Trigger warning: brief mention of suicide, death
Offending and upsetting others is one of my biggest fears.
I’ve been trained not to upset. Not to offend.
Because I can’t really tell when people get offended, upset, or disappointed. I was trained to pick up some signs, because my parents were concerned I didn’t have empathy when I was younger (because I couldn’t tell when people were offended or upset). So I was taught and I was very thoroughly trained on the importance of not upsetting, the importance of not offending.
So every time something upset someone, and it was told to me, it was added to my list of not upsetting, offending, disappointing.
My roommate’s uncle committed suicide. No talking about killing yourself as a figure of speech. Or any mention whatsoever. My roommate’s cousins died in a car crash. No talking about any car accidents or saying “I almost got run over” or “I could have been run over” when I trip off the sidewalk into the road. Another friend has an abusive father. No talking about fathers at all around her. And so it went. Until each person had a list of piles and piles of things not to mention around them.
It’s no wonder conversation gets difficult, when there are mountains of things that can’t be discussed. And then when you are in groups, you have to compile the whole set of lists for each person. It slows down the conversation, checking the offensive and upsetting lists.
It’s especially a problem when it comes to people and groups of people I don’t belong to or I don’t know much about. And because I don’t know much about them, I don’t know what’s insulting (I don’t know what’s insulting to anyone beyond my close family). And then I am afraid to talk.
I’m worried about accidentally insulting or offending different ethnic groups.
My faceblindness is a big issue with this. I do not recognize people by their faces. It is just an absolutely hopeless task for me. I recognize people primarily by their hair and the way they move. If I don’t know them well, just by their hair. (This has gotten me called racist before. It has also gotten called the worst part of a retreat–that I didn’t learn everyones name!) (I knew all the names, I just couldn’t match them all to the faces.)
I’m really afraid I will accidentally offend the LGBTQ community somehow. I’m worried about offending, upsetting, and disappointing other autistics. The general disability community.
I’ve written posts and deleted them. I’ve looked at sentences for hours and hours because maybe they might just be offensive. I’ve analyzed and fine-tuned my language (here), which can be helpful, but can also be overwhelming. (Normally, I would run them by someone else, who might have a better idea on what offends others, but this blog is a secret to everyone who knows me.)
I think I may be overly worried about offending and upsetting people, but the worst thing in the world is to disappoint.