Lately I’ve been seeing on Facebook quite a few posts around the theme of choosing not to have abusive people in our lives, even if they’re other autistics – and the resulting furore, especially if the writer dares to say these people are narcissistic or similar. Some even seem to have been driven out of the community, or at least off social media, by the relentless attacks from their abusers. I’ve also received some criticism myself, either when I chose to support those making this choice, or I challenged some people’s glossing over the abuse, or from other, more private sources, because I dare to call out those who do abuse or maltreat us – something I also apply to other autistics.
So, at the risk of ‘stating the obvious’ (though it seems to some people it’s not, and we autistics don’t always ‘get the obvious’ anyway), let me make myself one hundred percent clear here, to my brother and sister autistics –
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PUT UP WITH ABUSIVE PEOPLE.
It doesn’t matter if they had a rotten childhood, or have been abused themselves, or had a hard life in some other way, or they are just plain old jerks.
It doesn’t matter if they have some type of personality disorder or not, if they ever had a formal diagnosis, or have never had one but fit the criteria, or have a mental health condition, or are …just jerks.
It doesn’t matter if they are autistic too, even ‘top’ advocates, or just well-known personalities.
It doesn’t matter if they’re family, or your partner, or you’ve been ‘friends’ with them for ages, or they have some other hook into you.
It doesn’t matter if they’ve surrounded you with people who support them and not you, and you know you’ll lose a lot of people if you dump them.
It doesn’t even matter, ultimately, if you’ll be financially and practically worse off without them, and that it’s going to be extremely hard to get them out of your life, and you’re not even sure how to.
In fact, in the end, nothing matters except that they are abusing, bullying and/or manipulating you, and you need to get away from them, by whatever means necessary.
And no, you’re not being ‘nasty’ or ‘unsympathetic’, not to want such people in your life. You can feel sympathy for their plight, but from a safe distance! Remember that it’s actually THEIR responsibility, not yours, to sort themselves out. Even if they struggle to do so, it’s still not your problem or your fault, and you don’t have to take them back. You don’t have to hold their hand, metaphorically speaking, while they’re steadily draining your life force. You don’t have to pay that price anymore. You have the right to set boundaries, and stick to them.
And yes, they will use any and every angle, every trick in the book, to get you back under their control again. I’ve heard just about all of them, from both those who dumped on me, similar people, and their supporters, known as ‘flying monkeys’.
Just sharing recent examples, for instance - if I went back years, there would be lots more - I’ve been told that I was ‘stigmatising’ and ‘demonising’ people with personality disorders for daring to point out how badly many of them behave, and had my words rewritten to equate having one to being autistic, though there is actually no comparison. Personality disorders are the result of damaged psyches, and you CAN heal from them, with the right treatment. They are therefore NOTHING LIKE autism, which we’re born with, and which is simply a variation on human, not emotional damage, though of course people can have a personality disorder in addition to being autistic.
Another time, I was told that I’m ‘ableist’ and ‘judgemental’ of people with personality disorders, that I shouldn’t say that they tend to be abusive as ‘only abusers abuse’. To which I pointed out that if you have a diagnosis of a personality disorder in the first place, or you fit the criteria for one, you are at far greater risk of either abusing or being abused, especially if you refuse to examine yourself and get treatment. I’m guessing that they didn’t like this much either. But I’m getting better at standing my ground with such people. (Sadly, this wasn’t always the case.)
I’ve also been told that I’m showing a ‘lack of empathy’ for those who had hard childhoods, that I’m ‘judgemental’ of those with mental health disorders (though my friends beg to differ), that I was ‘unsupportive’ of a particular critic (I guess all those hours empathising with their problems during so many of their long and frequently tedious rants don’t count), that I’m ‘claiming to be perfect’ (something I’ve never in fact said, nor ever would), told I shouldn’t write about what I’ve been through without giving those who have shat on me a ‘right of reply’, and so much more. All combined with a not-so-subtle pressure to let them back into my life so that things can be ‘sorted out’.
And so on, and so forth. I’m sure you’ve heard similar things from the abusers/manipulators/drama addicts in your life. A constant stream of distorted ‘facts’ and selective ‘memories’, all designed to break your will and wear you down. And let them back in. Always, of course, on their terms.
DON’T DO IT.
Don’t let them in. Or if they’re already (back) in, get them out by whatever means you have to. Blocking, unfriending, deleting, leaving online or IRL groups, cancelling, moving house, dropping unsupportive people and the abuser’s flying monkeys, refusing to engage, leaving town, leaving the country even, whatever it takes. WHATEVER IT TAKES.
Because you’re entitled to a decent life, one free of constant drama, criticism, bullying, verbal attacks, manipulation, and similar, a life that’s safe, peaceful, happy, and which meets your needs, and you don’t owe them anything but a heartfelt ‘goodbye!’
BECAUSE YOU’RE WORTH IT.
And you know what? The abusers deserve a good life too – just not at your expense. I sincerely hope that they get the PROFESSIONAL help they need, so that they stop treating people the way they do, but also for their own sake. I don’t wish them ill, why would I? How does that help anything, or anyone? And yes, I know that the right treatment, or indeed any treatment, can be extremely difficult to access, sometimes impossible. But until they start challenging themselves, and other abusers, to do and be better, horrible things are going to keep happening. People are going to keep getting damaged.
And we all deserve better. Better lives, better community, better everything.
BECAUSE WE’RE ALL WORTH IT.
Arohanui (much love).