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Distancing Myself From My Toxic Parents as an Autistic Adult

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My parents and I have never gotten along. Growing up, there was a lot of abuse around my autism. However, I didn’t learn it was abuse until I was in my mid-20s. I went to see a new therapist who, when I would tell her stories from my childhood, would stare in shock and disbelief at my treatment. I always thought things like being locked in my room during autistic meltdowns, being forced to mask my autism 24/7, or having my mother tell me that all the stress I put her through would cause her to lose her battle with cancer. I constantly got the message that my autism was a bad thing I should be ashamed of and hide.

It turns out that being autistic is something to be proud of, and what I went through was 100% unnecessary. Even writing this, I’m having to fight off a PTSD reaction because part of me still thinks my treatment was necessary and that I am lying by calling it abuse.

I wasn’t able to cut my parents out of my life until about a year and a half after I found out how toxic they were. There were two main reasons, one emotional and one financial. My elderly service dog, Cookie lived with them. She was the love of my life, but as she got older, it was easier for her to live with my parents because they had a more consistent schedule and other dogs for her to be with. I missed her terribly and would try to go to see her as often as possible. Unfortunately, that meant interacting with my parents.

The second reason was that my parents owned my car. They made the payments as well as covered the insurance, so I needed to make sure I had enough saved up to buy my own car before I cut off contact. My parents had also made it clear that owning my own car and being able to pay insurance was not something they thought I could achieve, which was part of the toxicity.

That year and a half was torture. Every time I received a hug from my dad, I would cringe inside, wanting it to be over. I would have to sit and stare my abusers in the face, pretending that nothing was wrong, just so I could pet my service dog. I hated the fact that I had to pretend that I loved them, when in reality I loathed everything about them.

Eventually, I was able to purchase my own car. I named her Phoenix because we rose from the ashes. And my beloved Cookie passed away, after many years of being my best friend and closest companion. There was finally nothing holding me to them.

I cut off contact completely on April 20, 2020. I wrote them a text messaging explaining my reasons for not wanting them in my life and promptly blocked all communication channels. It’s been a little more than a year since my liberation and I am doing so much better without their presence in my life. It can be rather difficult not having a typical family structure or an adult who is more adultier than me to turn to, but it is so worth it. None of my energy is wasted on trying to fit in with them or please them. No matter what, I would never be able to change myself into the person they wanted. A quote from “Wicked” really sums it up best. “Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love I guess I’ve lost. But if that’s love, it comes at much too high a cost.”

I know not everyone can be as lucky as me to not need to depend on your toxic parents. Unfortunately, we with disabilities often need high levels of support. My advice for anyone who is stuck in a toxic family situation is to try to separate yourself mentally as an individual from the toxicity that is being thrown at you. Believe in your own strength and try to love the person you are rather than the person your parents expect you to be.

Getty image by White Wolf Media.

Originally published: June 22, 2021
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