It’s a little ironic that this blog began as a document of my daughter’s “progress” (which, at the time I defined as – becoming indistinguishable from her non autistic peers) and has evolved into a document of my progress and movement away from exactly that kind of thinking. I don’t really have a problem admitting the mistakes I’ve made, which is probably a very good thing as I am not going to get to a point where I never make any. But I do my best to learn from them. I try hard not to beat myself up. Sometimes I’m more successful at that than other times, but that too is a lesson I learn from. I didn’t get to any of this on my own. The progress I’ve made regarding autism, how I think about my daughter and because of that thinking, how I interact with her, is a result of the help I’ve been given. Help given to me by those who are Autistic.
I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to times I’ve felt confused, afraid, unsure of myself, and incredibly vulnerable more often than I’d like, but that’s progress too. There was a time in my twenties and early thirties when I did pretty much anything not to admit I ever needed help, let alone asked for it. Thankfully I’ve progressed. So last night when Richard told me about running into one of Emma’s early intervention therapists and how it seemed she was surprised that Emma was not able to carry on a conversation with her, I felt a wave of something I couldn’t immediately identify. First I cycled through thoughts of “I don’t want to hear your feelings on this,” to “I wish you hadn’t told me about this” to the overwhelming urge to stick my fingers in my ears and yell, “LALALALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LALALALALALALALA!!!”
Yeah. I know. That would have been childish of me. And by the way, I’m 52 years old. You have no idea how much I wanted to do that. *Shrugs, then smiles.
So after all that, after we got into a fight about something unrelated that I can no longer even remember what the topic was, I realized what I was feeling. I felt the weight and force of my feelings. Feelings I really prefer not to have or feel. Ever. Shame. Feelings of shame. Yup. Shame. Like a massive metal door closing in on me, I felt shame. And then I felt shame for feeling shame. Fade to black.
Because that’s how this works right? We feel something and then instead of being able to sit with the feeling, work through it, we add to it by feeling shame for feeling the initial feeling of shame. Who came up with this stuff? If it wasn’t so damn painful it would be beautiful in its perfection! As a friend of mine and I like to say, it’s a “pick your poison” situation. Whichever way you go, it’s going to hurt. So yeah, I chose to feel the initial shame and tried hard to be aware of my judgment and that really loud, obnoxious, critical voice that loves to shout at me given the slightest opportunity. “Shame. Feeling shame. Lots of shame,” I said. Meanwhile Richard had moved on to the New York Times Crossword puzzle and looked at me with confusion.
To be clear – This isn’t about my kid. This has nothing to do with her, who she is, her neurology, what she did or didn’t say. This has nothing to do with Richard running into one of her Early Intervention therapists or perceived expectations, either mine, his or the therapist’s. This isn’t about autism. This isn’t even about parenting. This is about perfectionism. This is about my shame for being an imperfect human being. That’s what this is about.