(CONTENT NOTE: This post discusses abuse and harassment)
I’ve been thinking about something today and I thought I’d share; it’s a difficult subject for me to put into words, so apologies for the vagueness.
There’s nothing in the world quite like an autistic special interest. At my worst, it’s a safety net; at my best, it’s an easy go-to source of total, obsessive, geeky delight. For some people, they come and go quite quickly, but I have a couple that are definitely here for the long term; such a constant that I can barely conceive of a time before, never mind fully consider how they started.
It started with you.
It was yours, I was just being taken along for the ride, but we both know very well that fandom is contagious. Our Saturday nights were either cuddled up in front of the TV or frantically calling each other afterwards. In hindsight, I feel like there were signs I should have noticed, or shouldn’t have just presumed were okay: your assumption even in our teenage years that we’d just get married and live happily ever after exactly as you’d plan, and also the jealousy. You were jealous of male friends I had no romantic feelings for. Family friends much much older than me. Celebrity crushes. And yes, fictional characters. You didn’t like that something of yours had become ours. I suppose I just thought that was all just my own fault, for not being dedicated enough to the relationship.
But as your jokes became possessiveness, as your ideas became entitlement, as everything got scary, something else was happening too. I took that enthusiasm elsewhere; it became my social crutch in a new unfamiliar place and it worked, it laid the foundations for many more friendships, it became my thing, in a big way. By the time the real awfulness started, it was tied to many things, places and people other than you. It was tied to me, and that was more than enough on its own. When I tried to leave and you refused to accept it, when I actually did leave and you soon refused to accept that, when I had little choice but to cut off contact altogether, when you kept trying anyway even months down the line, I lost mutual friends, I lost mutual hobbies, I lost the majority of my (already limited) social life at home to protect myself; and being autistic with rapidly rising anxiety levels related to you or otherwise, I still haven’t replaced that. But this was one thing I didn’t lose; it didn’t really even take a dent.
Over the last couple of years, like a boiling frog, I’ve gradually accepted my fear and my hypervigilance and my sense of total inadequacy as my new normal, only occasionally realising that this probably isn’t the case. Maybe I’ll never know how much of this was you and how much of it was other things entirely, but when I try and recount this little story to others, even in the vaguest, most sugar-coated of terms, it reminds me that my trauma is real.
Then, as well as everything else a special interest does, the primary obsession becomes hope. It demonstrates that I can take something of yours and make it mine; that something inextricably linked with a negative part of my past can be a source of, well, total obsessive geeky delight in my present, without as much of a second thought. It shows that maybe I’m more capable of dealing with stuff than I think.
My ability to heal is bigger on the inside.