My Mother Never Told Me: On surviving a lifetime of abuse not knowing I was autistic

The story I would like to share is one that I call my own. It’s a summary of my experiences, and yet it could easily belong to any beautifully-neurodivergent individual.

The following I dedicate to all of those who may have had similar experiences throughout their life, in the emotional and physical experiences they have had.

My name is Andrew, and I was diagnosed late with Autism– or so I thought.

I disclose these experiences along with unsaid things that I wish could be said to a mother who hid who I am and never truly accepted everything I can be. This is for each and everyone of you who have had to mask who you are, or who have never truly been able to embrace yourself because a parent knew what that you were autistic but couldn’t accept it.

If you had a parent who didn’t acknowledge that you were beautifully-different with one of many neurotypes that exist in people, this is for you. This is for the people who know that for each difficulty we experience, we find a gift and a talent as a human being with a mind and a heart all our own ready to be embraced.

I always knew I was different in my own way. Others would call me sheltered, but I never saw or felt that way since the age of four. Looking back over the years, my mother, once a mother of fairy tales in my eyes, seemed to change after I reached the age of five.

For the longest time, I never quite knew why. She would favor my siblings. My older brother, the first-born boy, and my younger sister, mom’s first-born girl and the last child after me.

Over the years, I’d thought a great deal of neglect I suffered was because my mother had simply stopped loving me over time. As I got older, I went through an awkward puberty. I was ridiculed by mom and my older brother for being a “grown man who was crying.”

I would come to blame my mother’s neglect and brother’s bullying on a crucial problem of mine– the problem being that I would have meltdowns in school and sometimes at home or at events when overwhelmed. My mother simply convinced everyone that these were “temper tantrums,” going so far as to let my siblings call me a demon until I believed it.

As one can imagine, I’d developed other issues out of pain. I blamed both my mother’s and my siblings’ hurtful and ignorant comments about my emotional state for my weight. At the time, I was overweight, and thus a bigger target to my family.

Unfortunately, at the time I blamed myself more than anything or anyone else, like so many who will read this have done. But they shouldn’t.

We aren’t broken– people are just cruel at times.

Instead of of researching autism, my mother, a brilliant mind in several fields, convinced any doctor who would listen to drug me drastically.  This only caused my weight gain to speed up, making me fearful and causing me to develop diabetes from high blood sugar at that time.

She would later come to throw me out, abandoning me, after being pressured by my siblings who were furious about years of financial hardship and lack of gifts on Christmas Day– I simply wasn’t worth the cost of food I ate or the sparse gifts at holidays.

For years, with little contact with the family who abandoned me, I lived with relatives to escape abuse– and unfortunately that didn’t stop mistreatment and beatings. I was considered a burden there, too.

With no mother, I thought I was a monster. I thought that somehow I was so different in some invisible way that I couldn’t be loved– an illusion that I and you who are reading this must learn to dispel.

When I would start college to escape my hardships at home, where my relatives would come to treat me even worse than mom had, I began to research autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and even took courses in child developmental psychology and general psychology because I wanted to know who and what I was.

I wanted to know WHAT was wrong with me that I was treated so differently.

As I began to make friends and meet incredible people, I would come to realize something you as a reader must also realize: I was asking the wrong questions.

There was nothing wrong with me. Outside of my hardship-filled and toxic home, meltdowns were virtually non-existent. My special interests and mind were appreciated over time by my peers, and I excelled.

Once I was no longer being abused and involuntarily heavily-medicated, my weight and blood sugar normalized, and I was no longer diabetic– though I would have been happy to accept myself where I was with my weight, as you should accept yourself as you are, too.  Not everyone’s body recovers from that kind of trauma.

I realized that being overwhelmed was a factor that affected me and caused what I learned were meltdowns. I began to theorize even more that I did have some form of Autism. Many of my friends had been diagnosed, too, and I thought, “Perhaps this is the hunch I need.”

Shortly thereafter, I decided to seek out an individual who could diagnose me off campus. Finding the right kind of doctor and psychiatrist took over a year and a half thanks to insurance issues, but I refused to give up.

I am 25 now, and less than four months ago, I was diagnosed with autism. The difficulties I faced all my life made sense, and a flood of relief washed over me. With relief also came self-mourning and the crashing force of everything I’d overcome and endured.

