Benbrook: Money can’t buy me love? Living with PTSD.
Growing up in a neurotypical (i.e. normal… yes I know… what is normal… but it’s jargon) world, I remember the slogan immortalised by The Beatles, that money ‘can’t buy me love’. This was then a common theme repeated in warning by my care givers/teachers that you can’t buy your friends either. However, as a young ASD child growing up in the late 1970s – 1980s, where parents or teachers had little or no awareness of ASD or behavioural traits which then would lead them to investigating a diagnosis, especially in girls…. this was my barter system of survival that would see me through and keep me ALIVE.
The start of term return to boarding school would cause me sheer anxiety and upset, which led to some spectacular meltdowns at home. Small squares of my mother’s millionaire shortbread would occasionally travel back to boarding school with me in an old ice cream tub. When this happened, it didn’t seem so bad. I knew that I had some ammunition in my tuck box that would guarantee to generate some kinship with the other girls in my dormitory, even if it was only fleeting… but if I was lucky it might last a few days or even a week!
I just couldn’t work out relationships, how to navigate or sustain friendships with my fellow boarders. This continued well into my teens culminating in a disaster one day when someone read my diary and discovered a section at the back where I used to try to work out who were my friends and kept a list to remind me if I didn’t understand their behaviour towards me. It turned out that the girl who stole the diary thought she was my friend and was angry not to have been included on the list, but I had no idea and had always found her to be volatile and overwhelming with her confidence and rebelliousness – I never knew where I stood with her.
Fast forward to my working career. Until I worked for a large public organisation in my 30s, my life was focussed on giving myself for love and allies. Sometimes it was a very dangerous life, a life of poverty and I became the prey. I pretty much gave everything until almost my last breath, quite literally. NOT GOOD! Undiagnosed ASD and CPTSD actually nearly killed me or got me killed!
(Right, this is NOT a pity party!… Now I’ve had my 2 minutes of feeling a victim for the today let’s move on….sorry everyone!)
So back to the title of this article ‘money can’t buy me love?’
Can’t it? Yes it bloody well can!
It takes a long time to develop a real relationship when you have ASD (and CPTSD to boot) whether it is friendship or more. The anxiety that goes with socialising and making friends, which you then have to make a conscious commitment to nurturing and developing relationships with is… EXHAUSTING.
Nicci version 2.0, aged 43, now overstands herself in this department.
We all need our love tanks filled up don’t we? Well, I’m sorry to say I’m going to reveal a very first world approach and coping mechanism, but it works for me.
I have a personal trainer, a pilates teacher, a piano teacher, a cleaner and a talking therapist. Every week they come to my house, with the exception of my therapist who is via the telephone). I pay them. I know they’re coming. Even when I wake up and I am so introverted I don’t want to go out of the house, or see or talk to anyone, they’re coming and I have to deal with that. Of course, physical movement provides healing and boosts my positive mental attitude. However, what comes with that is absolutely PRICELESS. It’s the chit chat, the banter, the little laughters. It’s the regular slot in my routine, no surprises. Plus, there are no strings attached, no hidden agendas.
- With my personal trainer we chat mostly about superhero films and tv series, which feeds my childhood obsession with Spiderman and X-Men comics and my love of Marvel and DC films.
- With my pilates teacher we chat about her horse’s latest antics, her passion for pilates and I occasionally blurt out something I did that week when I get an urge to share, because she’s so incredibly lovely and compassionate. Yes, I sometimes get that good old bout of remorse afterwards, but I don’t see her again for another week and I know I’ll get over it and we’ll be back to square one conversationally.
- I have piano lessons, not because I am learning, but because playing the piano is my natural emotional outlet and talent and always has been from around the age of 4. Not until I read James Rhodes’ autobiography as part of my healing process and self-awareness did I realise that this was the one God-given thing that no-one who did bad things to me either gave me or contributed to in anyway that it would leave a bitter aftertaste. So I recently Google’d a teacher in my area and prayers were answered. Not only do I have an amazing piano teacher, but now a new friend too. And by the way he’s also in therapy. Vibe attracts tribe?
- Our cleaner is also now our babysitter and although we don’t see each other for an hour or so like a trainer/teacher/therapist, there are the little exchanges or ‘how are yous’. I clean my house too, but she’s there to ensure that I don’t get bogged down in it, as with my ASD sometimes I can get quite OCD with mess and dirt. She’s my back up plan and lifesaver to keep us all on track as a household with one less thing to worry about or schedule into an already hectic week with two young children and busy jobs.
- I have been with my therapist for almost 7 years and she knows more about my life than anyone on this planet. Sometimes she gets angry for me and uses the f-word too just to indicate to me that actually what happened to me was not f-ing ok! When this first happened I was quite shocked! LOL. Felt really good though having someone being angry for me for the first time in my life (sadly not until I was about 36 yrs old though…sigh…). Even if I’m not physically in her clinic room she sends me hugs down the telephone when I really need them, I picture her and it’s an emotional moment of not feeling truly alone on my journey.
I do have a small number of close friends, most of whom don’t live near me anymore as we have moved around quite a bit for my husband’s job. The friends I do have are very loving and kind and we meet up every few months to catch up. However, I’m not good on the phone or skype/facetime’ing as it just makes me feel awkward and and anxious.
Outside help and support for living with both ASD and CPTSD is vital for my mental well being, my marriage and relationships. Regular sessions with my life coaches (physical and mental. health) in particular make sure that I keep communicating, hearing the sound of my own voice in conversation and sharing out loud with other human beings… taking me out of my comfort zone, but in a safe way.
MONEY BUYS ME LOVE (well, some of it anyway).
Benbrook: Money can’t buy me love? Living with PTSD. (c) 2019 Laura Devlin