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When a Nightmare Reawakened a Fear I Had Before My Asperger’s Diagnosis

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I had a terrible nightmare a few months ago. It was strange, because I never really have nightmares. I actually have very vivid, lucid dreams nightly. I have a certain amount of control over my dreams that actually makes them quite fun. But this one… was different. It really shook me up. Literally, I could feel myself physically moving in my bed during the dream, which is a strange sensation. Normally I’m able to change dreams when they get bad, but that wasn’t the case this time around. I tried… but no matter what I did, it only got worse.

That part, at least, felt familiar. In grade school I struggled to be accepted socially, but no matter what I did, it seemed to only make things worse. I tried so hard to make friends, but had very little luck, and was always worried I’d lose the few I had. Which brings me back to my nightmare. In it, I was back in grade school. I was back to trying to make friends. And I was back to failing miserably. In the dream I turned to my parents, my constant source of support, for help. In the dream, I asked my mom, “Am I annoying? Do you hate me like the other kids do? Am I too annoying for you?” Of course, since I’m describing this as a nightmare, you can probably guess her response. In the dream, both my parents said they were done with me. They were sick of me. They wanted nothing more to do with me. And it killed me.

I mean, I knew it was a dream. As real as my dreams feel, I always know they’re dreams (also, this one took place in what looked like a stained glass circus tent, so that’s a good clue). But it still hurt. I spent the rest of the dream wailing, trying desperately to fix what I felt I’d broken. The other children went on to tease me because my parents didn’t love me anymore. My parents were desperately trying to avoid me. I could actually feel myself flailing in my bed at this point. I was thrashing violently as the mental and emotional struggle became physical. I thought I could still fix this dream. I became determined and stubborn. I wasn’t going to wake up, I had to fix this. I ran around from kid to kid, in hopes of finding support, but in the end they all turned away or added to my pain.

I woke up early in the morning feeling quite shaken. When most people awake from a nightmare, it often takes them a moment to realize it was only a dream, and then they quickly regain their composure and move on. But that didn’t happen. This nightmare had reawakened something in me. It brought back an old fear I had that I hadn’t thought about for years. As I mentioned, I struggled quite a bit in grade school. I often ended up getting disciplined in school because of it. I wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s yet, and I’m sure I came off to many of the teachers and other employees at the school as simply a brat, a “bad kid,” as some of them actually called me. And when enough people think of you as a bad kid, you begin to wonder if you are a bad kid.

I never spoke to my parents about it, and I’ve since long forgotten about it, but at the time I was so scared my mom and dad would give up on me. We tried so hard to get help, and I wanted so badly to get “fixed.” And I tried. Oh, God, did I try. But I didn’t know what was “broken,” so I didn’t know how to “fix” it. All the time this was happening I thought I was so, so incredibly lucky to have the amazing parents I did. And, sometimes, when I was really upset or struggling… I worried they’d realize what I already thought — they deserved better. There were times I was terrified they would just give up on me and that I would be left with no one. I often felt like teachers or therapists gave up on me… so why wouldn’t my parents?

Of course, when I tell my mom about this, she saw it very differently. When I was struggling, she says she felt like I deserved better and that they were failing me. It’s funny how we both looked at the same situation and saw it so differently. We both blamed ourselves. The situations was no one’s fault, though. It was just a series of misunderstandings and misdiagnoses that led to a lot of confusion and frustration. But we came through it, and it made us stronger. In the end, I know my parents got the right child for them, and I got the perfect parents for me. Even if it didn’t always feel that way.

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Originally published: January 31, 2017
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