Abuse from the abuser’s point of view: “Yeah, hurting people is theoretically wrong, but I can hurt you because…”

(I’m special and above the normal rules so I can do whatever I want. You’re below normal people so hurting you doesn’t count. You could just decide not to feel hurt if you really wanted. It’s normal for a [spouse/parent/boss/etc] to hurt people they have power over. Somebody else hurt me so I’m entitled to spread it around. This will make you a better person or teach you a lesson. I just really want to so badly that you have to let me.)

Abuse from the abuse-ee’s point of view: “When someone hurts somebody, theoretically they should do something about it, but when you hurt me I can’t do anything about it because…”

(If I stand up for myself, you’ll just escalate. They taught me I have a moral obligation to stand by my [family/community member]. You control my access to money. This was a one-time mistake and now things will be good again. If I can just figure out the right thing to do, you’ll stop hurting me and it’ll be worth it. I physically can’t leave. This is normal and I shouldn’t expect anything else. I don’t have anyone else who supports me at all, so this is better than nothing. I deserve this.)

There. In a nutshell.

I sat down to write this post elsewhere

and I realized how precisely it parallels the last thing I posted here, so I had to come put it here instead. In the time between that last post and this, I got a retail job.

Honestly the most important thing about this job is just having the tangible proof that I can have a job. People can see me as useful. People can appreciate my work. Things I can do aren’t necessarily pointless or stupid. I can do the things that are expected of me and other people can see what I’m doing and think it’s well-done.

It’s one thing to know that in a shallow, theoretical way. It’s another thing entirely to have the money in your bank account and the hours on your schedule.


— if I like something, that means it’s boring

— if I like something, that means it’s silly and juvenile

— if I like something, that means no one else will like it

— if I like something, that means it’s gross and wrong

— if I get excited about something, it means I’m a boring nerd who cares too much about pointless things

— if I get excited about something, it means I’m showing what an uncool newb I am and ruining things for the cool people who are real fans of that thing

— if I get excited about something, it means that I’m too much, too intense, making people uncomfortable

— if I get excited about something, that makes me gross and wrong

— I don’t deserve to have things that are exciting

— I don’t deserve to have things that are cool

— nothing I can do is exciting

— nothing I can do is interesting or cool

— nothing I can do would be appreciated by anyone else


I’ve been thinking lately about stimming and ways that I suppress it, and it occurred to me that it isn’t really the whole story to say that the avoidant way I sometimes react to positive, exciting things is just about “suppressing stimming”. It’s partly that, but that’s not all.

It’s partly about resisting the urge to happy-stim in public.

It’s partly about resisting the urge to show happiness in any way in public, even just to smile or laugh, because it might not be an appropriate situation to be happy in, and/or people might want to know what I’m smiling about, and that’s a fraught question. That’s where some of the above jerkbrain-assumptions come in.

But what it’s all added up to, over the years, is a really deep assumption that cool things are not for me, and things I like are not cool.

The second part of that– the stress and anxiety I feel about telling people about my interests– is something I’ve thought a lot about, and I feel like I understand it pretty clearly. And I’ve thought a lot about how secretive I often was when I was younger, about pursuing things that interested me.

But I hadn’t really realized until now the extent to which I’ve pushed myself away from ever learning about things I liked, things I thought were exciting and cool, out of this knee-jerk assumption that there’s no way I could ever actually have them and enjoy them. Instead of taking feelings of excitement and interest as a reason to find out more about a thing, I often did my very best to crush those feelings, avoid the thing in question, and never admit to anyone that I was interested in it.


What brought this into focus was an exercise routine I tried out a few weeks ago. It included some punches and kicks. I was working my way through the routine, and I thought to myself, “I feel like I’m getting the hang of this and doing it correctly. It feels good. I feel kind of cool and tough, punching things.”

And part of my brain immediately went “No no no, nothing you can do is cool, if you think so you’re wrong, and if you show anyone else they’ll hate you. Go ahead and do the exercises, but don’t enjoy it. Don’t feel strong. Don’t feel like you could ever be cool.”

Like, I was completely alone in my own house, and part of my brain didn’t even want me to feel happy in total privacy because that was too close to showing off for people who might disapprove. Come on, brain.

Well, if I had any doubts, or feelings that I was misremembering or exaggerating, about my mom’s issues with secondhand embarrassment and general Keeping Up Appearances, going shopping for Christmas presents and food for my brother with her made it crystal clear that what I thought I remembered is very much real.

I’m trying to remind myself that I can both (a) recognize her genuine concern and good intentions, and (b) resent the fuck out of the rude, presuming-incompetence ways she sometimes expresses them, at the same time. (tl;dr, if you try to respect someone else’s wishes and meet them where they are, but act super confused and weirded-out and “I can’t believe you want me to do this, but oh-kay, I guess…” about it? that kind of undermines the generosity of the first part.)

I’m really glad I don’t live at home anymore.

Telling the story

Today I’ve been thinking about why telling the story of how I acquired my phobia makes me so uncomfortable.

I feel like there are two different ways I can try to tell the story, and both of them have problems. I can tell it in a very short, matter-of-fact way, but re-reading that, or thinking about how it’ll be perceived by other people, is uncomfortable because it feels inaccurate. It doesn’t actually get across why the experience scared me. I feel like I’m not actually answering the question. Also, it’s just really alienating to look at a description of my experiences that doesn’t actually convey how I felt at all. It feels unreal.

On the other hand, if I try to describe how I felt and why I felt that way, (a) I feel like my powers of description aren’t up to the task regardless, and (b) I don’t want to think about it that closely! I don’t want to re-feel those feelings.

