Me and My Meltdowns: One Autistic Adult’s Experience

It’s humiliating and exhausting.

I was just diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in December of 2022, a few weeks before my 58th birthday. I wrote about what caused me to seek this diagnosis here. I’m rather new at this stuff, and I’ll probably be blogging quite a bit about various aspects of it as I go along, reading and learning and wondering what this means for me. I suspect that quite a few other people are experiencing a similar thing.

Check out my autism category for a list of relevant blog posts, and never forget that 1) I’m just one person, writing about my personal experiences with a thing I only just learned I had. 2) No two people on the spectrum are alike. 3) I am not a medical or mental health professional. 4) I’m not attempting to write a one size fits all autism advice column.

My whole life, I’ve had these meltdowns, where I cry hysterically, act irrationally, and feel completely out of control. The worst of these incidents can last for hours. They are exhausting and humiliating. I’m sure that those who witness them feel scared, helpless, and annoyed by them. They have caused me to lose a few friends, become estranged from loved ones, and I’m usually just on the brink of getting fired.

It’s only natural that people mistake these meltdowns for tantrums. They look similar at first glance. Because of that mistake, people often think that I’m being manipulative, because tantrums are all about getting your way, aren’t they? I even had one misguided therapist tell me that I was “stuck in my trauma” and that I “hadn’t matured beyond the age of 13.” I’ve also been called an “entitled little brat” and a “drama queen who is begging for attention.”

These misconceptions only add to my stress and frustration, and that, in turn, increases the intensity of my meltdowns. I try so hard to keep it together. It seems so easy for everyone else. I can probably count the number of meltdowns that I’ve seen in others on one hand.  And yet here I am with nearly 6 decades of meltdowns under my belt and no discernable end in sight. That doesn’t exactly improve my self-esteem.

The truth is that I’m devoid of any sort of manipulative agenda. During a meltdown, I actually want nothing more than to crawl under a rock and hide from the employer/coworker/horrified relative/random stranger that has borne witness to my acting completely and utterly unhinged. I have just as many meltdowns when no one else is around, by the way. No one throws tantrums in an empty room.

Afterward I feel drained and usually lose a day to recovering. It’s mortifying, and until quite recently, it has been utterly unexplainable. I constantly asked myself what the hell is wrong with me.

I’ve been told by many people that I should grow up, toughen up, and not be so sensitive. On numerous occasions I’ve been informed that I should snap out of it and stop taking things so personally. I’ve been called whiny, needy, weak, irrational, and a victim.

The worst one? When someone I love says, “For God’s sake, Barb, what is your problem? You’re overreacting. You’re acting like a child.”

I always knew that immaturity or manipulation had absolutely nothing to do with it. But I could never explain it to myself, so I couldn’t convince anyone else. Being so badly misperceived, of course, added to my frustration.

Because I have been incapable of turning myself into a more “normal” person, despite my best efforts, I’ve always felt like these meltdowns, along with all my other odd qualities, were my fault. I’ve felt like I was broken and needed to be fixed. And yet, as smart as I am, I couldn’t make any headway at all in those repairs, even after decades of therapy. I’ll never be accused of being level-headed. And that level state is all I’ve ever really wanted.

So what are these meltdowns like for me? The early warning signals are that I’m usually tired and quite often under a great deal of stress. I start to become more and more convinced that my mask of normalcy is slipping off, and I’m losing the strength to keep it in place.

I hope that I’ll become more adept at spotting these early warning signs, because at this stage there’s still a chance to avert the crisis. I can take myself to a place that’s less stimulating. Fewer people, dimmer lights, and less noise are all a big help. I can surround myself with soft, comforting things. A nap can be crucial.

But if there’s no opportunity to take myself away from the overwhelming overstimulation, or if I’m under a great deal of social pressure or stress, or if there’s a sudden change that makes me feel like I’m out of control, I can’t always compensate. If I feel as if I’m being extremely misunderstood and that explaining myself is really important, I reach a tipping point.

If I can’t take myself out of these situations, I sometimes think I can abort the meltdown by shutting down entirely. I stop speaking or moving. I try to get people to stop talking to me. This is not me being hurtful or rude or manipulative. It’s me trying to survive. At this point I’m hoping that shutting down will give me the opportunity to recalibrate so that I can cope. But this rarely works.

On a regular basis, I have to function under a lot of tension and exertion in order to keep up this façade of normalcy, but before a meltdown I can feel all of it starting to churn inside me like magma beneath the earth’s crust. There’s usually an exact moment that becomes just too much. I am unable to hold all this stuff inside anymore, and I erupt.

