So this post is another one of those things I’ve thought about for a while on and off at addressing and actually it was my reaction to something that happened to me recently which made me think about this more.
I think most aspies have been ‘burnt’ in the way I am going to talk about, I don’t mean the literal type of burn (although I am also pretty good at burning myself accidentally, I think that’s got a lot more to do with dyspraxia though). The type of burns I want to talk about are those that are related to other people, to being used.
The idea of being used by someone I think is something we talk about less than we probably should. I don’t know if it is a social idea that it refers to big, bad, life-changing situations only, but I do know that being used is often only applied to criminal or romantic situations. Being used by another person, in this instance, means someone who you believe cares about you and likes you is in fact just using their relationship with you as security or to get to something else.
I have had this happen twice in my life where it has had a significant impact. The first time I was younger and I don’t believe that this friendship began with me as a target. I used to play with two younger people near where I lived as a young child, the older I got the more and more they would take the opportunity to hurt me, they would steal from me and get me to ask for things from my parents to benefit them. I was too young to see the reality of that situation, I wasn’t able to understand the layers of bullying that were going on under the surface until we moved house when I was around twelve. Only once I was away from the situation did I really see the truth and I have had some interesting panic-related reactions to these people since then. I have developed a fear of these two people who are now far from my life, a fear I discovered after they started attending the same high school as me. It really surprised me to begin to see the effect they had actually had on my mentality.
This, however, was the lesser example of being used by others. The bigger example came as a realisation perhaps only three or four years ago, and it surprised not just me but my whole family who had been as blind as I had. We started to see the reality of a friend I have had since young childhood, a friend I believed was one of my closest friends until a break down in our friendship group over a couple of years changed, a story I had been told about our friends, about the way they really saw me and others in the remaining group of four. The story I had been told was that our larger friend group had been complaining about me and others behind our backs, a story that touched the deepest nerve in me which claimed they couldn’t stand the intensity of my special interests and the key phrase that I always ‘made the conversation about me.’
Other stories, a further splitting of our friendship group (this resulted in friend ‘P2’ denying that ‘princess manipulator’ had been intimidated and possibly abused by a boy in their year – a story which appeared out of nowhere and resulted in ‘princess manipulation’ leaving school), stories about the way our amazingly inclusive musical theatre group had treated her, the jumping from job to job with a trail of bullying behind them and other things led us to realise that Princess Manipulation was the cause of it all. It was all her warping things, all her trying to prevent our other friends as getting more attention than her, she was jealous that some of our friend group preferred my company to hers, that the rest of her year perhaps liked P2 more than they liked her. There was false trauma, false self harm, the fact that Princess Manipulation was unable to do some things but able to do others which she benefited from.
Overall of course this was devastating to me, it hit hard and sickened me in so many ways. A person I had thought understood me, a person I had thought valued me as I was and as a friend only really valued me if I was under their control. That wasn’t the hardest thing though. The hardest thing which came from this situation was maybe two years ago. There is one mutual friend between us still, Miss Carefree, and Miss Carefree had been texting me, had organised to come to see me one day which I was looking forward to. On the day she was meant to be coming over she text me apologising that she had too much Uni work to do and that she hadn’t done as much as she needed to have done so wouldn’t be able to come.
I was disappointed, but I got it, Uni could be a lot and I knew she was a bit of a last-minute type person. The thing was that evening she was tagged in a Facebook post, Princess Manipulation’s post, they were having an evening together drinking and chatting at her house. Miss Carefree had lied to me, had put me off because she had someone else.
This brings me full circle to the thing which triggered me to want to write this post today. I do see Miss Carefree a little now and again, a few weeks back she came through to visit and go for a socially distanced walk together, and it was good we had fun, but then when last week I was trying to organise another date for her coming over she gave me dates she was busy and I have heard nothing since. I have seen posts online of her with other friends and perhaps these were dates she had already organised but she also hasn’t made any further attempt to speak to me. My Mum when I talked to her about some of this, commented that I am very suspicious of people, that I expect the worst and all I could say in response was ‘there’s a reason for that.’
I think autistic people are often seen as vulnerable, as easily led and quick to trust but I think that is because we inherently want to see the good in people, we want to see them at their best because we know what it is to be seen at your worst and stereotyped accordingly. We want to be accepted, loved and validated just as anyone else in the world does, we want to have connections, but the world can be cruel in return. I will trust someone, I will take them on their word and believe what they tell me until they give me a reason not to. I will carry on seeing the best in people and giving them the benefit of doubt occasionally. Every burn I have been given by others, whether it was large and has still not fully healed or whether it was a brief touch like hot oil spitting up, all of them stay with me, marks on me that only I can see, and these burns still hurt.
Like the literal type of burns, these exist as a reminder to be careful, that once burned by someone caution is always advised.
Thanks for reading everyone, do you have personal experiences of this? I presume many of us do but many of us aren’t healed and maybe never will heal from them. Regardless of whether you want to share your stories, I would love your comments, anything and everything is welcome as always. I hope you are doing ok and hope to hear from you all soon, speak to you later 🙂