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Struggling a bit

Struggling a bit

The last three or four days have been tough ones for Janey, and for me.  She’s been crying a great deal, more than in ages.  We had decided to take her to the doctor today if she wasn’t better, not because she seems sick but just because it’s so hard for her to tell us if she is sick or if something hurts, but today is a big improvement, so we are waiting on the doctor (doctor’s visits being hellish when she’s not happy).

We really don’t know what’s up with Janey.  Our best guess is boredom.  Summer school is over and regular school doesn’t start until September 9th.  Janey doesn’t like there not to be school.  She enjoyed summer school a lot, from all indications.  She likes activity and movement and going places and doing things.  Tony is doing his level best to take her for a lot of car rides, which is what she asks for day and night between tears, but the second we are home from one car ride, she starts crying for another one.  The car has over 100,000 miles and is showing signs of starting to be unreliable, using a lot of oil, but besides that, constantly being on a car ride is just not a realistic way to live.     (Picture is Janey on a better mood day)

Even before this recent crying time started, I was feeling pretty depressed, more so than in probably years.  Like Janey’s crying, I’m not sure why.  Nothing in particular had changed. I think some of it, also like Janey, was feeling let down after a great time.  I went for almost a week to see my sister-in-autism-parenting, Michelle, and her family.  It was a great trip, even with a 17 hour train ride out and another back (I don’t fly!).  I relaxed so much!  It was great being with Michelle and her family—partly because I think only another autism family totally gets the life, and partly because of how much I love Michelle and all of her family, how much fun they are to be with.  Coming home was hard.  Not that I don’t love my family more than anything, but returning to regular life after a really great break isn’t easy.

Janey turned 17 last week.  It was a good birthday, one of the first times I felt like she kind of got the birthday thing.  She readily said she was 17 when asked, she requested it be cake time and blew out her candles with glee, she loved us singing to her—it was a very nice day.  Her birthday, as most of you know, is extra special because it’s also her brother Freddy’s birthday.  He turned 24.

Even with the birthday being a good day, birthdays are another thing that sometimes hits me hard.  As Michelle and I talked a lot about, once your child is pretty much no longer a child but an adult, it’s time to accept certain things just are the way they are.  I am working to accept Janey will never be fully toilet trained.  She will never talk in a way that is truly communicative.  She will never learn to read.  She will never be able to be unsupervised.  She will remain much as she is—functioning at a toddler to preschool level for life.  May the future prove me wrong about any of this—I’d love to be wrong.  But I am not wrong. 

I try very hard not to let myself get depressed or in a self-pity spiral.  This isn’t out of some feeling that I have to deny my feelings, or some Pollyannaish delusion.  It’s for a couple other reasons.  One is that knowing myself, I do better if distracted.  Letting myself go to dark places feeds on itself.  If I make myself stay busy and chipper and active, I feel better.  The other reason is that if I give in to depression, stay in bed all day, feel unable to do things, there’s still Janey.  Someone still needs to care for her.  And Tony and I are the only ones that are available for the job, so any time I don’t feel up to it, it’s Tony’s job. My mood and depression affects others, by putting an undue burden on Tony and leaving Janey with just one caregiver.  The conventional wisdom which says all that stuff about having to care for yourself first, having to put on your oxygen mask before your child’s—well, that ignores reality.  Lots of things sound great in theory, but theory doesn’t do much when faced with a screaming, crying daughter.

And so—what do we do?  We do what all of you do.  We get by.  We wait eagerly for school to start.  We take Janey for as many rides as we can.  We comfort her as best as we are able.  We trade off sleep, we trade off eating, we trade off moments to recover.  

I can’t give in to depression, but I can admit to it.  It’s a tough life.  It’s tough for Janey, and it’s tough for us.  Love to all of you out there living a similar life.


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