Autism Series Part 4: And the Depression Crept In

autistic boy

I will never forget the day when my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. During the long drive home from the medical center, I had to do the best I could to relax and not panic, and this took all of my inner strength to stay somewhat calm. Tears flowed for hours and I had so many uncertainties during that time. Would my son ever talk? How extreme was his autism? What would I do to help him? What did his future hold? What would this mean for my family? What changes would have to be made? And then the most profound question of all…

Would I be able to emotionally handle it?

Well, as the months progressed, and I did some research on autism, the answer to that last question would be yes…and no. Being a working mother of two boys, a wife, a teacher to 22 children, a devoted Christian, a family member, and a friend, there were many responsibilities on my plate. And I was feeling a little overwhelmed dealing emotionally with my son’s diagnosis.

Each week I felt more emotionally drained, and I suppose as a defense mechanism (who knows?) I began to shut people out. I found that it was very difficult to talk to my loved ones, because I was always having to answer questions or give progress updates about my special needs son. I found that the more I talked about it to others (that were not educated on the disorder) the more stressed I became. It was like my family and close friends were asking me questions, as if I was the expert, when in fact I was just learning everything myself. Ugh. I honestly just found it much easier to stay away and focus on him.

Once he was enrolled in therapies, I had to figure out how to give my older son attention as well. I felt relief in knowing that my husband and I were doing the best we could with everything, but I still was feeling, well, down. Very down. So down that all I ever wanted to do was sleep on the weekends, be alone (yeah, right, like that happened), and cry.

“Go see a therapist” my mom would say.

Well, MOM, I don’t have time to see a therapist. And I knew, honestly that I didn’t have the time. I just had too many irons in the fire. And I was sad. And deep down I felt lonely. So, with these feelings, the depression crept in to my mind and began to take hold. And, man, once it gets in there, it is very powerful. Looking back on that time, I don’t think I would have or could have done anything differently, except for not shutting people out so much. But it was my way of dealing with that crazy thing called life. I certainly did a lot of praying and each night I would retreat to an uplifting book on the Scripture, but that was the only time of the day (or night…it was usually about midnight) that I felt at peace.

Time has passed. Life-changing experiences happened.

Some of them were nightmarish, and some of them were wonderful. That is the way life is. Life throws feelings, events, chaos, and joy at you over and over and over again, and I learned through my experiences to roll with the punches. I was finally able to make it to a doctor, and see him regularly and my depression, and the scars of that depression, are very controllable. Some days are better than others, but isn’t that the case for everyone? Especially working moms who never seem to stop?
My son is now a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, which is a high-functioning form of autism. We still face some challenges, but I wouldn’t change him for the world. And I love him more than life itself.