Growing up, I feared many things: balloons popping, men, phones, balls, etc. One “normal” experience that caused many tears was being laughed at. When adults chortled over a cute thing I had said or my sisters snickered at a mistake I made, I cringed inside and often burst into tears. This sound of joy became a dreaded signal of my oddity.
Rarely did I make any jokes but the haunting laughter continued to follow me. As the years went by, I became even more paranoid. Now I did not guess that others were laughing at me instead of with me; I knew. This realization was difficult and painful. However, hiding it ate away at me inside. Was I really so weird that others made fun of me to my face? Why would people I love and respect turn on me like this? Would I ever fit in?
Looking back now, I realize that some of the people who were laughing were not teasing me. They might have been attempting to laugh with me at a joke or just enjoy the moment. Some, in fact, were not even thinking of me at all. Instead they were amused by something totally unrelated. Thus, I often huddled into a defensive position and hurried out of these situations because of embarrassment. However, if I had stayed to hear the reasons for joy, maybe I would have learned the truth and found more healing.
At the same time, I was certainly laughed at and still am sometimes. Hundreds of memories of being an awkward lonely teenager are evoked by this simple but powerful noise. My Aspergian brain caused me to take things very literally growing up. Jokes bewildered me, sarcasm was a foreign language, and even when I desired to fit in, I stood out. Thus when my peers chuckled after I stated that I did not like clothing (meaning fashion), misery filled me and caused me to isolate. Was I really such a joke?
A few years later, I have begun to be less awkward in public but still struggled to fit into groups of people my age. Although it had died down a little, the laughter continued. For example, when I answered a figurative question literally, chuckles erupted around me. Someone usually hugged me then and stated, “we love you, Anna Rose.” I never knew if I should feel flattered or insulted. On one hand, they were trying to enjoy my oddities. But I also felt belittled and stupid. What stupid thing had I done now? Did they love me or think I am crazy?
Looking back at those times in my life, I cringe but try to move forward. Was I hurt? Yes, but I do not hold onto bitterness or resentment. Instead, I am attempting to work through those agonizing memories and feelings. Not only do I need to forgive others especially those who tormented me on purpose, I also need the self-compassion to forgive myself for being different. Hopefully on e day I will be able to realize that it was my Aspergers, anxiety, and depression that made me a misfit. I am not a freak of nature but someone whose mind works differently than others.
For those of you who are support people, please think before laughing at those around you. It might seem like a humorous situation to you but you never know what is going through their mind. If you do begin to chuckle, let your loved one know what it is about instead of leaving them to assume they did something wrong. So the next time that you laugh, please stop to think about those around you. Laughter can be the best medicine or a stinging wound.