The hardest part of my trip back to Kentucky for Christmas was not the airport or constantly changing plans or the obliteration of my routines (not that they were exactly easy), it was telling my family about my needs in a way I had never done when I lived there.
I used to go along with whatever was happening and just deal with the consequences. Sometimes I sat in the corner with headphones on the entire time, sometimes I ran from people so I could meltdown in private and on occasion, I enjoyed the company of my family. This year, Jesse and I explained spoons and downtime and stimming and how my needs have not changed in the last two years but how we deal with them has.
Everyone was absolutely wonderful about it. Rooms were made off limits for me when the house was packed, people were told to be quiet or leave when I became overwhelmed, they were extra careful and communicative when driving me places, restaurants were chosen with noise level and space in mind and no one touched me without asking. Not a single person made me feel guilty or acted like it was anything out of the ordinary. Their unconditional acceptance of my differences was the same as it’s always been, only made more obvious by bringing it out into the open.
Here’s the hard part: their acceptance surpassed my own. I felt crushed under the guilt of my selfishness the entire trip. I felt like I was dictating every moment of our holiday and I still can’t clearly recall if that’s an exaggeration or not. I can’t decide if this feeling is worse than not being accommodated in the first place. It might not be healthy to prefer being ignored to being accepted but I’m so tired of the self-loathing that pops up when people are good to me. It seems excessively unfair.
People have not always been good to me. I didn’t grow up with the family I have now, I married into it. Except for my mother, who has gone to great lengths to learn about me as an adult and improve the way we communicate, I don’t speak to anyone from my past. Even though things have changed, I have 20+ years of hurtful words and actions ingrained into my psyche. It takes time to undo that kind of damage. It takes exposure to acceptance and integration of support into every day life. I know that and sometimes I even believe it.
I used to think that someday I would get completely better, cured of the internalized ableism and effects of trauma that plague me with doubt and self-loathing. I would be a Well-adjusted Autistic Adult™, confident and unapologetic in my need for support. I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think I’m probably always going to deal with these feelings in some instances. It’s going to get easier, though. It already has.
I came home from our holiday and took care of myself. I slept for 12 hours at a time, didn’t leave the apartment for 4 days, binge watched The Mysteries of Laura on Netflix (it’s so good, you should watch it) and did not tackle my very long post vacation to-do list. I still had twinges of guilt while my unpacked suitcases looked at me from their spot in the dusty corner of my bedroom but I ignored it and took my dinner of peanut butter and bananas back to the couch. ♥