I hate to admit it, but lately I've been searching for something that I know doesn't exist. Since the day I became a mother, I knew there was no manual for this adventure, but despite that fact - I find myself searching for one almost daily right now. My need for guidance and direction on how to do this is becoming stronger and stronger everyday. Lately I've been torn between knowing what I think is best for you in the long term, vs. the path of least resistance in the here and now. Many days either way I choose seems like a no win proposition - and no one is happy.
I made a promise to you when you were born that I would always love you, teach you, and protect you. While my love for you is absolute and never ending, sometimes I feel like I'm falling behind on the other two and it breaks my heart. Ironically, I often feel like I'm overprotecting you from the world. I have tried to teach each of you to face your fears and to never hide from your challenges. Sounds good and well, but when I look in the mirror I know the truth that in this regard, I have stopped leading by example.
Let me explain. It's no secret that you struggle. There's a laundry list of things that cause you distress, and its only amplified when we are away from home. When you get stressed out at home, you at least have the ability to go to your happy place (your bedroom) to decompress and work through it. When we are out - there's no such escape. And when the inevitable moment occurs that you boil over? Every eye in the place is immediately on you, and... me. I wish I could tell you it didn't bother me. I wish I could let it roll off my back. I wish, I wish, I wish. But the truth is that it does bother me. I hate that feeling. I hate it for you, and I hate it for me. That my dear is the truth.
I try to convince myself not to care what people think, but despite my best efforts, I do. Does that make me bad? Does that make me weak? I don't know. But I know that that's my truth & I struggle with it more and more as each day passes. The fact is that people may stare out of concern, out of confusion, or perhaps just curiosity. I don't know, and honestly, sometimes I just don't care, but most often that's not the case. I wonder if you notice it too? Maybe not yet, but certainly someday you will. The thought of that just makes me want to cry.
The truth is, I'm struggling right now too my dear. I have extraordinary guilt that I can't seem to make everything better for you when you need me to. I'm angry at myself for caring what others are thinking, and that its been driving my anxiety of taking you anywhere outside our "safe place" of home. Then staying in only disappoints me that my anxiety is winning and holding us back. I'm scared of the future and just not knowing what to expect. I wish I had a better way to express what I am feeling.
I know in reality I'm anything but, the feeling to my core is deeply alone.
Let me paint the picture. We go out, say to the grocery store, or better yet out to a restaurant for lunch or dinner. Special family night out. Something triggers you, and you react - let's just say you are having "a moment". I feel the stares and the enormous guilt of having put you in the situation in the first place. I feel like it was me who was holding the spotlight shining the light on you for all to see. Sitting there, frozen while others stare. It's an awful feeling.
Here's the tough part. My instincts tell me that part of my job is to expose you to this world. Show you what the world looks, smells, sounds and tastes like. I know that this worldly exposure and all its wonder and magic is what is truly best for you. But that being said, it is by far the hardest thing to actually accomplish at the moment. As a result, I've gotten quite comfortable just staying home with you. Our safe place. Hiding from anxiety or fear of the unknown. It's gotten so bad that when daddy even mentions the idea of going on a family vacation, it sends me into a full blown "what if" panic attack.
My head starts spinning. There's no such thing as an "autism friendly" airline (oh how I wish there was). What if you go into meltdown mode on the plane thousands of feet in the air, or in the hotel and where we are miles and miles away from our safe place? On the flip side, we've also had very successful family trips, where all of us had so much fun and enjoyment. Of course that too is a possibility, but these days I'm just paralyzed by the gamble.
So Addie, I'm sorry that this week isn't the happiest of letters, and that lately I too am struggling, but I promise we're going to get through this. I promise. We will find the balance.
Sometimes, even mommies need to take a time out and count to ten. Deep breaths my dear, deep breaths.
I love you so very much Addie.