It’s been a few weeks, and I’ve been listening. Listening to other people talk about their autism journey. What I find remarkable is for as different as each of our children are, we as families seem to go through some of the same stuff. Moreover, the communities I’ve been a part of have been extraordinary. They cheer during the good days, cry with you during the bad, and sympathies during the ugly ones. Let us talk about some of those days.
Good days are odd. I say that because they feel few and far between, but you can usually find good moments throughout the day. My kid ate a chicken nugget! And, now he’s throwing his cup at the wall because of “reasons”. It’s rare to look at a day full day and declare it “good” because absolutely nothing bad happened. Most of us will classify a day as good because more good happened than bad. Those days that when we speak of it goes like “I mean yea (did bad thing here), but other than that…..”. If you are confused or think you never have good days, look at that formula above. If you say it like that than you are selling yourself short. Lower your expectation of your days and just be happy with the little stuff. Rule 32 of Zombie Land after all: “Enjoy the little things”. Stop looking for big wins. They are going to happen, but more than likely, your expectations are what is holding you back from seeing big wins today. Kid ate a new food? That’s a big win! Kid used the potty, more like throw a party! If you go through this looking for the big stuff you’ll miss all the little stuff, and this journey is walked an inch at a time. There are no shortcuts, and it’s going to take a while. So take a beat to enjoy the ride, because there isn’t anywhere else you can find the pure joy on a face like you can in your child. Joy so thick it’s infectious. Revel in that, because it is extremely rare.
Then there are the bad days. Those days are going to feel like they outnumber the good. And, they like to gang up on you and beat you in the dark alleys of your mind. They make you feel like a failure. They will take the ice cream cone offered to you by a good day, smack it from your hand, and laugh as it hits the ground. This will have the inevitable reaction of being sad or getting mad. Let this continue and you’ll find that those cute little angsty feelings grow into serious demons that kick your ass on a daily basis. You’ll be depressed and full of rage. Problem is the depression keeps your insides weighed down trapping the rage. And then, usually at the worst times, that rage builds up enough pressure escape the gravity of your depression, sending you into orbit riding a fiery rocket heading straight for planet “Who the F-Cares!”. Well the landing is never graceful. There is always collateral damage, and somehow my foot ALWAYS ends up in my mouth. This is why it is important to be aware, and do your best to focus on the good days. Recognize your warning sounds when the countdown starts, get away for a bit. But Shane, what if I can’t get away? Valid question. That is why you need to talk to your partner and alert them to what’s going on. Maybe they can carry some of that stress to relieve some of the pressure. Maybe they can make a window for you to slip away for ten minutes to collect yourself. Either way, learning to deal with bad days will make you better and will desensitize you to them. That makes them feel less bad and you start to feel the good easier. Do not worry though, your child/life will not disappoint and find new and creative ways to getting under your skin. Just takes practice.
Now we’ve reached the ugly. You have bad days, and given enough of them, they can really mess with you. But, ugly days don’t mess around. Your kid melt downs while covered in poop and a large chunk flies from his hand and hits you square in the face. How do you deal with that? You don’t. Simple as that. You turn off emotionally, and mechanically do what needs to be done. Once the moment is over, you allow yourself to feel it. It hits, and you cry. Then probably pour out a glass of wine or three and feel it some more. Especially if that is the fourth time that hour its happened. Just be sad. Do not try and hold it in. The feeling inside will eat you alive. You may be the kind of person that doesn’t show their emotions. You may see it as a weakness. In these situations, it isn’t a weakness, but a strength. Every engineer that builds a dam includes a spillway for a reason. Are they just not smart enough, or are they smart enough to account for the fact that one day there will a time when those spillways can save the structure and life around the area?
Point is you have to be the master of your own heart and mind. It isn’t easy, but a skill worth attempting to master. I say it like that because none of us truly do it. Things still get to us, but we can surprise ourselves if we make a couscous effort. So keep that in the back of your mind the next time you face an ugly day. It can help with practice. I hope everyone has more good days than bad this week. Thanks for reading.
Breaking out of the prison of silence takes an incredible amount of courage and strength! ~sjm