Here’s something I just realised this morning.

Aspies take some statements literally. We also usually think in pictures. So, if you tell me to “Duck!”, I will think of a duck. I won’t think of ducking my head down, which is what you are asking me to do. The first time I heard someone shout “Duck!” at me in order to put my head down, I kept my head up and looked around me for an actual duck.

This leads on to an even subtler literalism: my parents divorced when I was young, and my father’s main goal in life after that was to throw my mother under the bus. Nowadays this is called “Parental Alienation” but back then it had no name. Maybe “bitterness” or “heartbreak”. I don’t know. That said, I was seven when they divorced and this man steadily eroded any love I had for my mother, not only causing me to doubt her love for me but also taking advantage of my vulnerability and the ease with which I believed what I was told by people I trusted. He constantly told me she didn’t want me or love me. I’m not going to go too far into this at this juncture, suffice to say he did not stop this even after her death. He was still harping on about how much she loathed me when I was in my thirties.

She did not loathe me. I’ve come to realise that.

Unfortunately, however, I believed him for over two decades. Why? Because I took him literally – and she never said a bad word about him. He slagged her off endlessly, but she never defended herself. She wasn’t like that. She wasn’t into bitching and constant, relentless, unnecessary, far-fetched twisted criticism.

She was also fairly reticent and shy, so emotional displays from her were rare indeed. She showed her love for people in action, but it took me a long time to understand that.

So, think about this: he said she didn’t love me. She did not tell me she loved me. So I thought she didn’t love me. He told me she didn’t want me. She did not tell me she wanted me. So I thought she didn’t want me.

He said a lot of negative stuff about her – foul, evil, ridiculous stuff – that I believed because I was so gullible. Then, when I was older, I misplaced so much trust in him that I believed every word he said even as an adult. It wasn’t until he disowned me for my religion (different from his) and then lied about me to a relative that my whole mental world came crashing down on me.

I was an insomniac for over six months after that, after I thought, “Wait, if he’s lying about me, what else has he lied about?”. I began to understand what he had done over the decades and realised that he had let me send my mother to her grave thinking I didn’t love her, all to get revenge on her for leaving him (he even said her cancer was “karma” for what she did to him – she left him because he was an abuser). My step-father confirmed this: she did die thinking I didn’t love her. One of the last things she said to me, on her death bed, was to ask if I still disliked her … I was gobsmacked. I didn’t understand – I also wasn’t about to let a dying woman hear me say anything negative so I just said “I love you” (because I did – and do). It took me a decade and being disowned by a father who couldn’t accept my free agency to realise that I had literally believed him – and believed in him – well beyond any sane point, well beyond what any “normal” person would, even in the face of friends, relatives and my ex telling me that he is a bad, bad person.