What My Son With Autism Teaches Me About Dealing With Depression
It’s been a pretty rough year.
My son who has autism wasn’t coping with mainstream school and started going part-time. I left my job to become his full-time carer, and there’s been no respite from the stress for months now.
One day I looked at myself in the mirror and almost didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. Gray hair, bags under my eyes, no makeup and a constant feeling in my tummy. I’ve been jittery when I drive. I’m pessimistic and snappy with my hubby over silly things like towels on the floor. I feel dog-tired. I recognize it all too well. It’s my arch nemesis who’s visited me many times before. The dreaded D-word: depression.
My son lets everyone know when he’s anxious or stressed. He gets it all out there, we deal with it and then he moves on. When he’s anxious he lets me know with every fibre of his being. When he’s sad or angry, he’s unable to disguise it and out it comes like a flowing volcano of emotions. And when he’s overwhelmed with the world and wants to recharge his batteries, I embrace his feelings and give him the time and space he needs.
I could learn a lot from him.
I tend to try and hide my emotions from the world, even from my husband. I suppose it’s my survival instinct as I try to be the glue that holds the family together. I can’t fall apart. I can’t explode or show how anxious I am on the inside, or tell anyone how I’m struggling just to get through the day. Instead of being open and transparent like my son, I look in the mirror and do the exact opposite. I think, mask it, woman! You’re OK, you have to be. Sort yourself out, pull yourself together!
So I put on my makeup, dye my hair and face the day when all I really wanted to do is stay in my pajamas.
Later that day, my teenage daughter was messing with a silly app on her phone that airbrushes out your imperfections and makes you look “perfect.” She took a photo of me and airbrushed it. She got rid of my bags, my wrinkles, my chubby cheeks and my tired looking eyes. I looked “perfect,” but it made me realize the one thing the app couldn’t airbrush out— how I was feeling.
So instead of trying to airbrush my depression out, I’m trying to learn from my son and do something about it.
And if anyone reading this has been trying to airbrush out their feelings too, please remember there’s no such thing as perfect. We’re all human, and we all need a PJ day every once in a while.
In fact, when my kids are all back at school later this week, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. I’m going to have a makeup, carton of ice cream, watching back-to-back Netflix kind of day. Like my son sometimes does, I’m going to recharge my batteries and process what’s really happening to me.
I have to accept there will be good and bad days, and that’s OK. My depression is part of me, but my son doesn’t need an airbrushed mom. He just needs me as his mom, plain and simple.
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