In this life, it rarely rains. It’s either a sunny, beautiful day…or it’s pouring, and I can hardly bring myself to get out of bed. It’s been pouring for over a week, one tough situation after another, and I’m finding it harder and harder to get past this suffocating feeling; this pressure in my chest. Her meltdowns are worsening, his stimming and obsessive behaviors are becoming more and more obvious, the medical bills are piling up, insurance companies are pulling out, the therapists want more hours, a family member passed away, and Satan’s whispers of comparison are taking over my weary mind. I can’t breathe. I can’t even cry, though it might help relieve some of the pressure. I’m numb. Desperately numb.
I have a blessed life. Even in the middle of the storm, I can see that I have things others are out there dreaming of. This struggle isn’t one formed in lack of gratitude, but in depth of isolation. I have wonderful friends who have offered help. I even know a few other special needs parents who have voiced similar feelings. I have a husband who goes above and beyond to support me. I know I’m not physically alone…but I feel wholly and utterly isolated because this life, for reasons I can’t put words to, is inherently lonely.
It’s hard to describe, what it is to be a special needs parent. The very first word that comes to mind is joy. Parenting a child with Autism has ushered me through some of the deepest sorrow of my life, and brought me out on the other side with the priceless knowledge that mere happiness is nothing compared to joy. Joy is different. Joy is deeper. Joy is more.
In between the hard-earned moments of joy on this journey is often that sorrow. The sorrow that few like to talk about and even fewer want to hear about. It’s messy and complicated and painful. It brings us to a place we don’t want to be and can make us into people we don’t even recognize. Here, in the center of this sorrow, is where I’m at. In the past, I spent lots of pointless energy hiding it. It was exhausting and only made things worse. Now I know that I just need to let it be…and I know that there’s only one way to survive the sorrow. Yes, there are ways to cope: ask for help, pray, take time for yourself, create something, destroy something, ect. All good things. To be able to truly come up for air, though, one thing is necessary:
Tune in to God’s whispers of grace. (I know, I know…it sounds sappy and not at all helpful when you’re exhausted to the core. Just hang in there with me for a minute.)
I’m not going to lie and tell you this is a quick fix, or even a fix at all. This is survival for your soul. This is a life preserver that will carry you until you can see dry land again. If you give Him the chance, if you give God the room to stand next to you in the middle of the storm, He always shows up with something. Sometimes He’ll do something big that you can’t possibly ignore and leaves you standing in awe. Sometimes. More often, like I said, it’s a whisper. It’s a moment constructed by the only One who understands your exact brand of loneliness, your specific isolation. It’s something that, if you keep yourself open to Him (even if you don’t understand why He’s got you where you’re at), will be exactly what your heart needed to realign your focus; to bring a touch of that joy you find yourself putting one foot in front of the other for.
For me, during this particular storm, it was one word. One word that millions of moms hear millions of times a day and, for many, actually brings annoyance rather than joy…but I’m an Autism Mama. This means that, at one point in time, there was a chance I’d never hear it. There was a chance I’d never hear any words from my son. Up until recently, the words weren’t there. Then, thankfully, sounds began to form. I know better than to take his words for granted.
This morning, the very first thought that came to my mind (after I turned off my alarm and curled up into the fetal position), was a serious “I can’t do this”. I considered not getting up. I physically, mentally, and emotionally felt as though the sorrow had won…but I got up anyway…because it’s just what we do. Then came the whisper of grace, right when I needed it most:
One word. The one word that I’d previously longed to hear. He’s said it before, but he wasn’t really connecting it to me. He’d been merely repeating it before today. Today, he truly saw me. Today, his face lit up…and, today, he called my name.
That moment was God-breathed. That moment was my reminder of why I do all that I do; of why I swim with all my strength through lakes of sorrow to spend these coveted joy-moments in the sun with my loves. That moment reminded me of who I am. I’m Mommy. The very title that all of my dreams leading up to now were made of. My purpose. The beating of my heart, revived by The Maker of my heart.
In the depths of the sorrow, in the middle of the storm, in the midst of the crushing loneliness…we are NEVER alone.