“Won’t see what might have been”
This is a rather unusual crosspost betweeen LJ and my blog, since it seems to fit both.
As I was wending my way along 114 in my newish rental, it became pretty obvious that a particular situation has continued to ferment in the back of my mind. I didn’t have the mp3 player going, since 105.3 was playing decent stuff–and then they put on Metallica’s “Unforgiven”, which I hadn’t heard in ages. The tears started pouring hard enough that I had to stop on the shoulder for a while to pull myself back together.
Ah, music sure is good for bringing back memories, perhaps especially ones you’ve been purposely half-ignoring. Just being back here, immersed in all kinds of memories, probably helped too. In this case, I started thinking about my friend E., who broke completely down every time she heard “Unforgiven”, and perseverated on it for months. I understand that much better now; at the time, I just assumed that pretty much everybody identified with the sentiments to some extent. Now it strikes me as an unfortunately appropriate theme for the years I knew E.
E. and I met in third grade, when she’d been held back a year for “immaturity” and we ended up in the same class. She lived a couple of blocks away from my grandparents, who watched me while my mom was at work, and we started walking home together. We got to be best friends when she invited me to stop by and see their new accidental kittens, and stayed that way until after we both crashed out of college. If pressed, I’d still automatically call her my best friend, though I haven’t seen her since 1996. She did stop by once in ’97 and spent a couple of hours with my parents, though I was out, with no cell phone yet.
I have tried not to think about it too much, because it’s maddening, but I do periodically have to wonder what’s happened to her. I still love her dearly.
In retrospect, we probably bonded so strongly in part because we were consistently the two most obviously autie girls in our smallish school class year. I was just a lot better mimic. We understood each other, and both hung on the fringes. She was one of the notably few people who stuck by me 1989-1991, when I kept melting down and getting thrown in psych units*. (If you haven’t already, take a look at this post over at Ballastexistenz. It gave me flashbacks.) E. didn’t understand so well when I started hanging on the fringes of the stoner crowd, but she was always there. (That was a particularly good laugh, since I’m allergic to the green stuff and quickly start vomiting, but hey.) Vaguely gothy/punk/skater/purple-haired drama freak turned out to be enough better fit that it kinda stuck. 😉 My more persistent attempts at self-medicating with alcohol ended up about as pretty as with the weed, given my slow liver, but she still stuck by me. I stayed around through her two-year Bee Gees perseveration. *shiver* We stayed close after I got old enough enough to drive there and changed schools to prevent further meltdowns/suicide/homicide/you name it, and through starting out at universities in different states.
As I mentioned, E. wasn’t so good at passing. While I was getting treated like a klutzy, stubborn headcase with an anger problem, who just wasn’t trying, she was getting diagnosed with every learning disability known to man. Hmm, I wonder what NVLD, auditory and visual processing difficulties, and all the rest might add up to? I did get evaluated for LDs too, on the advice of one more clueful therapist (who later stck me in a social skills group), and got brushed off because my IQ tested out the highest they’d ever seen, and I tested “end of 4th year college” knowledge level in everything. Main recommendation: “she shouldn’t be in high school, and she’s probably just bored, and spoiled to boot”. Never mind the gigantic gaps between verbal and nonverbal stuff, never mind the gaps between what I knew and what I was able to demonstrate regularly, never mind that I was facing my third try at Algebra I, much less that I had to keep asking them to repeat things because of my CAPD–apparently knowing how to take tests trumps all. (The Kluge Center did issue a refund for the $3000+ they charged for three days’ testing to brush us off, the report was so ridiculous.) That was ca. 1991, and I know they weren’t even recognizing dyscalculia very often–much less auties who spoke to them–but the whole thing was a farce, for both of us.
Yeah, it wasn’t the easiest time for either of us, which made the mutual support even more important. The same held true when we both crashed out of college. I held out a year longer than she did, but understandable school phobia combined with a fresh dose of PTSD from dealing with a couple of sexual predators (one of whom stalked me for almost a year afterward) finally did me in. I was never sure exactly what precipitated E.’s crash, though it involved her mother acting even crazier than usual and her asexuality going by the wayside to get obsessed with a very unavailable male friend, but soon enough she was back from PA, and further diagnosed with Dependent Personality Disorder. *snort* For a few months, she got tangled up in an abusive relationship. It was about that time that she perseverated on “The Unforgiven”, which did suggest at the time that she had a better grasp on the situation than the ones doing all the diagnosing. Not unusually, we were both trying to figure out our sexuality at the time. We spent half the time just driving around, listening to music, and talking–basically a rolling support group that really did help.
In the end, though, we dealt with things in rather different ways. I mostly stayed inside for several years–geilt and inappropriately overmedicated–but finally came out the other end of that forge, hardened perhaps too much but in much better shape overall. E. decided she was really mentally ill, and probably gay after all, and took off for Florida with the stated goal of starting an entirely new life. I haven’t talked to her since then. Mostly I try not to worry about what might have happened, since it sure isn’t going to help, but sometimes that’s hard.
The main difference? I think family situations were most of it. Nobody close to me acted like there was anything wrong with me at all until–in one fell swoop–my biodad’s mental state deteriorated into angry abusiveness, I hit Radford schools, and I suddenly had to spend a lot of time with my emotionally abusive grandmother. (It would have been pretty rich if my family had perceived me as odd.) OTOH, E.’s mother had been at it all the time. Her mom comes from the kind of planter-class Southern family I’m glad mine does not resemble, and she obviously never measured up–the sort that disowned her for years after she married a New York Jewish autie.** E.’s mom’s epilepsy was even supposed to be some deep, dark secret. E. certainly never measured up, and her mother hardly hid it. She tried to break up our friendship multiple times. I think my mom was spot on, not even knowing we were both auties, in saying that E.’s mother was embarrassed by the contrast–wishing E. were more like me on the surface–especially since she saw me as of a lower social class. She was very controlling, and kept E. from getting the support I’m sure her dad’s family would have gladly provided. Oddly, E. felt closer to her mom than to her dad, who supported her unconditionally (and who seemed to think I was a good influence, incidentally–we clicked). It got so that E. would come to my house to get hugged by my mother, and cry. Apparently she did that when she dropped by in ’97, when I was gone.
Yeah, I’ve occasionally considered trying to look E. up, but haven’t been sure how to go about it. (If I got determined, I would figure something out.) Even more, I would be surprised if her situation were one I could help much, by now. I can’t imagine it’s good at all, but sometimes I do want to find out what’s going on, and try my damnedest to help. Unfortunately, I have trouble imagining that E. is not still dealing with a lot of pain and fear.
Returning to what started me off on this train of thought, I guess I’d have to offer the RHCP’s “Fight Like A Brave” as a musical counterpoint, back then. “Desecration Smile” is probably closer to it these days. “Serenaded by the terror bird,” indeed.
* Another friend, and especially her mother who was my teacher in one of the hellholes, deserve volumes of their own for their support. Mrs. B. made it obvious that anybody remotely sane would crack under the pressure I was experiencing, and that I was getting an extremely raw deal. Mrs. B. helped keep me vaguely sane, and I’d like to thank her. Too few people show that level of compassion, while she makes it a way of life.
** Rather amusingly, by contrast, my mom apparently was set to marry a guy whose family had escaped the Holocaust to Ecuador, until his mother broke things up. Not only was my mom distressingly American middle class, if he wanted to marry somebody who looked like that (*sniff*), there’s plenty of Indio trash in Quito. (Yep, she didn’t realize Mom, standing right there, was fluent in Spanish. Then she switched to French.) She married my biodad on the rebound.