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Autism: Future Blindness

I dreamt my son and I were doing some type of concrete forming on top of a highrise. We had to climb ladders in precarious positions to reach our work, yet even standing on the roof terrified me. I felt all the time as if I were sliding off, so I was lying down holding onto anything secure within my reach (so of course not doing my job.)

My son, on the other hand, was climbing on the ladder, and walking on the ledges 20 stories in the air as if they were nothing.

True to me I was panicking for the safety (or lack of) for both of us. I am sure the dream was the result of seeing a contractor climbing off a roof onto a ladder while my son and I were out for our walk the day before. I couldn’t watch, it scared me so much.

Now I know my son is not fearless – not like in the dream. He would never be found willingly climbing such heights, walking on ledges, or even doing that type of work. For a while however, I thought I could do… maybe not work on highrises, but construction of a sort anyway.

I had myself so convinced that I could do it, and would even like to do it, that I took two trades courses at our local college: A 12 week gateway program, and a 6 month Residential Construction foundation course.

ResCon

Yet I was so afraid of heights that I would cringe when other people in the course were climbing ladders, or walking floor joists or walls. I was afraid of the heights. I was afraid of the tools. I was generally afraid of the entire construction process.

I don’t know how I could ever have convinced myself that it would be a good career for me except that… I can’t see forward.

The older I get, the more I realize this.

I have a great imagination, and I am very good at dreaming things up, or picturing what situations might look like. I am also very good at seeing all that could possibly go wrong. The trouble seems to be that my imagination doesn’t take into account how I might experience these things.

Also, when I convince myself that something might be good for me, I have to block out thoughts of any fears that might come with it. I am always afraid. I am afraid of everything. So in order to convince myself that I can do anything, I also have to block out all thoughts of what could go wrong – which I am able to do so long as I am not actually in the situation I am dreaming up.

It is like any other fantasy that I dream up – like something impossible. As if I am as likely to be able to create a portal to another part of the country, or learn to fly (without the use of tools) or to alter reality with my mind as I am to get a job in construction, or adopt a sibling group of children, or…

So long as it is just an idea and not part of my reality, I am fine – but once I am actually a part of it, all of my fears, and failures, and limitations stop me from actually being able to continue on.

This makes it very difficult (if not impossible) to consider what I could do with my future as a job, or any other part of my life. Without the physical experience, I have no clue what would ‘suit me’ even enough that I could be successful in it – and now, after all of my failures, I am too afraid and exhausted to try.

After this I went on to dream that my son and I were in a cave with several other people sorting and categorizing turtles, and even naming them. This dream was definitely also connected to our walk the day before in which my son told me that the German word for turtle translates to ‘shielded frog.’ (My son has been studying German through the site Duolingo for several years now.)

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Autism: Hostile World

I don’t belong here.

It has been the resounding theme of my life.

Unliked. Unwanted. Not like them.

Not trusted. Not accepted. Not belonging.

I want to be liked.

I try to fit in.

They allow me…

Because it is Christian.

Because I am… family (of a sort.)

But not because I belong.

I don’t.

First they let me know;

By glances and actions rather than words.

I try harder, and harder still.

And rather than improve their acceptance of me –

It gets worse.

They don’t want me there, and…

I wish I could be a person who doesn’t care.

But of course I care.

I’ve always cared.

Yet if I can’t be accepted,

My impulse is to run.

Maybe another school,

Another group,

Another part of town?

Maybe another province,

A city where I have never been?

But wherever I go,

Whatever I do,

There I am:

Not belonging.

So I build these worlds.

These fantasies in my mind.

And the more pain my reality contains,

The further from reality my fantasies take me;

Until there is little left

To bring joy or relief

In the world around me.

So much fear.

So much pain.

I would spend most,

If not all of my life,

Dreaming;

Just to endure it.

But the older I get,

The less the dreams satisfy;

For I know my dreams,

These fantasies,

They won’t come true.

I return to a world that feels hostile to me.

Alone and fearful and full of pain

Thinking “maybe if I try harder,

Try harder,

Try harder…”

But the harder I try,

The less I belong.

I wish I didn’t care,

But I do.

I am still nothing more than that small child,

Crying to sleep at night

For being abandoned in a big, frightening, painful world

That never wanted her.

me at 7

 

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Autism: To Dream Again

This morning was “The Summit” church service at the wharf – were once a year all three campuses and five services of our church get together for church, worship, and lunch after.

It rained a lot yesterday – which is kind of a big deal since we had a drought all summer with only half an hour of rain in about 2.5 months. Today was sunny and the skies were clear (which also hasn’t happened for much of the summer.) It was a nice day for outdoor church.

