Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Love and Family

People with Asperger's are so often misunderstood by those who are meant to understand them the best.

This select group of people includes immediate family members, significant others, and close friends. For very lucky people, it extends to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and anyone else who cares.

I feel very incredibly lucky to have a supportive family. When I first came out as "bisexual" at 15, I was practically forced. My mother explicitly asked me, and I can't lie to my mother! She didn't really care that much. In fact, I'd be perfectly fine if she didn't care at all. In fact, she's so understanding that she was only a little confused when I later said I was gay, and then most recently that I'm pansexual. She even listened to my explanation of what makes that different from "bisexual."

My father is a different story. He grapples with a lot of internalized feelings, most of them negative, that likely came from his upbringing because it was simply the norm at the time. I imagine it's partially because he is afraid of being like his older sister, who is so far beyond the left wing it's worrisome. He's also deeply religious for some reason, which I understand did not come from his upbringing at all.

That said, he's at least accepting. He has never once shoved a Bible in my face and never told me I'm going to hell. He liked my ex-boyfriend and was reasonably polite and quite civil to him, which says a lot since, like me, he occasionally has a hard time communicating with people. He doesn't believe I should be allowed to marry another male, but also doesn't believe we should not be allowed to be with each other. He let me borrow his car to see my ex-boyfriend several times, and drove me there himself more than once. I think he'll come around.

However, it comes as no surprise that my parents are very supportive of me in terms of my Asperger's. For one, they both have doctorates. My father is a very experienced anesthesiologist who was still being educated (finishing his residency, I believe) when I was born! My mother has a doctorate in pharmacology. So essentially: my father's job is to put people to sleep, wake them up, and make sure they don't feel pain. My mother is a biology teacher, but her expertise is in the field of how chemicals and drugs affect and interact with the body and brain. Needless to say, I will never be unhealthy ever.

My mother, of course, is the one who diagnosed everyone in the family with at least something. My father has not listened to anything she's said about him specifically, but readily accepts her findings about herself, my three siblings, and me. She's apparently so good that my very experienced psychiatrist believed her as well, and now we are all medicated and our family is so much more functional. My siblings get good grades, play music wonderfully, and also figure skate competitively. Except my  17-year-old brother, who wrestles and rows instead.

And yet I'm the only one with Asperger's (who admits it, anyway). Guess who initially thought I had it? My mother, that's right - when I was about 15. She told me I probably had it, and I laughed her off and ignored her and told her she was wrong, like I did about most things when I was 15.

But now she's the one seeking out therapy and counseling for me so I can cope with life. Meanwhile, my father is supportive in his own way, often giving me advice on how to deal with certain things as they come up. We don't butt heads very often, though, since we both lack certain social skills and are both pretty bad at effective communication. He can't be that bad, though, since he's still married and definitely employed.

He also doesn't reject that I have depression and severe anxiety problems. He's fully aware that everyone else in the family has pretty bad ADD or ADHD. He's a doctor, after all, and he's also extremely stubborn and, in a strangely good way, an elitist - so he will listen to what other doctors say. This means that if and when someone with MD after their name says I have Asperger's, he won't dispute it for a moment.

My siblings are a bit of a different story. Chris, who is 17, jokes about Asperger's sometimes just like he does with my sexuality or the fact I'm an atheist. At the same time, reliable sources indicate he has realistically threatened kids at school for using gay slurs against my younger brother, who is 13 and probably straight but a little metrosexual. I'm also not entirely sure he is a huge fan of religion, though he's not quite atheist. He never makes fun of me for being depressed or anxious or having ADD or being an insomniac, since he has terrible ADD and is borderline narcoleptic or something like that.

My younger two siblings probably just don't really understand. My 12-year-old sister understood I was dating another guy as of probably a year into our relationship, when she was 10, and to her it probably just seemed normal because she has never been told it's wrong. Same with my 13-year-old brother - he makes gay jokes sometimes, but has also stood up to other kids for being against gay rights. Eighth-graders. Do you know how hard it is to not act like everyone else at that age? But still, I don't think he gets what autism is.

My there's a problem. I haven't told her and I don't know how. I feel like I can and should, and soon, but I'm terrified of doing so. I know she won't reject me, but I'm afraid of her reaction all the same.

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