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.

Essay #13: Forty Is The New Two

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.

So far my best idea for avoiding grief is to deny it. Gram’s death is nonexistent while I ignore it’s fact and imagine her at home watching tv, doing her crossword puzzle and sipping coffee. This ignorance sounds like a terrible, immature idea but I have to do what I have to do to get through my day right now. My kids can only see me cry so much even though I think it’s good for them to see real life and emotion. I’m sure my grief will keep punching me in the face over and over and I’ll let it. It makes me feel lost right now so I’ll continue to bury it for self preservation.

Olive is at a Girl Scout event and she screamed at me because she didn’t want to go. This is how it’s been with everything, fighting she doesn’t want to leave the house, even to go to school. It’s a daily morning struggle and man autistic kids are tough. I explain how and why we have to do these things and some are not a choice. I leave it at that and try not to feed into her outbursts. This Girl Scout event though, I know she didn’t want to go because of the social situation it presents and I basically dragged her there. Olive does better with adults versus kids her age, but the adults can be jerks too. I don’t mind listening, and listening a lot, about the details of her current autistic obsession, but other people don’t always want to. We are working on that with her, helping her understand the importance of a back and forth conversation. This is something we wouldn’t ever think about teaching our girls before, it is something that should naturally happen with kids, not Asperger’s kids. We are basically teaching her to pretend to care about other people’s interests. If she wants to have friends she needs to pretend to care even if she doesn’t really. Olive will also repeat something funny several times; if you laughed the first time she will say it a few more times to make you laugh more. We always went along with it but I have seen other adults tell her, “Ok, that’s enough.” And not in a nice way. I want to cry for her right now, hoping she is having some fun, then I want to cry for me, parenting is heart wrenching. My babies.

I have a meeting next week with the school SAT team for Olive and will need to leave work early for that. I’m not being the best preschool director or mom or wife. Everyone is getting pieces of me. Anyone else in my life has been put on the back burner. I haven’t been making time for friends and frankly I really don’t care right now. My self care has involved reading, writing and home improvement projects. I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s drama or kids. Frankly outside of my preschool and my own children I don’t want to be around kids at all. I’m allowing myself to be selfish right now. For date nights with Micheal, I try to pick out a restaurant or movie where there will be no children and where I won’t bump into anyone I know. Not gonna lie, I have asked to have our dinner table moved to one not near children because number one, I can’t ignore their cuteness and want to talk to them, but number two, I want to focus on my husband and have deep conversations without hearing children. I’m such a bitch.

Who am I kidding? We haven’t been on a date in forever. Michael’s job seems to get busier and busier, more and more patients and it takes a toll on him emotionally. Fuck cancer. I couldn’t imagine doing what he does. I’d cry all day. I don’t know what to do to help him other than listen. He doesn’t usually want to talk though, just wants to come home and be home, forget work. I think there should be regular therapy sessions for medical professionals who work a lot with life and death. Michael says there just isn’t enough time in the day to add that into his schedule. That’s the problem with this country, mental health isn’t a priority and it very well fucking should be. Especially for a cancer doctor. I have no shame in going to therapy and I have been making sure to tell more people that I go. It doesn’t need to be kept secret, I’m not at all ashamed to say I have to go and I love that I do. I have to just keep putting the bug in Micheal’s ear to go talk to someone.

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I heard back from Laurel’s teacher this week. The screening they did with her regarding her lack of talking warrants a full blown evaluation with the speech and language pathologist and school psychologist. We have to run a PPT meeting to discuss the evaluation to be done and I have to sign papers agreeing. The psychologist told me not to be surprised if Laurel warrants a spot on the autism spectrum. What?! Who? Why? Repeat that please? Holy shit. My babies. Do I have two kids on the autism spectrum and a year ago I had no idea? What?

Was I just floating around with unrealistic life expectations? Well yeah, my running commercial of happiness was certainly not real life, but I think I always knew that. Maybe I just believed in a life that was not real, believed I had a life that I didn’t actual have, I just saw what I wanted to and fit it into the happy real life mold. Well the mold is broken and shattered and cracking on the floor with everyone stepping on it and not knowing they are crushing it into tinier pieces. Along with my soul. It feels as though everything is plummeting. I keep saying that, but life is changing in a significantly different trajectory, I can hardly believe it. I’m astonished by the last year of my life with autism, death, running a business plus my household, being PTO president and a matron of honor in a wedding next month. I don’t even know what to say sometimes, how to write what I’m feeling and thinking. God, guide me to my strength and resilience, show me my strength. I have to be a stronghold and pillar for my family, they need me now more than ever. I’m so needful myself how can I be there for them?

One of the tools we use as a discipline technique in the preschool is redirection. The short attention spans of preschoolers allow us to get their minds off something they can’t have or away from someone they are bothering. It works quite well. I’ve been using that on my mid-life 40-year-old brain too. Feeling sad, redirect to this happy music playlist. Feeling grief washing over, watch this comedy. Feel like shit and your kids are home for yet another snow day, how about some online shopping. Forty is the new two.

I can be there for the all the people who need me by acting like a two-year-old during my self-care time. Sounds great.