As I wrote with Essay #1: Marathon Suicide, I’ll be sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my daughters, mom life, grief and mental health. I hope they make you smile, I hope they make you cry, I hope to spread an understanding of high functioning autism and mostly I hope they allow other moms to not feel alone. I’d love your feedback! Names have been changed for privacy.
Good thing my large sunglasses covered the entirety of my eyes, hiding the fact that I cried the entire drive from Connecticut to Yankee Stadium in New York. Michael drove, the car was full of family members plus my daughters and no one knew the blubbering mess I was making of myself in the third row of seats at the back of the car. Olive sat right next to me and thankfully had on her headphones and listened to her own music, she didn’t hear my sobs. A light bulb lit up. This is it.
Everything came together, the sun, moon and stars all aligned and gleamed on me. I had used my phone to research Asperger’s Syndrome and realized this is exactly the affliction going on with my baby. This is what my world has been since Olive came into it almost twelve years ago. We went all this time, all through elementary school not knowing, not getting her help. I just thought I belonged at The Worst Mom Prison. Olive has a different kind of brain. The immaturity and lack of friends, the repetitive behaviors, the singular obsessive interests, noise sensitives and lack of empathy, it’s all there. Was I blind? How did I not see this before today? The guilt and despair amplified the crying. I did belong in The Worst Mom Prison.
I faked it and outwardly enjoyed the baseball game. How could I bring this up now anyway? I had a few false laughs, clapped and stood up when appropriate, following the crowd around me. I drank a few beers, thinking drowning out the nonstop thinking and hyperventilating would work. Nope. The girls must have sensed my distraction because they didn’t bother me too much, very unlike them. I suggested we leave early, beat the traffic getting out of the stadium and Michael agreed. He must have sensed something going on with me and my lack of enthusiasm for the game. Night had fallen before we got out of the New York City area and good thing because my tears are now falling again and likely will be the whole two-hour drive home.
I have pangs of fear Michael will disagree with my revelation, we seem to have yin and yang attitudes lately, especially where the girls are concerned. After we tuck the three little ladies in bed, I will spill my guts. It’s late and I know he will want to go right to sleep but this can’t wait until morning.
“I spent a few hours today researching Asperger’s Syndrome, Audrey suggested I look into it. I think Olive has it. She shows many of the characteristics, see here.” I showed Michael my phone so he could see the list of signs. “What do you think?”
“So, this is what had you so distracted today.” My fake Yankee excitement didn’t work on him. Several minutes go by, feeling like hours, as I stand in the kitchen picking at my fingers and staring at my husband. “Wow, I think you might be right Sarah.”
I can’t stop more tears from coming. How did I have more left in there? Michael isn’t a crier and he starts too. I feel heartache for my daughter and what she has had to go through all this time, figuring out life while not getting the extra help she needed. “I’m glad you see it too and what do we do now?”
His doctor demeanor takes over, “let’s talk to the pediatrician and contact the school, there has to be something they can help with to get the ball rolling on a diagnosis.” That word, diagnosis, repeated in my brain a few times. Yes, my child will need a diagnosis by a professional. Yes, I need to focus on the future and get my thoughts out of the past. We need a diagnosis.
We decide to write up a game plan, that’s how I roll, need to make a list of to-dos, keep my brain organized. I hop on the computer and type an email to the school director at Olive’s new middle school and pray she gets back to me as soon as possible. I’ll put calling the pediatrician at the top of my week’s priorities.
“It’ll be OK, Olive will be fine. We will get her help and she will be a fully functioning adult one day. Don’t worry.” Michael is always the voice of reason and calmness, sometimes angering me, sometimes soothing me. Tonight, I feel calm as I rest my head into his shoulder and soak his pajamas with my tears.
The glow of my alarm clock spot lighting in the darkness feels like an illumination on my existence; it’s your turn Sarah, what say you? What will you do with this new information and how will it change your life? Praying deeply, for everyone to stay healthy, for all the love we have in our home and for us to adjust to the new school year with ease. Except praying tonight is not reassuring me like usual, it is instead keeping me awake while I run through all the ins and outs of life. Our schedule this upcoming week looks like a circus with work, responsibilities, school supplies needed yada yada yada, I don’t want to keep going over every detail. This is the busiest week for my preschool as we get ready to open for the school year and my PTO president role consists of another full-time job prepping for the year. I was feeling as though my plate was spinning out of control and this Asperger’s epiphany has tipped it over, crashing everything to the ground. My reality is all different because it feels unknown. I’ve opened the preschool year many years now but it’s my first rodeo at PTO president, first time needing to do extra Granddaughter work for Gram and first time entering into a time of special education evaluation for one of my children. I feel as though a new life as Mom has been born, like God has lit a light on a new path laid out before me, one I didn’t know existed. A light in the dark to draw me somewhere else. My child isn’t who I thought she was and this divergence in my mind makes me different as well. I was chugging along as Mom, thinking the kids would turn out alright in the end with how I was parenting, even if I felt as though I was failing at times, but now it feels the opposite, I don’t know what I’m doing.
This new school year is a new beginning, a new birthing of myself and all my titles. I will need to keep my chin up, “chin up buttercup,” is a favorite saying of mine after all. There is no time to stop and breathe and attempt some sort of self-help care to alleviate my anxiety. Finding time for a Soul Fuel has to be towards the top of my hot iron tasks of any given day so I can stay on top of my mental health.
I fear my marathon suicide is turning into a 10K.