Essay # 10: Dark The Night

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.

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. Names have been changed for privacy. To read previous essays click on the Essays category tab at the end of the blog post.

Mexico 2018

I am listening to the waves crash and watching the palm trees sway and soaking it all in. A beach in Mexico is exactly the mind easing brain dead soul fueling I needed. If my kids would happily sit and relax and play on a beach they’d be here too and then it would be a living version on my commercial of happiness, but they are not those type of kids, at least not yet. But for this quick trip it needs to be just me and Michael. I know parents who never take a trip without their children and I try to convince them to do it. Even a long weekend, marriages need it. We get to remember that we enjoy each other’s company and can still have fun together. We can have long conversations without interruptions. We can sleep! When I travel and sit by the ocean I feel as though time slows down. Like it actually slows down, the opposite of time flying while you are having fun. I’m certainly having fun but time is crawling, an hour felt like two. It’s some warped time tube here along the Maya Riviera. I’ll take it.

My girls, on the other hand, are sharing a bedroom at my mom’s house, the three of them together in a small bedroom, and what holy hell did my mom dig herself into? Olive can’t handle the sounds Laurel makes while sleeping and Ruby still can’t breathe in her presence. Olive texted me from the iPad at 10:30 last night. So late! She couldn’t sleep and didn’t know what to do. Everyone else in the house was snoozing and she couldn’t shut off her brain. I didn’t get the message until this morning and what good is that to her now. My mom is stressed about Gram being sick, I guess the flu is going around the nursing home and Gram keeps running a fever and is really sleepy. This, on top of my annoying kids, is leading my mother to certifiable madness. God I pray for Gram’s healing and strength and for my mom and all she is dealing with. This trip wasn’t exactly great timing for her.

Onto the next heart wrenching topic, which I don’t even want to think about as I sip my margarita, Olive’s SAT team meeting at the school right before my trip. It’s overwhelming sitting in a conference room by yourself with a dozen other adults who evaluated your child. I fought the tears a few times and tried to focus on what they were saying. The district team explained why they thought Olive didn’t warrant a place on the autism spectrum, her eye contact was fine and she answered all their questions without a problem. They didn’t witness any repetitive behaviors. Are you fucking kidding me? I asked how long they spent with Olive and they said one hour. ONE HOUR. On one day. I sternly said, “So you got to know my daughter for one hour and and that’s enough to determine whether or not she classifies for autism? Do you really think that is enough time to get to know her and get a big picture of my child?”

They answered no. Silence. I was not going to be the one to break that silence. I sat there looking at the district team sitting across the table from me, my eyes began to tear and I would not let the tears fall, can’t show my weakness. The school team spoke and broke the tension.

The school team, who has gotten to know Olive for the past few months, did think she should be on the autism spectrum and my at-home evaluation had her on it as well. I see the repetitive behaviors, the way she reacts to loud noises and different lights, the obsessive interests and how she has trouble with reciprocal conversations and making friends. I see all of it. I’m disappointed in myself the light bulb didn’t light up for me until she was 11 and starting middle school but now I have to show these people what I see and be Olive’s advocate. The good news is that they are giving her services for everything she needs so the label isn’t important right now. The school psychologist told me she sees it and knows they will put her on the autism spectrum in the future, we can’t see this as a bump in the road. The last five months have been a bump in the road!

Memory reloads keep flooding my brain from when Olive was little. Around one-years-old when we lived in San Diego, a very outdoorsy place, I often had to use a public bathroom because we did so much outside the house. In California most public bathrooms have dryers, no paper towels, and after I’d use the toilet Olive would cry to me to not wash my hands. I always told her we had to wash after using the restroom and I would just pat my hands to dry on my thighs, not use the dryers. I would show her and say, “see, pat pat on my lap.”

She would repeat the word, “pat, pat, pat, pat,” as we walked out. Hello?! Number one, vocal repetitions, number two, sensitivity to loud noises. In my mind at the time I knew it did not stop her from entering the bathroom with me, which is what I knew kids with sensory processing disorder would do, therefore we were just fine being a little sensitive. In her defense those dryers are fucking loud. Hello Dyson, I’m talking to you.

Yeah Sarah, you need to focus on the here and now. I’m looking up at a blue sky, hearing laughter and splashing, music in the distance, there’s a slight breeze, the smell of sunscreen and the ocean. I think I’ll sit here on this beach forever. The waiter is coming to bring me snacks and a drink, Micheal is lounging on the chair next to me and looks at peace. I’m going to burn this moment into my brain for eternity. I’ll take a video so I won’t forget, say a prayer and not think for a few more hours. The darkness will be waiting for me when I get back home, enjoy this right now.


