Tag Archives: grieving

Ramblings of an Autistic Single Mom

NOTE: The Aspie Teacher blog is the story of my family’s journey. My first blog was Geeky Science Mom’s Tumblr which I started in September 2012 and my writings gradually progressed from there. Periodically I look back over my old writings to check on the distance I have travelled in this journey that is called my life. This is one of those checks.

————————————————————————————————

I am autistic and I am also a mother of two amazing young people who are autistic as well. I am also single.  My children see their father maybe two hours every week, sometimes it is less.  He is not really involved in their lives.  For the past four years I have been working multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Somewhere in there I managed to earn my Master’s degree. I have been homeschooling/unschooling both my kids for the past three years and will continue to do so until both my kids graduate high school in another 2-3 years.  It has been a challenging balancing act.

I see articles online about single parenting with autistic children. It strikes me odd how bleak the authors describe their lives. One author claims that single parents of autistic children “can’t have it all”, that they “will never be compensated financially or professionally for the thousands of hours I’ve spent over the last decade taking my son to treatments”. Other authors complain about having to give up their career, complain they can’t go on trips, complain that it was the Autism that caused the divorce, and complain about the “grueling therapy sessions” (if they are grueling for you, how do you think your child feels?)

Parenting is hard no matter what the neurology of the child is. The reality is if you are a single parent, something has to give.  You can’t expect to have everything and the reason why you “can’t have it all” has nothing to do with your child’s neurology. It really does take a village to raise a child, so when part of that village is missing, it gets that much harder.

I willingly chose to put my career on hold when I became a parent. I was fortunate enough to be able to be a stay-at-home mom for five years. At the time, my husband had a good paying full-time job with benefits.  Being a single income family lead to finances being really tight, and we lived in a small duplex, but it was worth it.  The only time I was a home owner was when both my ex and I were working so we could afford a mortgage. As a single parent, I am a renter once again. This time, my rental is even smaller than the one we lived in back when my children were babies. Housing costs are higher and there is a housing shortage where we live.

My children have weekly counseling visits and my daughter has weekly occupational therapy (OT) sessions (something she personally asked for). We live in a rural area. Services are in another county all together. We are on the road a lot and I am fortunate enough to have the type of employment that allows me to take my children to their appointments.  I have never put my children through “grueling therapy sessions” and I never will.  Applied Behavior Analysis (AB A) sessions, which is considered the go-to treatment for Autism, are anywhere from 25 to 40 hours per week for 12 months a year for at least 2 years with sessions typically provided in 2-3 hours blocks.  I spent three hours observing an ABA session in June 2015 as a requirement for my Master’s degree program. It was horrible – Initial Reaction to ABA Observation.

My divorce finalized on June 23, 2014, but we had separated in October 2012. We tried to get back together after being apart for three years. Our attempt lasted a year and a half. My ex just doesn’t want the responsibility of a family.  It has almost been five years since we first separated and I have not tried dating. I have had to let myself grieve.  Looking through my old writings, I see many blogs that focused on sadness and grief.  I have had to allow myself to process those emotions. I have also had to be present for my children.  They have been grieving, too.  There was no room for romance in that.  I have to allow my heart to heal before I can allow anyone else in.  I am still healing.  Everyone grieves differently and the time it takes to adequately heal is different for everyone. When you have been in an abusive situation, it can take even longer to heal and you need to give yourself that time or you could very well fall into a similar situation.

Some of my previous writings describing my journey through grief:

Grief 2

[Image description: Sea green colored background with black lettering. “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do it lean to swim.” – Vicky Harrison]

Then there is my issue of living in a duality of perception. I wrote that blog in June 2016 and it helped me realize some things about myself.  When I found myself unexpectedly a single parent, I didn’t know how I was going to manage.  My family isn’t in the area.  I was in graduate school at the time and I was working part time.  How the hell was I going to support two kids with special needs on my own!!!???!!! This thought was screaming in my head.  I was so filled with fear and shock I had no time to be angry, at least not yet.  My anger came later.  The grief cycle is an interesting, complicated thing. As I tell my kids, a very wibbly wobbly, timey wimey sort of thing.

I never thought I would get to the point where I would even consider letting my ex back in my life, but I did and I learned a lot from that experience. I learned about letting go, something I had been really struggling with for years.  As a content teacher, I didn’t think I could teach outside of Science (my area), but I found out I could.  I didn’t know I could teach myself how to do basic home and car repair along with all the other family/parenting/home stuff I had been doing for years, but I found out I could. I didn’t know I could parent on my own, but I found out I could.