It’s hard to talk about it without a certain degree of detachment, but because of that detachment, what I’m talking about isn’t really the thing. It isn’t really the phobia.

So far, I can’t seem to find a middle ground between those two things, being totally detached or overly immersed. I’ve made some progress over time, at least when it comes to telling myself the story inside my own mind, but there’s definitely still a long ways to go.

60% joking, 40% serious

It’s probably bad that whenever I see someone post something ill-thought-out online and get backlash for it, my reaction is “See, this goes to show that you should just never say things. Don’t say things when you’re angry. Don’t say things when you’re upset.”

Because there’s this pattern where the result is them getting more upset, saying more things they probably shouldn’t have said, people being more critical and less forgiving of them, and everything getting worse.

It’s probably bad, but when it keeps being true, what am I supposed to think?


I saw a post on Tumblr about bullying (and Harry Potter, to be specific) and what bullying teaches people about the world, that called on the usual narrative of the deliberately cruel bully who enjoys other people’s pain. And I had some thoughts. So here are some bits of what would my personal How Bullying Works / Why Bullying Happens / On Bullying / etc. that differ from that.

Continue reading “Principia”



Why didn’t I think being “gifted and talented” was a fun and cool thing?

Because my first teacher for “gifted and talented” classes was… not a good kind of teacher.

The activities we did in her class were interesting, most of the time, but “excitement about learning,” “creativity,” “inquisitiveness” were not really ideas she was interested in. We had a very regimented set of activities we did, and… we never really talked, I guess, is what I feel was missing? We never discussed things. We just got activities and did them according to the rules.

One of the things I remember is the periodic math tests that were put out by some organization, I don’t remember what. They tended to have the same categories of questions, if not the exact same questions, every month (or week or whatever the timeframe was). One of them was made-up mathematical operators, like, “If [triangle symbol] means multiply and then add two, what’s three triangle five?” Another was questions about clocks or schedules that would be easy to answer with algebra if we had known algebra but really hard without it– like, “if this clock runs ten minutes slow, and that clock runs five minutes fast, and right now they show the same time, how long will it take for them to work around to showing the same time again?”

Young-me thought the made-up new operator questions were ridiculously easy and was totally bewildered that any of my classmates got them wrong. I never got to ask my classmates why they had trouble with those questions or explain how I solved them.

Young-me occasionally managed to solve the clock questions by making very long tables. I never got any feedback on my solutions or any explanation of how else I could have solved them. Even though we did them every few weeks for the whole year. It was just, “do these math problems,” no context, no discussion, no learning except whatever we came up with ourselves.

This was also the class in which I was assigned a really bad research topic, then was lectured until I cried because (a) printing out articles from the internet and highlighting parts of them didn’t count as taking notes, only handwritten notes counted, (b) none of our books and in-class activities had mentioned my topic, so I hadn’t made any handwritten notes. Did she tell me in advance not to print stuff off the internet? Of course not. I was just supposed to know somehow.

That incident is one of the things that comes to mind whenever I talk about teachers assuming above-grade-level “giftedness” comes with above-grade-level informational knowledge and skills, but for some reason I hadn’t connected in my head that all these things happened in the same class.

The other big assuming-skills issue with that class was re: organization and communication skills. So this “gifted and talented” class was something I was taken out of my regular class to go to. I was expected to know when it was and take myself out of my regular class to go to it. Since I was in the school band, I also had to keep track of my own music lesson schedule once the band teacher told me when my lesson would be, which changed each semester. That’s kind of a lot for an elementary schooler to keep track of already, I think, but the real problem was that one semester, my band lesson time was suddenly changed to a time that overlapped part of the “gifted and talented” class time.

The “gifted and talented” teacher did not like this, understandably. What’s not so understandable is that she expected me to handle it, on my own, instead of her talking to the band teacher herself. “I only get one hour a week with you kids anyway, you can’t take this time to go to band. You need to reschedule your band lesson.”

When was I going to do this? Since I wasn’t going to my band lesson?

How was I, as a nine or ten-year-old (autistic) child, supposed to take the initiative to (a) go see a teacher outside class hours (b) or interrupt them during a (already very busy) music class, to (c) tell them what to do with their own schedule?

It was like a perfect storm of things I could not cognitively deal with (some of which I still have trouble with):

— interrupting people
— bringing up new conversation topics even if it’s not a direct interruption
— remembering/fully understanding things without seeing them written down
— remembering and bringing up things from one context in another context without some kind of reminder
— understanding that bureaucracy isn’t actually infallible unchangeable laws from on high, but rather a system set up by people who can change their minds and make exceptions to the rules
— having to weigh two conflicting but equally authoritative orders and decide which to follow

Anyway, this post was brought to you by Tumblr posts about gifted students. Why didn’t I feel like being a Gifted Student made me superior? The fact that in practice it was just another setting for me to get in trouble with rules I didn’t understand and expectations I couldn’t meet, is probably part of it.


Note to self: things I will write about

Maybe sometime soon-ish:

  • Something about trauma and “exaggeration”
  • The inherent wibbliness of most mental illness/cognitive disability labels
  • More about autism stereotypes vs Asperger’s stereotypes

Hopefully eventually someday:

  • Something less context-dependent about authenticity
  • The role of fantasy/writing/roleplaying in defining and understanding yourself, especially as a child/teen
  • Autism/disability in general and “moody debatably evil loner gets redeemed” narratives (i.e. why I have always loved those characters beyond reason)
  • This thing about autism and emotional abuse that’s been in my drafts for literally years