So, I said I might write about what it was like to grow up in my childhood home. (It feels wrong calling it that. I
lived existed there as a child and I now own half of it but it’s not a home. But I’ll refer to it as my childhood home to make this post easier to understand.) Well here it is…
It’s hard to know where to start to give this post it’s deserved gravitas. Well let’s start where the spark of inspiration came from, because it’s easier for me. I’m currently looking after my paternal Grandma’s house and her adorable dog. Due to my grandma leaving early in the morning I stayed over from the night before. It made me realise that for all I love and know my grandma, I don’t really know her/talk to her/know how to act around her. This is because my ‘parents’ raised me like wolves. (I wish they were wolves, at least they’d be warm and fuzzy.) This started making me wonder how much of my autism is real and not a consequence of my environment? Answer: I don’t know. However, pulling this apart, waiting for the sun to rise made me want to tell you about my upbringing.
You could just summarise it all and say it was sh*t, but here’s why… First of all I never had any friends until I was in Secondary school. This isn’t just because of my social awkwardness and un-popularity. It’s because I wasn’t allowed to have friends. So I didn’t socialise until I was 13+. Let’s just say, if I was a dog this would be terrible and I would be at risk of being put down. I’d be violent and lash out at others because I don’t know how to be social. I was never let out, allowed to go to the park, to the cinema, to other people’s houses or anything. I remember when I was really young and still in Primary school, I used to spend afternoons in the back garden because it was that or my room. There was a group of kids (one of which was my neighbour’s son,) and they used to ask me to come and play. My mother forbid it and locked me in the house. After a few weeks I was let out in to the back garden again. I know now that the neighbour’s kid felt sorry for me. He asked a few more times, but I didn’t want to get locked inside again. I tried for months to break out of my prison. I even tried to lock pick my way out. I was so desperate to be free. After a while the kids stopped asking and instead started laughing at me in my dingy prison yard. Every time I’d collapse to my knees when they were out of sight and cry with my head against the back gate’s bars. (Which for the record, even looks like a prison cell door.)
Ever since those days, I’ve been filled with this desire to run. I’d sit on the edge of the school playground and watch the dinner ladies circle round like guards, and watch for any and every chance to escape so I could run away. It’s like a pull within me to go somewhere or return somewhere. I’d spend my lessons looking out of the window and longing to be free. I think it was when I started to realise how odd I was and how big the wedge was between me and society, was when I started to want to run towards nature. Still to this day something aches within me when I pass a forest and I itch to run through the shrubbery and jump tree roots. This pull is probably why I’m so drawn to the Dalish Elves from Dragon Age. It’s weird to be drawn towards forests like this but an afternoon exploring woodland makes me happy. (Even if I feel sad when I see a fallen tree.)
Secondly I was also kept away from my extended family. Something happened when I was young and it splintered the family. At the time I called this adult politics and kept reading, oblivious to what was really going on. I still saw my paternal Grandma once or twice a year and I’d see my maternal grandparents almost every day. Yet I was kept so far away that I didn’t even know I had a set of twin aunts until they died. (I basically had to sit through two stranger’s funerals.Which is an odd experience in itself.) I only ever saw one or the other and because they were identical I just thought they were the same person. It’s still hard for me to separate my brief memories of them now. They both had kids too and I always thought they were all siblings instead of cousins.So even now that the family has been brought back together, I still feel like I’m an outsider. Which only makes my socialisation anxieties worse. When we have social gatherings I just sit in the corner or away from everyone else and drink until I’m chemically able to be social. They all annoy me and I only go to appease my parents. But I know my annoyance with them blossomed from my separation with the world. I know I should feel some kinship with them but they’re strangers to me. So I don’t care about their holidays or their kids or how amazing their homes and lives are. Plus they know nothing about me and seem to like my parents. Which makes me want to keep them at an arm’s length incase they’re like my parents. Which is why I removed them from my Facebook friends, and when they complain at family events about not being able to find me, I reply: “how can you find something if you don’t know what you’re looking for?” (That’s mostly an excuse because they refuse to use my real name.)
