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  • Robin Kastengren

The End of the Road

Updated: May 22, 2023

I know that sick people scare people. I know it because they scare me and because I’ve tried my whole life to not make sick people even more sad by showing my fear of them. It’s not their fault. I’m not afraid of the person, I’m afraid of the illness and that’s nobody’s problem but my own because the fear is irrational unless the illness is catchy.

To survive in the house I grew up in, at least from my perspective, was to always look like you’re fine at all costs. I’m not sure exactly when or why I got the message that asking for help led to trouble for me, but I can name enough occasions.

The problem was that I got so good at hiding who I was that I forgot for nearly 25 years. I convinced myself that my shell was myself and everything on the inside needed fixing before it could go public. The shame that was with me at all times because of the belief that everything on the inside needed fixing was immeasurable because I am autistic. Everything on the inside is literally all that I am. The rest is just my arms and legs, etc.

When I tell you that my brain melted out of my skull when I discovered that my arms and legs were nothing more than appendages and everything on the inside was ME, I am not exaggerating. I’m sure I have brain cells that will never be in operation again from this experience. But the first thing I felt once I truly understood this concept was a joy so big I finally had no words for anything.

I get to be that person?! I fucking LOVE that person! Millions of tons of shame evaporated in an instant. All these failures I’ve had, all the amazing opportunities I’ve “squandered,” all the goddamn fucking potential my parents bragged about that I could never seem to monopolize.

None of it was because I was a piece of shit with no morals, no self control, no grit, no bootstraps, no fucking fear of god. None of my failures were because I was lazy or fat or stupid. All of the horrific situations I found myself in as a teenager and young woman suddenly made sense. The reason why I was so trusting of anyone who asked me to be was autism, and the reason I had no instructions for navigating the world is shame.

Well I don’t feel shame anymore, people. You can try and shame me all you like, but you’re just going to embarrass yourselves. I understand exactly why my life looks like this and anyone who wants to talk me out of it is doing it because they can’t handle their own shame.

Shame kills. Stop being ashamed of things that weren’t your fault, things that you had no ability to understand. So much of my own life was consumed with shame, to the point that I became too ashamed of myself to mother my own children for a minute there. They deserved better; I only make things worse for people.

Face fucking forward. Take responsibility for your own wreckage and clean it up. Then take a shower, put on clean clothes, and move on to something more fun because we’re all going to die someday and I’m done wallowing.

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