I’m on the plane flying home to my babies who I miss more than I want to. I keep thinking about Olive’s school meeting before my trip and it’s amazing how more and more memories have been flooding in. When Olive started kindergarten she had some adjustment issues, to say the least. At that time Ruby was a loud crying baby at three months old, we lived in an apartment building outside Boston while Michael finished his fellowship training in oncology and I had some health issues that summer after giving birth to Ruby. Our house wasn’t exactly peaceful. Olive would come home from school and have major meltdowns. One day I wouldn’t let her have a cookie right before dinner and she flipped out, she even threatened to jump out the window and kill herself. She was five-years old, just FIVE. I gasped when she said that and was completely shocked. I just re-read my journal from that time, it was bad, I was in a bad place physically and emotionally. We pretty much only watched the Disney Channel and I was dumbfounded Olive could even come up with such a thing to say or know to do. Where did that come from?

I talked to my pediatrician and then talked to a child psychologist. He gave me some parenting tips and told me if Olive wasn’t hurting herself or others then we were all right. He said she was going to be a difficult strong willed child for sure and I had to learn to not let her run the household. He said she was going to be the worst customer in my restaurant every day. We managed and got through. Ruby became a happier baby, I healed, Olive adjusted to kindergarten life and we saw the sun again. That time in our lives passed and what was forgotten should not have been. Quoting Tolkien, such a genius. That just made me laugh and I needed it.

As I was getting ready to board the airplane back to hell my mom called, they were taking Gram to the emergency room. She was having trouble breathing and the nurse heard fluid around her heart. I have a panicky feeling right now, oh my Gram. I have no doubt she can fight this, she’s one tough cookie at 94. God please give her peace and comfort and heal her. I’m not ready for her to leave me in this life, not right now. Michael’s mom was able to get the girls and will stay at our house until we get home, thankful for that. We are flying into the night and there is a bit too much turbulence. Kind of like my life. I’m going to try to take a nap before landing, flying back into the river. The ugly murky river I’m drowning in.


Essay #9: Sink or Swim

I have been sharing personal essays on my journey with autism with my daughters, on mom life, grief and mental health. Most essays are from life in fall of 2017. WARNING: my essays contain cursing. 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. Names have been changed for privacy. To read previous essays click on the Essays category tab at the end of the blog post.

Hot pink skirt lol

Mind inflicted fasting occurring again. Why does my brain do this to me? As though I want to punish my loved ones for being shitty to me so I stop eating, thinking it’ll somehow hurt them, which is ridiculous because for one, they don’t even notice and two, I’m only causing myself to suffer. Sucking energy and life out of my body, giving my brain an excuse to tell my body to go to bed and ignore everyone and be nonexistent. I might just be a crazy person.

Others may start to agree. I chopped my hair off. My naturally curly hair was becoming a heavy weight on my head, a large poofy frizzy helmet I wore everyday. After seeing myself in a few photos lately I decided the hair needed an upgrade. I cut off close to eight inches. No one has even noticed, maybe two people, and that makes me kind of sad and kind of happy no one pays attention. I read once, watch out for a woman who drastically changes her hair, she is changing her life. Damn right. I needed to feel fresher and simple and light. That’s my goal right now, be lighter.

Over the weekend I felt controlled by a lot of people and I was angry being pulled in a million directions. Yanked between my PTO President duties, my teachers at my preschool, my family and my extended family and plus some friends, it was a tug of war with everyone needing a slice of my time. I’m the only one who is the boss of my physical self and my look and I think that’s why I cut my hair, I needed to have some semblance of control. It’s like I’m a toddler whose parents are trying to potty train, I control my body, not you. Monday came and I said, “that’s it! I control me, fuck you all, fuck this messy hair, let’s change it all!”