So that’s a few elements of my upbringing. I’m just going to mention a few more things to help you understand me a bit better. (Especially if you’ve met me before.) I’ve covered my social skills and how they’ve affected my world. If you’ve ever given me anything, (for example a gift,) you’ll know that I don’t know how to act. This boils down to a few things, one being that my birthdays were never happy occasions. I try every year not to get my hopes up and be happy every year, but I still hope for a better and more normal birthday. I know that the best outcome will be a card with the wrong name it, that’s pink and sparkly and possibly a gift that I’d never use or is so not me, it’s offensive. So I don’t know what to do if someone actually gives me something I want. It’s like a paper jam in my head. I get so happy that I panic because what the hell should I do? Also the few presents I get from my family usually serve as a reward that I have inexplicably survived another year and sometimes it’s astonishing how little effort they put into it.(Except my sister, who I think can tell how miserable I am on my birthday and really puts her heart and soul into my gifts.) Once my parents couldn’t be bothered to buy me a gift so I had to order it, 2 days before my birthday, off Amazon and pay extra for next day delivery. It made my account go into overdraft, and my parents paid me back for it a week after my birthday. What annoys me the most is that they didn’t even wrap it. Instead they presented me with the Amazon parcel. If I’d known they’d put so little effort into it I would have selected the gift option and sent a happy birthday message to myself. So if you give me something and I don’t react to the awesome gift at all, know that I am happy and it’s awesome.
Another one of my strange quirks is that I’m not used to people being nice to me. This is initially simple because 98% of people in my life either use me, lie to my face, beat me or want to hurt me. So understandably it confuses me when someone does something nice for me, even if it’s as simple as buying/making me a coffee. I feel so indebted to them and keep a tally in my head. However it goes deeper and includes me not being used to people providing for me. This is really evident for me right now because my grandma thought it was weird that I brought my own food when she was going to provide for me and even cooked me a roast chicken breast for sandwiches. (Which made me cry because I hadn’t eaten real cooked food in so long. I literally couldn’t remember the last time I ate roast chicken.) I’m even going to leave the money she left for me. She may be insulted, but in all honesty, I’m not used to being cared for. The notion is strange to me. I’m not even used to being hugged. I’m used to being given things as if I made a deal with a demon and there’s a sting in the tail involving a beating/favor that is waiting for me.I’m also used to buying my own food at home so I can eat nutritious food that I can actually digest. So it feels wrong that I’d be given food free of charge or guilt.
Something else that’s evident if you’ve ever met me is that I really don’t express my emotions well. I used to joke about my face never knowing what I was actually feeling/thinking. This could just be overlooked as an autism thing but it has it’s roots in something more sinister. I used to get beaten/punished/told off by my dad for laughing and being happy.This didn’t stop at him not being able to hear the T.V. Just imagine a childhood without laughter. I was also treated the same for talking too much, wanting to play, running around and everything you’d associate with being a child. Same goes for being able to listen to music. It didn’t matter if it was quiet or not. If I had music it had to be through headphones only. My music was deamed as sh*t and taken away/broken. What annoyed me even more was that if my sister played the same music it was fine and sometimes my parents would play it themselves. I also wasn’t even allowed to hum along to my music. Which has had a long lasting effect on me because to this day, when someone hums or sings along it grates against something within me and I flinch, expecting a beating.I was raised in a household where I was to be seen (on occasion) and not heard. I know now that this is a victorian ethos, which is probably why I feel so out of place with the modern world and feel older than I am.
These are just a few things that lead me to think on this foggy morning, that I am a man made/faux autistic. It doesn’t matter if I’m right about this or not, I just wanted to explain my past and highlight how impressionable children are. This post probably speaks volumes on why I’m drawn to the Fenris character in Dragon Age 2 though. However I’ll leave you with this final glimpse into my mind…
Is it any wonder why I’m so drawn to books where the main character stumbles across a secret, magical and fantastical world they’ve always been a part of but never seen before? I’m still waiting to find out what makes me so special, that made my parents had to lock me away from the world.