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Autism: Not a Great Week

This past week has not been a great one for me. For one thing, I didn’t write much, and am now two blog posts behind schedule (keeping in mind that I have been scheduling my posts three weeks in advance, which is best for my stress levels, and am now only two weeks ahead.) It isn’t exactly that I had nothing to write about, but more that I didn’t have the energy to motivate myself to do much more than binge watch Netflix for much of the week. These things will happen with me, despite my best efforts to push past it.

Going along with that really low energy thing, I hardly even worked on my lessons this week. Maybe two days, and I didn’t even do all of them then. It isn’t that I didn’t want to, just… I couldn’t make myself do anything – even the lessons that calm me.

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I did clean, but I can’t express how difficult that was for me. Every moment was like torture as I pushed my exhausted body to move, knowing that leaving it messy would just make everything worse, including my energy level. Yet moving made me so tired that I had to take breaks between every (5 minute) activity: clean the bathroom, watch Netflix; wipe the counters, watch Netflix; vacuum one room, watch Netflix…

I did go for a walk one day with my son. That was especially hard, and I almost didn’t make it home, I was so very tired. You’d have thought I was trying to move after running a marathon, instead of just taking a short walk after a decent sleep. So tired. I don’t know what is going on there.

Then above that, I have been unusually prone to tears. I mean, I would just be going along, feeling okay, when suddenly the tears would come – and everything bad that every happened weighed on me, and the tears wouldn’t stop. And no, it wasn’t the right timing for that.

A whole week of nothing. I went to care group, but didn’t speak – my words weren’t working this week. My brother in law came for a visit, and stayed two nights, and I struggled to talk with him, too. I worried that he would think I was being rude, or angry, or… I don’t know – whatever it is that people assume I am when I can’t talk to explain myself.

Everything I ate made me sick, and so I ate a lot of wheat – not the best choice for me, but the easiest to get down when I feel like that. Of course, then I had heartburn, and itchy skin, and horribly itchy ears, and insomnia, and of course it only made the nausea worse – but not until after I had eaten it, which is why I could. Eating wheat also brings cravings, and reduces my self-control in eating other foods… all to say it was a horrible week for health and diet.

All of this brought my functioning down to a very low level. If I could have brought myself to do my lessons, I wouldn’t have understood them anyway. If I could have talked to people, what came out likely wouldn’t have made any sense. It was not a week for making decisions. It was more one of those weeks that in the past have caused me to fail at just about everything I have tried to do because people will push me, and will not accept that while I am quite capable a lot of the time, sometimes I am just not!

So I guess it is just as well that so little got done this week, because whatever I did would have just become another regret to add to the pile of things that torture me at times like these. And once more I am thankful that they decided I needed to be at home – because really, at times like this (which happen too frequently to count) I just can’t survive out there.

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Autism: Choices Made Long Ago

This morning I woke up early with a nearly overwhelming urge to plan What if? Not what if I get this job, or win the lottery, or suddenly find myself pregnant, but more on the lines of: What if I could return twenty years in the past, indwell my twenty year old body, and live and make decisions based on who I am now, and what I now know?

If that were possible, what would I do differently? What would I do the same? Where would I live? (On ‘my little corner’ where I always find myself in my dreams?) Who would I live with? What job would I do?

If I didn’t move across the country, would I still have turned to church and found faith? If I hadn’t met my husband, what would his life be like now? (Probably much messier, much simpler, and easier for him, I imagine.) If I hadn’t tried to adopt “my” children, would someone else have succeeded in adopting them? Would they still be together now?

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If I hadn’t moved away from home, would I have followed through on homeschooling my son? If we had remained close to our families, would my son be more social? Would he have friends who lived close enough to visit? Would he seem so alone?

If I didn’t have twenty years of failure behind me, would I still have sought my Autism diagnosis? Would I have brought my son in for his? Would we still have gotten it?

I am completely overwhelmed by the reality that my choices have such lasting consequences – and that if I choose wrong, working to fix it won’t remove all that was set in motion due to that choice.

I don’t know whether this is in spite of, or because of, my form of Autism, but I spend an unreasonable amount of time and energy considering things that are outside of the laws of the world I find myself in.

And though I know making plans for what I might have done is at best a waste of time, the pull is so strong that I will likely spend my day fixated on it anyway. Though I realize it will ultimately lead to me feeling trapped so far from home, for a while – a very little while – I will believe that “anything can happen,” and there I will find hope.

