It’s Not Your Fault

It’s not your fault.

*

Some days I feel like I should get this tattooed on my forehead.

*

When I withdraw into myself and fall silent, it’s not because of anything you did.

When I blow up over some inconsequential thing you’ve said, know that the real trigger happened hours ago.

When you do something that unexpectedly makes me feel trapped or panicked, there was no way you could have known until I told you.

When I zone out in the middle of a conversation, it has nothing to do with how interesting the conversation is.

When I ignore you because I’m engrossed in writing or reading, it’s not a reflection on how I feel about our relationship.

When I twist out of your embrace or push your hand away, it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong.

When I forget to call you, it’s not because I’ve forgotten you.

When I don’t look at you during a conversation, it’s not because you’re boring me.

When you suggest doing something together and I say no, it doesn’t mean I don’t like you.

When I can’t explain my feelings or actions, it has nothing to do with how hard you’re trying to understand.

Because I didn’t mean to hurt you doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

*

I say these things, but the sting of my actions isn’t lessened.

To bridge all the gaps would be a full time job.

Understanding helps, as does lowered expectations for everyone involved, but ultimately I know that I’ll keep running up against these unintended hurts that I see only in retrospect.

This is who I am, how I am.

*

It’s not you. It’s me?

34 thoughts on “It’s Not Your Fault”

  1. Dear Ms Musings, I hope you are okay. Who you are, and how you are, is obviously okay with a LOT of people, who love your posts and the many Aspie insights you give us. Understanding goes both ways.

    1. I am. There have been a series of things over the past few months that have left me frustrated and I’ve been thinking a lot about why they happen and how they will likely continue to happen because that’s the way things are. I’ve come to a place where I (and the people around me) understand a lot about my autistic nature, but that doesn’t always make things easier or smoother or less painful.

      1. I send you my deepest affection and regard. Your posts amazing me with their insight. It astonishes me that you call pull together so many helpful, introspective words and put them out there to help others. Reading this posts is a visitation of my own anxiety and sensitivity. I pray that I will be able to give my son the acceptance he needs so the days of agonizing will be few.
        xx
        Lori

  2. In all pairings a third entity (the Us) is created, and Us never promises to be perfectly in balance all the time. The ability to give, the need to get, and the energy to rally are all in flux for everybody all the time.

    It isn’t you, and it isn’t me – it is Us.

    Sometimes the best Us can do is shrug and go to bed with the idea that tomorrow might work out better than today did.

    I hope your weekend is what you hope it will be.

    1. The Us is complicated, isn’t it?

      When I was younger, I was big on that whole “never go to bed mad” thing but I no longer see the wisdom in it that I once did. Sometimes you just have to let things lie for however much time they need to air themselves out. As Scarlett famously said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

      Thank you for the good wishes.

          1. I am so lucky to be part of Heather’s “Us.”

            Musings, though each of your “whens” above describe me, and having to live with me all the time, I think the most important of your lines is, “because I didn’t mean to hurt you doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.” Understanding that, and respecting that, is a huge part of a more comfortable existence. Hurt will keep happening, in both directions, but that understanding and respect can help with apologies and future accommodations, in all directions. Sometimes Heather gives me space to zone out and recover from some stressor, and sometimes I find ways to keep from zoning out and pay more attention to what she is saying. Sometimes it works in reverse. We know you have many similar stories and strategies that are helping you to thrive with yourself and your family. We know sometimes it all is just frustrating, and painful, and you need to yell Arggg (or something!).

            Though sometimes it is best to “go to bed mad,” or hurt, we have to try to find ways to come back to it in some reasonable amount of time when we can talk about it and move forward. If we can’t, we have to find ways to let it go. One of the many things that make me lucky to be part of Heather’s “Us” is something amazing that she has done many times with me, particularly before we came to understand my aspie-ness. I would do something that was upsetting to her, and then she would pause and say, “you didn’t know to _________ because I didn’t tell you.” She would then just let go over her upset/hurt/anger. I hope it has gotten much easier now that we understand each other better, and we are much better at telling each other things that we need. Of course, it is always a “work in progress.”

            Though Heather has helped me the most, your blog and your ability to articulate things that are very close to my own experience as an aspie are helping my understanding of myself so that I can, more often than before, avoid hurting others unintentionally. And, when I do hurt them, or am hurt by them unintentionally, I am in a much better position now to respect that hurt, acknowledge it, and try to make amends.

            Thanks for all that you are doing.

            1. You’re right, intent (or lack of it as is so often the case for me) makes a big difference. In some way, the people around me are relearning what it means to relate to me and that takes time and effort on both of our parts. In other cases, that may not happen and I need to learn to live with it. It’s all part of the process.

              In the same what that Heather says, “you didn’t know to _________ . . .” my husband now says, “I know you didn’t mean to ______” and then he tells me how something was received by him and asks me what I was thinking so he can better understand how I see certain situations. That’s been really helpful because we each get a glimpse inside the inner workings of the other’s mind instead of making the assumptions the way we might have in the past.

