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The Secret That Made Me Feel Guilty About My Daughter's Autism


I’ve spoken of it and thought of it so many times. And someone always reassures me that I didn’t do anything wrong… that I did not cause Zoey’s autism.

It is so hard to tell my brain and my heart that… why? Because I have a secret.

I have mental illnesses.

Wow, it’s out now… no going back… okay!

melissa cote

I have struggled and lived with mental illness for over 30 years. I have clinical/major depression, anxiety/mood disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I have always been ashamed and embarrassed and not many of my friends and family know this about me, and to those I haven’t come out to yet… I think they might have an idea.

So yeah, I blame myself.

The racing thoughts day and night, the fears, worries, the raw emotional pain that keeps a grieving mother up at night. I took it all and I put it on me. When Zoey was diagnosed, I asked the question, “Was I at a higher risk of having a child on the spectrum because of my diagnoses?”

I was told, “Yes.”

Zoey has 20 hours a week of intensive in home therapy, and I go to therapy every other week. On a beautiful Monday afternoon I was driving down our road and I saw a family of four just like ours. A dad, mom, and two little girls out for a family bike ride… I started to tear up, and the racing thoughts came rushing through my head: will we ever be that beautiful, happy family of four out for a bike ride on our road? I didn’t know, and so the tears came.

Melissa and her daughter at the playground

I got to my appointment and I discussed that with my therapist. I was told that I could let the blame go, release it… I didn’t give Zoey autism.

I have gone all of these months grieving for my child and not being able to let the blame go. I cried a lot and sometimes still do.

But I’m letting go. I’m working hard on not blaming myself. I took that all on for so long, and it’s time to release it.

Zoey’s diagnosis has helped me and my mental illnesses. She’s changed me and my world. She’s given me a voice—not just her voice, she gave me a voice, one I never knew I had. I write about how she’s progressing and how proud I am of her, the ups and downs, and the feelings and the raw emotion of living with a diagnosis. That is why I started blogging; I wanted to keep a journal so that years from now, she can look back and see what she has done, what she has overcome, how hard she worked, and how much I love her and how she helped me, her Mama, too!

We are that beautiful, happy family of four. Do I see us all out for a family bike ride anytime soon? No. Will it ever happen? Oh yes, I know it will!

Follow this journey on Melissa’s Facebook page.