I was not fully trained until I was a tween. I have a lot of shameful memories involving my encopresis. It was only recently that I learned that it could well have been associated with my autism, specifically with a weaker interoceptive system.
A lot of fancy words to say: I pooped my pants a lot because I couldn’t feel the urge to go until it was too late.
One of those memories was when I was maybe 11 years old. I had just successfully defecated, and my mother was in the next room with a friend of hers. So I took her by the hand to show her my product.
She was embarrassed and annoyed with me. She apologized to her friend. There was eyerolling involved.
I couldn’t understand: When I was younger, she had rained accolades upon me, acting as if my turds were solid gold gifts from the heavens. But here I was, proud that I had gone through the entire process on my own with no mess and no crisis, and she was annoyed.
As an adult, I understand her reaction. Even at the time, part of me was aware that my window for defecatory celebration had passed. Like the Easter Bunny, it was something reserved for children far younger than me.
(Side note: I was surprised when I typed “defecatory” and it didn’t come up as an error. Yes, it’s a pre-existing word!)
The moment was a bundle of feelings for me: A reminder that I was too old to be proud of for such a meager task. A reminder that I didn’t quite get the scripts, and that scripts expire. A reminder that I was a nuisance, and an opportunity to flog myself for being so stupid as to not get any of this.
How would things be different if I’d been diagnosed autistic at that point?
My mother’s reaction would probably have been different but still reinforced that I was annoying. Instead of “I have no idea why my child acts this way”, it would have been “I know why my autistic child acts this way”, with an exhausted lilt that would have gotten sad looks of sympathy from her friend.
My point in reflecting on it this morning is that it was a moment where my attempt to communicate in a positive, albeit admittedly strange, way, turned into another opportunity for my mother to make something toxic.
Plus, in retrospect, it was a fairly autistic moment.