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higgie
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29 Jun 2016, 8:40 am

Hi, everybody. I'd like to ask your opinion on something.

I was diagnosed with AS in 2010. I'd had it all my life and never knew it. I grew up in a very intolerant family where my symptoms were interpreted as stupid, rude and weird. My mother was severely critical of me and my older brother in particular taunted me for my clumsiness and lack of motor skills, my inability to find my way around on my own, and worst of all, for my aversion to touch. My younger brother and sister made stinging remarks, too, but only a few times. By the time we all grew up it had all stopped and nobody talked about it anymore.

When I was diagnosed in 2010, both my parents had passed away, and I wished I'd learned the truth when they were still around so I could tell them. But I did tell my siblings. My two brothers live in different states now, so I told them by email. My older bro (I'll call him "Jack") replied, "I'm glad you found a diagnosis you trust and that there is treatment." Nothing more; no apology for his past treatment of me. My younger brother called me and said "Why don't you have your own sitcom?" (a reference to Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory). I think he didn't know what to say so he covered up his feelings with a little joke. I didn't mind.

My sis (I'll call her "Megan") was the most openly compassionate, telling me it broke her heart to think of how I'd struggled all those years without ever knowing why. (She and I live in the same town.) Over the years she sent me links to information about AS and told me about Temple Grandin (who is now my hero). I was always able to talk to her about it, and in my emails I would sometimes mention the unkind things Jack and Mom had said to me during our childhood and adolescence. She was understanding, but always pointed out that back then, the necessary knowledge about my condition just wasn't available.

I swear I did not mention the past unkindness all that often, in fact only about four or five times in six years. But this week something unexpected happened. I saw an interview with Garrison Keillor on TV and learned he has high-functioning autism. I was amazed that he had some habits that were identical to mine. I also learned that when he was a kid, his family knew he was different, but, as the interviewer said, "he was allowed to be himself."

I emailed Megan and told her about it, and how I was affected by that last sentence, because for me, it had always been the opposite. I told her about the time Jack tried to convince me I was adopted, because I was so different from everyone else in the family. Here is her reply:

"Anyone born back then who had the slightest difference was probably made to feel weird, if not by family, as you were, then by other kids. I'm sure I made my share of mean comments, and occasionally you did, too. But as we age we can care less and look forward to a society that talks about these things in a more compassionate and understanding way."

It's the first two sentences I wanted your opinion on. I found them hurtful, because I thought she was minimizing my feelings, implying that my problems were not special, and then reminding me that I also said unkind things. (I swear, the only time I said mean things to Jack was when he provoked me, and I never went for the jugular the way he did.) I also got the feeling that she's tired of hearing me talk about how wronged I was. (I know my family couldn't help not knowing about AS but I don't think that's any excuse for cruelty.) So I plan not to mention such things to her again, and indeed, never to talk about AS to her again unless she brings it up first.

So tell me, do you think I'm being oversensitive? (I always have been, so don't hesitate to tell me!) I would appreciate other points of view on this, plus any advice you'd like to give. Thanks, everybody.



ASPartOfMe
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29 Jun 2016, 9:04 am

Overall it was a very positive reaction by your sister. You did say mean things. Could she have worded the part about you saying mean things differently?, probably, but I would not let that ruin her acceptence of you.

There is no guarentee if your parents were still alive they would be accepting.


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person. - Sara Luterman


jp733
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29 Jun 2016, 9:38 am

I don't think your sis is trying to minimise your feelings, she's trying to sum things up (plus you describe her as compassionate anyway), and I think you're being slightly over sensitive. I've done it myself, took things the wrong way after my own sister has said something, I've gotten upset, she's gotten upset, but we make up because that's what family does.

Your sister will have a different perspective on things due to her own unique experiences, and what she remembers and how she remembers things isn't that important in the grand scale of things.

Bear in mind that in non-verbal communication like emails, it's so easy to sound dismissive and come across as cold or unfeeling. Arrange to meet her and talk to each other in person. I avoid at all costs discussing personal issues in emails because it's all too easy to get the wrong end of the wrong stick. I too have family members who send very short, brief, to the point emails, with no small talk, no thank yous, no goodbyes, anything. It doesn't mean they don't care, it's just how they communicate electronically, and it's the same with mobile phone text messages.

You say you got the feeling that she's tired of hearing about how wronged you were, but until you talk to her and ask her, you have no idea what she's thinking.

Try not to be regretful and concentrate on the things that are positive in your life. Your parents have passed but you still have other family members, and while they might not completely understand you, or your feelings and experiences, they're still going to be there for you.

Let us know how things go on, I wish you the best. :)



higgie
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29 Jun 2016, 10:00 am

Thank you. I did suspect I was overreacting. Sis could have worded that phrase more delicately, but what the hell, that's just her way. Besides, she admitted the same thing about herself. Thank you for your level-headed and excellent advice.

Want to hear something interesting? I think if my parents were around my mother would probably have been accepting, but maybe not my father. You see, he had AS, too. He was never diagnosed but when I look back and think about his behaviour, I'm convinced he had it, and that I inherited it from him. And guess what, my mom used to yell at him about HIS behavior, too! But if he were still here and I were to tell him we both had AS he might have gone into total denial.

