For the last few weeks I’ve been struggling with many things. Struggling isn’t unusual, of course. I think that everyone who’s autistic is well acquainted with struggling often in everyday situations. But the intensity of my recent struggles has been beyond that which I’m accustomed to dealing with.
I’d go so far as to call it a mild shutdown.
Then, a day or two ago I realized that this month is the one year anniversary of finding out that we had no money (in fact, we were thousands of dollars in debt with no more left on credit cards and no cash aside from that which I’d squirreled away over the years) and were facing the likely possibility of being homeless and not being able to feed our children.
I also found out about a year ago that my husband had been lying to me for months about our financial situation, which is how it had gotten so bad to begin with. He kept telling me that we had enough money every single time I asked. Had I known the truth then I would’ve been much more careful and things would have been at least a little better, if not a lot better.
It was a huge betrayal.
Lying is not something I’ve ever tolerated easily from myself or others – I suspect now, knowing about being autistic, that it has something to do with the fact that I have great difficulty telling when someone is lying to me. I don’t pick up on subtle lying cues at all. My trust in others is based solely on their truthfulness and is completely broken when they lie to me – especially about something important.
In the past I’ve completely cut people off when I discover that they’ve lied to me. It didn’t matter how close we were or how much I cared about them, if there was a lie involved – particularly a hurtful one – they were gone. They’d blown their one chance. I couldn’t trust them not to lie and couldn’t tell when they were lying, which made them an unsafe person for me to associate with.
Best friends, family members, colleagues…. it doesn’t matter how close I am with someone if they lie to me. Clearly they cannot be trusted.
Looking back, through the lens of autism, I see that this reaction is a basic self-protective function. Not being able to tell when someone is lying leaves one open to all kinds of potentials for misuse and abuse. Of course, it was all considered to be an extreme reaction by others for most of my life, but I had good reasons for it.
Now, in this year-ago case I’d made a sort of uneasy peace about it all. Once confronted with his lies, he did everything I asked in order to help me be more comfortable trusting him again in the future. He willingly showed me all the finances, went over them with me, agreed to my plan to ask for help and loans from friends so we could manage in the short-term, and has been transparent with the money ever since.
However, a sobering thought to me, even if he hadn’t done those things, what choice did or do I have? He’s kind to the children and to me, I’ve never been able to hold down a full-time job for long, I couldn’t handle college at all (I’ve only recently begun to try and remember what happened there and why it happened), and I have several young children who depend on me.
When it all comes right down to it, I’m quite dependent on him. I’m very lucky and thankful that he’s been willing to assuage my concerns and try to be more honest since then, but I’ve come to realize that the effects of his betrayal aren’t over. The last few weeks have made it clear that I don’t fully trust him again. I’m not sure if I ever will, although I hope I can someday. I don’t know what this means for my marriage or my life either.
“Trauma” probably isn’t exactly the right word. I’ve experienced things that most people would consider far more traumatic than this. I’ve been sexually assaulted and mentally in places so dark that ending it all seemed like the only possible way to move forward.
Yet, this. This betrayal was also traumatic for me to experience. We’d been married for over a decade at this point! The person I’d had children with and spent my entire adult life with had turned out to be a lying *expletive* and here I was, very nearly completely dependent on him.
Feeling the effects of traumatic events on anniversaries is a pretty common thing, apparently. I googled the phenomenon and it’s a real thing for many people. I couldn’t function at all on my youngest child’s first birthday and the few days after it because of the awful things that were done to both of us after the birth by medical professionals.
So, that’s why I haven’t been writing much here lately. I’m thankful that I figured out what’s going on, but it’s also opened up a whole bunch of issues to work through. These are issues that I’d thought were largely behind me and I’m a bit discouraged to know that they still need a good bit of work.
Knowing is probably still better than not-knowing though.