The M.B.A. (Me Before Autism)

As most everyone in my life knows, I have a son with autism. This has brought many challenges to my life (and his), and I feel like I have so much to say but there’s nobody who totally  and completely understands, unless you are jumping the autism obstacles as well. But even in the autism community, some parents will think “at least your kid can talk”, or “thank God my child doesn’t have that other kids’ temper tantrums”.  There’s never a true understanding, except for those living in your own home.

I just realized something the other day. I have been so busy with the autism drama over the past year and a half that I completely forgot about myself. I don’t just mean the old adage of, “you have to take care of yourself so you can take care of someone else”.  I’d like to think I do plenty of that. My husband and I do weekly date nights, and we love to travel. We are so lucky to be able to take at least 2 vacations a year sans child (thanks, mom and dad). I also get my monthly pedicures and my occasional massage. So, I’m not talking about the basic activities involved in staying sane. I’m talking about the psychology involved in order to remain who you are on the inside.

A few weeks ago, someone made me laugh so hard I was crying. The kind of laugh where you have no control. At that moment, I realized that I had not done that in over a year. I can’t even tell you who made me laugh or what they did to make it happen…….I was overwrought with my realization of who I wasn’t anymore. I used to love to laugh and make people laugh. I used to see the happiness on co-workers faces because, for some reason, I made their day a little bit better with my goofiness.  ‘That’ girl was not me anymore…………..I guess I hadn’t had a reason to laugh.

Later that same week, I put some kind of depressing post on Facebook about how horrible my life was, and one of the responses from an old high school friend made me think again about this realization. It said something like “your laugh is infectious, Karli”, and “you’ve always had the ability to be direct and funny at the same time”.  I thought, ‘yeah, that WAS me’.  I had been so busy with the autism battle, keeping my marriage intact, working at the hospital as a social worker for a change of stressful pace, making sure I was getting my ‘me’ time in…………..but who was I? Funny and infectious would not be the current description anyone would give about me if they had met me for the first time in the past year.

When did this happen? When did I lose me? It probably began to dissipate as I poured myself into books and blogs about autism, talked all the time with therapists and Dr.’s, cried incessantly during sleepless nights as my son happily jumped up and down in his bed for 4 hours straight with no sign of sleep, shoved supplements down my sons throat and in his butt cheeks in hopes to help him, tried to be a mind reader when my 3 year old was crying and couldn’t  tell me if he was in pain…………I guess it happened somewhere in there.

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for how to avoid this for others, or how to get my ‘me’ back. However, if my son started talking tomorrow, it might start to creep back. Or, if he actually would appear to be improving rather than regressing, I would definitely feel the possibility of funny coming back. But until then, I can only be cognizant of the fact that it is temporarily gone, and that I will need to put in a little more effort to get back to the MBA (Me Before Autism).

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