That “last straw” can be the pure frustration of trying unsuccessfully to explain myself, sensory overload, or big feelings that I can’t seem to adequately express. It can be someone verifying that they don’t think I’m behaving normally, or that they want me to change, or I get the message that I’m just not good enough as is. It might be that I’m feeling attacked, or that someone who has a certain level of control over me is not being rational.

I’m really grateful that my meltdowns have never resulted in violence or self-harm as they do for some people. But at this stage, the logical part of my brain isn’t working at all. I’m in pure survival mode. I feel like it’s the end of the world. It is impossible to reason with me at this point, and I’ve been known to say really hurtful things to anyone who tries. And that makes the meltdown even worse, because I then become terrified that my loved one will leave me or stop loving me, or that I’ll be considered crazy and wind up in an institution.

It may not look like it from the outside, but by now the inner me is curled up in the fetal position, in order to protect the emotional equivalent of my head and stomach. Usually my ears are ringing, and I can no longer hear what anyone is saying. I’m crying really hard, but the inner me is screaming in terror and wanting to call for help, but doesn’t know how to form the words.

Now the emotional storm is raging, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. Trying to reason with me at this point makes me feel even more out of control. The only solution is time.

Eventually the exhaustion becomes too much and I start winding down. It usually takes a day for me to recover. I miss work. I cancel plans. I sleep.

Often, people don’t understand my need for recovery after a meltdown, and they expect me to carry on with plans or errands or work or what have you. They figure it’s all over once I’ve stopped crying.

It’s bad enough that I’m humiliated and exhausted and I’m worried about how to mend hurt feelings, which is something I’ve never been very good at. But now you want to bully me to go straight into high-tension normal-acting mode on top of that, while my nose is still red and my face is all swollen and my head is throbbing?

If I’m forced to do those things too soon, I often start crying again. And then I’m even more humiliated. Why can’t I act like everyone else does?

Oddly enough, though, after I’ve wound down, I feel cleansed. It as though I’ve discharged a massive amount of negative energy and compressed stress and pressure. I kind of feel like a wet dishrag, but a clean one. My emotional regulation system has been reset.

Now that I have official proof that I’m autistic, I’m hoping to get connected with services that will teach me some coping skills. I’m already doing a lot of reading on the subject. And I’m fortunate that Dear Husband is open to talking about it.

Even though I still believe that these meltdowns can’t be stopped once they’re beyond the tipping point, I do think there are things that could be done to make them less horrific, if there’s someone with me whom I really trust when they occur.

This is definitely not the time to judge me or tell me I’m crazy. It’s not the time to call me names. It’s not the time to pressure me to grow up or snap out of it. Those things simply add fuel to the fire.

Every autistic person is different, but for me, what would help is someone hugging me really tight. (Preferably from behind so I can still feel like there’s an escape route if I need one. Making me the little spoon would be ideal.) And it would be nice if that person could calmly tell me that everything is going to be okay, and that they still love me and that I’m safe.

I’m thinking of keeping a sort of meltdown diary. I could look for patterns. What triggers me? What was the tipping point? Was I tired? Overstimulated? Confused? Frustrated? Was I feeling like I couldn’t express myself, or that I was not being heard? How could I have handled the situation better? What did help? What made things worse? What was I thinking during the episode? Did having something soft to hold onto make a difference?

Oddly, even without having learned any meltdown-related coping skills yet, I have noticed a marked decrease in my meltdowns of late, and when I do have one, it’s a lot less intense. My working theory is that a lot of my distress was caused not only by my utter frustration at being misunderstood and my total exhaustion from trying and failing to be something that I’m not. I think a good portion of it was my deep anxiety about not knowing why this happens to me when it doesn’t seem to happen to anyone else. I makes me feel so out of control. It’s like I’m handcuffed to a roller coaster, and I can’t get off.

But now I know I’m autistic. I’m still me, and I’m still riding that roller coaster, but the handcuffs are off. In addition, I have a greater understanding of how this roller coaster functions. Knowledge makes me feel a bit less powerless.

I’m not sure that all my loved ones get how epic this change is for me. I’m not saying I’m cured. In fact, I’m comfortable with my newly discovered neurodiversity. A cure is not necessary (or even possible). Coping skills are.

I’m definitely not saying I’ll never have a meltdown again. Far from it. I’m just saying that, from my perspective, even though my coping skills are not where I’d like them to be quite yet, on some level I know that everything is going to be okay.

