Saturday, August 12, 2017

My Daughter is Different and so am I

My child is amazing, truly freaking amazing. She is everything that I want to be. 

When I'm tired and I think that there is just not one more day that I can possibly push through, I look at her progress and I push myself to push on through, on days when I feel like I can't even get out of my own bed. Zoey pulls mentally pulls me out, that's what my depression does to me. I am a mom that struggles with illnesses of my; major depressive disorder, anxiety, and panic disorder, complex ptsd, and Fibromyalgia 

3 years ago on a day in August, my husband and I drove 2 hours away to have a specialist confirm what we had already suspected...autism had chosen our child.

Getting any kind of diagnosis is a shock, nothing prepares you for it, and if you think you are prepared, well that preparation crumbles in the wake of a specialist looking at you and telling you that there's something wrong. 

When it comes to your child, the last thing you want to hear is that there is something wrong, you don't want to be handed pamphlets and told to find a support group. 

Even after they looked up and asked us, "do you understand what we just went over with you?" 

We shook our heads yes, obviously we were in shock because we didn't understand what we were in for 

We were exited out and then shown where to get onto an elevator. I looked up at my husband who was holding onto our almost 2 year old and I asked him 

"what do we do, what happens now?"

"It Changes Nothing, she's still our happy child."

I tried to accept that and believe him as he said it to me, but it did change everything for me! 

I stayed up every night, researching, blaming myself, even blaming my own illnesses, what had I done wrong. So I cried, sobbed, grieved, I got angry, and I spiraled into another bout of major depression, one of many in my life. 

These emotions of sadness, fear, and anger, well they lasted for more than over a year for me, and on the days that I had thought I had settled up with those emotions, they came back looking for more from me. A vicious emotional cycle of tug of war that I was really tired of fighting, and I realized that I needed help and so I started seeing a therapist  and soon I stopped fighting those emotions and I released them, I stopped blaming autism for choosing my child and I stopped the love hate relationship that I unknowingly had with autism. 

I realized I was discriminating autism, not my child, but autism. I was treating autism poorly and making autism into something scary and wrong...why, because autism is different, we are all different. 

Yes, different can be scary and we can be afraid of the unknown, but everything and everyone deserves a chance to show you just how beautiful different can be. I tell my children that just because someone or something is different, "different isn't bad."

 Zoey's autism saved my life! I know it sounds silly and like I'm trying to kiss autisms ass for "likes" but it's true...autism saved MY life. 

If not for Zoey's autism I never would have woken up and embraced my own illnesses and I wouldn't be the mom I am today, not just for my kids, but as a person. I became Zoey's voice when she had none, her advocate when needed...always her mommy that loves her. 

In being Zoey's voice, I found my own voice, in helping to fight for Zoey's needs, I learned to fight for my own needs. Getting Zoey's autism diagnosis helped me understand my own diagnoses and something inside me woke up and I realized autism doesn't discriminate and that no one should discriminate and that in talking and sharing, maybe we can end the stigma surrounding "differences."

In Sickness and Insanity

 My husband and I were married in 2009 but we've known each other for over 20 years.  We were friends, then more then friends, and then back to friends. Then we were friends that lived on opposite ends of the Country and only communicated a few times via the computer and 1 letter, this was long before texting came along and we are not the talk on the phone type people...still aren't phone people. 

My friend who would one day in May of 2009 become my husband was serving our Country in The United States Marine Corps and for 8 years I worried and prayed that he was ok and safe. I would watch the news and cringe at where he was and what he was doing and what he was witnessing and I wished for him to come home safely. 

While he was fighting a war for our Country, I was here in our hometown fighting my own war. My war was internal and intense and scary. I fought horrific memories and images in my mind and my mind took me to dark places that I couldn't get out of, it trapped me in a tunnel of sadness and fear with the demons inside my mind making it hard to pull myself out of debilitating bouts of depression and crippling anxiety and extremely painful panic attacks that left me clenching my chest praying it would pass as quickly as it came on. My demons are flashbacks and images that replay over and over in my mind, a slideshow of moments in time that haunt me day and night. A slideshow that I can't turn off, because if I could I would in a heartbeat. 

This slideshow of traumatic moments forever changed me as a person. It stays with me and it decides when or what it will show me, that is the demon of post traumatic stress disorder. 

Some people have 1 traumatic event that takes place in their lifetime, I'm not like some people, I'm different. I've experienced multiple traumatic events throughout my lifetime starting at the young age of 2 years old and just like throwing a dart and aiming for the center, I was the target of traumatic events and eventually I just gave up and waited for the darts to keep coming. 

For awhile the darts stopped and I forgot about how bad the darts stung the red center of that of which is my heart and I tried to live my life as best I could, still knowing that at any moment a dart could be thrown my way. 

A few years went by without any darts, although the sting of the darts from years before were enough to keep me from wanting any more to hit my red center. 

I like many others that suffer from complex post traumatic stress disorder adopted some unhealthy coping mechanisms. Substance abuse and depression are kind of a package deal when you're trying to silence the demons in your mind that keep wanting to show you the horrific slideshow of traumas that you've tried so hard to store away in a sealed box. Each time that box even slightly opens up, the slideshow starts, and you would try and would do anything to make it stop and slam that box shut. 

That's exactly what I did! 

I kept the box closed by trying to forget it was there, and so yes, I self medicated. It was at that point in my life where I would have my first suicidal thoughts and I would then seek professional help with a counselor and psychiatrist...I was 21 years old

Through therapy and medications I would abandon my unhealthy ways of coping and hurting and I forgot about the box and the darts and I was able to live my life, I had a career, goals, and my friend came home from his war and as fate would have it, we found each other again. 

We never spoke of our demons from our wars. Instead we laughed, we lived, and we loved. 

The year before we married a big dart came at me and it hit straight on, piercing my red center decimating my entire board. The box in my mind that I had held closed for years immediately broke open and the slideshow was loud and stuck on repeat and I couldn't stop it, because the box was now destroyed and the slideshow was all I saw, day and night, every waking and non waking moment. 

Something happened to me, I became physically sick, not like cough and cold sick, this was I lost the ability to walk, drive, hear, I couldn't function and live independently, I was disabled!

I had no idea what was happening, I walked with a cane, my soon to be husband became my caretaker, he helped me shower, dress, walk, he made my meals, and helped me live. He never complained, he never left, even though people told him he should, he didn't. 

I was in the darkest depression I had ever been in and I was suicidal. Family urged me to get help and I complied. I was being treated for my symptoms of major depression, anxiety, and panic...but I never spoke of that last dart, that last horrific traumatic event that had me in therapy every week, that had me on multiple medications. I thought that I was in therapy because I was sad, sad and depressed for being physically ill

I had no idea why I was really in therapy and why I was on so many medications. I had no idea that I wasn't really physically ill at all.  I had NO idea that I was mentally ill.

You see, I never spoke of the box or the slideshow or the darts to anyone. I did my best to conceal it and hide it from everyone, including myself and apparently I had done a damn good job at it. After that last dart that blew everything apart, my brain did what it needed to do to keep me safe, and for 8 years my brain told me that I had a physical illness rather than a mental illness. 

That last dart triggered me to dissociate myself from that trauma all together. I had Dissociation Identity Disorder (DID) for 8 years. 

My friend, my husband, he never left and I've never thanked him for that. So here I am saying to you my friend, my husband, right here right now....Thank you for loving me through sickness and insanity and please always know how much I love you for loving me, just the way I am.