I learned I was autistic five and a half years ago. Both my children had been diagnosed by that time. I have learned so much since then.  My life has been turned upside down and inside out, but I kept moving forward knowing that another sunrise would signal another chance for me to try again.  I kept learning and adapting.

It wasn’t the Autism that caused my divorce. In fact, divorce rates are similar for parents with and without autistic children, so don’t believe the myth that divorce rate in families with autism is 80%. It is definitely not (80 Percent Autism Divorce Rate Debunked in First-Of-Its Kind Scientific Study).

Looking back to where I was when I first became a single parent, I couldn’t really think of the future. I was in full on survival mode back then.  Looking where I am now, all I can say is “wow”.  I have come so far from that place where I found myself crushed, lost, and desperate just trying to make it day by day.

My journey is not complete, not in a long shot, but I find myself no longer in that place of desperation. I have found a future where I am valued and wanted.  I have found a future where I have developed skills I didn’t even know I had.  I have found a future where my children are seeing a future for themselves as well. I have found that my mind has a sense of ease now.  I still have a lot of stress in my life, but nothing like it once was.  I feel a sense of peace inside me now.  Do I still cry when I am alone?  Yes, my grief will take time to process. Where there was once soul crushing pain, there is now a sense of understanding and a level of acceptance of the reality of the situation. As I stated before, I had to adapt. I had to find peace on my own, and I did.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

 

**Image is not mine. Source is linked with image.

Advertisements

Sadness – Moving Through Grief and Finding Understanding

i__m_pleading_for_a_second_chance_by_lalita17-d5b6v1eSadness. It can be crippling. Anger is different. Your body can feed off the energy of anger as you try to keep yourself from being ripped apart by it at the same time. You busy yourself with activity trying to suppress the anger raging inside you, that monster that is just below the surface. Sadness, on the other hand, drains you. There is nothing to feed on, because there is just nothing there but emptiness and loss. That is where I am now, feeling that emptiness.

What makes it worse is when anxiety is mixed in with that emptiness. It makes you sick to your stomach and all your energy is drained from you. Lifting your arms is a challenge. Speaking hurts. Your heart feels like it is sinking into your stomach, but the anxiety is making your heart feel like it is being squeezed and trying to explode out of your chest all at the same time. Your head is just a clouded mess. Functioning? Not even going to happen. There is not enough “spoons” for that.

Beyond_griefGrief is unique to each individual. There is no one way and no right way to go through grief. It has been just over a year since my divorce finalized. It has taken me this long to get to this point in my grieving. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for 15 years, yet I didn’t realize it until fairly recently. That is the problem when you are subjected to emotional abuse that is insidious, silent, and passive aggressive. It creeps up on you slowly and wears you down. You don’t even know what is happening to you until it is too late. Recently I have learned that my ex-husband fits the “Peter Pan Syndrome” profile.

He is the type that, for the lack of a better term, goes after things that are shiny, and it doesn’t seem to even occur to him the pain he causes other people by doing so. He gets bored or lonely, and then sees a new shiny thing that catches his attention and goes after it not even contemplating the destruction he is leaving behind. To the kids, they feel abandoned by their father. To him, he only went after something shiny. In this particular case, the shiny things were new women, a new job, and the prospect of getting away from having to make choices and having to have responsibilities he didn’t want. The kids have not seen their father is over a year. They don’t trust him. My son wants nothing to do with his father. My daughter is scared of him. He became a stranger to her even before he moved out.

I believe that my ex-husband does feel guilty for what he did, but only to a point. There is this vagueness that I sense. He doesn’t seem to fully understand what he did and the level of pain he caused. During our marriage, he never wanted to talk maskanything out. He would never express his own needs. He always had to be the hero to anyone else, but when it came to his own family, he would stall out. He is also emotionally unavailable and has always had trouble being honest with himself and others. His freedom seemed to be more important to him then what he felt was the monotony of family life. I have mentioned in past blogs about the masks he would wear. These masks changed based on who he was with. Toward the end of our marriage, he seemed to forget who he was with and a stranger would emerge. He told me that he pretended to be someone else to get me to marry him. Why would someone do that to another?