That’s a new feeling for me. I’ll take it.

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Favorite Emotions

Every language is inadequate in terms of the vocabulary of emotion.

Complex emotions have always drawn me into their embrace, wrapped around me, woven themselves through me like a detailed tapestry whose design is, by necessity, as unique to me as it is to each and every one of us. To say you are happy or sad, excited or bored, in love or enraged, is to oversimplify your emotional state. Any genuine, fully-explored emotion is bound to be so complicated that it cannot truly be labeled. These feelings can only be described, and will only be understood by those who take the time to listen.

There is no adequate term for that feeling of intense pride and love mixed with the fear and bittersweet envy you feel for the young people in your life whom you know will soar higher and fly further than you ever did. Excelsior, dear ones! Don’t fly too close to the sun, but please do get a better look at it than I have.

And what do you call that laughter through tears moment when someone gazes into your most intimate pain and relates to you and it so well that they’re able to blast you out of it with a well-aimed, yet compassionate and humorously cynical barb? And then there’s that sharp, fleeting emotion that comes directly after that, which makes you think, “Dammit, do not make me laugh about this!” even as you are thinking, “I love you for making me laugh about this!”

Disappointment is not an adequate word for the feeling you get when someone sees something within you, or something that they believe is missing from you, when you know that conclusion is patently false, but there’s nothing you can do to change their minds. It’s never pleasant to be misunderstood by someone you hold in high esteem.

Even if a scary movie makes you jump or even scream, that feeling isn’t fear, per se. There’s an exciting frisson that ripples through it because you know you chose this experience, and therefore it’s also an adventure. Pure, distilled terror is something I have felt more than once, and I can assure you, it ain’t no movie.

I absolutely love that sense that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to do, and that your whole messy, beautiful life is what has led you to this moment. I’ve only had that feeling a few times in my life, and I’m glad of that, because it makes the experience all the more precious when it does wash over me. If anything truly does flash before your eyes when you are dying, I genuinely believe that these particular moments must surely be included. That’s why I don’t fear natural death, despite the fact that I don’t want to rush it along.

The reason I was inspired to write this post is that I was experiencing yet another of my favorite emotions: that feeling of shock, awe, admiration and surprise that you get when you discover that there is another facet of a friend’s personality that reveals a talent, passion, or expertise that you never expected existed. That complex cake of emotions is heavily frosted with a feeling of excitement that you’ve now got the opportunity to explore this other aspect of your friend, and that by doing so, you will learn even more about him or her, and by extension, you’ll learn more about yourself.

So it was today, when I was chatting away with my dear friend Areiel, perhaps the most global human being I know. He casually mentioned that in addition to the amazing life he leads that I know about, which is filled with a deep love for his family, a job that allows him to travel a great deal, and one that lets him effect positive change in the world as we know it, he also has a radio show.

Wait. What?

I mean, I knew he had an intense love of music, but I did not know that he had been a radio DJ in his early 20’s, and now, 35 years later, he has picked it back up again. And he has combined that avocation with his love of travel and his natural ability to teach, to create a show entitled Musical Highways, which you can listen to here.

And listen you should. Not only do his musical highways lead you all over the world, but Areiel also gives you a lot of background information about the music he’s featuring in that episode. I guarantee you will hear from artists you’ve never heard before, and you’ll learn oodles of stuff in the process. That is a delicious musical treat indeed.

I’m not sure Areiel considers himself a teacher, but he has taught me much over the years. We have talked about politics, philosophy, music, art, travel, and a whole host of other subjects. He has given me some excellent advice. He never fails to cause me to look at the world in ways I may not have considered independently. Because of that, this feeling I had in learning that the man also has another side to him that I have yet to explore is akin to discovering that you’ve somehow overlooked one of the very best books written by your favorite author.

English may have a higher word count than any other language, but it still is inadequate in terms of the vocabulary of emotion. But it would be a daunting task, indeed, to get the emotional recipe exactly right for every person and every mood. The very intricacy of emotions is what I love about them most, even during those quite frequent and frustrating moments when I realize that the very complexity of these emotions means that I am being utterly misunderstood by those around me.

It’s complicated.

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I See You

We all need validation sometimes.

When I first joined a grief support group, I felt really strange and awkward. But that’s kind of why I joined in the first place. Until you’ve lost a partner, you can never ever possibly relate to what that’s like. I desperately needed to feel like someone knew what it was like. Seven and a half years after the trauma, I’m mostly able to fly solo, but in the early days, this support group was such a comfort.

