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When the news came to me- it was an article gently sent by a caring friend- my first thought as I read the headline that a mom had tried to kill herself and her autistic daughter paired with a picture I recognized of my friend was, “Well, this news agency has the wrong picture here. There’s no way…” The room got really loud in its silence. I crumbled to the floor and put my hands over my ears and screamed, “GOD!” It was a prayer and a threat and swear word all in one. “No, no no no no no!” I wailed at the walls that seemed as if they were closing in on me. I felt my husband’s arms wrap around me as he lifted and carried me to my bed. I screamed and screamed. “If she can fall, what hope is there for the rest of us? If she could break who is safe? We’re not safe. No one is safe!”
You could have paired quotes of strength, bravery, and a fighting spirit with her pictures. She embodied every platitude. In the end though, people are not platitudes. We are human and life is messy. Pain demands to be felt, and for those of us who deal with the constant toll life as parents of special needs children, the pain gets pushed aside to meet the demands of the day.
Pain pushed aside is pain still carried.
I spent that awful September night curled in a ball scared at what the future held for me. My world had tipped on its axis a little. She was an example of strength to me. My hero fell, what hope was there for me? Over the next weeks and through the conversations with many wonderful friends in the autism community, we came to one understanding: We’d ask for help. We’d set up any roadblocks in our brains to prevent us from careening over the edge that too many of walk on.
Last December I hit my roadblock. I had treaded water without a break for too long, and I was drowning. I remember the promises I had made to stop at nothing to get help. Again I found myself sobbing in my husband’s arms, this time scared to tell him just how low I had sunk. I did. I asked for help, and told him that I needed him to stay with me until I had my head above water.
We saw my doctor first thing next morning and were more aggressive in the treatment of my depression. I spoke to my therapist and made a plan going forward that included me. I realized how many behavior plans I had written, how many IEPs I had attended, but never once had thought about making my own plan for success.
That awful time after learning about my friend and her sweet daughter were transformative for me. They woke me up to the reality of the stress that I was experiencing that I was not dealing with. I’m not sure what would have happened in December if I hadn’t set up that roadblock.
Looking back, I see myself crumpled in my husband’s arms, feeling so weak and so broken. But I don’t feel that way about that girl now, in that moment, I was the most brave I ever have been. I did what was the hardest, scariest, thing for me: I asked for help.
There is a stigma to asking for help that says that it is because we are not strong, are not capable, and are not brave. The stigma is wrong. Asking for help is an admission that life is messy and it embraces authenticity. We do not occupy this world alone for a reason.
My plea to those reading is that you will write your own plan for success. You will set up roadblocks in your brain that will jolt you into a sense of the urgency of your own mental health. That anytime you go down that path, anytime you feel yourself even facing the edge, no matter how far away, you will acknowledge this and ask for help. You will not pretend things are okay when they are not okay. You will be honest with others and yourself about the reality of your life. You will be truly brave.
Lexi blogs at www.MostlyTrueStuff.com where she deftly and humorously shares her thoughts on raising four kiddos, one with autism, one with Down Syndrome, all beautiful, loving and very snarky!
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