When Your Child's Meltdown Is Over, but You're Still Affected


Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m firmly in the “autism is beautiful, never easy, but beautiful” camp. I never presume to tell you how the autism in your house should make you feel. Ever. That’s not my job. I know my son Big’s autism isn’t about me, but it kind of is. I’m his mama. He walks around every day with a large piece of my heart. So, when his heart breaks, mine rips open. Today I feel like autism is “brutiful,” to steal a phrase from Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery.

Yesterday Big had a meltdown, and it was a doozy. (You can read more about it on our Facebook page.) The important thing on his end is that he made it, he moved on. He ended his day and night on a positive, joyful even, note. He woke this morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the day.

Here’s the part where it’s about me. I have a meltdown hangover. My head and stomach hurt. I’m tired and feel like one of those nights from long ago when I took tequila shots. My chest has a tightness and anytime my phone buzzes, I panic just a little. I start looking toward the distant future and the one creeping up at a pace I can’t stand. I’m scared of puberty and what it will bring for my kind and gentle boy. Teenagers aren’t exactly known for taking care of the ones with fragile hearts and spirits. I’m scared of impulsivity and boys, and adding autism to the mix of an already combustible cocktail? I don’t know if I’ve got it in me.

Yesterday Big said, “It is all too much, Mama. I can’t do this anymore.” At that moment, my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. Fighting through tears on the phone, I said, “Yes, baby. Yes you can. You can always do this.” His little voice over the phone was so unsure. So scared and tired. I did the best acting of my life in that moment, not sobbing. Sounding upbeat.

Today, I can’t shake it. I can’t have some hair of the dog and Tex-Mex for this hangover. Time. I just need a little time. This weekend we are due for heavy rains and flooding, which means couch time and seeing my boy be himself — naturally happy and silly and getting on my last nerve. Maybe by Sunday. Sunday morning over cinnamon rolls and coffee, I’ll bet my hangover leaves.

I made this photo today saying Big might very well be the picture of resilience. Maybe that’s the beauty of his autism today. No matter the challenge, he comes back. I should learn from him. 

Follow this journey on Autism In Our House.

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