Negative Memories and Confusion

So, I mentioned in my previous post, that it’s easier for me to access my positive memories than my negative memories.

I’ve spent some time since writing that (it was scheduled several days ahead of publishing, this post is not) in thinking about why that might be and I believe the answer partially lies in the amount of confusion I experienced at the time the memories were being formed.

After all, my negative memories are definitely there and they are also arguably more vivid than my positive ones when I do think about them. And yet, I find it infinitely more difficult to put them into words which would allow them to be shared with others.

I have yet to find a truly negative memory of which confusion wasn’t one of the main components. So, I want to write a bit about confusion and its apparent relationship to my negative memories.

Being misunderstood is another large part of my most negative memories and that goes right along with me being confused. Often, even now, I won’t realize there’s been a misunderstanding until the conversation has spiraled into a very bad place. By then, I’m usually also confused and unable to speak effectively to counter whatever the misunderstanding happens to be, if I’m physically able to speak at all.

I look back at my childhood and remember being punished frequently, but I largely have no idea why.

One time, when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I told the truth and was informed by the adults present that I was actually lying and that I’d better tell the truth or I’d be punished for lying. Eventually I lied and said what they wanted me to…. and was punished for both “lying” in the first place (when I’d told the truth) and for whatever it was I’d eventually admitted to doing (which I hadn’t done).

I look back at my many relationships that ended abruptly or badly and I’m unable to articulate why they ended or what happened to create an apparent bad situation.

I remember meeting new friends, spending time with them, having a good time, and then the next week or day they wouldn’t have anything to do with me. This wasn’t just a schoolyard phenomenon either, as this pattern continued well into my adulthood. Now I’m more careful about who I spend my time with, but it still happens occasionally.

I went to college, full of excitement about learning and somehow ended up in the darkest place I’ve ever been. 

In the first month of college I had several friends, my professors seemed to like me, and my roommate seemed really nice. Over the next several months, I lost every friend I’d had at the beginning of the year and my roommate actively avoided me to a degree that even I noticed. I gradually began doing worse in my classes as my ability to complete big projects and work with others on group projects was outstripped/exceeded by my professors’ expectations of my abilities.

The gap between my expectations and prior definitions of myself versus the reality continued to widen and I failed to cope with the incongruences between the two. I began to internalize the lessons I was learning about myself. I clearly wasn’t smart or a good student. I wasn’t even a good musician, failing to practice my instrument regularly as the practice rooms in the music building were located on the opposite side of campus from my dorm room and I could never seem to get over there regularly.

I, who had been in an invitation-only band since three months after beginning to play my instrument and who had been the youngest member in a community band for years.

I, who had always done so well on tests and loved to read both fiction and non-fiction books as though reading books was going out of style (which it kind of was in the early-2000s).

Everyone else was coping and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. Everyone else had friends and yet mine never stuck around for very long. Everyone else managed to somehow complete their group projects without the weird, confusing conflicts that seemed to always crop up when I was involved.

I took many different jobs, was a hard worker, always did my best, yet always burned out spectacularly in the end and couldn’t maintain positive relationships with my co-workers really at all.

Other people could hold jobs for longer than a year. My longest time at a full-time job was for barely more than that and only because I took the greatest care to take care of myself. Other people even had lifelong careers! Something that I couldn’t even fathom wanting to do or succeeding at doing even if I did find a career that fit me well.

When I looked back at my life, before knowing I was Autistic, those things were not only confusing but they were completely unexplainable. Unless I really was a horrible person who couldn’t manage to do anything right.

It’s still new to me that I can look back at those things and not blame myself. 

It’s still hard to think about the difficult bits of my past, let alone put them into words.

Many of my memories remain, and might always be, shrouded in mystery.

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