This is extremely common. It is the start of the healing process in a neurotypical-held world that often degrades Autistic Individuals. It is the start of self-love and acceptance without the masking we developed to protect ourselves.

But also with my diagnosis, I thought it would help my family learn and know how to love me.  It didn’t.  It was only after I was diagnosed that I found out my mother knew since around the time I was five years old.  I had already been diagnosed, but she was so ashamed that she hid it from me.

Twenty years of living in the darkness, not having access to accommodations I needed, being shamed for my sensory overwhelm and medicated until I became physically ill– that’s how ashamed my own mother was of who I am at my core.

However, something I’m only now beginning to realize with the help of good friends and a wonderful therapist is that it was not my fault for how I was treated and mistreated. Often, a family member knows we are different and is unable– or unwilling– to accept us.

In closing, I wish to say that you will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you are so much more than other people’s opinions about you.  They’re not all capable of seeing you for your full value or understanding how truly much you are worth.

You were always more than the abuse that people made you to feel you brought on yourself.  You were always more than the burden people made you to believe that you were.  Even if you need help to get by in life, you are valuable.  Your ideas are brilliant.  Your broken heart is full of promise and potential.  Your spirit is full of Light and Love.  Or, You are you.

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37 Responses

  1. My life has similarities to yours. I am 61 years old struggling to get a formal diagnosis but sure of my self-diagnosis. I figured it out two years ago so, 59 years of thinking I was an unlovable asshole, a coward, a bully, a lousy father, a worse son and brother. Great story. Thanks.

    1. Sorry for those hardships you faced but I’m glad your here and that we all can empower each other. Thank you for your response and sharing your story !

  2. Getting my diagnosis last year, just before my 35th birthday was also hugely significant for me. that feeling of ‘Oh! I’m not broken’, relief and self-understanding was amazing. My parents didn’t know, but they suspected something was different about me from a young age, when my nursery school teacher said ‘She’s clever but she’ll struggle’. They worked around it although they never understood the sensory meltdowns, or the anxiety and my grandmother abused me for my ‘temper tantrums’ until she died when I was nine. Luckily, my family are supportive now. I wish yours were, instead of ashamed of you.

    We all have value, intrinsic value as living, breathing beings. Much love to you.

    1. That moment of “I’m not broken after all” was my epiphany, too. I’d spent my first 35 years thinking I was just a failure at being a person. It was such a relief to be wrong about that!

      1. Definitely ! and each of us deserve so much better than the cards we were dealt ! With proper diagnosis we are given a new hand, as we learn to live ourselves though, that changes the game.

    2. That’s my experience as well. I went through four decades +, not knowing, being gaslit by my father that told me I was a ‘sociopath,’ ‘evil,’ ‘morally flawed.’ When I was finally diagnosed with my congenital brain defect and ASD as an adult, shame and guilty quite literally started melting away, like the polar ice sheet.

      1. The people we love are often the cruelest but diamonds are forged under the greatest of pressure. We may not have wanted or deserved the powderkeg of the past, but we can use it’s explosion to propel us into the future. Keep up the great work.

    3. Thank you for sharing your story, I suffered alot at the hands of my grandmother as well. She had been there more than my mother but has also done and said things. In fact she and her son we’re the “relatives” that cause me a great deal of strife. Never forget your inner magic and be proud of your resolve.

  3. so much to relate to in this post. then finally knowing about autism really helps with understanding and being able to forgive oneself for being imperfect and also to forgive others who also had no idea and were struggling with so many problems of their own. nobody knew! Knowing about my autism has changed my life, giving me perspective, insights and a foot hold to reach out from for more information and more understanding. You are so right about all of these things. Thank you for a soul searching painful dive into the past, but more for an uplifting message that so many need to hear. <3

  4. Holy shit, I could have written this myself   Only it took me DECADES to know the truth (that my parents knew and hid from EVERYONE) I’m 57 with congenital cACC and I’m autistic. They KNEW I was ASD and lied to EVERYONE, including me. MY life was utter shit hell until 2009 when diagnosed (again.)

    I’m estranged from my family since I was an adolescent. It’s ripped a hole in my heart that will never heal, yet at the same time, staying away from them saved my life.