I thought about that today when I read an article entitled, “The Secret Society of Lightning Strike Survivors.”

No, I’ve never been struck by lightning, but I can certainly relate to feeling misunderstood. These survivors have a lot to contend with, because a lot of their physical maladies seem to have no visible manifestations. But when you have been hit by 300 million volts of electricity in the space of three milliseconds, it tends to short circuit your body in a lot of ways. It can cause heart attack, brain damage, broken bones, burns, unusual and intermittent swelling of arms and legs, body aches, mental confusion, post-traumatic stress, and a whole host of other issues that no one truly understands. That’s got to be isolating.

The article discusses how one woman suffered in silence for a long time until she finally stumbled upon a group of fellow victims, and learned that they actually had conferences. After attending, she still had the same health issues, but she felt better, emotionally.

She had been seen. She had been taken seriously. She had been validated.

There are no words that adequately describe how important that is to a human being. We all want to know that someone out there “gets it.” We want to know we’re not alone.

Sometimes on this blog I write about issues that often go unspoken. The writing thereof is therapy for me, but I also hope that someone else, someone who hasn’t spoken out, might see my post and relate to it. If I have comforted even one person, then I feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I really think it’s important that we all speak out about our issues and our illnesses and our differences in order to see and be seen.

Migraine sufferers, I see you. Sexual abuse survivors, I see you. Introverts, I see you. Horrified liberals, I see you. Tendonitis sufferers, I see you. Overweight people, I see you. Women working in male-dominated fields, I see you.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. None of us are alone. But to know that, we have to speak up. We have to find our tribe, and help others to find theirs.

Please try to validate someone today. That validation will come back to you when you least expect it, and hopefully at a time when you need it the most.

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Why I Air My Dirty Laundry

The worst part of trauma is the feeling of isolation.

Sometimes, perhaps too often, what I write in this blog makes relatives and friends squirm. I discuss my sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather. I talk about the sexual harassment I’ve experienced on more than one occasion. I describe my struggles with depression and my weight. I talk about my childhood. I rant about politics and other disappointments. I share the many ways I feel misunderstood. I expose my soft underbelly.

There are some out there who wish I wouldn’t do this. They find it embarrassing. They can’t even bring themselves to read my book all the way through, even though it’s an anthology of mostly quite positive posts. (I’ve found that the more someone knows me personally, the less apt they are to actually read my book or my blog. I suspect this will hurt my feelings less and less as time goes by. Time will tell.)

But I have good reason for airing my dirty laundry. I believe that most of us have experienced trauma of one kind or another. It’s a big part of the human condition. Personally, I have always felt that the worst part of trauma is the feeling of isolation. It’s easy to feel as if you’re the only one going through stuff if nobody else is talking about it.

And here’s something I can’t stress enough: None of these things were my fault. The trauma visited upon you by others is NOT. YOUR. FAULT. I say this because very few people will tell you this. Nobody told me this. It took me decades to figure it out on my own.

So I talk about it. I talk not only for myself (writing is excellent therapy), but also for those out there who feel like they don’t have a voice. If just one person feels a tiny bit less alone for having read my blog, then I’ve accomplished what I have set out to do.

Perhaps, too, it has something to do with my lack of filter, and my utter indifference to the standard levels of mortification. Or maybe it is more about the fact that I have complete confidence in your self-determination. If something I write makes you uncomfortable, I am quite sure that you will exercise your right not to read it.


Not alone

Finding My Tribe

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling.

I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of feeling as if we do not fit in. That’s actually pretty much my status quo. But every once in a while, I’ll go somewhere or meet someone that makes me feel completely comfortable and at home inside my own skin. When that happens, it’s such a relief. It feels as though I’m removing shoes that are two sizes too small. I feel understood. I can be myself.

We humans are so nomadic and so culturally, emotionally and politically diverse that it’s a rare and precious moment when you find a member of your “tribe.” It’s also a gift to feel at home. These people may not look anything like you, they may be a different age or gender identity or nationality or religion, but you can tell that they get where you’re coming from. And these home places may be far flung and entirely unexpected, but you know that a piece of your very soul resides there.

When you find your tribe or your homeland, embrace that feeling. Hold onto it if you can, if only in your memories. These feelings will remind you of who you are at your very core. And whoever you are, it’s nice to be reminded, sometimes, that you’re exactly who you are supposed to be.

finding my tribe

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What to Take with You

There are things that I know are true about myself.

