Essay #16: Shine Bright

I have been sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my children, on mom life, grief and mental health. Most essays are from life in 2017 and 2018. WARNING: my essays contain cursing. Click on the Essays category to read previous ones. Some names have been changed for privacy.

Michael and I had our 17th wedding anniversary over the weekend. We spent time with the girls, going to a movie, and then had a romantic dinner alone. We often have this problem on date nights, we finish eating and chatting around 8:30 p.m. and I’m never ready to go home yet. Can’t go home when the possibility of the children still being awake is high. Something about someone else putting the kids to bed makes me feel like a kid on Christmas. We decided to go to a local bar to extend the evening. I got up to the bathroom when we got there and slipped right on my ass in front of everyone. Totally embarrassing. Maybe 40, wine and high heals don’t mix. I think I sprained my hand and I have a sore butt now. Par for the course for the current state of affairs in my life. A date night was exactly what I needed after the week I’ve had.

I had Laurel’s official special education PPT meeting yesterday. I kept it together and genuinely listened to what the school psychologist and speech/language pathologist had to say. It made sense, why Laurel warrants a spot on the autism spectrum, even if we can’t see it fully. Her teacher explained how the spectrum is vast and Laurel is on the higher functioning end for sure. The team talked about modifications for the classroom for the last couple weeks of fourth grade and mainly for fifth grade. Laurel has a long wait time in responding to teachers, which we knew from last year, so they will allow her more time to verbalize her answers or give her the option to write down her responses. We know she has the answers, her grades and test scores are exceptional, we just have to help her communicate easier. It’s crippling shyness, maybe a slower processing time in her brain as well.

Laurel not having close friends is a red flag, same as Olive. My babies. I can’t imagine how they feel. My closest girlfriends were everything to me in the tween years. God help them learn to socialize easier and make other kids nice. I cannot be both their mom and friend, grateful they have each other. I think humans are innate social creatures, we need and crave human interaction and love and connection. I know they both want those things and they have no idea how to get them the way other people naturally know how to. I didn’t see that before our autism story began. I never thought to teach them details in how to have a conversation, only ever thinking they would learn by observation. Well Olive and now Laurel will be working with speech and language pathologists for at least the next three years, let’s get started. I’m told from the time of initial diagnosis of any special education need services are guaranteed for at least three years. Olive is cleared through middle school and Laurel up to seventh grade and we’ll go from there. I can’t even think past the next month, never mind anything three years from now, therefore I am giving it up to God.

I keep having big-time nightmares, of dying, drowning, Michael not loving me anymore, but some interesting dreams come forth too. I had one where I lived in a different dimension and the world was made up of grid lines throughout the atmosphere. People were lights, at different levels of brightness, some blinding, some murky. The beaming people had things and other people coming towards them, following the grid lines, even from afar where the person couldn’t see them coming. The darker people were alone with everything and everyone moving away from them along the grid. I wanted to be a person of radiant light. I woke up promising myself to be a bright light in the world. Darkness has descended upon me this past year. I feel fogged. Difficult days, even months or years, cannot dim my light. I won’t let it.

I know that spark is still in me, I have to find my lighter. Stand tall Janice, choose joy. I keep thinking God will only give me what I can handle, it’s sort of a life motto I’ve always had and heard many other people say too.

Well fuck that.

I can’t handle all this life going on right now. I don’t think I’m meant to handle it. You know why I think that? I think God wants me to know I don’t have to handle it, he’s got it. I have to need him. I was living as though I had everything under control. No one ever has everything under control because God is the only one who has that. I think every single person on this planet goes through life times that make it all feel as though it’s not worth living and those are the times we have to fall on our knees and pray and know God’s got it, we don’t have to. I’m not sure I could live if I didn’t have faith. So God, if you are listening, I hear you. I need you. Please carry me so when the time comes for me to stand on my own I can choose joy and shine bright

Essay #15: Dark Hour

I have been sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my children, on mom life, grief and mental health. Most essays are from life in 2017 and 2018. WARNING: my essays contain cursing. Click on the Essays category to read previous ones. Some names have been changed for privacy.

I can’t breathe. I’m trying to catch air, just concentrate on breathing, in the nose, out the mouth, smell the flowers, blow out the candles, visualize it Janice. I am sitting in the parking lot of our elementary school, can’t drive. Marathon suicide is at a 5K. It’s OK, it’ll all be OK, breathe. My face is a waterfall of tears, my chest is pounding up and down. Why don’t we have any tissues in the car? I picked up Laurel’s evaluations from the school psychologist just now and I should have waited until I got home before opening the envelope. Another new chapter in my life has begun. The last nine months have had too many new chapters, I’m ready to slam the book down. What the fuck? I’m going from anxiety attack to depression to anger, in about five seconds.

My Laurel, my quiet ten-year-old Laurel, tested well onto the autism spectrum, social communication disorder and maybe some other things but I can’t quite make out all of this shit. The evaluations aren’t exactly user friendly. The team will hopefully be able to explain it all at the meeting we have in a couple of days. And how come when Olive’s test came back they brought Michael and I in with the psychologist before the PPT, looking for the first time at the evaluation together, but with Laurel they just handed me an envelope and sent me on my merry little fucking way, making me think it wasn’t anything I needed to worry about. The middle school team has a bit more heart than the elementary school team.

How did I not see this coming? Am I dumb? I must be really dumb and selfish. This feels like adversity causing thunderous storms overhead. I was hoping the results would just say she was a shy and sensitive kid. Done. She’s very different from Olive, who’s autism I see clearly yet they didn’t put her on the autism spectrum. Everything I know I don’t know. I called Michael as soon as I got in the car but he said he’s running behind on his patient schedule and we’ll talk later. I get it but I need someone to talk to RIGHT NOW. I’m never first and it sucks.

My babies. My special babies. I’m listening God, what are you telling me? I’m was running along in my life and you’ve given me too many walls I’ve collided with. I couldn’t find my footing before today, now this is making me stumble and fall and plant my face in the dirt. Do you mean to strip us down, down to our innocent pure souls and be rid of everything else? Take away everything that I thought I needed and remind me of what’s really important? Maybe that’s what I need to do, get rid of all the fluff in life and get back down to the very nature of our beings. Simplify for my kids. Stop running. Did I need to be running in the first place? Searching for that commercial of happiness everywhere instead of where I needed to be? I’m working it out in my head, here in the car in the parking lot of our school.

But why do I feel like I need to be working it out in my head? I don’t need to make sense of it and overthink it. Not everything in life has to be reasoned and rationalized to the death, shit happens. We deal with it, learn to change and grow and that’s that. Why do I feel like I need answers all the time? God doesn’t owe me any explanations. That reality doesn’t make me not question and wonder why and need justification for how my life is going. Two special needs kids that didn’t show themselves until puberty, that’s heavy to deal with here.

I always revert to being grateful and I’m blessed to have healthy children. They are healthy and even though divergent neurotypically, living, breathing, smart children. They’ll be OK.

Well the post-wedding high I was sailing on came down rather quickly. My sister-in-law is now married and it was absolutely a beautiful wedding. I thought the 1920’s wedding theme was glamorous. I mean, how often do we get to go all out in a majestic way; if not for a wedding of someone you love then when? Maybe it was God’s plan for me to find out about Laurel’s autism immediately after an outpouring of love and family. The highs lift up the lows, just as Gram told me last fall. If not for that I might just drive off a cliff right now as I think how a better mom would have seen the special needs of her children, would be more suited to these kids and do better by them. And be Betty Crocker. Fucking Betty.