I feel like I’m drowning and everyone is pushing me under deeper and deeper. I want to swim and feel the sun, be my own center of light and love and let all flow from that place. I want people to feel love and joy when they are around me, not the stress and grumpiness I’m exuding lately. I have control over how I present myself to the world, which includes how I look and feel. If I’m honest with myself I care a lot about how I look. I’ve always loved fashion and wanted to look stylish and cute. As moms we get bashed, usually by other moms, if we care too much about those things. There is a general mom style out there that exudes an I’m not trying too hard look to give the impression you care just enough. I’m the one who rolls in with a hot pink skirt and it’s simply because it makes me happy. I find it fun. I’ve heard moms talk about other moms with comments like “oh she cares too much about her looks” or “she’s too focused on herself.” God fucking forbid we have a hobby or care about something other than our children! Shame on us. From the experts I’ve talked to as of late it is a wonderful idea to have a hobby that doesn’t involve your children. I read in front of them, exercise, paint, write, all in front of my daughters. They need to know hobbies and interests are important. Amen. Okay, off my soap box.

I think I need a dumpster, both physically and mentally. Journal writing is my mental dumpster. I started when Olive was a few months old and it became a habit that I can’t live without. It keeps me afloat. I dumped the extra hair on my head that was weighing me down. Now a physical garbage dumpster to throw shit away so my house will be more airy and less cluttered and feel more like a haven then a clutter zone. Goals.

Had to take the girls for flu shots and spent hours at the doctor’s office. HOURS. Simply because of Olive and Laurel being dramatic and screaming when the pediatrician came close with the needle. They were winning the Academy Award for best actresses in the preteen unnecessary horror side show category. Ruby was simple and had an attitude like “what the heck is your problem?” I was all for holding them down and jabbing it in but the doctor was more politically correct. I pulled out every trick in the book, bribery, sweet talking, yelling, stickers, commanding voice, nothing was working. The pediatrician told them it was time to close up shop and all go home, they would have to come back again. That did it, the thought of returning and reliving this escapade was enough for them to sit still and get it over with. Thank the Lord.

The three of them have been fairly healthy I have to say. I’ve been putting immunity essential oils on their wrists every day, maybe it helps. At least it makes them smell good. Sometimes bath and shower time at night sounds too exhausting for me and we kind of just do a quick washcloth cleaning and call it a night. Actually that’s a lie, we are lucky if there’s a washcloth involved. The days have felt long. I have been going 14 hours without taking of my shoes or bra and I moan as I slide them off. I’m forgetful, fidgeting more and losing hair. When you look up those symptoms you will find them under characteristics of depression. I would pride myself on my master anxiety hiding skills and that’s getting harder with all this crap, but you know what? No one is looking anyway.

I’m in the research generation, that’s what I’m deeming those of us in midlife with children. We have parenting information at our fingertips and we know too much. Ignorance was bliss for our parents and grandparents. Now we are being told what to do and not to do about every aspect of parenting and child development. We micromanage every minute of the day trying to follow the right guidelines and current research to make sure we aren’t fucking up our kids. Well guess what? We are fucking up our kids. I see it at the preschool too, no one wants little James to even get a scratch on him. How are they suppose to learn if they never are allowed to mess up in the first place? That’s why my girls freak out when they don’t do something perfect on the first try, they expect everything to be easy because we made it that way for them. No more. We are going to be a house of fuck ups and spills and miss steps. I don’t want their mental health to suffer from anxiety over doing things wrong.

I read an article about an 11 year old girl who committed suicide. Eleven! What? She was being bullied at school. Holy shit. I have so many questions when I hear about these things. Did her parents know about the bullying? Did the school know? Did the girl talk to anyone about it? Did she have autism or depression? Did her family go to church? Were her parents crappy or too demanding? I need to know! I worry for my girls, especially since I felt like leaving this world as a teen. I had faith though, I had a strong conviction in God’s plan for me and my future. I hope my daughters have that faith and know how much they are loved. It will get better, I promise my babies.

I managed to also squeeze in this week a visit to Gram, who is at a nursing home now and it’s much closer than her apartment was and that makes me happy, I can see her more. We now know she will never leave there and go home and no one has told her that. My mom and aunts and uncles want Gram to hold onto some hope she will be go home. Plus I think they really believe if they tell her we are cleaning out her apartment she will literally try to escape and find a way home, she’s that stubborn. I love hearing her talk about the past and times when she was younger. Yesterday we talked about the holidays and she was telling me they always had parties and use to get a stripper to come! I spit out my coffee and was all, “WHAT?!” She said Grandpa used to like them. I died laughing. She got all serious after that and told me, “you have to do that Jan, have good times that outweigh the bad. Make time for the good.” My laughter turned to tears. Then she started singing to me. We were sitting in the dining room and it had a beautiful view of the autumn trees, like we were on top of them. She sang On Top of the World. I don’t need to go to a therapist, I only need to be with Gram. She keeps me afloat.