I decided that I would use National Novel Writing Month to work on a memoir that would be for my eyes only.
It would clear the way for other writing, I told myself. And maybe someday I’d be able to use some of it with names changed and things as an actual memoir.
Ha ha ha not going well.
I find myself describing therapists’ offices in minute detail and not mentioning what anyone said. I find myself skipping over stuff that matters. I cannot push forward with it anymore.
Here’s what I don’t want to write: My autistic son and I got into an actual fistfight more than a week ago.
He has gotten as tall as me and nearly as strong and while I have famously lost my temper with him a few times in the past, I have always just restrained him in a full Nelson when he got violent himself. I’ve always held him while he bucked and fought and tried to bite. I’ve dealt with him hitting me many times without getting violent myself and I had the bruises on my shin to show for it.
This time I couldn’t get him into the full Nelson, and I became triggered and began hitting him back. My jaw and my eye socked throbbed for days and then were tender to the touch for a week. Although he was fine afterward, which tells me I had some control over myself, I still hit him back. He completely triggered my fight response, merely by being too large to easily control anymore and making me afraid.
I didn’t want to write about it; the last time we engaged in violence I lost people I thought were my friends: in spectacular, hateful, judgmental fashion. I didn’t want to write about it; people have started having very hostile reactions to my kid’s violent actions now that he’s bigger and I can’t really take it without getting defensive and protective. I didn’t want to write about it; how do you write about your son punching you and you punching him back and how complicated and confusing this is when some people will see it as straight-up abuse and some as self defense when I think it was probably a combination of both?
Today in an EMDR session I went over a bunch of incidents of my mother’s physical abuse: one when I was six and I sat on her bed, my arms and legs and the back of my head throbbing from a beating, filled with rage and fiercely promising to myself that when I was sixteen I would kill her; one when I was nine and called her a bitch and she beat me for what seemed like a very long time with her fists and kicked me with her strong legs while screaming at me as I curled into a defensive ball; one when I was eleven and she beat my wet bare skin with a wooden brush as I stood there, arms crossed, totally dissociating and she gasped desperately: why isn’t this hurting this isn’t working why don’t you cry; and once when I was nineteen and she hit me for the last time with a hairbrush– I pinned her to the refrigerator, avoiding her flailing legs, explained that if she ever touched me again I would break her left arm at the elbow, and demonstrated how I could do it by causing pain but not actually doing it.
Interspersed with all of these memories was my memory of the fistfight with my son. I don’t know if my subconscious is trying to say that I’ve become just like my mother or what. I don’t know if our fight was self defense or abuse but I think it was more complicated and a combination. I do know that berating myself and believing the ‘friends’ I’ve had who told me I was just like her doesn’t seem like a way to keep myself safe around my children and I need to do something other than self-flagellation.
In two weeks my son and I and hopefully my ex start a parent-child DBT group. I hope this will do something. But I am worried.
I see now that anyone of a certain size who punches me in the face is not safe around me, and this is unlikely to change no matter how much therapy I get, and I don’t know exactly how I feel about that.
On the one hand, you probably shouldn’t punch your mom in the face and if she punches you back you will have Learned A Valuable Lesson. And you probably shouldn’t punch your children no matter what happens. On the other hand, sometimes autistic people simply do not have control over their violent outbursts and people with PTSD can get triggered and react physically with very little warning even to themselves, and it can feel very out of control in the moment.
Aw, motherfucker what a shit show.
I hope DBT will be magic, because I feel like magic is what we need right now.