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Autism: Letting Go

It isn’t that the entire day was hard, but…

I woke up at 4am as I have been doing far too often lately. Since it is typically after 12am that I finally fall asleep (that takes a couple of hours itself) it is very unfortunate that, less than 4 hours later, I am awake and unable to get back to sleep. It certainly isn’t that I am not tired. In fact, I can’t even get up – I just lie in bed for the next three hours trying unsuccessfully to fall back to sleep.

Needless to say, I have been very tired, and not functioning very well.

There was some cleaning to do – laundry especially. Ever since the city workers came by and blasted out our storm sewers while I had laundry going, it has been prone to flooding. I don’t know if they are connected, but that is the load it started with. The clothes get cleaned fine, but when the washer is spinning, piles of fur and debris (much more than what is reasonable from what went into the wash) pour out with the water into the sink.

If I am not there to catch it, the water floods over the sink to cover the laundry room floor, hallway, and the bathroom beside (where it pours down the drain by the shower.) Such a mess! This has been happening for at least a couple of months now.

Since I have to watch the washer as I do laundry, I stayed downstairs to sort through boxes of food storage containers. I have no idea why we have so many – but they had been sitting in boxes in storage for over a year now, and we don’t really have storage space in our home.

That was exhausting, but I mostly got through it. I put our Christmas tree outside (so the animals wouldn’t eat it) for the thrift store – I was the only one who cared since our kids were moved, and we really haven’t the space for it (we will use a small tabletop one instead.) I left the rest down in the hallway, though I am sure it will annoy my son who rents the space from us since he has a very curious cat.

In the afternoon I spent several hours sorting toys into bags to give away. This was a very painful activity for me. Though our (foster) kids have been gone for over 8 years, and I haven’t even babysat in 7, and have been considering giving these toys away for at least 6 years, it was still exceptionally hard for me.

But I have felt a strong (near constant) prompting over the past few weeks to do this. Because it hurts, I kept blocking the prompting out, saying I wasn’t ready (I would probably never be ready if left to myself, to be honest) and the push kept getting stronger.

So I got the toys sorted and waiting in the upstairs hallway – but as I said, it hurt… a lot!

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So many hopes, dreams, memories, and losses tied up in those toys – and to give them away!!! But they should be played with, and…

I can’t have children, and I can’t go back – both of which frequently cause me a lot of pain in themselves. I am being asked to let go, and though it really does hurt, I know it is the right thing to do.

It was Misty (my newest addition – Chihuahua) who was most concerned as I sat crying, surrounded by piles of toys my children used to play with – though Clara and Molly looked to see what was wrong, too. Sweet girls! I am so very thankful for them, and it is only because of them I was able to answer this call to let go, but…

This is hard!

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Autism: Shocking News

It was my husband’s birthday. The day started out well. In fact, as far as my mental health goes, I was in a really good place. We went to church, as we always do on Sundays, and I felt very… present for both the worship and the message. That doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I go to church fixated on something else – or more often, just really tired – and I have to fight hard to pay attention. It isn’t about the message – we have an amazing pastor, who I suppose could have done something else, but it would have been a waste of real talent.

Anyway, there I was on my husband’s birthday, still feeling wonderful after that unexpected apology from my sister in law, when I did a ‘normal’ thing and the world came crashing down around me. Again.

I came home from church, and went to play Facebook games on my computer – just to pass the time while I ate my lunch. (My husband had the service he does at the retirement homes on the first and third Sunday of the month, and was preoccupied preparing for that.)

I went intending to play Facebook games, but saw a post in my news feed on the way from my (foster) son. Even that wasn’t unusual, but I had spent a lot of the week before thinking of him and his sisters. When I saw the post (just a video of a dog and a raccoon in a pool) I clicked and went to his ‘page.’ There was nothing really to see, most of his posts are like that – but there was a small comment from someone linked to the children from the time I knew them. Just a tiny comment, “Love it.”

Knowing it was likely she was still involved in their lives, I clicked to go on her page. My heart was pounding. I am not supposed to be hearing anything about ‘my’ children (since they were foster kids, were moved from our home, and had no legal relationship with us) and I didn’t want to be blocked, or seen as doing something wrong…

It isn’t like I do this a lot. If I did, what I saw probably wouldn’t have come as such a shock to me – but it was a shock. I didn’t know.

On her page I found a picture of ‘my baby.’ Well… she hasn’t been ‘mine’ in pretty nearly exactly 8 years, but… (She’ll always be my baby.)

She didn’t look anything the same. If I saw her in town, there is no way I would recognize her – and even seeing her there I wasn’t sure that it was her, until…

There was another picture of her, with her name, on her birthday.

Further down, there were more pictures of her. It was these pictures that broke me, for she was on a trip – a ‘wish trip,’ or a ‘dream trip,’ is how they described it. They listed her bucket list, and the pictures… I was not prepared for those. I didn’t know she was sick. I don’t even know what she was struggling with. I don’t even know if she is better.

It isn’t natural – this locking out of a child’s life. It isn’t right.

