Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an “L” on her forehead
So I’m five or six and the Daisy (Girl Scout precursor) meeting at my house is over. Something has happened that I don’t understand so my mother explains it to me.
She just confronted fellow Daisy Renee for stealing a tiny plastic envelope of Sanrio coloring pencils and paper. My mom had bought it for me. Renee claimed it was hers. I wasn’t paying attention. I had zero connection to the coloring pencils in question.
After everyone’s gone, my mother yells at me for letting everyone get away with hurting me. She tells me that I need to start standing up for myself because people will take advantage of me.
Funny, because around the same time I’d just been punished for not giving my best Barbie to Pilar when her family had come over for dinner. My punishment was to sit in my bedroom in the dark without dinner while everyone had dinner two feet outside the sliding door.
So, stand up for myself because everyone wants to take advantage of me but don’t stand up for myself because then I’m shameful and I’ll be made to sit in the dark, hungry, and crying hot tears and everyone approves of this.
This, pretty much, is the beginning of her “They’re all gonna laugh at you” mother of Carrie lecture series that will continue for the rest of our relationship. Because everything was my fault, especially when anyone hurt me. And what mattered wasn’t my well-being. What mattered was my mother’s well-being.
Now, I couldn’t tell you if all people really did want to hurt me or if I was trained to see the world this way. But I can tell you that my mother viewed every interaction as a slight. So I never spoke up when actual bad or scary stuff happened to me at the hands of people more sophisticated than I. There were already too many things I was in trouble for. Like not being invited to the movies or slumber parties or the carnival. I didn’t need to add to my shame account that my mother tallied daily.
But when I was included, I’d get in trouble for all sorts of bad behavior my mother assumed I’d participated in. And then I’d get punished for these imaginary offenses and not be allowed to go to the next thing I’d been invited to.
I couldn’t win. I couldn’t tell anybody what was going on. I didn’t know what to do with any of this. I didn’t understand what was going on. All I knew was that every little part of me was bad and wrong and shameful. Better to keep it all to myself…whom I also imagined to be the worst person on earth.
I didn’t see myself as a victim. I saw myself as a force of destruction. I was a villainous King Kong who disrupted a social order I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I didn’t know how to build. Only how to destroy.
“But you’re an adult now, Vene, you don’t have to behave that way.”
And you’re right to say that. But what I should be and what I was conditioned to be fight each other all the time. When I am at my best I can overcome conditioning. I get burnt out easily. That’s a lie. It’s not easily. It looks like it’s easy. But I’m handling a Fuck ton just to get to the point that’s easy for others.
Has the world rolled me? Yes. Many many times. I experience the world as an autistic person. I can be gullible. I’ve had people steal from me and mismanage my money. I’ve had people try to put and keep me in mental hospitals for problems I didn’t even have. I’ve had doctors prescribe medications that were potentially lethal. I’ve been sexually assaulted by someone I trusted. I’ve been gaslit and manipulated in subtle but terrible ways.
That made me bitter. It made me resentful. It made me vengeful. It made me cruel.
Mostly it made me feel alone and like I couldn’t trust people. So I just didn’t. I just don’t. Because I can’t trust myself. In the Inception version of my story, my mother implanted two tiny messages like sparse coding that just play and play with greater complexity.
“People will hurt you.”
I have to overcome this. I know that. Without therapy and with autism. I’m not going to let that stop me. I just have to get stronger. More discerning. Trust myself for everything that has gotten me this far. And then figure out who I want to be in the future and make it so. I really have come a long way from my past selves. I know I can do it. It’s just a lot of effort.
I also need people to believe me when I call something out for being dangerous. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to threats. I don’t see the world through the lens of a victim. I see the world through the lens of someone who had to be keenly aware of when the monster came out of her mother. I know when something is askance. I need other people to trust what I know to be true.
I need to build credibility.
But how do I explain that I need to be protected from harm and also that I can see certain types of harm coming way before anyone else will?