I recently had a revelation of sorts.
You see, I struggle, during flares with my self worth. Self Loathing slowly eats at my mental health until I am am emotional sobbing puddle of despair…especially during the long deep winter flares.
My friends, many of whom are also disabled and/or chronically ill are always quick to assure me that my productivity doesn’t make or break my value which I totally agree with and yet was not helping the emotional hole in my heart space.
But I think I figured that piece out.
My mother was always very open about the fact that she had me in order to make sure she had someone to love her no matter what, to take care of her between lovers, and when she was old and alone. This is not a good reason to have a baby, and is certainly not a healthy thing to raise your child up telling them constantly. but tell me she did. She always made it abundantly clear that my reason for drawing breath, was to care for her, and by extension people like her.
Loving her, loving people, caring for people was one of the only things I ever got positive reinforcement for as a young autistic trans person.
My mother was a lot of things to me, she did a lot of things she shouldn’t have as a caregiver, but one thing she did, for good or ill, was make me very good at taking care of people.
Or at least I was.
*que personal crisis*
The way that I was able to “earn” a place in peer groups as a young, autistic person who didn’t meet anyone’s gender performance expectations, was through caregiving. They were willing to tolerate my neurodiversity, only when I had performed that role sufficiently.…or so it seemed to me.
Not every relationship I’ve ever had has been that dynamic of course. I’m certainly not a victim, and have made plenty of my own mistakes over the years. I spent years in a little soft boy weaponized sadness toxic entitlement smog. It did not look good on me.
But it was enough of a pattern for my baby autistic brain to imprint on that mold, to develop expectations of myself as an especially effective caregiver.
The trouble comes in over the last couple years, as I have increasingly become unable to take care of myself, much less anyone else. Every single spoon I have, and more than a few I do not have, go towards navigating a massive amount of pain, new symptoms, fatigue, executive dysfunction, severe depression, and did mention pain? As well as caring for my children, trying to work as much as possible so my family can hopefully some day not be in constant financial crisis, and hopefully not being an emotional drain to the people I love.
Especially during flare season, a combination of autistic burnout, anxiety, fatigue, and shame related to my inability to reach out or properly or actively reciprocate social interaction on any level adds to my physical inability to leave the house making a deep isolation soup I have trouble escaping.
I get caught in a feedback loop, when I so desperately need human companionship in which I don’t feel like I deserve to ask for the emotional labor and support of others, when I know my ability to reciprocate that emotional labor and support will be spotty at best for many months out of every year. How can I ask people to do for me, what I am probably incapable of doing for them, most times?
The process of figuring out who it is appropriate for me to ask for emotional support and labor from can be days or even weeks long. Most of my friends are also disabled and/or chronically ill and are similarly struggling, especially in the winter months. I can’t put my never ending emotional suck on them. Then the educating people on aspects of my family’s experience can be moee draining than help so while I deeply appreciate the offer when I need it most I am unlikely to be able to reach out to an ally. Then many of my friends who share my identities and would get my experience are also marginalized in ways I am not, I am not entitled to their emotional labor, they have heavy enough existence dealing with this oppressive shit storm world, they categorically do not need my despair added to that.
even when people offer their support, if I don’t talk to that person regularly, it is nearly impossible for me to break routine or initiate a new routine to establish contact, or to ask for support that I am extremely likely to not be able to reciprocate unless they ask in turn..if I can at all. Then the shame spiral of not being able to do a simple thing, blaming myself for feeling isolated, when people have offered their support, then finally the negative self talk and self loathing. Feeling desperately emotional need, but absolutely no room or ability to ask for help.
I was put on this earth to take care of people, and I know that is unhealthy, but relationships of any dynamic need to be reciprocal, which is something I am deeply unable to provide 6-10 months out of the year.
I probably need to build new social templates but have been in autistic burn out for so long, battling deep fatigue, borrowing against far flung future spoons to get through days, that doing so seems impossible.
Though I know I need to, I don’t know how to rebuild me from here.
Hopefully this will be the first step, the planted seed that leads to blooms of self understanding, self acceptance…and dare I hope for self love?