Dear the Old Me,
Yes, I’m aware that technically you’re 11 years younger than I am. An entire decade ago I was 34, which now sounds fabulously young, but the weight you carried and the worry that creased your brow 24/7 (thanks, by the way, for the giant brow wrinkle and frown lines the New Me currently sports) made you old before your time. The Old Me, if only you knew then what the New Me knows now, I could have saved you many sleepless nights and the New Me hundreds of dollars in Botox treatments.
You know, the Old Me, all your researching, all your web surfing, all your expert advice-seeking and all that label shopping only made your frown lines deeper in the end (again, I thank you). I wish you would have turned off your brain and just listened to your heart, like the New Me tries so hard to do today. You see, the Old Me, no matter what you read, no matter what you heard and no matter what “they” said, your heart always knew. Your heart always told you, “He will be OK.” But like many mothers who first hear the “A” word, fear took over the brain and completely stifled the message coming loud and clear from the heart.
On the days his screaming deafened you, unaware that even the slightest bump could feel like an electric shock rippling through your boy’s nervous system, I could have told you, “He will be OK.” During the horrendous years of potty training when it felt like all you did was hang out in the bathroom while you begged, bribed and threatened only to throw one more pair of Buzz Lightyear underpants in the garbage (money that could have easily gone toward filling that frown line), I could have told you, “He won’t go to school in a pull up.” When his overloaded sensory system reached its breaking point and caused inexplicable meltdowns from seemingly minor events like skipping an aisle in the grocery store or putting on new sandals, moments that not only made you feel like something was “wrong” but also ripped your heart out because you didn’t know how to help him, I could have told you, “One day he will find and use his words to help you understand.”
The New Me wishes I could have held your hand as you sat alone with tears streaming down your face in the daycare parking lot as you watched all the “normal” kids playing, running and talking while you silently prayed that today would be the day you wouldn’t find him alone under the slide. I wish I could have comforted you as you cried yourself to sleep wondering, “Will he go to school?” “Will he ever have a friend?” “Will he ever hug me back?”and, the one that kept you up night after night,”Will he ever know how deep my love for him goes?”
I’m so sorry, the Old Me. I wish I could have warned you how detrimental it is to socialize with Denial, Clueless and Guilt. They may have helped you cope sometimes, but in the end, all they were ever going to do was hurt you. I wish I could have pulled you away from their negative influence and introduced you to Acceptance, Awareness and Different. As the New Me knows, they’re much better friends to have around and would have gotten you through those harder days without quite so much wine and quite so many tissues.
I could have told you, the Old Me, but you wouldn’t have listened. You needed to see it, feel it and live it for yourself. Yes, maybe knowing then would have made life easier, but would it have made now any better? Would you have appreciated all the gains, progress and joy if you knew what was to come? Would you have pushed him, pulled him, fought him and made him uncomfortable in the end if you knew he would be OK? Would you have worked so hard to prove your love if you knew he was always aware of your love and that he loved you all along? Warning you about Denial, Clueless and Guilt would have gotten you nowhere because at the time, you needed them. They were the friends who made you recognize later how much better life is without them and how friends like Acceptance, Awareness, and Different allowed you to see the beautiful boy standing right before you.
So yes, the Old Me, I could have saved us hundreds of dollars in Botox and wine if I would have just said, “Listen to your heart.”
But you had to hear your heart without me. You had to hear your heart when you were ready. You had to watch him struggle to see him shine. You had to feel the pain to experience the joy. You had to doubt before you could believe. You had to hang with Denial before befriending Acceptance. You had to see him and not see autism. And as painful as those years were then, you had to live them to get you where you are now.
You know what’s funny, the Old Me? Ten years from now, the New Me will be The Old Me because I will never stop growing, learning and loving this awesome boy. The one thing that won’t change in 10, 20 or even 30 years is that my heart now guides me instead of my fear-induced brain. Sure I still worry from time to time, but my heart is no longer silenced by fear. I hear my heart loud and clear when it tells me to stop eating a sleeve of Thin Mints in one sitting and when it whispers,”I don’t think doctors meant that much red wine is good for your heart (shut up, heart).” But the message I hear the loudest, that no fear can ever hush, is, “Never, stop believing in him. He is going to be OK.”
My biggest regret for you, the Old Me, is that I wish you would have heard that, too.
The New Me
P.S. Please start a savings account for that frown line. It’s gonna get deeper.
This post originally appeared on The AWEnesty of Autism.
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