While I was there I once again noted something that surprised me. I was watching the parents with young children, and the older children at the awkward stage, and was surprised once more to acknowledge that I don’t want children.

Stressful, exhausting, difficult…

It is a foreign concept to me to not want children. Until a little over a year ago, even after years of infertility and a traumatic failed adoption, having children of my own was the main desire of my heart – even though I did have, and raise, and still have, my now adult son.

I would see other parents with their children and felt… envy, and sadness, and… lost, alone, forgotten. Other people had families – why couldn’t I?

It was another, and a major, characteristic that separated me from them – and I hated that separation. I still hate it, maybe, but at least I can see what I couldn’t see then: Children are overwhelming.

Beautiful, and fun, and worth the effort? Yes – but…

Children call attention to their parents. Always. You see the children, you see the parents – and there is advice, and there is judgement, and there is a lot of stress that comes with the job.

And I can’t be watched.

As I sat watching the parents dealing with the children I remembered that. I can’t be watched, and children call attention to their parents. Always.

I can’t be watched, for when I am watched I operate from a different part of my brain which significantly drops my functioning level to the point where I pretty much always fail. So having children – no matter how much I wanted them and loved them (and I did) – was a recipe for failure. There was no way beyond it for I can’t function when I am watched, and parents are always being watched.

As I began to accept this revelation – which has come to me in the past, but I always fought against (“if I could only try harder, or do things different, or research more, or… maybe I could” – but no, I can’t function when I am watched, and whatever else a parent faces in raising a child, they are always watched – and if they don’t want to be watched, there must be something really wrong with them, and they shouldn’t be trusted with their children to begin with; right?)

As I began to accept this revelation I began to realize that if it weren’t for the memory of the trauma of losing ‘my’ children, and without the fixation of a lifetime of wanting children (possibly because that, in my eyes, was the measure of success and ‘normalcy’ – to be a ‘good parent’) I might even be able to admit that I am happier and calmer with my life as it is now.

The traumas are there, and they do cause me to struggle a lot of the time – but this thought that I could live okay without children… it is mind blowing. It is to turn completely in the other direction, and accept that it might be possible to dream again.

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Autism: Learning to Can Part 1

It started out with plums. Lots of plums. Our tree was full this year and… I had to start somewhere, so – plums!

The pressure canner I ordered back in August never came in. I waited and waited, and then went camping – but my son was still home and he watched for it. It was in Edmonton, and was supposed to arrive here the next day, but never came.

Did someone steal it? Ugh people!

It isn’t like we live in a poor neighbourhood. We likely live in one of (if not the) oldest and least expensive homes in our area. We are surrounded by doctors, teachers, nurses, business owners… We may not have much, but the people around us do – so if it got here and they stole it??? I don’t understand that.

Perhaps it never made it this far – but then… it was fed ex that had it (I think; might have been Purolator.) Did one of their workers take it?

So I got back from vacation and was stressed out to find it had not come in. I emailed Amazon about it, and they said they would send another. Then I learned of ‘my baby,’ and everything else dimmed in comparison. I struggled for many days and then one day woke up deciding this was the day I would harvest plums and try canning for the first time.

I guess when most other people learn such things they turn to people who know what they are doing and learn from them. That isn’t me. Working with other people presses on my heart and mind that I am not good enough. I don’t belong. They may not be thinking the same thing; I will allow for that. When I am with other people, however, I get attacked – in my head, in my heart, all around me – and I just can’t.

Though I am sure most other people don’t understand this level of anxiety or isolation, I am sure that if they experienced anything similar – like perhaps they received an electric shock every time they got something right, they would be afraid to keep going, too. Not that I get shocked – but it is like that. I get attacked through thoughts and feelings. It makes it so hard to function that when other people are around, I really can’t function. Not won’t. Can’t. I drop things, I spill things, I make mistakes. I can’t think for the shouting in my head (that I am working so hard to silence) telling me how stupid I am to think I belong there, or could do… anything.

So I don’t. Other people work, and serve, and do things with other people – and when I am there, I sit, or I try to hide in a corner and become invisible.

It has to be this way, it seems, for I am not strong enough to silence the attacks – and the attacks always come.

This means that if I want to learn anything, really, I have to learn alone. I seek out ideas, research, study, spend an inordinate amount of time fixated on the subject, and then one day I will just try.

