Sunday, January 9, 2011


One of the reasons therapists really REALLY wanted to classify EA as bipolar was because she was so "emotional," and it really does seem like she is. I cannot tell you how many times we--especially the Erudite Brother, who is extremely rational to the point of being rather annoying about it--would tell her to take a deep breath, calm down, and try to think rationally...which she had a very difficult time doing.

It's commonly thought that those on the Autism Spectrum are lacking on the emotional front, at least when it comes to wearing your heart of your sleeve, which our EA definitely does. This is not only NOT true, because they of course do have emotions to varying degrees, it's not what the problem was all along anyway.

EA sees the world from her own unique perspective and has a very hard time seeing it from any other. It's not that she lacks empathy, she has it, but it's limited to what she understands viscerally--at the easy kind of empathy that comes naturally to most moral, ethical people. If she has to learn it by rote because it's beyond that visceral understanding, she has a harder time recognizing it in others, and finds it utterly impossible to replicate it in herself.

I've come to realize that she's not really being emotional, per se, but frustrated. She sees the world entirely through EA glasses, and feels very strongly that she is right about...well, whatever the issue is. If someone doesn't share her unique EA vision about the right thing to do in any given situation, she gets extremely agitated because for pete's sake, can't that other person see that she's right and they aren't? Since she sees the world in black and white she has never understood why she couldn't just tell the other person what they were doing wrong--with many disastrous results growing up, especially in her teens. Once she got worked up about any aspect of this she'd get distraught, and it took me hours--HOURS--to talk her down back to reality. It was exhausting for both of us because she really didn't understand and I could see that she didn't understand, worse, there was no way I could help her understand. It always came down to "Honey, the rest of the world doesn't see it the way you do, and you just don't have any more right to tell people what to do than they have to tell you what to do (and you know much you hate that)."

"But they're wrong," she'd wail, and we'd have to go back to the beginning and start all over again. Did I mention hours? Add to this the unequivocal fact that she's as pigheaded as I am (although not as experienced and I always outlasted her, not that I had much choice, I couldn't leave her like that), it was exhausting, all right. Try as she might, she never understood why this happened over and over again--until now.

She is certainly capable of deep and abiding emotion, and she recognizes it in others when it's something she shares--love, honesty, loyalty, compassion, etc. She's not so good at recognizing emotions she doesn't share, like hatred, distrust, envy, bitterness and the like. This is very endearing in her, but it also gets her in trouble from time to time.

But that's another story for another time from the Erudite Mom.


  1. There is a part of me that still feels a bit shameful and guilty and stupid because this is, well, TRUE.

  2. That makes a lot of sense, Mom. I know people in this house that are just like that. I think I may have been a little bit like that when I was in my teen years but I wasn't close enough to my ma to drag her into my inner frustration with the world that I saw as not understanding why they were WRONG and that I was SO RIGHT. ;)

    I wish there were some magic words that could soothe someone who is having an episode like that (the hours long one that you describe). I have a 10 year old daughter that is hyper-focused on everyone and everything that is NOT her business. She has a hard time "just letting it gooooooo". I never know what to say and no matter WHAT I say, it's just wrong and escalates the situation.

  3. Laura, all I can say is if it is anything like my poor mom raising me, I feel sorry for you! :)