Monday, March 7, 2011

More reflection

My mother wrote on her blog the other day and said something that has moved my sense of self off-kilter. I've heard her say it before, but this time it registered. She said she thinks she has Asperger's Syndrome. Not a severe case, in fact more "normal" than not, but that she feels that many of the symptoms of Asperger's fit her. Everyone knows that my dad was bi-polar, and quite debilitated by it.

I only know a couple of people who have been diagnosed with Asperger's and they are both hard to reach. One of them I know better than the other because I taught her every day in seminary for 3 years. She was unable to discuss with me or the other students in the class how she felt or what she thought about anything more personal than something like, say, the weather. She didn't make eye-contact with me during discussions, and deflected questions by looking down and away and shrugging and withdrawing into herself. I didn't take it personally because I knew that it was more the Asperger's than it was a personal dislike of me or even simply a case of hard-to-reach-teenager. This girl is super intelligent and is easy to get along with, but can't quite let you know her at any deeper level.

So after I read my mom's blog the other day, I started imagining what it would be like to have someone like this young woman as a mother. And as I went on with this mental exercise I realized that with a mother with Asperger's and a father with so tenuous a grasp on reality, I really have no clue what is true about myself. Things I "know" about who I truly am deep down inside might be false.

Now, it's completely true that I am 45 years old (for a few more days, anyway) and that I am responsible for my own thoughts and actions. But if from the time that I was born I was interacting with and responding to parents with these particular kinds of problems, it's no wonder that I have at my core serious doubts about my worth as a human being and whether or not I am lovable. I think it goes beyond low self-esteem and may be why all those positive affirmation exercises taught to me by counselors and therapists feel so outrageously ridiculous and fake. Because in spite of all the people who love me and accept me as a valuable person, deep down inside I "know" that their love and acceptance is more about how good they are, not how good I am. It's why I can't accept a compliment with any kind of grace, and why I "know" that people really just don't understand whenever they give kudos for something I've done.

It makes a big lump rise up in my throat. I know it's something I have to figure out for myself.


  1. I think mine is more about relating to the world and its people. I always felt out of place.

    Actually I always knew that Dad was distant from me--he told me from the time we had been married for 1 month that, "I will never love anyone or anything." My response to that was that if I were good enough, he would. This was repeated to me frequently for 22 years. But, I felt that I had "made my bed" and now had to sleep in it. I believed that I would not be "allowed" to end my marriage.

    I know that autistic people frequently are able to relate better as adults, and I know that Asperger's is part of its spectrum, on the light side. I don't know what it means, but I have felt more able to relate to others in the last 20 years and more able to understand how people relate to each other--which was always a mystery to me.

    Maybe it's because I have finally matured. Maybe it's because I have finally found my own voice. Maybe it's because I didn't really have Asperger's, but was just beaten down emotionally. I don't know.

    I remember feeling desperate that my children would know that I loved them. In fact, my overarching desire is still that if they know anything it would be that I love them.

    That desire is more important than how they feel about me, about what I did or didn't do, or any other thing.

    I always felt that the reason my children didn't end up in jail, rehab or on the street as addicts is that they came to me as wonderful people. I still believe that.

  2. Deep stuff, Amy. I've done a lot of reflection myself, especially after getting my son diagnosed with Autism.I started looking at myself like maybe I have a little bit of it, and I think my dad has it also, and my step mom was distant and mean. I still haven't straightened out my feelings about who I am, but I think it makes me feel better to know that everyone's got problems plenty worse than my own and we're all trying to do the best with what was given to us.

  3. I sometimes wonder if I am bipolar because it runs so deeply on both sides of my family. I feel like I sometimes display some of the symptoms and it freaks me out a little. I get what you mean when you say that "things I "know" about who I truly am deep down inside might be false." I feel like that frequently.

    I think that figuring out yourself is quite a tricky task. People have all sorts of biology and unconscious compulsions/feelings working against them. Mostly, I just try to accept who I am, even when I'm not exactly sure who "who" is.

    I love you.

  4. I have many of the same problems. My self-worth is positively subterranean, and I know that I come off as entirely unreachable most of the time. I can never accept a compliment, because while I am reasonably certain that the people giving them aren't lying, I mostly feel like "if they only knew" (presumably the "real" me), they wouldn't think the way they do about me.

    It goes on, but what you describe sounds very familiar to me, Amy.