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Chapter 13: Sher Bear

Ever since I can recall, "Sher Bear" has been my cherished nickname. I believe my father bestowed this endearing and synchronistic name upon me. It became the name by which I was affectionately known at home, among my sisters, mother, father, and all my closest friends and relatives during my formative years. When the Care Bear Share Bear made its debut in 1983, I was a four-year-old child, and even in my youthful innocence, I attributed great significance to it. Being identified as the Share Bear instilled within me the value of sharing, a principle I embraced and sought to embody. Consequently, I grew up as an agreeable and giving individual, a trait that has endured into my adulthood, particularly when it comes to meeting the needs of others.

Following my divorce from my ex-husband, I made the choice to adopt the name Sher instead of my original name, Sherri. This abbreviated version was introduced by the man I was dating back then, and it quickly gained popularity among my new circle of friends. I opted to embrace this change for multiple reasons, but the most profound motive was my desire to create distance between the person I had become as Sherri and the new chapter I was embarking upon.

I deeply regret my act of infidelity towards my husband, and it has brought immense shame upon me. This behavior is entirely out of character, and the circumstances surrounding it were convoluted and emotionally distressing. Today, I am opening up and revealing the complete narrative of what transpired. It is essential to recognize that every story encompasses various characters and perspectives, and what follows is my personal recollection of the events leading to the deterioration of my relationship with Dan and the trauma that ensued.

I was 22 when met Dan at a sport bar, where I worked as a cocktail waitress. At that time, I had recently returned from southern California after completing my studies at University. Spencer, my college boyfriend, and I attempted to maintain a long-distance relationship, but it was evident that I needed someone who was nearby. Therefore, I ended things with Spencer over the phone on the same day I met Dan.

After my shift, I sat alone sipping a cold beer and playing pool when I noticed Dan's piercing ice blue eyes from across the room. I observed how he slowly moved from one spot to the next and caught him looking at me from the corner of my eye. Although I am usually standoffish towards the opposite sex and not a flirt, I knew I wanted to meet him and decided to make a move. I approached him and asked if he wanted to play pool with me, and to my delight, we hit it off immediately. Before the night was over, he had extended an invitation for me to go snowboarding with him the following day.

Dan and I shared a great bond, and we spent hours discussing various topics sitting on his front porch of his little home. He had a unique ability to understand and acknowledge my perspective, which made me feel valued. I distinctly remember a conversation early in our relationship where we discussed emotions. As a child, I had never been encouraged to express my feelings, and I had not developed much self-awareness regarding my emotions by the age of twenty-two. Dan was 24 at the time and shared that his father had a personality that upheld toxic masculinity, and as a result, both Dan and I believed that emotions were overrated.

Both of us favored realism and atheism over exhibiting our emotions or identifying with any spiritual beliefs.

This sets the stage for the next sixteen years of our lives. Just two months into our relationship, Dan and I received the unexpected news that we were expecting twins. Although it brought surprise and undoubtedly posed challenges, we approached the situation with a pragmatic mindset. We understood the significance of creating a two-parent household for our children. Despite the circumstances, our love for each other remained strong, and we were firmly committed to overcoming any obstacles that lay ahead.

During pregnancy, my small frame struggled, especially with two babies growing inside me. Before pregnancy, I weighed only 110 pounds, but by the day Hunter and Dexter were born, I weighed 205 pounds. Additionally, I was overwhelmed and scared about becoming a mother, so I channeled all my energy into being the best mom possible. I strongly believed that our children should be raised at home and not sent to daycare. As a result, I worked in the evenings and Dan worked during the day, which meant we only saw each other on weekends and sometimes in the evenings. This gave Dan the freedom to do as he pleased, and I think this arrangement is what allowed our relationship to flourish for so many years.

We relocated from Portland, OR to Bend, OR when our twin boys were just six weeks old. Dan desired to be closer to his parents, and I was eager to reside in a more intimate community. Our time in Bend proved to be the highlight of our relationship. However, when the boys reached the age of two, Dan treated me rather harshly for a time. He taunted me often, claiming that I had knowledge but lacked street smarts and using my naivety against me. I confided in his brother Aaron, who may have spoken to Mat, and one night, after a few drinks, I told Dan that I was fed up and wanted to end our relationship. Dan straightened up and became significantly more pleasant after that incident.