    Wonderful (if not sad) post <3

    1. Me too. My parents must have known but didn’t tell me or anyone… Ive been estranged from my parents and siblings for decades…yes it really hurt to do that but I would not have survived otherwise.

      1. Hugs* blessings to you both, I’m proud of you all for surviving what we have.

      2. Walking away from my family did save my life. They lived in a world where disability=shame/failure and carried guilt to their graves, alcoholic and abusive to boot. My therapist (and my priest) both say that my walking away from them likely literally *did* save my life.

        I’m resigned to never having a family again. I know you can ‘make your own’ family, but it will never replace the hole in the heart left by my biological family. This still rips me apart today :'(

  5. Thank you for your lovely story about your journey. Unfortunately my “doctors” (from an agency that hires doctors who lose their licenses for malpractice) have overloaded me with so many false, malicious misdiagnoses in their effort to punish me for being different that there’s no hope of ever obtaining an accurate diagnosis now, even though I am a textbook example of autistic behavior and always have been. Also I am female, and all psychologists *know* it’s impossible for a female to be autistic, so my only option will be suicide.
    But it’s so nice to see how easy it is for other autistic adults to obtain a correct diagnosis, congratulations to all of you for finding mental health workers who actually do their jobs instead of just try to punish you for being different. Unfortunately I have been trying to make them understand for twenty years and it’s just completely hopeless, so for me the only option will be, in a couple years, insert-pistol-in-mouth-pull-trigger, like so many other autistics do.

    1. Never give up ! Just because people are ignorant doesn’t mean you should let that ignorance win. I can tell by your writing that you are a beautiful, kind and smart soul. Truth is we need more people like you. I’m young, I know how terrible the system is and that’s why I wanted to change it through the inside. There are also many woman in the field of Psychology doing the same and it was a woman who diagnosed me. The sky is the limit for the potential our sisters like you have. Don’t hurt yourself because someone sucks in their field. Love yourself because you know better and most importantly that your feelings are valid and that you are loved. Getting my diagnosis was not “Easy” for myself or anyone else. Like you we each struggled for years, my abusive mother even completely shut my insurance off at one point , likely to hide what I had from me.

      It’s going to be ok. Like you I wanted to die, for a very long time. Sometimes we have to live on out of spite because the best revenge is living well. It’s never easy being Autistic. But we can surpass those false narratives and limitations society tries to keep us down with. I love you. Keep living. You seem like the kinda person who knows that you are stronger than the past and are gonna Own your future.

  6. Andrew, I’m sorry you went through abuse. You did not deserve that especially from family members. You are so strong and smart. And I’m proud of how far you have come! I hope you continue to thrive and I wish good things for you!

    1. Thank you very much. Bouts of nonverbalism when stressed and also age regression sometimes go unnoticed and I know I’m innocent and a bit gullible as some say when it comes to certain things. Living in a world that wants to take advantage of us is very tough so I’m glad that I can share my story and create a mutual healing .

  7. In the immortal words of the late British comedian Ronnie Barker’s character Fletcher in the British prison sitcom Porridge

    “Don’t let the barstuds grind you down”


  8. I can say this article seems very one sided. Its easy to blame family, or others for your predicament, but I’m sure your mother and family did all they could to find help for you. Keep in mind, also, that in recent years, Autism Awareness has skyrocketed, as the spectrum became larger and more individuals get diagnosed. This piece also doesnt say what symptoms you had, or what hardships your family faced when trying to find the best way to deal with your neurodivergence. I’m very happy you’re doing well now, but you should consolidate. That would truly be evolving and growing. 😊

    1. To everyone who sees this, this comment was written by the authors older brother. Someone whom never had to experience any of the trauma or abuse or nonsense that his younger brother the author had to experience growing up.

      This individuals IP address and all of his other information has been tracked down for violating conduct laws on this site and abroad. The individual has been blocked on social media and multiple outlets due to leaving heinous and disgusting comments meant to invalidate the feelings of the individual who wrote this. Any further interaction pending this will result in an active lawsuit based on the grounds of harassment. Please remember the invalidation of a contributor that has helped multiple individuals who struggle what neurological differences, does not change the fact or the experiences of both the author and all of those who have struggled with the same difficulties in life.

      Thank you to all active members of the Aspergian. Remember that cyber bullying is never acceptable nor tolerated.

