“What are you doing?”, he asked. He walked in on her in his study. She was on her knees, elbows deep in an old box where he kept his things from childhood.
She searched, frantically. “What are you looking for?”, he demanded again. She paused. Holding old school reports in her hand, she turned to him. “I figured it out, Joe. I know what you’ve been hiding”. His heart raced as he wondered what exactly she knew.
It was just another evening for husband, Joe Dean as he arrived home late again from another stressful day at work.
He was a busy man, always on the go. It was a coping mechanism. Pouring himself into his work seemed to be the one way he felt safe, the only way to keep his demons from following him home to his wife.
Growing up, Joe had a tough childhood. He was constantly bullied in school and painfully remembers the many times he felt ostracized and misunderstood as a boy. It left a mark on him.
Like a stain that tainted the dark corners of his mind. They were always there, the feelings of isolation and rejection, but he hid them well. So well that his wife never saw what was coming.
Joe was smart, very smart. In fact, he was a clinical genius. His unique perspective and high intelligence meant it was always quite hard for him to form friendships as he would rarely conform to societal expectations.
This was why he suffered from bullying as a kid. He was different. Some found him unfamiliar and scary, others found him plain weird. But then, there was Nicole.
Joe met his wife, Nicole, when he was 18. She was working in a hair salon and was new to town. She knew no one. Joe remembers thinking she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
It felt like love at first sight. And Nicole felt that too. She was taken by his charm and intelligence instantly. It was a match made in heaven, but everything wasn’t as it seemed.
Joe’s mother was a hateful woman, and with his dad out of the picture, he grew up never feeling like he was loved. It was tough to open up about his past to Nicole. So he didn’t.
Not completely. He only told her what he wanted her to know. She welcomed his vulnerability and pain with open arms and compassion, thinking there were no secrets. But there was.
At first, everything played out like a movie. They fell madly in love, got married, bought a house, and had kids. He was everything she dreamt of in a partner. But that would soon change.
Slowly but surely, the cracks began to form and Joe’s unspoken past came creeping up to the surface.
Joe had always been career-driven, it was one of the things she loved about him. But now, with the kids growing up, she was finding herself alone more often.
But what made her first realize something was wrong was the reaction she got when she asked him to work less. It was an absolute no. He claimed work needed him, but she knew they didn’t. It was the first lie and the first time she realized he had secrets.
Nicole thought she knew her husband better than anyone. He had odd quirks but she grew to accept them, even love them. But now, she was confused. She was failing to understand his behavior more and more.
She decided to look online and see what chat forums would have to say about her husband’s odd behavior. Should she be worried?
She opened her laptop and searched for explanations and advice on how to deal with his behavior. Then she stumbled upon something that made her heart stop.
She raced into his study and looked for his old school report cards that he kept in a memory box in the corner of the room. She was on her knees, elbows deep within the box when he walked in.
“What are you doing?”, he asked. “I’m looking for something, Joe”, she replied. “Looking for what?”. Nicole asked him to take a seat.
She found what she was looking for and brought the laptop to him. “I figured it out. I found out what’s been missing”. Joe’s heart raced as he wondered what exactly she was talking about.
She showed him a video on the internet and asked him to watch it. She pointed to the child in the clip and said, “That’s you”. The boy was on the autism spectrum. She showed him his old school reports. All the bullying, all the odd behavior. It all made sense.
The boy in the video was incredibly smart, just like Joe but also misunderstood and ostracized by his peers. His mannerisms, everything he said and did was exactly like Joe.
He couldn’t argue with her. His eyes widened as his whole life began to make sense. He thought back to every memory of people telling him there was something wrong with him or that he would never fit in. Painful memories he kept from her.
He always thought there was something wrong with him. Now, he knew there was nothing wrong with him. He was just autistic, he was just different!
Soon after, Joe and Nicole found out that their daughter was autistic too, which explained why Joe got on so well with her. They always had an inexplicable bond.
Joe thought he was able to hide his quirks from his wife but after a little digging and intuition, Nicole found the missing piece to his life that he always felt was missing. An explanation. A reason as to why he always felt so different!
Now, Joe wants to spread awareness about autism and how it’s a spectrum. He wants people to understand that different doesn’t mean wrong and that autism is a gift!
Nicole helped Joe understand himself better. She approached his differences with love and understanding and it made their relationship and family stronger and happier than it ever has been!