 

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Autism: Dreams of Home

Last night I dreamed that I was moving back to my hometown. I have dreams about that a lot! I guess it has to do with my regret for moving so far away from home, and my constant longing to see my mother. It isn’t that I don’t like the place that I now live. If it weren’t for family, there would be no comparison.

I love the town I have lived in for the past sixteen years. It is beautiful – lakes, mountains, hills, trees… no comparison. Where I am from has a lake as well, but that lake is surrounded by factories, where this one is surrounded by nature. My hometown is crowded, and busy, and dirty. Where I now live only has about 20,000 people, and is nowhere near a big city.

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Here I have my church – the only one I have ever called my own. I have been attending that church for sixteen years, and just about everyone that I know goes there. Here I met my husband, raised my son, learned to drive… Here I had my first job, owned my first house, grew my first garden… Here I grew in faith, and here I learned of my Autism.

Yet so many nights I dream of moving ‘home.’ For years and years I have dreamed of moving back, and in all of those dreams, despite the large size of the city, I am almost always wandering along the same street, on the same city block. There, where I spent most of my highschool years. There where I lived when my son was born. There where my grandmother had moved the last time I had visited her before she died.

I walk along the street, searching for my new home. It has to be there. It cannot be anywhere else. One road, one block, within a huge city – and that is where I need to be. I spent seven years of my life on or near that part of the city. Seven years that encompassed the time from the beginning of highschool until just after my son’s second birthday. I guess those years meant a lot to me, for it is always where I return.

Last night, as I was walking along that road in my dreams, I met with a couple from my church. They were there, on the parking lot of a plaza on the corner, as part of their vacation. When I said, “Hello,” they asked me what I was doing there. “This is where I am from,” I told them. “I am looking for a place to live.” Then I continued on my way.

Often in these dreams, I have ended up in the city impulsively. I suddenly found myself on an airplane, flying ‘home’ despite the fact that I had to work the next day, or had someone to meet. I am there thinking, “I am not supposed to be here,” and it causes me to panic. Still I am there to find a place to live, and find that place I must.

Always I have it in my mind that once I have found a place to live, I will go to visit with my mom. Sometimes I get that far in the dream, and hop on a bus, and go for those visits (with my mom, and my brother, and my niece and nephews) but mostly I just know that is what I am going to do.

In these dreams, my husband doesn’t come with me. He usually doesn’t even know I have gone. It isn’t that I intended to leave him behind, just… suddenly I was on a plane going home. There was no time to think of him. So while I am searching for a home, and noting that I will visit with my mom after, my anxiety grows. Sometime I will have to call my husband, and let him know that I am almost the full width of the country away from him, and I wonder… will he come to live here, too?

 

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Autism: Battles From Good

The moment, though unexpected, was a good experience. Such things do not happen for me often, especially when I am around other people. I can even see how I was being prepared ahead of time for this particular moment, so that I would be open and receptive to it.

Here is was, smack dab in the middle of Rosh Hashanah. Okay, so it is a Jewish holiday, and I am not Jewish, nor do I exactly celebrate their holidays. I do make note of them, however. I feel the times and seasons are important to some degree. Not that I need to celebrate, but more to be aware of when they are, and what they mean.

Each day in my inbox I receive probably about 20 emails that I delete without even opening them up: companies trying to sell me something, survey invitations, food recipes, craft ideas, plans for going off grid… in short all items that were a fixation at one point or another. Then there are the emails that I pretty much always open: daily devotional, prophecy news, posts from blogs that I am following, emails from family, friends, and health care professionals…

Included in this list are emails with news and information about Israel, and Jewish people (also a recurring fixation at different times in my life.) Typically I don’t read these. It isn’t that I am not interested; like many of the others, I just have to choose how to prioritize my time. Despite not having a job, I still feel busy, and still try to use the time I have well.

Only I chose to look at that email, and more, I watched the video linked to it. Basically it talked about Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, when the Jewish people are taught that the souls of every person on Earth go before God, and he decides what will happen to them in the year ahead. So, lots of information, but what I got out of it came down to this: Rosh Hashanah: Anything is possible.

And so I started praying. It goes in hand with what I was saying about being 7 years from losing my kids, and turning 40 the same week. A week after that? Rosh Hashanah. How I long for change. Not just any change, but something good. Something wonderful. A complete turn around from what my life has been so far. I not only long for it, I need it. As you might have noticed from my fifteen months of posting – I am not doing great. I can’t pull out of it on my own (do you read how hard I try?)

I don’t even know what I need, but I know I need something. So I pray.

