Monday, March 29, 2010

How autism is helping me become my true self!

When I was a little girl my parents told me stories about how they protested the Viet Nam war up against military police, people getting arrested, beaten or even killed for their cause.  A group working together for a common goal defying authority and popular opinion for justice, to save lives and restore faith in our country.  Eventually as we all know historically speaking the Viet Nam war did end after the popular opinion began to sway and most Americans eventually became opposed to it.  As a young person I longed to be a part of something so important.  I fantasized about joining the peacecorp or being one of the brave Greenpeace protesters who places their ships in front of the whalers blocking them from harpooning the whale.  When I was in highschool I became an avid opposer to the Gulf War even organizing a walk out in my school.  I was on the news a couple years later at a protest for the Rodney King verdict.

As I started entering my 30's I realized that I was probably not going to join the peacecorp or ride a Greenpeace ship.  I had started building my family and became a wife and mother of two.  As many moms experience raising young children you begin to feel overwhelmed, isolated and exhausted (if you have a child with autism this period does not end).  The only thing you have time for is to "tend your own garden".  My new fantasy was to raise great children and I believed that to be equally important.  I made efforts to keep my children safe and well.  I breast fed both boys for two years each and had them wear cloth diapers until they were ready for potty training.  I researched the best car seats available and made certain they would always have them even if we couldn't afford it.  We took frequent trips to the farmers' market and it would be years before my kids were allowed to eat candy.

Despite the fact that I loved being a mom I slowly began to forget who I was.  On second thought, I probably didn't know who I was at all.  I had just traveled through life knowing certain things made me feel good, others didn't and most things went unnoticed.  Today at the age of 36 I have began to evaluate what all these things mean.  I recently changed my facebook profile picture from a picture of myself to a picture of Linda Hamilton in Terminator.  One day I just decided that I didn't feel like the person in my picture anymore.  Not on the inside anyway.  I couldn't identify with the person that I saw because my true inner being was beginning to bubble up to the surface.  The outer appearance is a shy, non-confrotional, nuturing, caring and loving mom and while I maybe all of the those things there is another side that rarely gets noticed by anyway even myself.  For example, growing up in the '80s like many young girls I loved Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Cyndy Lauper and other mainstream pop artist.  My brother on the other hand was into Metal.  I would hear him blasting this music that sounded more like noise but the energy was something that made my bones shake.  I felt it.  When my brother wasn't home I would go into his room and listen to his records.  Records by Led Zepplein, AC/DC, Motley Crue, Guns n' roses, Black Sabbath... you get the point.  What was it that drew me to that music and in secret no less?  Today I embrace my love of metal, punk, grunge and all around protest music but somehow it continues to go against what people think of me.  My husband the other day turns up the radio as a song by Taylor Swift comes on the saying "you love this..."  shocked I replied, "do you even know me?"  Of course not, I don't know me but that's changing.

So what does this have to do with autism?  After I changed my profile picture on facebook I became more active upping my friend count from around 20 to 100.  I began to speak my mind in ways I had previously been afraid to do.  At this time I understood why I had chosen the picture of Linda Hamilton's character Sarah Connor.  When I first saw the picture I just knew that was how I felt but as I saw the change it made in me, I became more aware of how exactly I identified with her.  In the first Terminator movie Sarah Connor is an ordinary woman who falls in love with a guy, gets pregnant and as she discovers her fate she begins to understand her true self.  As a mom she must protect her son against obstacles greater than that of the average mom.  By the second movie she has become a gun toting leader of the movement to restore life.  As a mother of a child with a special need she finds her true worth.  Now I know I'm no Sarah Connor but I relate.  As much as I wanted to be apart of something important I never would've imagined it would happen because I became the parent of an autistic child.  Today I realize that I do still need to "tend my own garden" but my garden is larger than what I originally thought.  I recognize that my anger isn't something to be afraid to express.  Of course, no one wants to be around someone who's angry all the time but I see that I must embrace this hard side as well as my softer side for it is this that helps me to remember my true passion in life.  The passion that I've always had but went dormant for years and while I thought parenthood would replace this it has only fueled it more than ever.  I am more determined now to do all in my power to show my son the road to recovery and along the way I will get the word out as best I can about the injustices happening to all people via herd medicine.  (Would we be as concerned about national health care if there weren't so many sick people?  But that's a rant for another time). Today I am enjoying being myself.

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