While this article is essentially about me, I feel a little back story about my family dynamic would be useful before I jump right in!
Three years and six months ago my youngest child was diagnosed with Autism just before his 3rd birthday. If you don’t know anything about autism, it is not a disease, it is a lifelong neurological condition which essentially means, my son and others on the spectrum do not process information the way a neuro typical brain does. For instance, my son does not speak in sentences yet. The speech pathways from his brain to his mouth in his case and as I see it are a bit jumbled up. His brain cannot process the thought to speech quickly enough for him speak. Two years ago he had about 3 words, now i’d say he has hundreds, he just cant formulate them into conversational language just yet. He will, im confident that he will, he just needs time to catch up.
So three years ago our life turned on its head. Everything we thought we knew about parenting was like the proverbial rug, pulled out from under us and we needed to start from scratch. Actually, what we had to do was look at this little boy with the most complex needs, and we needed to figure out how to parent him for his benefit.
What I mean by that is that when you parent its a mutually beneficial experience. You do it for them, but there is a lot of self gratification that comes from your child getting it right. “Potty training? Hi-five, you did it! I taught you that.” “You slept in your big boy bed? Well done, i’m so proud of you, and so glad to have my bed back!” These are just two of the parenting victories you can pat yourself on the back for. You are on your way to moulding that child into the fantastic human being you expect them to be. So when you don’t have that version anymore, it takes time to reboot. Its no reflection on your love for your children, but you need a new manual, and guess what? There isn’t one.
I will just say a little about the joy my son brings me every day, regardless of how many hours sleep I got or the challenges he faced that day. Both of my children bring me so much happiness. Knowing the difficulties autism brings to his life, education, well being and seeing him get to it every day, progress onwards and upwards all the time with his speech, with his peer interaction. He is happy; that is all the validation I will ever need that we are doing a good job. We are a very loving family, close knit, tactile. So many hugs and ‘I love yous’ pass between us. If we feel it, we say it. Hearing Sam say I love you to me the handful of times he has done. My. Heart. Swells.
So why is it that five weeks ago the doctor prescribed me with depression? This isn’t about the happiness I get from my family, because I really do. What is it though? I’m struggling to find the words to explain it to myself. When the doctor did the “depression test” on me, I scored really quite high, yet 24 hours earlier I hadn’t fully realised I was depressed! How does that work?! I think it comes down to you just get used to feeling a certain way. Now I see it as It was my normal; until I analysed myself a little bit it went unnoticed, hidden in plain sight. When I noticed it there and I allowed it to come up for air…wow it was like I’d been hit by a truck. Giving it its place in my life made it less black or bleak. It is there and it deserved my recognition.
Yes, my life is more stressful than some, less so than others, but its my life right? I can cope with that. Or I thought I could. Having conversations with friends, school & loved ones I came to the realisation that I have probably been depressed for a very long time. About the time our life became something else. There is absolutely no part of me that blames autism for my lack of self awareness of what was going on with my own mind but autism can be quite the distraction. The focus. To put it simply, my mind wasn’t ready to face the gamut of experiences it coped with almost every day. I can say all the right things, do them too for my children. Can I do them for myself? Probably not. Not at that time all the way up until I saw myself as I really am. Im not putting on a brave face, Im not putting on any face at all. I am allowing myself to just be. Be still and listen to my body, slow down my thoughts just long enough to pick up on the signs. Five weeks ago I was living with depression, today I think it its living with me. With some excellent medication which seems to be doing its job coupled with the fact that its ok to not be ok has really helped me through these last few weeks.
I had a school meeting last week, I’d had one the day before I went to see the doctor too. I was dressed the same, hair scraped back, same clothes, no make up and my sons senco remarked that I seemed much better, looked much better. So that’s a good sign. People notice people. They notice you in their orbit. The fact she noticed me looking better made me feel a little bit better still, plus a bit of ‘oh Jesus, how awful must I have really looked’!! I think it was more than that. My whole demeanour was so flat and grey, I needed another reboot. Which is what I got.
With support from family and friends, and some self exploration, I have come to realise that its not even a bad thing to be depressed, its just another facet of me for the time being. It means I needed to work on myself. It means I needed my families help. It means I just needed to stop and take a breather. Thinking back to how down I really was, and seeing how worried my husband was for me, feeling so so low. I can 100% say I am not where I was. Life is still the same as it was five weeks ago. But I am not. I am better for understanding my own self in a way I haven’t in many years. No ones lives are all sunshine and butterflies, we have black cloud and rainbows too. My life feels like that a bit at the moment, but it’s ok.