For those who do bother to read, this post was originally written in 2017.
It was last updated in 2019.
It is now being updated today, May 27th of 2022.
It is my acknowledgement that yes – parenting is stressful.
it is my acknowledgement that yes – I often questioned if I was failing my autistic daughter.
It is my acknowledgement that yes – I often wondered what help was really available.
You may judge me for my previous thoughts, my previous wonderings, my previous worries.
But until you have walked a day in my shoes? I would advise that you not.
The original introduction to this post is below in italics.
This is one of those posts that I never thought I would write. Because it’s one of those posts where I had to get touchy-feely and where I had to really take a look at myself. It’s one of those posts that I try to avoid because, on some levels, I’m still trying to cope. But it needed to be written. This post is all about how I used to think that my autistic child ruined my life — along with several other lies I used to tell myself.
Did my autistic child ruin my life?
After my daughter’s autism diagnosis, I went through all the feelings. And I’ll tell you this, I went through and experienced things I had never dealt with before. I do remember being really upset, really mad, really angry, and really pissed off about a lot of things. I also remember a lot of crying. So much crying.
Like on the floor, curled up into a protective ball, can’t catch my breath because I was crying so much.
Sometimes I still have those days and you know what? I have a feeling that they won’t go away.
And that’s okay.
It’s okay to cry.
In fact, it’s probably healthier (in the long run) to have those cry-fests.
So expect for those to keep happening every now and then. And remember, that yes- it is okay. Yes, it is going to happen. And yes, it is going to suck.
But the point here is? Allow yourself to deal with it. Grant yourself the grace to have this moment.
It will get better.
I also learned, after the crying and the yelling and the cursing and the breaking down; that it would get better. I learned that I needed some decent coping mechanisms. I learned that I needed a solid support network.
And I learned, perhaps the most important thing — my daughter was still my daughter. With or without this autism diagnosis, she is still my daughter.
My autistic child changed my life
Another lie I used to tell myself was that my daughter’s autism was responsible for things:
- the decline of my mental health
- my failure as a stay at home mom
- my failure as a mom in general
- my failure as a homemaker
- the decline of my marriage
- the divorce
- my lack of a career
- my lack of a college degree
Oh yes. If I could find an area or aspect of my life that didn’t meet my grand expectations and vision? I blamed autism.
I blamed autism for almost everything.
And this could not have been further from the truth.
How could I possibly blame autism?
Or, even worse, how could I possibly blame my daughter?
I do not say this lightly because it only seemed to compound the guilt that I was already struggling with. But, I had to start with myself.
And it wasn’t about blaming myself, rather it was how I was coping (or not coping) with things. It wasn’t about blaming myself or finding someone (or something to blame), it was about making mindset shifts. It was about taking personal responsibility for many things in my life that had nothing to do with my daughter.
It was about changing myself.
My autistic child did NOT ruin my life. My autistic child changed my life once I realized that I did not need to change her. I needed to change myself.
Does autism ruin families?
I will be completely honest with you — there was a time that I thought yes, autism ruined my family. There was a time that I thought, yes- having an autistic child ruined my marriage.
But, once again, this was about taking personal responsibility.
This was about a lot of self-reflection and self-examination.
This was about being brutally honest with myself and then granting myself the grace to forgive myself.
So was it really autism that was to blame?
Of course not.
Again, it came back to how I was handling (or not handling) things. I was about how I was addressing (or not addressing) my own reactions and my own emotions.
And once my focus shifted to helping my daughter, to changing the environment around her, and equipping her and empowering her? Everything else started to fall into place. It wasn’t enough to just want to change things or to find things that would help. Sometimes it meant making those things, implementing those things, and learning those things together.
I wish I had come to this realization years ago. But it wasn’t until I started looking back, it wasn’t until I started digging deep. It wasn’t until I started addressing things that needed to be addressed. Once I started doing those things, everything else started to fall into place.
My autistic child did not ruin my life
I wish I had someone who would have told me what I told you.
I wish I had someone who would have prepared me for all of this. And while I cannot possibly prepare you for absolutely everything? I want you to know that I am here. I want you to know that there is hope. I want you to know that yes, it will get better. It just may not seem like it right now.
You can do this.