I was having breakfast with my parents recently. I made a simple observation which had no intentional positive or negative connotations.
Me: This marmalade has got so many bits in it, it’s ridiculous.
Dad: It’s supposed to have bits in it.
Me: Yeah, but this is almost all bits.
Dad: Alright, shut up.
Me: Sorry, I didn’t think you’d get offended over marmalade.
Dad: [childishly imitating] “Offended over marmalade.”
I had made the same observation to my mum before and she had agreed with me. My dad, however, buys the marmalade because he likes it. I thought, as any rational person would, that this was the end of it. But one day, when my parents had been shopping, my mum said:
“Your dad has got you some shredless marmalade, so there are no bits in it.”
The important part of the story is what I did next. I dislike shredless marmalade almost as much as I dislike smooth peanut butter. But I started using it out of a sense of guilt that my parents had got it for me, even though I had not asked for it.
It occurred to me that this was a metaphor for the way my parents treat my anxiety and depression. They don’t act in my best interests but in their interpretation of my best interests. This is probably because I dont express myself fully unless I am comfortable and/or under interrogation.
Perhaps they don’t provide either of these conditions anymore.
Now there’s food for thought.
Today I decided I should break through the guilt of miscommunication and use the regular marmalade. My dad came in and asked if I wanted coffee, and proceeded to make me a cup without milk. It was just how I like it, except he forgot the sugar. I didn’t mind because he must have seen I was using his marmalade, yet he said nothing.
I had expected him to confront me and add to my existing guilt by saying “why aren’t you using the other one? We bought that for you.” This probably seems like an unlikely scenario to you, but I know my parents, and they are not above such petty disputes. Instead of this conflict, my anxiety had been proven wrong.
Although my parents had provided an unnecessary solution, I was not obliged to carry it out.
An interesting extension of the metaphor is the fact that I forgave a smaller error, coffee without sugar, because I didn’t mind the result and could easily correct it. This is like when my parents tell me to carry out supposedly therapeutic activities at uni. Anxiety means that I always take the path of least resistance, and sometimes standing up for myself takes too much energy.
This is a story about miscommunication, guilt and the negative predictions that arise as a result. Errors in communication may not be corrected out of respect for the effort allistics make. Internalised ableism causes me to feel like a burden. I accept wrong solutions because, y’know, at least they tried.
FYI, I just explained these issues using marmalade.
Who says people on the spectrum make unusual connections?