Normalizing murderous thoughts is not support.


My mother wrote to me a few weeks ago to make sure I knew that she had never, ever, once, thought of killing me.

It was one of those surreal moments where I sat there and thought, “If I were non-autistic, non-disabled, I doubt she’d have felt the need to reassure me of something that should have been a given. And I think a non-disabled person would have been puzzled to get such a message out of the blue. I wish I was more puzzled as to why.”

And I quickly reassured her that I knew that, and had never even considered the possibility that she wanted me dead. She’s my mother. Most mothers don’t want to kill their daughters. I cannot imagine her, or my father, wanting to kill me. This is not something that enters my thoughts.

Yes, our family had a number of very rocky years for a whole lot of reasons that I won’t get into for the privacy of everyone involved, especially since all of us by now have turned over a new leaf in our various ways. And not all of those reasons even had to do with the makeup of our family, they had to do with circumstances. But killing each other? Not even close.

Certainly, my parents were not entirely up to dealing with what society had in store for a child like me. It’s not like parents get instruction manuals for “What happens when you have a child that psychiatry wants to lock up and throw away the key.” But they fought for what they believed was right at the time, with what knowledge was available to them.

They did this even when there were threats of taking me away from them and making me a ward of the state, and even when a particular institution decided to blame my mother for my so-called “childhood schizophrenia”. (This is what they called it when my parents tried to point out I’d been autistic pretty much forever — at the time, my proctologist was the only person who would openly state the truth, possibly because he found a bunch of professionals’ heads up my ass during that exam.) This time period did not make for particularly happy times for any of us, financially or emotionally, but a few staff were the only people who ever wanted me dead for it.

And yet I’m still occasionally getting emails meant to reassure me that I’m actually wanted in the world and that they never wanted me dead, never wanted me not to have been born.

What on earth kind of message makes parents believe they actually have to reassure their own children that really, seriously, they never even once considered killing us, and that really, seriously, we were wanted?

I can only guess it’s some toxic mix of the constant stream of murders and the messages that the press and various autism charities send out about the supposed frequency and normalcy of such thoughts. This isn’t support. Anything that makes my parents, and doubtless others, question such fundamental things about their relationship to their own children, and seriously believe I might think they’d had these thoughts, is not in any way support.

And, to my parents if they end up reading this: Really, seriously, I’ve never thought that you would have wanted to kill me. That just doesn’t cross my mind when I think about you. I’m aware that you love me. Thank you for reassuring me, but please be aware that you didn’t, and don’t, have to. Nobody and nothing should ever have made you feel like you had to reassure me of those particular things. Nobody should have put you in this position.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

10 responses »

  1. I’m a parent of 2 autistic boys. We just started learning about autism in May. One of the first things we came across was the Autism Speaks- Autism Everyday video. I was floored to hear a woman speak of killing her daughter on camera in front of everyone, including her daughter who was within earshot. I thought “well, maybe that’s just an isolated incident.” But, sadly the more sites I researched, the more I heard the same kind of message repeated. This is all in the name of “awareness”. This isn’t awareness, this isn’t support. I’m sick of hearing it, and reading it. You’re right I shouldn’t even have to think about reassuring my children that I never thought about killing them.
    Oh, and I feel the same way about the t-shirts that say “I love my autistic son/daughter” Well, duh. I should hope so!Someone wouldn’t wear a shirt stating that they love their NT son/daughter would they? Of course not, because parents are supposed to love their kids, no matter what.

  2. Amanda, this is a very powerful post, showing that the cure groups aren’t just well-meaning people who disagree with us on therapies or language; their ideology is a profoundly evil perversion of everything that family life ought to be about.

  3. I never understood the “we’re being supportive” excuse, anyways. How is making it seem normal to want to kill your children supposed to be support?

    If someone I knew said they’d thought about, or felt like killing their kids, the first thing I’d do was try to make sure the children were safe. Out of concern for their children, and out of concern for them. A good parent wouldn’t want to harm their kids in a moment of emotional irrationality, and a good friend would see them safe.

    Subsequently, if the kids were safe (which depending on how serious the thoughs were, could mean anything from sending them with friends for the day to Child Protective Services), I still wouldn’t tell the woman that these feelings were normal and natural. Understandable, maybe. If they were only thinking about it instead of plotting it, could still see that killing children is horribly wrong, and had called me for help to ensure that they didn’t hurt the kids, I might even go so far as “It doesn’t make you evil.” But thinking about killing your children is a bad thing. At the absolute minimum, it’s a serious problem that requires intervention.

    And this isn’t changed at all by the child being autistic. Patting someone on the back for their courage in declaring, “Sometimes I think I should kill my kid,” is just insane. And telling them it’s normal or natural or even okay to think that is dangerous.

  4. This makes me think of some odd behavior that I see from my husband from time to time. In his family there’s an inherited neurological disease that his sister has been exhibiting symptoms of since she was very young. It’s a somewhat rare condition and it took them a very long time to get a diagnosis. After finally finding out what was going on, it turned out that the condition is very treatable and not really a huge deal. You have to take handfulls of pills all day or you won’t be able to walk, but that’s about the extent of the treatment.

    My husband has had some mild symptoms of it all his life, and lately they’ve been getting more obvious and more frequent. The condition affects women more greatly than men, so even when things are particularly “bad,” he has a hard time using his legs, and if we happen to be somewhere we’ve gone on foot (the first time this happened was on a rare occasion that we were hiking, and we walk to a lot of places like the grocery store or restaurants), he’ll have to lean on me to make it home. He always gets really embarassed (which I can understand – it’s always inconvenient and nothing he’s used to), but what really throws me for a loop is when he asks me if I really will stay with him “no matter what.” Like I’d leave him because he occasionally has trouble walking? I don’t mind reassuring him, because he needs to know that I love him and will take care of him when he needs it, but it still always takes me aback to hear him question whether I’d leave him over something like that.

  5. For the Beatles, “no matter what” was being 64. Lots of people have fears of being abandoned when they aren’t as useful as they think they should be.

  6. Sara: I have asked my significant other this same question as your husband, many times…….

    Amanda: I passed by a white minivan(which I’ve seen around the college program office complex off and on) that had the autism awareness decal…………the puzzle thing, on it. It made me come up with the following quote/meme, if you will, that I think would make a pretty cool t-shirt saying………

    On the front or the back of it, probably the front since most people see that first… would say “autistic pride” in capital letters, with an underline beneath it, and then the following:

    If you are ashamed of us, then you should be even more ashamed of yourselves.

    I think I will write a blog about that at some point……….I haven’t been up to blogging lately even though I’ve got many drafts going……..for me stuff comes out a little bit at a time……..


  7. AI/Sarah, my husband and I sometimes ‘feel’ the need to ask each other this sort of question, too. We ‘know intellectually’ that we’re never going to abandon each other, but sometimes we have a hard time actually feeling that we believe it, having had seen so many other people in the past reject us or others for being like we are.

    sorry if this is therapizing of emotions, which i instinctively find repulsive. but in this case it’s a question of it being hard to emotionally remember the thing that you mentally know is true. if that makes any sense.

  8. Thank you for this. My daughter is autistic, and at least once a week I have to explain why “Autism Speaks” is not a group I support. Some parents take the attitude that any help is better than none. Well…no. We don’t need that kind of help.

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