Today was our annual check-up with our Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician; let’s refer to him as “Doc S.” Going on five years now, we’ve made this trip. Quite often in the beginning, and by years three, four and now five, just annually.
Doc S’s office sits off the corner of Springhill Ave., a beautiful street in the town I live, with historic homes and breathtaking oak trees with Spanish moss that overhang the street. The day I left his office five years ago — when we got our initial autism diagnosis — I left confused, angry, devastated, in tears, scared and overall just broken. That day, as I drove home, sobbing, with my just barely 2-year-old son, what was once one of my favorite streets to drive down became nothing but a reminder of one of the most devastating days of my life.
Over the next two years, I would avoid this street if at all possible, because it symbolized one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. On the annual visits that followed his initial diagnosis, I always left the same – sad, in tears and in a funk for days. Damn that doctor! Damn that diagnosis! Damn that street! And damn those oaks! They were nothing but an eyesore, a heartbreaking reminder of a time I so desperately wanted to forget.
I shared a story recently called “10 Things I’d Tell Myself About Our Autism Diagnosis If I Could Go Back in Time.” I read through the comments, and most people could relate to it. There was one comment in particular that really stuck out to me — one piece of advice I wish someone had told me then, the day he was diagnosed. It was, “The little boy you left the doctor’s office with, is the same little boy that you walked in with.” WOW. Boy, would I have loved to have had someone tell me that back then! Now the truth is, while he was the same little boy I walked in with, I was not the same women who walked out of that appointment.
In the five years since that diagnosis — and I’m sure a direct result of — I am a stronger woman. I am more patient, compassionate and understanding. I don’t look at people in general the same. I avoid judgment at all costs and try to be kind to people as much as possible. I’ve also met some of the most amazing people along the way. Therapists and teachers, whose life’s-callings are to help kiddos like mine succeed! Other parents walking a similar journey who are there for support, questions or just to vent to. As a result of knowing amazing people like this, I am a better person. And while the same sweet little boy walked out of that office that day five years ago, what I would later realize is that a different mom walked out — a much, much, better one.
Life happens. Sometimes hard things in life happen. Raising a child with autism has undeniably been the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. However, it’s also been the most eye-opening too. It’s opened my eyes to the things that matter and what never really did.
Maybe you’re going through something hard right now, maybe you’ve been through something hard, devastating even, recently. Or maybe around the corner, something awaits. That’s life. Good, bad, ups and downs, life happens.
I’m here today to say, you will come out of the other side of it. You will be stronger. You will be better. Just give it time. Give yourself time. And the only thing that taught me that, was time.
In the event the suspense is killing you, my son still has autism (LOL)! And you know what? That’s OK! He’s made tremendous progress over the past five years. Progress, that even just a year or two ago, I could’ve never imagined. You want to know something else? The oaks with the Spanish moss on them, well they’re beautiful again.
Read more from April Shaw on The Mighty:
10 Things I’d Tell Myself About Our Autism Diagnosis If I Could Go Back in Time