(The text of this post also appeared on my Facebook page on 9 March 2014)
I want you to do something for me.
Cry. Write. Sing. Paint. Crochet…..
Whatever it is you do to let it all out when you are frightened or hurting inside.
Promise me that you will?
I’m not asking this in reaction to something bad that happened today, or yesterday. I’m asking because this autism journey – as an autistic person, an autism parent or carer, as an autism sibling – this journey is tough sometimes. Sometimes it feels like it’s tough all the time. You need to be strong to get through it.
But what do we mean by strong? I spoke to someone who felt like “strong” meant they shouldn’t let their emotions out, they shouldn’t give voice to their fears, shouldn’t give them headspace, because that would weaken them and rip them apart.
Maybe. Or maybe that’s what happens if you keep these heavy things bottled up inside, allow the pressure in the bottle to rise so much that it blows the cork right off the top and everything inside spills out.
Messy. Uncontrollable. Explosive.
I see strong as something slightly different. I see strong as not being afraid to give form to the things that scare us – to draw them, write them down, talk about them. It makes them more real and tangible, but it’s only when they become real that we can really deal with them.
I remember the day that Hubs and I decided that we were going to push for Melon’s diagnosis. It was a sunny day, really hot. We hadn’t slept more than a couple hours in a night for 4 months due to Melon’s sleep issues. We had just watched Melon have her 5th or 6th meltdown that day. She was in torment. We were in torment. We were falling apart. We sat in the back garden, slumped on the garden furniture, lost in a miserable silence.
Hubs looked up and said “maybe, when the services open again in September, we should ask them to screen for autism, just to…to…rule it out…do you think, maybe…it is?..”
And I remember saying “I do. I think she is autistic”.
And there it was. I said out loud to him the words that we had been dreading hearing from a professional. And as I said it, I broke down crying, really hard, for maybe two minutes. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was true. And then, suddenly, it didn’t feel so big. It wasn’t just a nameless, shapeless fear ricocheting around in my head anymore.
We could begin to deal with this reality.
We still are. It’s an ongoing process. There are things every day that make us worried, scared and sad. But we can’t carry them round forever, we have to put them down somehow or they will crush us. We deal in different ways. I write. I find that writing is a way of me taking control of my thoughts and feeling, setting them into some type of order and reason, reflecting on them. Hubs is more of a talker, he is to expressing emotions verbally as I am to writing. Melon is an artist, she draws it out…
So, Go write, jog, knit, talk to someone, type an emaił that you only ever send to yourself, hold your pillow close and talk to it, lock yourself in the toilet at work and have a good hard sob for a couple of minutes…. Whatever you need to do to give form to your fears, make them tangible and put-down-able. You might just find that you are stronger for it.