soothe and balm I wanted to hear for so long: I am a blessing, beautiful, special;
I always thought these words
were reserved for young children,
that I’d done something wrong
to lose them—
But when my mother-in-law soothed me, she saturated through my skin, and that new organ in my body too, skin I thought had long grown thick, and only hours after I’d made my mother angry, after I felt that thickness in my own flesh;
only hours after I’d made my mother storm through our bedroom with her cellphone light on, intent to escape my house, this place I consider my safe space;
only after all this happened, like a balloon bursting in my chest, after I crawled into a closet and sat wide-eyed and still, when my mother-in-law was soothing me out, trying to coax into the bedroom—that’s when I started to thaw.
That’s all I ever wanted. 😭 Soothing.
I’ve been self-soothing since eighteen, fifteen, thirteen, eleven years old…
Like a Cat in a Crawl Space
Before my mother-in-law arrived at our house though, I thought, if I climbed in the closet—where the walls were all very close to my shoulders, my back, my feet—I wouldn’t have to worry about my amygdala being stimulated by any sudden movement in the environment;
so even if I was too scared to close my eyes—and look at Guilt and its Squad of Misfits in my stomach—I could keep my eyes open, yet still experience stillness, and let my mind pause, until the universe cleared, and my brain no longer screamed 🚨WAH🏳WAH🏳WAH🚨 so I could assess my 🌋other emotions🌋 more objectively.
If I didn’t allow myself the hours, sometimes
days, to go through this process;
If I don’t unwind myself
after I’m all emotionally knotted up,
I could say things that didn’t make sense, that I never meant to say. Social rules don’t come naturally to me. I have to logically deduce what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable in an environment, with each heartfelt step I take towards peace, unless it truly is an ethically right or wrong decision, in which case I am so on it;
with each brick I build (or accidentally knock out) between me and my mother, my aunt, whoever is raging pissed at the autism they claim I do not have, or they claim I’ll overcome, like they must think they’ll someday overcome aging and ascend to immortality.
Anne Lamott is my literary hero. If you haven’t read her book Bird by Bird, I highly recommend it—especially if you like to write stories, poetry, essays, and other word play.
And if you purchase stuff through the links on this website, I make a teeny-weeny bit of the profits; so it’s like leaving a tip for my writing + you’ll get a goodie in the mail. 😎 Who doesn’t like USPS swag?
I like to get my USPS swag through the Book of the Month (⭐ link to refer-a-friend, in case you decide to join; if I refer you, I get a free book! ⭐); I just picked my options today, although I’m scared Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is already out of stock.
If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it; if people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.
You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday, and you never wrote the stuff that’s tugging on the sleeves of your heart—your stories, memories, visions, and songs, your truth—your version of things, in your own voice;
That’s really all you have to offer us.
That’s also why you were born.
—Anne Lamott, @8:00 of “12 truths I learned from life and writing”
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