It isn’t like I would do anything illegal to get them back – or intrude on their lives and confuse them, or… It isn’t right.

She was sick. She may be sick. It is likely (as that is what wish trips are) that she is/was severely sick. And I didn’t know. I read it, and couldn’t stop crying for many days.

I read further and found that they had adopted her the very same month that I had been diagnosed with Autism two years ago. It made sense. It really did. They had her from birth until she was placed with us at 14 months old. She went back to them a short time after she was moved from our home (they all did – only the older two were moved after that.) They have had her most of her life. It does make sense, but it hurts, too.

She was my baby.

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Besides, how could they adopt her, and not the older two?

My mind was struggling with such news all at once. If I had known all along… but then it might have hurt as much then. How could I know?

It was my husband’s birthday – and my pain was deep. However, I felt I couldn’t share it with him. Not on his birthday. So I kept quiet, and turned away to cry, and tried (and failed) to smile, and… I wonder what he thought was wrong with him that day. I can only hope he didn’t think it was about him.

 

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Autism: Shattered

In a moment, everything can change. This is true of life, as it is true of my mental health. One comment, one moment of awkwardness, one memory, and I can be plunged into despair.

It has been nearly twenty years. I would consider the summer of 1997 to be the hardest one of my life – though the summer of 2008 would come in a close second. Both contain memories that nearly destroy me every time they come, and they overcome me often.

That summer, my cousin got sick. She had been doing well, when suddenly she caught Pneumonia. With her Cystic Fibrosis, that was especially dangerous. The Pneumonia set off a virus that had lain dormant in her system for many years, and in six weeks, she was dead. She was 21. I was 20. She died on Canada day.

Most of my life all of us cousins had known that she and her older brother didn’t have a long life expectancy. It worried me, but that was always sometime in the future. Suddenly the present and the future collided, for the first time in my life, and it shattered me.

During the time my cousin was struggling in the hospital, our grandfather had a heart attack. When she died, he was in the hospital having a triple bypass. He survived the surgery, but had cancer, and died of complications just before Christmas that year.

My grandfather, my cousin… these were my family, and I loved them more than life. I don’t deal with any pain or loss well. That summer was impossible for me to well survive.

In the summer of 1997, my son was just over a year old. I was at home (on welfare, having never been able to even get an interview let alone a job, and being far too intensely anxious to live with my family,) so my aunt asked me to babysit her infant son while she went back to work. I had always loved children, and I had always been good with them.

Babysitting that summer, though, was a huge mistake. My functioning was extremely low that summer. I couldn’t think well. I didn’t respond well. I was so exhausted that I was literally crawling, unable to stand, much of the time I was watching the children. I didn’t know I was Autistic. No one did. I thought if I tried hard enough… but I failed, and in twenty years, I have never been able to overcome the failure of that summer.

That summer my son’s birth dad and I had split up. He hadn’t wanted us around, so I moved to an apartment across the street to give him space. Because I ‘left him’ he broke up with me.

And then there was my childhood dog. My parents were divorced. My dog went with my mom until I left home and she moved into an apartment where she couldn’t keep her. My dad took her to the townhouse where he and my older brother lived, until he moved to an apartment where he wasn’t allowed to have her. He gave her to a friend, who (without a word) dropped her off at the SPCA.

My dog (for good reason, though this had always been true of her) had bad separation anxiety, and couldn’t be left alone. She would howl, and tear things apart, and… My dad ‘rescued’ her from the SPCA, and my mom (being at home most of the time) took her despite the complaints she got when she went out.

Then my cousin died. And my mom decided (mostly because my dog had a lump that the vet said might be cancer) that she would be ‘put to sleep.’ Murdered. My mom asked me to come along – though I don’t remember the wording in that. It is the only bad thing I can ever remember my mom asking me to do – and I guess I went for my dog. I guess I went because I couldn’t think that summer. I guess I went and accepted it because that entire summer was surrounded in death and loss. I don’t really know why I went, but I did.

We walked her into the vets office a day after I had watched my cousin die. She was wagging her tail, full of trust for us as we went into the office. The memory is so traumatic that at least a dozen times a year for the past twenty years I have spent hours, often days at a time, crying for my dog. I never overcame it.

I was shattered that summer, and twenty years of striving, and counselling, and faith, and new relationships… twenty years and still the pieces won’t go back together.

Last night, after a decent day, I walked into the bathroom to get ready for bed when suddenly I was hit with this memory as if I had walked into a brick wall. I cried myself to sleep, with deep sobs of overwhelming pain, and woke up feeling much the same. My dogs and cat came to soothe my tears away, and I thought, “I don’t deserve you.”

Twenty years of being shattered, and everyone I have touched in twenty years has been hurt by the summer I have yet to overcome. Every failure. Every loss. Every struggle. All of it tied to the summer of 1997.

Twenty years. I should have lived it in isolation. I should have lived it alone. I do not deserve the love or the friends I have had, for always it ends in pain. I have tried. I have strived. I have worked so hard to heal. Yet twenty years later, I am still the same broken person that summer brought out of me.

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