Dealing with trauma as an autistic person

Many of us autistic people carry the effects of a past trauma with them. Any kind of trauma is awful, no matter how small you think it is, and we should be striving to avoid future generations of autistic people having to deal with trauma and the after effects.

I’m not the academic type, so I’m not going to delve into scientific papers on the structure of the amygdala (I mean, I know it’s part of a brain but beyond that I’m clueless) or psychiatry or any of that stuff. Max Sparrow has written an excellent blog post about the scientific side of this debate so I will refer you over there to his superior understanding.

So I’m not going to talk about the structure of the brain or any of that stuff. I’m just going to talk about trying to make sense of it all in my own head, and hope that maybe it will help someone else who’s going through the same thing.

Human behaviour is something I’ve always approached in an analytical way rather than an instinctive way. Maybe this is what gives me the tendency to overthink social situations and leads me to social exhaustion. It is hard work constantly trying to figure out why people behave the way they do taking all the possible variables into account.

So when someone treats me badly, I start to pick apart everything that happened, go over every last little comment and try to figure out their motivation for singling me out in the way that they did. I’m not a nasty person, I don’t go out of my way to upset people. I know quite a few people find me irritating, but I’m not convinced that’s a reason that I was subjected to bullying at school and college. There must be another reason.

The worst experience I’ve had is being around an abusive person. Like many people, I did not see their behaviour as wrong at the time. They blamed me, and so did I. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight and a rebuilt self esteem that I can see what actually happened. I understand what happened, but not WHY.

Was the way they treated me calculated, like did they think “if I keep putting her down then she will have shitty self esteem and will be more likely to do what I say”? Or was it out of fear, did they need to knock others down to make them feel more secure? If that is the reason then was it conscious or not? Did they understand that the way they treated me was completely wrong, or did they justify it in some way? In all likelihood, they probably have no idea that what they did was wrong, and that’s something I will have to learn to live with.

The hardest part for me is not being able to understand why, and going over and over it in my head again. If I could have an explanation I think maybe I could move on more easily, but an explanation is something I will never get.

And that is why I struggle so much with trauma.

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