Well, knowing I was interested in canning, my husband brought a huge water bath canner home from the thrift store where he works. I mean, it was huge! It took up two burners on the stove. I had all these plums, so that is where I started. Over a couple of days I made 24 jars of canned plums (and got at least that amount again in fresh plums, some of which we brought to my husband’s work and gave away.

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Autism: Carrying On

I was feeling better today. Partly I convinced myself that my ‘baby’ would be okay. Also I admitted that it made sense for her foster parents to adopt her, and even to move away – though it did make me really sad that they didn’t adopt my other two in that case. I know they were more of a challenge, but they longed for a home and stability, too.

I suppose the wording in this is confusing for those who don’t know of my history. The ‘baby’ I speak of here was the youngest of three foster children placed with me a little over a decade ago for the purpose of adoption. With domestic adoption, finalization doesn’t come right away. It typically takes 6 months to a year for the paperwork to be put through, and because we had a sibling group of three, they extended that time.

In short, we had the children with us for a total of 35 months. In the end the children were moved, and we had no way of fighting to keep them since they were legally not our children. We did want them. Did want to keep them. Did try to fight for them. Did fail.

That failure is the main trauma in my PTSD, though I had the condition before as a result of childhood abuse.

The foster parents had the children before they were placed with us, during the three months they were taken the first time (we fought and got them back) and from 6 weeks after they were taken the last time. They had the baby straight from the hospital at birth until she was placed with us at just over a year old. We liked them; they were good Christian people – and much, much better with social skills than I could ever possibly be.

In the days since reading updates about her, I have slowly been able to admit to myself that this is possibly a good place for my baby. They are giving her the experiences that I would want her to have – and they actually know how to do these things in order to teach her.

Also, if my baby is sick and dying – as they posts hinted towards – I… it isn’t that I wouldn’t want to be there for her (I ache to have her with me constantly) but… I would blame myself for her illness (I take on the blame of everything even when I couldn’t possibly have caused it) and that would destroy me many times over as losing her has done, and would do again.

Then there is the (questionable) gift that I have of altering reality in my mind. After the shock that lasted for several days I have partially been able to separated ‘her’ baby from ‘my’ baby – so it is hers that is sick, and mine is the same girl I remember in my mind.

Perhaps this isn’t great for my sanity – but in truth, life isn’t good for my sanity. This at least allows me to carry on.

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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.

pink sweater

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: Unwanted Dreams

As thoughts of my children overwhelm me, there is a sadness which catches within and threatens me with memories and fears of despair. My heart and soul long for their return even now, though they have been gone eight long years.

I woke up with the song “God is Awesome,” running through my head. “… there is power here for miracles to set the captives free and make the broken whole…” I am broken. I was broken before my children were taken that day, but in that moment I was shattered.

The thought of my children returning fills my mind with dreams of a future; an expansion of my heart and life where all other ‘dreams’ are of shelter, isolation, retreat. I still want to learn such things, and still think they are ‘good’ things to do – but in my children I see ‘life’ and ‘purpose.’ I see ‘future’ and ‘hope.’ And while I worry about the transition for my son that was left with us, I also see that my fears of him being alone, and even for his faith, have their answer in this.

But what is the point? This dream is a fantasy on par with my desire for teleportation and wishes that come true. It won’t happen – and this hope? It fills me with life and joy for a moment, and crashes in despair in the realization that it won’t ever happen.

The ministry would never come seeking us to take our children home – they neither saw the children as ‘ours’ (since we never had finalization on the adoption and weren’t related by blood) nor did they see us during that last year with us as a decent answer for the children.

And why would the children want us? They are settled where they are, even if it is foster care, and the girls wouldn’t even remember us, they were so young. Besides… what have I to offer them?

So the dream that shows me a life full of purpose, and healing in my heart, mind, and marriage, turns to despair as I admit to myself that it is impossible. And my heart breaks as I feel myself losing my children all over again. And again the loss threatens my sanity for there has been far too much of it.

The thought came strong after hearing the apology from my sister in law – for until that night I would have said that was more impossible than having my children returned to us, but it came. Unexpectedly, and unsought, it came. And I thought, if God could orchestrate that, having my children returned to me couldn’t be so hard.

And I allowed the thought. I fixated on it for days.

But dreams… in my life, dreams don’t come true.

And the pain that comes crashing over me when I realize again that the loss was forever… it destroys me. It shatters me all over again, and I wasn’t even healed from the first time.

I guess that there are some hopes, and some dreams that I must convince myself I don’t want. Children? That is one. My children? Never, ever, ever!

And yet even telling myself I don’t want them brings pain, and tears, and despair.

welland

 

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