When the boys were 2 ½, we had a beautiful self-organized wedding ceremony on the Oregon coast, which was followed by a reception filled with over a hundred friends and family. Our life was wonderful, and we spent our weekends camping and dirt bike riding. Although drinking was present, it was limited to weekends and didn't disrupt our lives. Despite being content, I couldn't help but miss my family and felt that there were limited career opportunities for me in Bend. During this time, I had put my career on hold and worked as a bartender at Applebee's to pay the bills.

We spent a solid eight years in Bend, during which we were mostly content, before relocating to Portland when our boys were in the second grade. Despite our initial excitement about moving back to Portland, our happiness was cut short when Dan's father passed away a year later due to alcohol abuse. This marked the beginning of the end of our relationship. Looking back there were many warning signs that I failed to recognize at the time. Dan became increasingly obsessed with cocaine, gambling, and going to bars, leaving me feeling neglected and alone.

Due to my inability to cope with rejection and abandonment, I found myself tailing him like a faithful pup and engaging with troubled individuals who were up to no good. As they say, the company you keep can influence your behavior, and this is precisely what occurred. My emotional strength was insufficient to cope with Dan's method of handling his sorrow, which involved pushing me away. Therefore, I resorted to drinking and, ultimately, seeking solace in the arms of another man.

I have never confided in anyone about this, but I honestly trusted that this individual had my best interests in mind. He seemed to grasp the challenges I was facing and was willing to provide the emotional support I needed. However, when things became difficult, he deserted me and pursued his own life, this rejection was devastating for me. Our interpretations of the relationship starkly differed. I, in my naivety, genuinely believed in his love for me, as my feelings towards him went beyond a mere physical encounter. That was when I started spiraling down into a state of shame and despair. As a result, my drinking habits worsened with frequent blackouts, culminating in a DUI charge.

I will postpone sharing the remainder of the story of Dan and I until a later part of the book. Currently, I am feeling overwhelmed and emotional reflecting on some of the events from my past, so I require a brief respite. I hold no grudges against Sherri or Dan for that matter and understand that we both lacked knowledge at that time. I firmly believe that as we acquire new knowledge, we become better and make better choices. Sher has gained knowledge and is constantly working towards self-love, which inspires me to communicate my needs, emotions, and desires more effectively in my relationships with increased confidence and strength. My lack of awareness in this area of my relationship with Dan resulted in co-dependency and resentment, which proved to be a significant blind spot.

Furthermore, I strongly believe that my failure to recognize my neurodiversity caused tensions in my relationship with Dan and impacted many of my personal and professional relationships in the past. I share these personal details with the hope that someone reading my story can relate and not feel ashamed of their past mistakes. We are all flawed and make errors, and we do the best we can with what we have. If I had been aware of my autism, I might have sought mental health support instead of resorting to alcohol as a coping mechanism. Had there been less societal and internal stigma around mental health support and emotional recognition and regulation, I might have approached things differently. Although I am relieved that I have emerged from that dark phase in my life, I do not wish for anyone else to lose their dignity as I did and that is why I tell story.

	While reading an enlightening article by C.L. Lynch, a neurodivergent writer and advocate on the Neuroclastic website, I stumbled upon something truly fascinating about myself. Lynch expresses a "longing for someone to depend on", and that sentiment resonates deeply within me. It has prompted profound introspection regarding my inherent yearning, or rather, my genuine need to rely on others. This need lies at the core of my autism and is where social stigma impacts me the most. Despite outward appearances of intelligence, people often assume that I can manage without assistance in what they perceive as simple tasks. 

However, organizing, task reminders, clear cooking instructions, remembering to eat, social support, and even allowing for recovery from sensory overload are all immensely challenging for me to navigate independently. Yet, society often misinterprets my struggles as immaturity or, worse, incompetence. It is crucial to emphasize that I am not incompetent; I am simply autistic. I am also an autodidact, having devoured over 100 books this year and authored two of my own. Nevertheless, I still require support, and it is an arduous endeavor to expose this innate vulnerability.

In the face of substance use or mental health challenges, it is vital to remember that help is available. While Alcoholics Anonymous provides a valuable starting point, it is important to recognize its imperfections especially for neurodivergent individuals. There exist numerous pathways to healing, encompassing spirituality groups, psychedelic therapy, counseling, group therapy, and an array of non-western holistic approaches. We must not underestimate the significance of psychoeducation and self-discovery in this journey.

As an advocate, I encourage the exploration of diverse methods, embracing what resonates and relinquishing what does not. Firmly believing that healing is a profound odyssey without a singular, universally applicable route, I acknowledge its undeniable difficulty while emphasizing the immense rewards it offers—liberation and transcendence await those who embark on this transformative process.

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