Autism is our journey. Fact. I never imagined your life to be this way, but together, every day we are navigating unfamiliar waters. It can feel as if there’s no middle ground…we are either battling the current or relaxing on the beach.
It comes with a free ride on an emotional roller coaster and unlimited tries on pin the tail on the next challenge. But you see Addie, this journey isn't always challenging, in fact it can be beautiful and amazingly rewarding most days. A good friend of mine once said, "It all about perspective", while I get that - there are still times I feel we're alone drifting farther and farther away from everyone else's “perfect reality” on a boat without a paddle.
Here's the thing Addie, the grass isn't always greener. We aren't alone.
A common misconception about autism is you lack feelings and emotions, as if everyone on the spectrum is a whole army of walking robots. We can all thank the movie “Rain Man” for that one. Don’t get me wrong, great movie, but autism is far more than what was depicted in Dustin Hoffman’s character.
The thing I find interesting about this particular misconception is there are plenty of neurotypical people that choose to not show true emotions or feelings. Why is this? Does our society find weakness in anything that’s not perfection? Are we scared of showing empathy?
We ALL have our very own journeys in this world and each comes with challenges.
If there's one thing I've learned in life thus far, is there's tremendous strength in vulnerability.
Recently I've had the pleasure of spending some time with friends (individually) and each coincidently are trying to find light on a new path involving their own precious children. A path they too didn't expect. For the record Addie, none of their journeys involved autism.
Confused, angry, sad. One actually said, "I felt like I failed him..."
My heart ached. For I had been there. I'd felt that. Our journeys were different, but felt so much the same.
I've spent far too much time going back thinking of what I did or what I could've done differently.
They did too.
I would NEVER wish to change you, but I’d take away your unfair burdens in a heartbeat.
They would too.
I became an advocate overnight, fighting for anything from acceptance to more research and education. All while unwillingly becoming an easy target for unsolicited advice and criticism for things we've done as parents.
As did they.
I hate to ever even admit this, but I grieved a future I thought you'd have.
So, did they.
When we say, “we feel so alone…” it’s just that - a feeling, as if nobody else could possibly feel what we are feeling in that moment. Though all our journeys are mapped out differently, we all have the same ticket on this emotional roller coaster, and we have all been pushed to the front of the line...we are not alone, we are together.
Now don't get me wrong, we are not a mess of sappy, sad people. In fact, you'd probably never even know most of us had any battles at all.
It takes a lot of courage to be that real with someone, because you're truly pouring your heart out potentially opening up to judgement, it seems easier to just bottle it up. True friendship Addie, shows no judgment only understanding and love. Always remember that.
I feel once you've released those feelings, and can really say them out loud, a weight is lifted. You can breathe a little easier, and smile a little more. Once you've seen you're not alone, you start to notice more of life's blessings. Support is present if needed. You're not focused on the "why us" in your prayers, but the "why not us" you have new found strength in yourself, in us, in the direction our life is headed and others are there to help light your path if needed. I believe all our paths will change the world in some way.
In the end, it takes a village. Not to raise children, but to keep cheering "You got this!"
I vow not only to our dream team, but to all my friends, I am here, I will pick you up when you fall, cry with you, and even laugh until we cry...because at the end of the day sometimes there's nothing else we can do, but laugh and try again tomorrow. And that’s OK.
We are not alone Addie. Our journey is autism and I’m confident that holds a different daily function than most, but at times ALL our journeys can feel the same. Our emotions, our feelings, they bond us together as human beings. As parents, we love our children fiercely and even faced with perhaps additional obstacles, we refuse to give up, we get up, and keep going!
So, Addie, be kind to everyone you meet, and be careful with your words for they may fall upon someone that may be silently battling challenges, while wearing a smile. Kindness truly does matter and keep a listening ear for someone who may need it.
"Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations." -author unknown
We are not alone and It's really quite beautiful here. Thank you for being my tour guide on this unexpected, beautiful journey and teaching me strength everyday Addie.