I can’t speak for you, but sometimes I feel so completely freakin’ misunderstood that I even begin to question myself. It’s astounding how many people there are out there who are willing to tell you that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel or that you shouldn’t do what you do. The world is so full of noise that it’s hard for people to listen. And everybody’s a critic.

After enough time in that emotional meat grinder, I feel completely drained of my life force, and I start to wonder if they’re right and I’m wrong. Maybe if I just twist myself into a particular kind of knot, maybe then I’ll be viewed as saner, stronger, braver, more confident, less irrational, more well balanced, and more appealing. I, too, can be functional, if only…

“Stop being so sensitive.” “Stick up for yourself.” “It’s not that big of a deal.” “Here’s how you should have handled it.” “Why do you think that way?” “You’re making too much of it.” “This is how everyone else sees it.” “Grow up.”

It’s enough to make me want to crawl into a hole and pull a rock over the entrance. Just long enough to lick my wounds. Long enough to heal and remember who I am. Long enough to keep my wounded butt from lashing out and verbally tearing my attacker limb from limb. Because despite how much it may be merited, it never helps.

What do I take with me into that healing place? Truth. The things that I know are true about myself. The things that no one can take away from me no matter how hard they try. Everyone has a different set of things. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

  • I am intelligent.

  • I love my dog and my dog loves me.

  • I’m a good writer.

  • I am a fantastic bridgetender.

  • People can count on me.

  • If I say I’ll do something, it gets done.

  • I’m not afraid of being alone.

  • I love a hot bath.

  • I have a great sense of humor.

  • I’m good with my money.

  • I love to learn.

  • I have a creative mind.

  • I’m curious.

  • I draw strength from nature.

  • I can be trusted.

  • I live to travel.

  • I set goals, and I work toward them.

  • I am a good friend.

  • People confide in me.

I’m proud of these things. I hold them close. They are my passions, my values, and my strengths. They are what hold me together even when I feel like I’m being torn apart.

Never forget that you have your very own set of things. Take them with you wherever you go. They are what’s best about you, even in your darkest hour.

So, hold on to your truth. Tell your detractors to get stuffed. And don’t ever, ever give up.

learn to fly

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Sanitizing My Sanity

I need to stop letting certain things get to me.

I need to stop letting certain things get to me. To wit:

  • Situations over which I have absolutely no control.

  • Stupid people who are in love with their own stupidity.

  • Stress surrounding arbitrary deadlines that I’ve imposed upon myself.

  • The endless pursuit of nonexistent seals of approval.

  • The fear of missing out.

  • Bitterness regarding the unchangeable past.

  • Anxiety regarding the unknowable future.

  • My inability to feel as though I fit in.

  • My weight, which will most likely never change.

  • My appearance. Same.

  • My frustration over constantly being misunderstood.

  • My inability to get others to care about the things that I care about.

  • The secrets that I know are being kept from me.

  • My failure to convince people of the potential that I know that they have.

I need to wash all these things away. I need to sanitize my sanity.


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Character transformation. What a concept.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone, only to discover at the end that you were talking about two entirely different things? It’s very disconcerting. It’s like opening an important document, only to discover it’s full of incomprehensible symbols like this: �.

According to Wikipedia, when you get that garbled text, it’s a result of it being decoded using an unintended character encoding. It’s called Mojibake (which means “character transformation” in Japanese). I’d go into more detail, but it would quickly get over my head. Read the Wikipedia article if you’re into that kind of stuff.

But what intrigues me about Mojibake (aside from the fact that it’s a really cool sounding word) is that you can look right at it and know instantly that something is amiss. But you can’t always do so with the verbal equivalent.

Miscommunication can be dangerous. Wars can start on a misunderstanding. And as I experienced quite recently, friendships can end.

Confused conversations can also be hilarious when two friends finally realize what’s going on. But surely those misunderstandings can occur between two people, and each of them walk away being none the wiser about the mistake. How often does that happen? There’s absolutely no way to know.

I don’t like the concept that the foundation of our day to day communication is resting on sand, and can be shifted without our knowledge or control. I hate being misunderstood. I like thinking that the world is solid, and black and white, and that we all grok it in the very same way. But no.

I’ll just have to comfort myself with the fact that I learned a new word today. (Thanks, Mor!) And the next time I have one of those confused conversations that end in laughter, I’ll look at the person and say, “Mojibake, my friend.”


