Gaslighting

Originally titled,

“I Hid in a Closet: Part Three”

Before I finish the third part of my story of how “I Hid in a Closet,” I wanted to talk about my favorite elementary school activity: Show and Tell, a.k.a. structured social time. 😉

show and tell.gif

On most of my blog posts, I provide YouTube videos I found helpful—from music to autistic people’s stories—and this is like my show-and-tell to you.

But since I have a comments section, don’t feel like I’m the only one who can share.

You can always leave a comment to just tell me about what happened today; tell me a story; ask a question; share a video; whatever floats your boat. Even if it’s on an old post, I don’t mind a good necro. Hell, I have a blog on Internet necroing.

Story Time

😱 I Hid in a Closet, Part III 😱

If I hadn’t been so sensitive to the cellphone light,—if I hadn’t screamed,—maybe my mother wouldn’t have asked Chase to give her the Yellow Pages.

(Later, her stammered, “Yellow Pages…? I seriously couldn’t remember what that was for a second,” which tickled me, since in the Internet boom, I worked at a marketing company that was partnered with YP.com.)

Maybe my mother wouldn’t have scrambled to get a taxi—at twice the cost of an Uber—so she could stay at a hotel near the airport, refusing to see us, even after I tried to apologize, tried to internalize the mistake, telling her it meant a lot to me if we could just celebrate my upcoming wedding.

It didn’t work.

Once she decides you don’t love her, it never works.

I know I was loved when I was first born;

I remember the cabinets were stocked with food.

I also remember feeling afraid.

Afraid of what?

Who knows.

I lost count of how many times I was told I have a bad memory.

First, as a child.

Memories like

That’s not how it happened. Your memory is so bizarre.

Then in my twenties,—after I’d been conditioned to believe gaslighting was commonplace behavior from loved ones—my ex similarly convinced me that abusive behavior never happened. It was all in my head.

But I don’t want to look at my twenties.

My twenties feel like the result of my childhood.

I remember trying to escape my twenties.

Allow me to go further back.

I can come back to my twenties later.

Eight, nine, ten years old, I would lay on the floor in the hallway with a coloring book, and bring order to this chaotic universe by carefully, carefully, following within the lines. I’d also eavesdrop. I loved listening in on my mom’s phone conversations, learning how the motions of talking is supposed to go.

Memories like

[What memory?]

[That’s not how it happened.]

[I am told the way I remember things is always wrong.]

My brain craved its autism be touched, pampered, caressed like the grand magic it was, and I promised it a life of colors, stories, and fantasies, if that’s what it took to create an environment where everything felt okay, where an amygdala different from neurotypical perceptions of reality and fear could still exist in peace.

I wrote stories a lot.

I was always so scared.

The children smelled it, and they beat me up at school constantly.

Then my brain craved to feel safe—the same attention I received at 1, 2, 3 years old—before I heard my family talking with one another, 6, 7, 8 years old, about how good I’d become at spending time alone.

My therapist often asks me why I’m not excited about the wedding.

I haven’t yet figured out how to tell him, It’s because my family doesn’t think I have sensory sensitivity issues.

I can’t see a way for this event to end without someone burying me in stimuli.

Besides, my therapist and I have been having conversations about my relationship with work, so there’s no reason to spend therapy time discussing this.

(Except, the struggle with my previous career is over.)

I also don’t know how to tell my therapist, It’s because this wedding will be on stage. It’s because I’ve been on stage my whole life.

Now my amygdala chooses hypertension as its default mode.

Now my anxiety feels like a rollercoaster fight-or-flight to the death.

I can hear the CLICK-CLICK-CLICK of life as it ascends to the grandiose drop of July, the wedding with or without my family in attendance.

I am not excited because I’m scared.

“But you’re a teacher!” I say to the mirror, after Chase has left for work, when Philosopher Jones is looking at me like:

IMG_8093.JPG

“You’re in front of people all the time!” I pep talk in the shower.

As a teenager, my mom pulled my therapist aside (a different therapist) (I’ve had a lot of therapists) (I hope our 2021 home artificial intelligence systems are programmed with therapy scripts and comedy skits in them), asking her, “Is it normal for teenagers to play-pretend conversions in the shower?”

Another characteristic of children and some adults with Asperger’s syndrome is to vocalize their thoughts, commenting on their own actions or giving monologues without needing a listener. A characteristic of all young children is to vocalize their thoughts as they play alone or with others. By the time they start school, however, they have learned to keep their thoughts to themselves. Eventually, talking to oneself is considered by some members of the public as a sign of mental disturbance. Children with Asperger’s syndrome may continue to vocalize their thoughts many years after one would expect them to internalize them. This often disrupts the attention of other children in the class, and may lead to their being teased when they talk to themselves while alone in the playground. The child may also fail to hear the instruction of the teacher because he or she is too engrossed in a personal ‘conversion.’

—Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome

The shower is, naturally, a safe place to rehearse, and you bet I still do it when I’m alone. I may even try out a few snippets of dialogue for a novel I’m working on.

Anyway, you should have seen the first time I took the stage of teaching.

My first day piloting a college classroom, instead of navigating among them, I felt like a clumsy wreck—could feel actual fear in my legs, a second-year graduate student shaking like a kid, all my students wearing expressions I could not read—

But now I’m awesome at college teaching. Back pats.

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However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

—Stephen Hawking, R.I.P.

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