Saturday was a difficult day.
Actually, if I’m being truly honest, most weekends have been challenging for as long as I can remember.
Instead of enjoying our earned ‘down time’ as most adults do - running errands, spending quality time with friends or relaxing, our 48-hour break from the work week is not a break at all.
With each passing year, it becomes abundantly clear that the Lord’s day of rest does not apply to me. The remainder of my future weekends will likely be spent coming up with creative ways to entertain my severely autistic son, Skyler not only on Saturdays and Sundays from dawn to dusk but, as he ages out of the traditional school age services and into his early 20s, weekdays will also need a hefty minute-to-minute activity list.
However, never wanting to paint a “woe is me” profile or give off a constant complainer vibe, I quietly endure the hitting, hair-pulling, home destruction and food throwing while deeply burying into the pit of my stomach the fact that I’m feeling overwhelmed, greatly unappreciated and worthless – which is how I inherently taught myself to deal with tough or stressful moments as a child.
Lately, I am not certain whether to blame the pandemic, menopause lurking around the corner or the fact that God does not seem to be answering my pleas for a small glimpse into Skyler’s world, so I can compartmentalize his anger and aggression, but whatever it is, I feel like my mental health is teetering on the edge and I’m dangerously close to losing all control.
To be fair, I do not blame autism for my feelings of anger, sadness and resentment.
On the contrary, I believe autism was a strategically placed path in my adulting journey forcing me to address the emotions and demons which have been brewing in me since my very dysfunctional childhood.
I knew early on that growing up the child of an abusive alcoholic would lead me down one of two inevitable roads - outwardly displaying the chaos I lived by making bad decisions and speeding down the juvenile delinquent highway or internalizing the disruption, always portraying strength and perfection while spending my life pretending that everything is ‘fine.’
I chose the latter. I was an incredible actress, Oscar worthy if you ask me.
Most school nights, I would be woken by the sounds of cursing and banging of pots and pans in the kitchen because my heavily intoxicated father, at two o’clock in the morning, was irritated that his f**king dinner wasn’t on the table!
I would arrive to school a few hours later; hair perfectly styled, wearing a fashionable outfit that I pre-selected and laid out the night before, with a huge grin on my face and peppy personality – cue Marcia Brady (I’m dating myself with the Brady Bunch reference).
In my mind, never allowing anyone to see beyond my fake, confident smile kept the ulcer stricken little girl inside me, drowning in self-doubt and immense insecurities, safe and protected from judgement.
Sadly, I thought fostering this ‘fake it with a smile’ coping mechanism would continue to serve me well into adulthood, marriage and parenting – but it’s finally taken its toll and is having quite the opposite effect.
Perhaps that is why I’m so tired. Exhausted from still pretending that I have it all together and that no problem is too big for me to solve or fix.
God has an interesting way of generating life lessons which become instrumental in teaching us how to survive and flourish in this crazy world.
I fully believe that He had a specific intent behind my upbringing and merging that with Skyler‘s autism – although, the controlling part of my personality just wishes He would give me the outline or share an advance copy of the happy ending to our story, so I know that I’m living, learning and parenting the way He intended.
I was destined to be the daughter of an alcoholic and the mother of a special needs child. Within the dark times, riddled with anxiety, pain and even depression, I’m presented opportunities to lean on Him for guidance and embrace the bigger meaning behind the struggles.
While my approach to autism and Skyler’s development has always been “find the silver lining” or focus on the positive, I often fail miserably at granting myself permission to hold that same perspective or allow grace in my own life.
I suppose my silver lining is understanding that I get to choose whether those countless, tumultuous moments of a childhood will remain in my subconscious mind, stifling my confidence and dictating my future or will I decide to silence the negativity.
Choosing to free myself from carrying those heavy burdens, resentments and fears allows the little girl inside to finally heal and move on too – we are a package deal. If I don’t release us both, the inherited impatience and anger wins and keeps me from embracing the beautiful blessing that is Skyler instead of focusing on and despising every ounce of his autism.
Portraying perfection has never been my goal or intent, but I realize by hanging onto the emotional baggage and letting it define me, I am not fully allowing the resilient, determined and strong woman I’ve fought to become, and that Skyler needs me to be, to surface.
So, through more therapy, self-love, forgiveness and release of control will come healing, clarity and an HONEST smile. God’s plan for my life is unfolding just as He intended it… even if I currently don’t get to enjoy the day of rest with Him.