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For Real

God, how I hate being misunderstood.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made you question reality? Sometimes two people can draw such different conclusions from a situation that it makes you wonder if you come from the same planet. I had one of those recently.

A friend said, “You just called me an (xyz).”

I replied, “What are you talking about? That word never came out of my mouth. What I said was (abc).”

My friend repeated his assertion. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Especially since we were communicating via text.

So I said, “Dude, scroll up. Where are you seeing (xyz)? Where? Show me.”

Long pause.

Then he said, “I just talked to (mutual friend E) and she agrees with me. I’m not an (xyz).”

Me: “Wait a minute! Where is this coming from? What are you talking about? I never said you were!”

Him: “It really hurts my feelings that you disrespect me so much that you think I’m an (xyz).”

At this point, my feelings were kind of hurt that he would think I was the type of person to say such a thing. So I said, “On my life, I never said that! I don’t know where this is coming from. If I struck some sort of a nerve somehow, I’m sorry. But I’m not responsible for the nerve being there in the first place. You’re pulling facts out of thin air, so I really think we should leave it at that.”

God, how I hate being misunderstood. Even worse, I hate trying to explain something that seems perfectly obvious to me, only to discover that the other person just doesn’t get it. “But… the sky isn’t lime green with purple polka dots! Look at it! Look!”

I would probably be easily sucked into a cult. Because eventually I’d just give up and I’d really want to believe the sky was purple and green, too. Anything to make the world make sense again. After a while, I might actually see a tinge of green. And maybe a spot or two.

Or not. Who knows?

green and purple

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I am very confused by people who don’t say what they mean and mean what they say. That seems to be the case with a lot of people here in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s why I’ll probably always feel like a stranger in a strange land as long as I live here. I prefer straight shooters.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Seattle area. I just seem to spend a lot of time befuddled by its residents.

But it’s not as if Seattleites have cornered the market on such behavior. As a matter of fact, it should feel quite normal to me. My mother was the poster child for obfuscation. She would do anything, absolutely anything, to avoid confrontation.

For example, when I was about 6 years old, she bought me a pair of Keds tennis shoes. I was a creative and precocious child, so my solution to this boring white expanse of canvas was to take a magic marker and write “dirty” words all over them. (At that age, it was probably words like “poop” or “doofus” or something.)

I was proud of those shoes. By wearing them, I felt like I was pushing the envelope. Living on the edge. I thought I was being rebellious and cool.

Needless to say, my mother was less enthusiastic about them. But rather than say, “Oh, hell no! You are not wearing those shoes in public!” she simply gritted her teeth and let me wear them, rather than enduring the tantrum that most likely would have ensued. (I must admit that I was a brat.)

Then one day, we were leaving a grocery store, and as I got into the back seat, one of my shoes fell off in the parking lot. I said, “Mommy, wait! My shoe fell off!”

She must have thought she had died and gone to heaven. She accelerated. She said, “Sorry, honey. I can’t stop. There are too many cars behind me.”

“Well, then pull over there, and I’ll run back and get it.”

“We’re in a hurry.”

“I’ll run.”

“Too late. We’re on the street now.”

I cried in frustration and confusion as I looked out the rear window, watching my beloved shoe get smaller in the distance.

From an adult perspective, I think my mother was being spineless in this instance. She missed a teaching moment when I first created those awful shoes. She could have talked to me about the use of words, and how they can hurt or offend some people. She could have talked about common courtesy. She could have reinforced some much-needed and ultimately comforting boundaries. We could have sat down together and covered those words over with colorful flowers or something.

Most of all, she could have avoided having me think that the adults in my life are strange, unpredictable, and incomprehensible. Those are scary thoughts when you’re a kid. Instead, she took the easy way out.

Oh, I could tell you a thousand stories about how I came to feel as though the inmates were running the asylum in my household. I spent most of my youth wading through lies and excuses and pure fantasies. The sands were constantly shifting beneath my feet.

This kind of behavior made me prize integrity and honesty and safety and trust above all other things, simply because I didn’t experience those qualities very much. I longed for a world that made sense.

That’s why I say what I mean and I mean what I say. You can count on that. I don’t ever want someone to be confused by me. I hate that feeling of being misunderstood, not only because it hurts on my end, but also because I know how baffling it is for others. I lived it.

So just say I can’t have the damned shoes, already. It will only be awkward for a second. And I’ll respect you a lot more.


I’m proud to announce that my book is now available in paperback, kindle, and deluxe color edition!