    2. What in gaslighting, ableist, dismissive hell is this?

      Do you see all the comments on this blog from autistic people who have gone through the same thing? And you haven’t seen the hundreds of others around the internet. You’re not only invalidating the author, but every autistic person whose families didn’t even have the integrity to once in their abusive lives admit that they just couldn’t be inconvenienced enough or tolerant enough to try and feign some acceptance.

      You owe every single one of the people on this thread and especially the author a sincere apology, without your dismissive “get over it” platitudes and your “deal with your neurodivergence” bullshit. You don’t get to come to a publication by and for autistic people and talk about how we are burdens to our families who are so victimized by our existence. Your attitude is absolutely disgusting.

      And, let me make this abundantly clear– if you have anything else to say other than an apology that is sincere and full of remorse to the marrow of your very bones, don’t come back. One more abusive comment from you towards this author, and you will be staring down the barrel of a harassment suit. Disability is a protected class, you know. Don’t come here trying to commit a hate crime.

      -Admin & site founder

    3. What kind of horseshit is this? It says if you never read the entire article. Take your ableist ass and go somewhere else!

    4. Found the Allistic.

      I can say that your comment is very one sided.
      It’s easy to blame Autistic people for their predicaments, but I’m sure that the author’s mother and family did all they could to torture the author and make piss-poor, shit-awful rationalisations for their evil and ugliness.
      Keep in mind, also, that it would be so patronisingly arrogant to tell an Autistic person to keep awareness and diagnoses of Autistic people in mind that it’s astonishing that he’s done it, but hey, he did.
      Keep in mind, also, that in recent years, Autism Awareness has skyrocketed, as the spectrum became more researched and understood and more actually Autistic people got diagnosed, which is good because the alternative is much more suffering and confusion.
      Diagnoses now compared to diagnoses of the past not being at all relevant here, though, since the author was diagnosed at age five in the first place and being diagnosed again as an adult double-validates it, not invalidates it.
      It’s almost like the nasty commenter couldn’t pick between “Say that he is Neurodivergent and that it’s bad” or “Ignorantly say that diagnoses are easier to get these days to imply that he isn’t really Neurodivergent in a meek attempt to invalidate the Hell that he’s been put through by myself and our Hellbitch of an insufferable mother.”
      So he went for both.
      This piece also doesn’t list the author’s traits, because doing so would obviously be unnecessary and irrelevant, and only someone with Stockholm Syndrome who was making excuses for their abusers would victim-blame themselves for the abuse, and it does say what ostensible and self-imposed “hardships” your family faced like not having an opulent Christmas each year because of spending it all on drugs to make the author into as much of a zombie as possible without actively murdering him because then you’d have to go to prison, instead of spending the money onn, say, literally a few books to read about Autistic people making accommodations to subvert meltdowns. But no, why have an iota of open-mindedness or compassion when you can emotionally abuse the Autistic person into suicidal ideation? That’s obviously the better option, in the minds of psychopaths and narcissists.
      I’m sincerely happy that the author is doing well now, not passive-aggressively fake happy, like the commenter that I am replying to, and the author should sue. This prick deserves it. No idea why the author gave a warning first, very kind of him, considering the circumstances….
      The author has truly evolved and grown, unlike this vicious brat of an ableist, dismissive, gaslighting, arrogant, thoughtless, cruel, mean, and bitchy ugly soul. 😊

      1. Thank you. I’ve come back to this many times over the past few months. Your comments here and that of others were one of the first time that someone has taken the time to stand up for me and that means alot.

  9. Amazing story of survival. As a mother myself my heart breaks thinking of what you went through. It is definitely a turning point realising that none of the past is your fault. Am about to get my diagnosis at 35, finally laying the past to rest and giving a big middle finger to years of school and work bullying, being misunderstood by everyone, being accused of faking or being ‘dramatic’ due to my sensory issues…. the list goes on… Thank you for sharing your story.
    I wish you every happiness in your future life.

    1. I wish you happiness as well, thank you so much for your kind response. It is hard knowing others have gone through so much of the same but I’m glad we aren’t alone in this.

  10. Thank you, all of you. For everything. When I need encouragement I come back here. I love you all so much. I am far from perfect, I fight, I bite, and howl when sad. However having good people in my life that can hear my inner voice brings me calm. Thank you all a thousand times for loving and honoring an imperfect me. For seeing me.

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