He actually told me the other day that he hadn’t realized how much he missed talking to someone with what he referred to as “intelligence in science”. I had only called him, because the wildfires had gotten very close to where he and other family members live. I wanted to make sure everyone was alright. He told me he really enjoyed our conversation and wanted to have more of them. I felt his pull and I missed his voice, but I said it was not a good idea. I realized that he was using the same tactics and speech patterns he had used all those years ago to get my attention. I knew that I was just something shiny that he had forgotten about. I knew it wouldn’t take long until he would get bored again or saw something else shiny that would take his attentions away. I know I am still vulnerable even after all this time and I need to still protect myself.

A_Silhouette_of_SadnessThe sadness hurts. I was just something shiny to acquire, something to play with. Then real life set in and I wasn’t worth his time or effort anymore. I represented something that impeded his freedom. I have come to understand that there is a pattern about myself. I seem to have a habit of attracting “Lost Boys”. I don’t have the full-on version of the “Wendy Dilemma”, but there is definitely a problem there. I struggle with codependency issues. I was conditioned to be codependent from childhood. The problem was that I didn’t even know what a codependent was until after my marriage failed. I was the overly emotional, loyal, trusting, and honest partner. I am not saying this is a good thing. I am developmentally delayed and my naïve tendencies have been taken advantage of on more than one occasion.

My ex-husband, on the other hand, lacked emotional reciprocity and the ability to be truthful. He preferred to lie by omission and speak with vagueness. He mistakenly felt he was somehow protecting us by lying. He also seemed to think he didn’t have to deal with anything if the issues were never out in the open. He could deny and pretend that everything was alright. Our relationship was really one sided and out of balance. We were a codependent couple and it wasn’t healthy.

I re-read a long letter my ex-husband had written to the kids a while back. It was his attempt to explain why he left. As I have stated before, I am developmentally delayed, but that does not mean that I am developmentally stopped. I started really growing as a person once I reached my mid-30s. I started learning about healthy boundaries and advocating for myself. I was essentially growing up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What was really a life changing moment for me was when I was officially diagnosed with Autism, a diagnosis my ex-husband could never accept. Everything started making sense for me after my diagnosis. All the struggles and confusion I had had all my life up until then finally made sense. In that letter that my ex-husband wrote, he talks about how I was developing and it wasn’t working for him. Basically, I wasn’t playing my part in our codependent relationship anymore. I was setting boundaries; I was seeing each of us as individuals with individual needs and wants. I began developing friendships outside of my marriage with people who shared my passions. I had been isolated up until that point.

My ex-husband told me once that I was too passionate about things and it made him uncomfortable. He also didn’t like how I hyper focused on things nor did he like the time and energy I devoted to my job as a teacher. All of this was expressed in that letter he wrote to the kids, but it was done in a vague way. No specifics were included other than the fact I was developing and growing as a person and he felt so lonely as a result. He states he was losing his identity. I get the impression that instead of establishing himself as an individual, he needed me to maintain his identity. He was codependent on me defining him as a person and I had been codependent on him to make me feel safe in a world I didn’t understand. That is not healthy at all.

Codependency-500

(Image found at Codependency)

“What makes interconnections healthy is interdependency, not codependency. Paradoxically, interdependency requires two people capable of autonomy (the ability to function independently). When couples love each other, it’s normal to feel attached, to desire closeness, to be concerned for each another, and to depend upon each other. Their lives are intertwined, and they’re affected by and need each other. However, they share power equally and take responsibility for their own feelings, actions, and contributions to the relationship. Because they have self-esteem, they can manage their thoughts and feelings on their own and don’t have to control someone else to feel okay. They can allow for each other’s differences and honor each another’s separateness. Thus, they’re not afraid to be honest. They can listen to their partner’s feelings and needs without feeling guilty or becoming defensive. Since their self-esteem doesn’t depend upon their partner, they don’t fear intimacy, and independence doesn’t threaten the relationship. In fact, the relationship gives them each more freedom. There’s mutual respect and support for each other’s personal goals, but both are committed to the relationship.”  

Source – Codependency vs. Interdependency  

Where do I go from here? There is no going back; the past can’t be changed, so I just have to keep moving forward. Grieving – denial, bargaining, anger, sadness, and then finally acceptance. I am not there yet, that point where I have found acceptance, but I am moving toward it and getting closer every day. For me, it is all about resilience. I have to keep going, but as for today, the sadness is winning. I will try again tomorrow.

**All images were licensed for reuse with modifications unless credited.