It occurs to me that I cannot move forward while existing in the hellscape that is the absence of love.
I’ve never received love. I’ve always been a stranger to it. Very rarely have I received the smaller parts that make up the whole that is love: things like justice, recognition, trust and commitment are things that have always been absent in my relationships with others and myself. My mother kept me isolated from the world because she lacked the empathy to understand that I was a being separate from her. I was, in some quiet, unconscious way, a burden to her. From her I knew care, but little more. I was fed, given a room with a bed, even video games and a computer. I was kept alive. But I knew nothing of emotional connection; there was no recognition in what she would call her loving. I was never seen, only kept. When the cruelties of the world outside our home beat my body and mind until something cracked, and they reached inside of me to find my innocence and steal it, there was no justice. Justice, which is a necessary component of love. She would punish me instead, by making it clear how disgusting I was to her- I, who was six, and eight, and thirteen- for seeking out things I was being taught were love, or she would remain quiet in her words and actions. Adults all around me abused me. My only parent, teachers and relatives were all abusing me in a world where children my age were told adults were protectors, and teachers “second parents”, like my mother would tell me.
I don’t think it’s possible to heal without knowing love.
I’ve worked to “improve” myself- a word I’m now beginning to think should have been “heal”- for years. Obsessively, to a fault. Multiple times a day, I would write something new, a new note, something I’d realized I was doing wrong and needed “fixing”- a dangerous word when referring to the modification of the self.
This could be called care. But nothing else. Similar to how my mother cared for me but didn’t know (or would often refuse) to offer me the rest of the parts needed to form the whole that is love, I gave myself only parts of it. I didn’t love myself because I didn’t know how to. My definition of love had its foundations in the actions of my abusers. The love I gave myself was rendered unkind by the lack of my protectors’ understanding of love, their abuse, and what they taught me love was.
I worked so ******* trying to “fix” myself that this care became a kind of torture. I wouldn’t punish myself so much as I would work myself into exhaustion. It’s a subject too complex and full to delve into right now, but this, and every stressor in my life, was exacerbated by the fact that I am autistic. This is a definition I don’t entirely agree with but for the sake of conciseness I’ll say it– If you can imagine being born without a single tool to navigate the world, that is what autism is. I had to build much of what others know instinctively. This makes for an extremely confusing and terrifying childhood, even without abuse from an outside source. Due to the nature of autism, it can in itself be a kind of trauma. There are no known solutions to the issues it presents. In my rigorous self-studying (and observation of other autistic people I’ve known over the years), I’ve understood the core issues of autism and how to correctly- that is, naturally- arrive at the peace we so desperately need. I’ll write about it some day.
Autism made my life in isolation harder than it would be for those who aren’t autistic. Understanding the world without some kind of guidance was virtually impossible for me. For a lot of autistic people, it remains impossible until death. I still need guidance in certain situations, mainly when in public or when feelings of stress cause regression, stripping me of my learned skills and pushing me into confusion and purely logic-based solutions (which only serve to offer relief in a short-term manner).
Only recently, within the last month, did I learn to approach self growth in better ways. Negativity is something I can now sit with, without fear of it. I listen to it, observe it. I always knew this is what should be done with feelings of negativity, but I wasn’t capable of it. I want to say that the only reason I became able to do this was because I was shown parts of love I had been refused all my life.
Recognition, justice, and a little bit of affection were all that I needed to move forward in my journey of becoming.
It was as if I had been waiting eagerly for years to know these fragments of love, so that I could finally work to modify the parts of me that needed modifying. The second I was shown this kindness, I felt I knew exactly how to use it. The gates had opened and I was sprinting, because finally, finally I could move forward. It was admittedly chaotic at first; I was overflowing with love in an overactive, confused state. The change for me was great and sudden, and difficult to manage. It was overwhelming, but I mostly settled into it after. Suddenly I was capable of accepting love, and was excited to give it. The kind words of strangers finally felt true; little positive messages left for anyone to read online were now a love I could accept and use. I looked through them and held their love in my arms, carrying it to my bed that day I remember feeling so sad and lonely. For the first time in years I wasn’t afraid of my sadness, of my loneliness, of my fear- of the results of my loveless life. I simply sat and cared for myself, and there was nothing lacking in my loving. I loved myself fully for one day.
The positive change in me that came from being given the fragments of love that had been absent all my life- justice, recognition and affection- lasted a month. Some part of me tells me that I should wait more to write about this, because right now is the end of that month.
The love has stopped, and I find myself in need of it again, and I’m wondering if I can survive by learning to give it to myself. Every time I wonder this, I think it’s impossible. That I’ll eventually reach that gate again, that my journey of becoming will inevitably stop. Self-love is made possible when we know what it is to be loved. I think this. I think this now.
Love cannot be built in isolation. I will need to be loved in order to continue loving myself. I’m too eager to continue my journey, I think. This is natural, but it leads to unpleasant things that might repel others and keep me from being loved. I’ve begged- an unbecoming, often disrespectful act. I’m desperate, but also unwilling to hurt anyone with my suffering.
It’s hard to know how to ask for kindness. It’s harder yet, as an autistic person. I want to ask for it, but something in me tells me doing this is rude. And the tension I feel from thinking this creates an unbearable stress as it grows into an unsolvable doubt: What about asking for something I need is rude? Is it possible to ask for fragments of love tactfully, without this rudeness? Is there something my autism isn’t letting me see?
There often is. The problem here then becomes, “I need a guidance most people do not need, and I know that asking for it is undesirable to others. I will be punished for needing.” Sometimes I don’t need this guidance. When I’m happy and safe, I can function independently more often. But happiness and safety are things one feels when loved. My dilemma is a paradox.
I’m tired of my loveless life. I wish for nothing more than to be able to love and be loved, because I am tired of lovelessness, because I am eager to know the terror of loving, eager to learn with someone to hold and be held, to commit love. I want to love and be loved because I am human, and because I think that at the end of lovelessness, there must be a kind of death, and I want so badly to live.
Perhaps if I weren’t autistic, my search would be less difficult and painful. I feel as if I am punished for needing, because most people do not need the things I need, and needing them is seen as a sign of rudeness, an inconsiderate nature or just plain incapacity, which are all undesirable traits.
My fear is to be undesirable for who I am. I can’t write it without crying. My fear is to be told I shouldn’t be touched because I can’t touch, that I shouldn’t be trusted because I can’t stop masking, that I shouldn’t be loved because I can’t love.
And I feel that all I can say is that I swear I can learn, if only you’ll give me the chance. I am willing to. And I’m sorry to beg, because I know it isn’t very good or beautiful, but please stay a while, so that I may allow myself to be defenseless and bare, like love requires one to be, like I long to be. If you must leave then go, but if you have the patience to spare, please use it on me. Because if at the bottom of lovelessness, there is only some death, I don’t want to ever know it. I don’t want to get any closer to it.