I got hailed as a “Warrior Mom” not long ago, by a woman whom I feel really deserves that honor. Lately I have been meeting more and more of them. Mothers who leave no stone unturned, who cut through walls of academic bramble, who start their own group homes, who search to find or who create the things that will make that difference, to improve life for their son or daughter — these are Warrior Moms in the autism and special needs community.
Only, in real life, mothers tire. Mothers are human, and as such they get impatient, and angry — they wear out. They bleed. And they can crack.
About two weeks ago, on a Monday morning I found myself falling hard into an emotional abyss for the third time in six weeks. I could tell I needed help. I had been feeling myself beginning to crumble for months. I stood in the kitchen making Owen’s breakfast sobbing and thought of people I could call. Any of them would have been a good idea. But I didn’t call. In the weeks before this I cancelled three therapist appointments. Why? I don’t know, it’s illogical. I felt like talking could not help me. But I knew I needed help.
I need medicine, I thought that Monday, I need to see my doctor. But I just cried. On this morning it felt like my husband was uninterested and unavailable to Owen and me, that I was alone in a job that was too big and too heavy. So, the MOST logical person to reach out to, my best friend and husband, was the last one I wanted to see. The idea of climbing into our tub and slicing open a vein once again suggested itself as the only way to find peace; on this morning, for the first time, there was an idea in my head that this was really the inevitable choice.
And yet, had you seen me the week before this, I had seemed very well indeed — in fact, super. A superwoman. I had amazed myself. Why did I seem to need so little sleep? I knew I was tired, yet I kept overriding my fatigue. Alll week while Edward was in Dallas I took Owen to appointments, washed clothes, cooked, and got some writing time in on the sides. I stayed up late and got up early. I was able to mostly be really patient with Owen, too. This amazed me. I was desperate for social life by the time Edward came home, and triple booked myself with supportive appointments that I couldn’t keep. Edward was frustrated with me, and very tired from his trip. But by naptime Sunday afternoon instead of sleep ideas for future projects exploded in my brain — I couldn’t write them down fast enough.
And when Owen’s MNRI therapist arrived Monday morning, to find me a sobbing, falling apart, she did what she had to do in that situation. I know that she called the authorities to our home out of love for us, to force our hand, to help us find a better way to manage our lives. Even though it didn’t feel that way at first. As my son’s therapist she had an obligation to do so. She had seen how exhausted I was, and she had personal experience with suicide.
The learning curve for what I have been trying to provide for Owen is a steep one. Nothing in my life has ever been as difficult as the walk we have with Owen now, trying to help him claim a life for himself in an environment of academic skepticism and ignorance. Trying to build a scaffold of supports without any training in how to do that, in a general environment that does not presume competence for those with strange behaviors, but rather the opposite. The most dangerous people to Owen, I have found, are those who claim, “Oh I know all about autism…”
I recognize that this post is shocking to read. Please understand that I am allowing this view into very private matter in order to help others who may also be suffering. I was taught there are no dumb questions. I am saying it exactly because it makes me cringe to do so. Because Warrior Moms do not act like this. A warrior mom would never be confused, lose her way, or grow impatient with the very one she went to help. She would never terrify her own beloved child with self-destructive thoughts or words. A Warrior Mom would never need to have her child removed from the house by Adult Protective Services…
Because Warrior Moms do not act like this. A warrior mom would never be confused, lose her way, or grow impatient with the very one she went to help. She would never terrify her own beloved child with self-destructive thoughts or words. A Warrior Mom would never need to have her child removed from the house by Adult Protective Services…
It has been a very uncomfortable experience, having our home and privacy invaded, trying to understand another way to do what I was trying to do, but with help from strangers. But it is a measure of how truly exhausted I had become that it was also a relief. A relief to let go of the care of Owen. To sit still in the rocking chair and read and write. To sleep. A relief to get medicine and a psychiatric evaluation ” bipolar type 2.” Sometimes, the things we dread are the best things that could have happened to us. Like falling apart, and having strangers evaluate you. I really dislike the idea of strangers caring for Owen, especially in our home. But I see that that will be our way, going forward. I have to save my energy, if allow larger goals are to be reached. Sometimes we don’t know what we need; sometimes the “seeing” can be blind, sometimes those with hearing can be deaf. Sometimes we just don’t know where to go for help.
Sometimes moms and dads can crack. And they can be helped. And they can heal.