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I'm Trying to Figure Out a Word That Sums Up My Feelings About Autism

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Dear Autism,

I need help understanding how to put emotions about you into something I can grasp. To date, I haven’t figured out how to do that.

I love our son more than anything, of course. I like his laugh and his smile. I love his eyes. His curly hair is the best. He gives awesome hugs. He’s a determined little boy.

But you… Autism… you!?  How can I hate you and not hate him? How can I cry when I say your name, Autism, and not feel guilty for that? How do I put my feelings for you into the appropriate compartments and still feel love and joy and happiness for my child?

You changed our family. I know you hear that a lot. Some days, when my little guy is agonizing over light and sound and texture, I hate you. I hate you so much I could punch you in the face.

Some days, when I meet a new family and they become our best friends, I want to kiss you in that same face and thank you for blessing us.

That time he tried to leave the house in the middle of the night? Or succeeded in doing so in the afternoon so he could ride his bike? Or when he’s up all night restless? How about the times he’s acted out in aggression because he’s frustrated and can’t tell me? Oh, ya, Autism… remember when he didn’t say “Mama” until he’d already said a bunch of other people’s names: the babysitter, the therapist? The worst. Yearning for that connection. For him to want and need me as his mom. All of that? I hate you for it.

But the milestones he’s reached and how much sweeter they are? The things I’ve learned and how much more educated I feel? The literal way he thinks and how it makes me laugh so hard? How smart he is and how he knows things and I will never figure out how? That moment he and I finally made a connection? That moment he called me mom? The person you changed me into, Autism… a more patient, a more understanding, a less judgmental and a stronger mother, wife, friend and person? For that, Autism, I thank you.

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By the end of this journey we’re on, I hope to be able to come up with one word that describes my feelings towards you. To sum it up and figure it out. But for now, I just stay in the complicated relationship we have.

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Originally published: March 12, 2015
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