Anyway, thanks again.

ASPartOfMe wrote:
Overall it was a very positive reaction by your sister. You did say mean things. Could she have worded the part about you saying mean things differently?, probably, but I would not let that ruin her acceptence of you.

There is no guarentee if your parents were still alive they would be accepting.



higgie
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29 Jun 2016, 10:14 am

You're quite right. I myself have summed things up in a similar way. Our father was very abusive to us, and while I can't forgive what he did, I have come to understand that in those days (the 1950's), everybody was very hard on their kids. They just didn't know any better. Plus my dad's father was very hard on him, too. After all, Grandpa was born and raised during the Victorian/Edwardian era. People back then just didn't understand children very well. I think my sis was summing up, as you say, describing how "odd" kids were misunderstood in the 1950's.

Emails can be misinterpreted, I agree. This isn't the first time I've taken something in an email the wrong way. As convenient as emails are, they can never replace face-to-face communication. And I am very lucky to have my sis. She is extraordinarily understanding. I am probably wrong in thinking she's tired of hearing me lament the past. I've always been overly sensitive to criticism and sometimes I perceive criticism where none is intended. Gotta work on that!

I will certainly follow your advice and get back to focusing on what's positive. Life is too short to spend on regrets.

Thank you for your wise, kind advice. I really appreciate it. I'll be seeing Sis this weekend and I'll let you know how it goes. I wish you the best, also.

Warmly,

"Higgie"


jp733 wrote:
I don't think your sis is trying to minimise your feelings, she's trying to sum things up (plus you
describe her as compassionate anyway), and I think you're being slightly over sensitive. I've done it myself, took things the wrong way after my own sister has said something, I've gotten upset, she's gotten upset, but we make up because that's what family does.

Your sister will have a different perspective on things due to her own unique experiences, and what she remembers and how she remembers things isn't that important in the grand scale of things.

Bear in mind that in non-verbal communication like emails, it's so easy to sound dismissive and come across as cold or unfeeling. Arrange to meet her and talk to each other in person. I avoid at all costs discussing personal issues in emails because it's all too easy to get the wrong end of the wrong stick. I too have family members who send very short, brief, to the point emails, with no small talk, no thank yous, no goodbyes, anything. It doesn't mean they don't care, it's just how they communicate electronically, and it's the same with mobile phone text messages.

You say you got the feeling that she's tired of hearing about how wronged you were, but until you talk to her and ask her, you have no idea what she's thinking.

Try not to be regretful and concentrate on the things that are positive in your life. Your parents have passed but you still have other family members, and while they might not completely understand you, or your feelings and experiences, they're still going to be there for you.

Let us know how things go on, I wish you the best. :)



SocOfAutism
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29 Jun 2016, 10:25 am

I wanted to put in my two cents.

Cent one: Neurotypicals like to comfort others by reminding them how similar everyone is. This is often not what ANYONE wants to hear, but especially someone who is innately different. She just didn't know what to say or how to put it.

Cent two: It takes awhile to fully accept it when you realize what you "are." I'm putting it that way because for you it's realizing that you're autistic. For me, I had a similar experience when I realized I have a serious and rare degenerative disease. Some people realize they are a different race than they thought, or a different gender. This certainly doesn't happen to everyone- it's not common. But when it happens it's an identity shift. You need time to settle into it, reprocess the past and make sense of it with your new knowledge, and figure out what being autistic means for YOU. You're going to be a little sensitive for awhile and it's not something you can just "get over," although people will expect you to. It may take you a few years to feel utterly at ease with this. But also your siblings probably can't totally understand what you're going through.

It sounds like you're a very kind and reasonable person. This will help you a lot going forward.



higgie
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29 Jun 2016, 11:04 am

Thank you; your two cents are worth a million bucks! You really hit the nail on the head. It is indeed an identify shift, and a huge adjustment. I'm sorry to hear about your situation and I hope you're keeping comfortable and getting good treatment. I can perceive that you too are a kind a reasonable person. This is what we need on this website, so thank you for that and for your excellent advice to me.

Good Luck,

"Higgie"

SocOfAutism wrote:
I wanted to put in my two cents.

Cent one: Neurotypicals like to comfort others by reminding them how similar everyone is. This is often not what ANYONE wants to hear, but especially someone who is innately different. She just didn't know what to say or how to put it.

Cent two: It takes awhile to fully accept it when you realize what you "are." I'm putting it that way because for you it's realizing that you're autistic. For me, I had a similar experience when I realized I have a serious and rare degenerative disease. Some people realize they are a different race than they thought, or a different gender. This certainly doesn't happen to everyone- it's not common. But when it happens it's an identity shift. You need time to settle into it, reprocess the past and make sense of it with your new knowledge, and figure out what being autistic means for YOU. You're going to be a little sensitive for awhile and it's not something you can just "get over," although people will expect you to. It may take you a few years to feel utterly at ease with this. But also your siblings probably can't totally understand what you're going through.

It sounds like you're a very kind and reasonable person. This will help you a lot going forward.