To Mom From Your Autistic Daughter

Dear Mom,

I told you I’d been diagnosed with Asperger’s while I was driving your truck. I’d been working up the courage to do so for about a year. I was nervous but excited because I felt my diagnosis was a part of me that I’d been missing all my life. Your response?

“I always thought your brother had that.”

My heart sunk. I felt cold all over. I wanted to crash your truck into something because I hurt so bad. But I didn’t want to hurt you. I just didn’t want to exist in that moment. I was nervous, grasping the steering wheel tightly. You outright rejected me and I felt a gulf open up between us. I don’t know what your intent was. I only know it’s impact on me. My depression worsened. I was glad to return to college and not have to see you everyday.

I trust you less now. You don’t seem to want to understand the pervasive nature of my autism. How it impacts every area of my life. Growing up I was beaten down by your mantra of “try harder”. Try harder to fit in, try harder to just feel happy, try harder to not be mentally ill. Try harder to be a “better” version of me.

Those two words trigger intense anxiety and anger in me. They make me hate you and I don’t want to hate you.  You reject that I an mentally ill, that I struggle because of it, and that medication is a great resource for me.

As a child you told me to stop flapping, stop rocking, stop swaying, stop, stop, stop! All of these behaviors are tired in to my autism. All of them help me feel calm, in control, and safe. As a six year old I would hide in the bathroom or closet to rock, flap, sway, stim.

We talk on the phone often and you always hope I’ll be coming “home” for a visit soon. I still have to hide my stimming. You give me the side eye when you see me take my meds. You scowl at my pill keeper. You ask when I’ll stop taking them. You don’t understand that my medication helps me function.

Your house is not my home because I cannot be myself there. Just thinking of being there causes me great anxiety. I feel I have to wear the fake persona that I’ve cultivated because I love you and want your approval. But wearing that persona is exhausting and I’m unwilling to do it anymore. When you look at me you see your version of “me”. You discount my struggles, my difficulties, my limitations. More than anything I want you to see me. If you can’t imagine what my life is like with autism, ask me! Talk to me. Let me share my real self with you. But I will not try until you do ask because I do not want to be rejected again.

I think you feel guilty because all of my mental illnesses run in your family. I think you feel guilty that I have autism. I think you feel you failed me and cannot accept that you can’t “fix” me. But I don’t blame you. I never have. I like who I am. I just wish I could share my real self with you.

With all my confused and tormented love,

Your second child

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