A Narrow Scope of Fear and Comfort

The world is full of other worrisome perils that prevent my mother from undertaking many activities, including typical parental tasks. When we were growing up, she spent a lot of time in bed. To calm herself, she relied on a heating pad, tranquilizers, whispering to herself, and reluctant massages from her children.

I was well into adulthood before I finally realized that my mother’s many fears apply only to herself. It’s perfectly fine for her children to do all of things that terrify her and to endure far greater risks. When I was in my early thirties and she was in her fifties, before I understood that her fears were limited to herself, when I still held onto an idealized image of her, I was worried about telling her I needed major surgery for a mysterious condition that required the removal of my spleen. Both the cause and the prognosis were unknown.

Because Mother was so easily distressed when we were growing up, I told my siblings about the operation in the days between the diagnosis and surgery and cautioned them that I didn’t want to tell Mother until it was over. I thought she’d be too upset and panic that I would die, especially since the problem was unusual and the outcome uncertain. But my sister Anne eventually convinced me I had to tell her, that not knowing would hurt her feelings when she found out; she still idealized Mother then too.

I braced myself for her not handling this news well at all. Instead, I was amazed at her reaction: she was completely calm, unperturbed. Sure, she was surprised and expressed conventional concern the way you would if someone you barely know told you this same information when you ran into them at the grocery store. But she wasn’t worried and never thought to ask if I was. Back then, I didn’t understand that she is oblivious to what happens to other people and how they are feeling, even her own children. It did not occur to either of us that she visit after the surgery to help me recover or offer comfort.

Copyright 2014 Sarah Meyer Noel. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “A Narrow Scope of Fear and Comfort

  1. realaspie

    I can’t help but wonder if there are co-conditions with your mother’s AS. As an Aspie and a mother, I can certainly say without a doubt that I have been very worried when my child has needed surgery, agonized over making the right choices for him and his future, particularly where medical care is concerned, and thus cannon imagine not asking him if he was nervous about an upcoming surgery, even as an adult. I had a NT mother who was terrible: she avoided us as children, and left the parenting to our (very likely) Aspie father who also worked long hours to support our family, and our grandmother, who lived with us. I would do anything for my child, to give him the best life possible. In fact, in my life, it is he, then my mate, then myself in my hierarchy of importance. Narcissism is NOT an Aspie trait, not true narcissism. It can be a co-condition however, and that type of a relationship is damaging to any child.

    I’m not defending your mother for what she’s put you and your family through. I’m just going you won’t condemn all AS adults as impossibly bad parents. I have my difficult times, but it is rare that I yell at my child, or even get outright angry, largely because of my AS. My triggers are much more specific than most, and I can push through the hard times when I’d like nothing more than to shut down, until I can do so away from my child. It isn’t something he needs to see, or even be aware of, in my opinion.

    I encourage you to take a look at my recent blog, real aspire.wordpress.com, if only for a bit of a look into the thoughts and feelings of an Aspie.

    Good luck and happiness to you and your family.

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    1. sarahmeyernoel Post author

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I do want to be careful to agree that my mother is just one person with Aspergers. And I am sure parenting quality differs, whether or not one is on the ASD spectrum. I would also have to say that your mother does not represent everyone who doesn’t have ASD; she likely has some serious personality issues to be such an unfeeling mother.

      I’m not sure if full-fledged narcissism is a co-morbid condition for my mother, but she is quite self-centered. I think it’s her lack of empathy and theory of mind that makes it nearly impossible for her to appreciate anyone else’s feelings and fears.

      You sound like a very good mother and someone with much more self-awareness than my mother is capable of. Thanks again for reading my blog with such an open mind and for offering your thoughts.

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      1. realaspie

        True lack of empathy is also a narcissistic trait, not AS. AS often appears to be so, but please believe me when I say from experience, once an Aspie understands the feelings of another, the empathy can be almost overwhelmingly intense. I’m quite sure my mother has issues, though I don’t know what.

        I’m more than happy to do anything I can to give an insight into my own mind. Relationships of any kind are hard with AS, and I want to do all I can to help AS and NT individuals understand each other as much as possible. I know it’s extremely frustrating to both involved!

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