I dedicated myself years ago to being a positive person. After an extremely abusive relationship I realized just how much I loathed myself and how sad it took me being in that situation to realize I actually had worth. That's neither here, nor there but the point is, I've been in a place before where life circumstances have left me bargaining with God, having that "If you just give me the strength to get through this, I swear I'll live my life the best way I can to honor you". At some point I actually decided to listen to God saying.... "You have to do the work, I'll be here to listen. Your life choices are always in your own hands, how you choose to live it, is up to you". What the hell..... there's really no "easy" button?
I think I've spent years since that time with an "easy button" of sorts. Amazing husband, amazing kids, great job; it was as if the sun rose after the darkness and God made me very aware, I had weathered the storm. Something happens when you have come through the worst of the worst and you realize just how amazing life can be, however human nature sure has a way of creeping right back in when things aren't all rosy. We all seem to have seasons in life, the good, the bad, the ugly and the in between where you're in some bizarre place between one or the other. I feel like the last three years since Izzy's diagnosis have been a very long trip between every season imaginable.
That whole "when it rains, it pours" is no joke. I have no idea how it happens, but for whatever reason, in my life, it seems like I'm either skipping through the flowers or clawing my way through the thorns. The hardest part, is to know, admit and own how much of your own misery you are creating for yourself.
I know I'm revisiting but for those unaware, when Izzy was diagnosed we were in the middle of building our dream home. It took 14+ years of BL busting ass in law enforcement and my career was solid, the girls were teenagers getting ready for college, Izzy had a private day care provider, I was being paid to blog and travel for speaking engagements and book signings... LIFE.WAS.GOLDEN. Then, the bottom dropped out beneath us. I was prepared for Autism, I suspected for years. I had NO IDEA we would find ourselves with a diagnosis of Dysphasia, Rickets a feeding disorder, strength and mobility issues and self harming in our child. It seemed as if he woke up angry one day and it all just went to hell in a hand basket overnight. His daycare provider could no longer take it....and I couldn't blame her a bit. I went from working career mom to researching medical expert consumed with internet information and studies on what to do to find the right help for Izzy. We lost over half our income when I left my job. I started a home day care to absorb the loss. We quickly learned there was no way to continue with that once we found out therapy appointments, doctor appointments, intakes, evals, specialist appointments become your new reality overnight. Three years later and the past month or so I've finally found myself at that place where I realized somewhere along the way, I disappeared.
I read every single comment people leave on Izzy's page. "You are amazing", "You are an inspiration", "You have so much patience", "I could learn something about being a wife and mother from you". Truth be told, I am one hell of a special needs mom and I am the epitome of super wife. I'll give myself that. I don't always get it right, I fail miserably a lot, but by God, I give my everything to that boy and his father....because they deserve that from me and because they mean everything to me (as do the girls, but they're not in my face on the daily now that they're grown). However, the reason I do as well as I do is, in part, because I have an amazing husband who makes it easy. I don't live in a home with constant conflict and hostility. My husband is my best friend and the most supportive person I know. I know what it's like to not have that and it makes life miserable. Credit where it's due.... I would suck at this without BL. I could easily say I'm basically a single mom, I'm married to a cop. He's NEVER HERE. It's the sacrifice HE has been willing to make in order for me to be able to stay home. It is HIS sacrifice for our family. He is the one out there working every extra job he can, which is why there will never be any resentment from me feeling like I'm alone in this a lot. I don't feel that way because although there is a lack of his physical presence, there is always 100% emotional support. I can promise you, things would be very different if we didn't have the marriage we have. It breaks my heart knowing how many children and parents suffer when the home front is a place of hostility and not a haven.