              Thank you for the kind words and the thoughtful comment!

            2. For me and my partner, I find that I statements work best. I don’t take criticism well – in large part because of an emotionally-abusive upbringing and schooling. Certain ways of delivering criticism can trigger abusive scripts in my brain and then I’m playing abusive diatribes to myself. For his part, he has an anxiety disorder, and having people upset with him is one of his triggers.

              So, if he says to me, “Why didn’t you X?” I hear, “What are you, stupid?! Everyone knows you’re supposed to X! This isn’t hard! What’s wrong with you?!” (since “Why didn’t you X?” was the beginning to such a diatribe). If he instead says to me, “Please X because Y,” I hear, “I’d like you to X because Y”. Thing you’d like me to do + reason you’d like me to do it. I can make sense of that, and the phrase structure doesn’t start any of my abusive mental scripts. Real example: “Why didn’t you introduce me back there?” vs “Please introduce me next time – it feels weird when I don’t know who I’m speaking with.”

              For me dealing with him, if I bring up anything he did that bugs me, it’ll probably trigger him, but if I bring it up in a way that focuses on me, “I Y when people not-X,” it’s not as bad as if I phrase it as, “You made me Y by not doing X.” I think because the first one lets him know I don’t blame him for not knowing whatever hangup I have about something (emotional baggage, I have it), whereas the second blames him for not having knowledge he couldn’t have had in the first place because I never told him. Real example: “I feel like people are calling me stupid when they repeat stuff a lot to me.” vs “You make me feel stupid when you repeat stuff a lot to me.”

              1. This should be “partner communication 101”, especially for those of us who bring some baggage to our relationships.

                I like your detached 3rd party use of “I feel Y when people X” because it gives your partner an idea of what is bothering you without being accusatory.

  3. This! So much of this! I’ll usually withdraw and fall silent especially right before a nervous breakdown. My family still doesn’t quite understand that it needs to happen so I can think things through and that it’s not a reflection on them. I think it scares/hurts them because they’d love to help out/do something, but they can’t read me for clues as to how to respond. It took me years before I could explain to myself why I was having nervous breakdowns in the first place. I’ve thought back to how there were people whom I wish I could have said, “Well, just because I’m awkward and can’t respond to your cues doesn’t mean I don’t like you” or “If you don’t tell me directly, I’m never going to know what’s going on with you.” But some people are with us or not with us for a reason. And those who are with us love us no matter what. *shrugs* So…don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂

    1. Thank you. I think it’s hardest with the people who really are trying to understand and want to be helpful and end up getting hurt anyhow (or because of that). We can all have good intentions and still end up having things go off the rails at times. It’s just frustrating.

  4. I have been meaning to share your blogs with my Aspie daughter for some time. Have finally done it. This sums her up so well and I hope she shares it with her one non Asperger friend.
    Thanks for your touching insight.

    1. Thank you for passing the blog along to your daughter. I think it’s good for us to occasionally remind the non-aspies in our life that often our words or behavior are internally driven rather than a reaction to anything they’ve said or done. It can help us avoid some common misunderstandings or at least try to.

  5. Thank you Musings, you’re posts are so helpful as they resonate so deeply. I only wish that I could share them with my partner, he refuses to even consider or talk about the possibility that I may be Aspergers! 😦

  6. Yes, this definitely applies to me. Especially the communication issues (I’m bad at communicating by phone, and even email can sometimes get left to the side). Thanks for writing it down for us.

    🙂 tag0

  7. I was going to comment here a couple days ago but it was just too close to “real life” and I’ve had to wait for the dust to settle.

    This kind of thing happens to me a lot: I get withdrawn and non-verbal, usually because I’m exhausted, and somebody assumes that I’m deliberately ignoring them. Or things build up until I lose it following the final straw – even though the original trigger was probably so long ago the other person doesn’t even remember it. The tactile sensitivity: I’ve tried so many times to explain but don’t feel like I’ve made any impression.

    I think everything in this post applies to my life; it’s such a challenge for both parties to maintain a relationship with this on top of the everyday problems that life throws your way.

    1. I totally understand. This one seems to have hit a nerve for quite a few people. It’s so hard to explain some of this stuff and actually get the other person to believe it. I think the second part might be the hardest, because so often our natural instinct is to wonder “what the heck did I do” when the other person in a relationship is withdrawn or somehow “off.”

  8. I didn’t comment because I had to process how well I could relate to it.

    Still can’t articulate what I’m thinking about it, except: Yes, I get what you wrote there.

    1. This was one of those deeply personal posts that I needed to put out there just to “clear my cache” and have it said. I totally understand why it would be a hard one to comment on. 🙂

  9. Reblogged this on A Ripplistic Blog and commented:
    As an individual on the autistic spectrum, I can relate to most of these. Not all, but most. Either way, it’s so beautifully written, and it’s definitely worth a read, whether you’re on the spectrum or not.

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