Please Check on the “Strong” Autism Parents

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Please. 

Last night was hard. Really hard. And I feel as though I can’t say it was. I can’t feel it was. I can’t allow myself to recognize last night for what it was…out of my control. 

I have spent years manufacturing this shield of armor. I use it to keep those feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and sadness out. I am now this person that spends an innumerable amount of time helping others manage their expectations and emotions. I help others to see their children in new lights. To view them as more than their challenges. And that’s a good thing. But in doing so, I have given off the impression that I’m above all the difficulties that come with having children with special needs. I’m that mom that can handle it all. Or I’m the mom with the children that have that “manageable Autism.” 

I don’t know when this shift occurred. I don’t know when I felt I needed to shield my emotions from everyone, including myself. I wasn’t always this way. I was more open and more vulnerable. But that also drug me down. I wanted more for my children than a mom who viewed them as challenge ridden. I needed to help them and I felt I couldn’t do so with that mindset. 

I challenged myself to alter my perspective. To view myself through their eyes. To always look for the positive. And that helped. Tremendously. My children have progressed leaps and bounds because I no longer viewed our situation as a lost cause that I simply had to survive daily. 

But this took a toll on me as well. I’m now that Autism mom who is always laughing. Always smiling. Always happy. I’m always helping others and I always have an answer. I’m tough and strong and I get through anything. 

But I’m not tough and strong. 

And I don’t get through anything. 

I definitely didn’t get through last night. I think I handled it better than my past self would have but it definitely was a wake up call. 

I remember reading something about how comedians are often the most lonely and sad and depressed persons. Many wonder how can someone who lives to make others laugh be so profoundly sad? 

I would say that so much of themselves is given to others that they don’t have much else for themselves. 

My husband and I are alone. Alone. We are the sole caregivers to our children. We don’t have help. We don’t get respite. There are no breaks. Or dates. Nights with no kids don’t exist for us. We do it all. 

Everything my children have learned, every new skill, every milestone, etc. they learned from me. I am their therapist. Their teacher. Their doctor. When I don’t have access to a service, I read and research until I’m now the expert in whatever it is I couldn’t obtain from a professional. 

I feel as though I can no longer afford to be vulnerable because I have to do so much. I can’t break for my feelings. I used to schedule times to just cry and let it all out. I no longer do that. I don’t have the time. 

But there are times like last night that force me to confront these feelings I tuck away. 

Last night broke me. Poked my bubble, peeled away my protective armor, and stripped me bare. 

Unguarded, I’m afraid. I’m scared that I won’t be able to help my children. I’m afraid for the future. I live in guilt and shame for feeling guilt. 

It’s in these moments that I realize we are truly alone. And I don’t want to be. But I don’t reach out anymore. Honestly, it’s not because I like to shield myself from the world, it’s because I don’t always know that I’m doing it. 

I don’t always know that I’m being too strong for my own good. I front so well that even I don’t know when I’m on the verge of collapse.

Being a special needs parent is difficult. Even me saying that makes me feel as though I’m ashamed of my kids and I’m not doing enough. 

So, I ask, no beg of you to please check on your special needs parent friends and family. They might be okay right now, but last night might’ve knocked them down. 

I love those that distract me from my troubles, but I need those who force me to confront them. “How are you REALLY feeling?” No one ever asks me that. No one really makes an attempt to see if I’m really okay. And I don’t fault them for this because I make a habit of letting the world know I’m fine with everything. 

But…

we aren’t always “strong.” We aren’t always “tough.” 

So check on us from time to time. REALLY check on us. 

XOXO

TIFFY

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