by Bec Oakley of snagglebox.com
The misconception that autistic people are overly trusting by nature is, like all stereotypes, a sweeping statement that is only true for some. I am not one of them.
Like most people, as a kid I readily accepted what people told me about themselves and the world, without much reason or desire to question it. Or at least that’s how it must have appeared on the outside.
On the inside I was free-falling, desperately clinging to the belief that people were reliable.
Thinking literally, misjudging situations, misunderstanding the people around me and being misunderstood by them quickly brought the frightening realization that nothing was as it seemed. There was no order or consistency. There were rules, but nobody followed them. Actions hardly ever matched words.
I often missed or misread subtext, so the signs and signals that I thought I was reading from people weren't consistent with their behaviours or emotions. It seemed as if everyone acted randomly, without warning or clues to their motives.
I was taught that even the way my body experienced the world couldn't be trusted. Don’t be silly, that light isn’t too bright. The TV isn’t too loud, that shirt isn't too scratchy, everyone loves parties. When you can’t even rely on yourself to interpret the world around you properly it feels like there’s no solid place to stand. Life was unpredictable and untrustworthy... which only intensified my need to find someone or something to depend on.
But putting my trust in others was incredibly hard for me to do.
I regularly felt let down and betrayed, and it stung my too-open heart every time. Perseveration made ‘forgive and forget’ difficult. When disagreements arose there was often confusion about what happened, whose fault it was, whether I could have avoided it. With no way to resolve or make sense of the situation, I’d just hang on to the fact that it hurt. Building walls became a defense mechanism, and I trusted nobody. Safe spaces seemed hard to find, and as a result I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable.
Every minute of every day.
I still do.
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