That day, I had just come back from a walk with my dog. I was standing in the yard, when a neighbour (from ‘my’ church) came by. We started talking about some very personal things, when another neighbour (also from church) came by. We talked, and then ‘we’ prayed (okay, I didn’t exactly pray out loud, but I did explain to them why I couldn’t, and I did pray in my head within the silences.) When it came to praying over me, and they were praying for healing over traumas in my past – which I hadn’t spoken about, we had been talking about general traumas including health issues – they both were overwhelmed, and there was a loud silence before they carried on.

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Anyway, it might seem strange – and for me, it was. Yet because I had been praying so hard for change, and for healing, and for really good things to happen, I was highly encouraged by that moment.

I felt really good as I walked back into my house – yet within minutes the attacks began. “What were you thinking?” “How could you share like that?” “They are going to hate you.” “Nothing good is going to come of this.” “Nothing good ever happens to you.” And on and on the attack came, worse and worse as the minutes ticked by. The anxiety was so severe that night I could hardly sleep. I woke up sick, and full of fear.

Later that day, my son got upset about my dog, and actually swore at me (he has never done that before, despite being 20 years old) and told me he wanted to leave home. It has been three days, and he hasn’t talked to me since. After that, my pain grew. It grew and grew until the tears were a river running down my face.

If I hadn’t lost my dog… If I hadn’t lost my kids… If I hadn’t moved so far from home… If I had been more patient with my son growing up, maybe he would be more patient with my dog… If he leaves, I will never see him… If he goes, what will I do?…

For hours I was in such pain I was hyperventilating, and my headache grew and grew.

That is the thing. When good things happen in my life, I get attacked. Every time. And it often hurts even more… well, no – it just returns me to the pain of all the bad things. So it gets to where if something good is happening, I immediately start panicking, because this is my experience afterwards.

The thing about my fears, that seems to stump the counselors, is that they very frequently come true. And do they hurt as much as I feared they would? Absolutely, and much more. I guess that isn’t true of most people – seeing as that is a tactic counselors use to try to calm anxious people. (“Think of your worst fear.” “Has it ever happened?” yes “Was it as bad as you feared?” worse!)

So yes, I am afraid of the good, and I am afraid of the bad – and this means I am pretty much afraid all of the time!

 

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I Will Restore The Years

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts have eaten.” Joel 2:25

This is the promise I rest on, when all seems dark and lost. When I am crying in my bed, afraid that I will not get through another day.

Everything is lost, I think in despair, there is nothing now to look forward to. And I am reminded of this passage.

But it is my fault. Though others have been involved, and some of my struggles, and many of my flashbacks are related to what others have done to me, I nevertheless claim responsibility to where I am today, and it hurts.

In these moments, reading Job doesn’t help. Job was a righteous man… okay, so Satan sought permission to try him, and Job struggled a lot, but it wasn’t his fault.

Sometimes I seek comfort in the story of Job. Not everyone who suffers does so because of something they have done, or failed to do. Sometimes we can’t understand why bad things happen to good people. Sometimes there is comfort to be found there… but not in these moments.

The story of Joseph, too. Okay, so he bragged a little – or a lot. Still, he didn’t deserve what happened to him. Sold into slavery by his brothers… put into prison for something he didn’t do. He had a hard life, and it was a long time before things started to look up for him. But it wasn’t his fault. At times, there is peace, patience, inspiration to be found in Joseph’s story… but not in these times.

Jacob lied. Moses killed. David took another man’s wife (and so many others) and put him in a place where he would be killed. All of these were used of God anyway, in spite of themselves. I hope I can be used, but I don’t really relate to these men. Not really. The suffered, were tried, and then were used for great things. There is hope there, but not comfort. Not now.

But this! These words. This passage: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts have eaten.” That would be wonderful, Lord! I think, But it is my failure that brought me here.

And that little bit of hope that comes with this thought starts to fade.

Read more, God tells me. So I do.

I read about how the Jewish people turned away from God, and were full of sin. In response, God’s wrath is coming against them, and they are in real trouble. Surrounded by enemies, famine, pestilence… The end is near, and it is their fault.

Everything seems hopeless. There is no way out. They deserve this.

And God tells them to return to Him.

They look in the mirror and see themselves as they truly are, and are disgusted. Full of hate for themselves, and what they have done, and cry out to Him. I see myself here, in my worst moments, I am there, facing that same mirror, and hating all of me.

And He gives them this promise, as He has given to me: “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locusts have eaten.”

Which ones? I ask.

All of them, He tells me.

And there I find my comfort.

 

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