All that being said, my husband isn't responsible for my happiness, nor is he capable of making me happy with myself. Honestly, being happy with myself hasn't even been on my radar for the past three years, and not because I decided to hate myself, I just haven't had time to worry about me, nor have I had any interest in worrying about me. You can throw every cliché out there you choose.... "Love yourself first", "If you don't take care of you, you can't take care of anyone else"..... ummm..... YES YOU CAN. It may not be emotionally or physically healthy, and it won't last forever, but ask any special needs mom or mom of a child with cancer, or dad with a child with mobility limitations or any parent or sole caregiver of a person in need and they will tell you.... you sure as hell can take care of everyone but you, and do it rather well. I doubt any of us think it's the best way, but there's only so much of us to go around and we are typically always last on our list. I think that's fair for many, regardless of life circumstances. Unless you're just a self absorbed narcissist, most people tend to think of others before themselves, it's just a matter of who can maintain a level of balance. My balance dropped off my radar three years ago. I haven't looked for it since. Frankly, I wouldn't change a thing. It took everything I had to get Izzy to this point....because I CAN'T DO IT ALL. I'm NOT superwoman. I'm supermom. I'm superwife. I'm NOT SUPER-ME.
So, there's been no huge awakening on my part, there's been no big "this is the year I take myself back" revelation. There's no urgency to make some complete life change on my part. That's the great thing that comes with age.... the knowledge of reality and your own capacity to maintain your determination. I'm honest enough to look at my life and know, I am capable of more for me, at this time. It's taken this long but I finally don't feel consumed with Izzy. I feel like our village is in place. He has his team of doctors and specialists and therapists, we have a groove of progress going, despite sometimes daily setbacks. I've reached that place as "Autism Mom" where I finally feel like "I got this" and it doesn't mean I'll stop crying in the shower on certain days and it doesn't mean I've got all the answers and it is certainly clear that our journey is far from over, but I feel like I am at a place to own that it's time to let go of some of the consuming lifestyle which has been sucking my energy for years. Frankly, I have myself to thank for that. Being proactive and getting Izzy to this place regardless of what it "cost" me, is in part, why I'm where I am today.
I don't think losing yourself is always necessarily a bad thing..... not when it was your own choice, not when you know yourself enough to know what you're doing and why. FORGETTING yourself is worse than losing yourself in my opinion. I was "lost" in my child, so to speak. I have no regrets in that. I also have no shame whatsoever in saying I'm too old, too tired and now too out of shape to go full beast mode by myself and try and become what I was before his diagnosis without help. Every time I read a comment from any of you that says "You're such an inspiration", I feel the need to reply "No, my doctor is an inspiration. Happy pills are an inspiration. Xanax is an inspiration. A husband who isn't a douchebag is an inspiration. WINE is an inspiration". I'm saying this for every single one of you who is discouraged or beating yourself up or wallowing in a misery you're so far in you can't figure out how to even start to get out. Truth is, I did not wake up on January 1st, go buy a juicer and buckets of organic whole foods and jump on the treadmill and yell "I'm BACK BITCHEZZ!!" No.... I went to the damn doctor and begged him to hook me up! And I'll own it, because it's what works for me and has allowed me to look at an apple and not hurl it back into the damn fridge with anger and resentment. It's allowed me to get my fat ass back on the treadmill without loathing myself for getting off it three years ago. I'm at a place in my life where I can listen to everyone's else's advice and allow myself to feel guilty for not doing things the way society says I should, or I can be me. And this me is the me who says "I don't give a rats ass what you think because you haven't lived a day in my shoes. I am totally aware of what I sacrificed for my son. I'm totally aware I lost myself in the process. I'm not going to beat myself up for one more day because I couldn't be everything to everyone else and chose to backburner myself. I can't change it, and I wouldn't.
One thing I've learned from my son is EVERY DAY is a NEW DAY. So, to all of you out there beating yourself up.....stop it. You're amazing. Do what you need to do for you and yours, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. YOU know YOU at the end of the day. If you lay your head down at night and know you lived your life the way you wanted to, sleep. If you didn't, think about what works best for you to change some things.....and start a new day.