It’s the last day of our Christmas holiday. Ronan is sucking on his RevitaPop while playing with his new Leap Frog toy. The baby is entertaining herself with a stacking game while three heads are huddled around the first video game we’ve ever had in the house. We’re about to start our new year with new routines and new paths of hope. Am I ready?
Parts of 2009 were very difficult for me. Even though I needed much more emotional support, I found myself retreating from friends, family and my online and local support groups. Internal pain distanced me from the chance to catch up with other’s successes. Despair dragged me down a dark, dark alley of dangerous thoughts. Expectations I had of Ronan being recovered and ready to be fully mainstreamed were not part of my reality. What I needed was a cleansing and quickly before I dragged my family down the drain too.
I didn’t go away on a spa retreat to ‘find myself.’ That would take too long, cost too much and I probably wouldn’t want to come home knowing there was peace and quiet somewhere else. I didn’t seek professional therapy but I have always wondered if I would benefit from talking things out with someone else. I didn’t run away or kick and scream or cry in my closet hoping things would be magically fixed. Well, I did actually do that but it was only a temporary fix. I knew I needed to do something big, something more and the time was now. I discovered that I first needed to change my attitude. Here’s how I see things now:
New Year—it’s more than a new year; it’s a new decade! Not only can I forget about the things I didn’t get to last year, I see an open canvas in front of me to make the next ten years better. That sounds like a huge task but even writing these stories helps. I get some sort of therapy while writing and those that stumble upon the posts will learn that they are not alone. I realized mid-year last year that my writing style had changed. I was no longer writing stories full of optimism. Instead, I had a new down-in-the-dumps story pile. It was growing and it scared me. I kept most of those to myself and in my writing folder instead of sharing them. Living in anger and fear did no one any good. I’ve always written the ‘hopefully ever after’ type of stories and that mindset was what I needed to go back to. Those stories are the ones I myself need to read for my own health, sanity and peace.
New Routine—we’ve made some changes that includes more sharing, more learning and an increased level of stress. Stress like this isn’t of the negative kind; it’s stress of time management to learn as much as I can in a short period of time. That is not a bad thing because in the long run, that knowledge will prove beneficial. I homeschool some of our children and plan to incorporate Ronan’s behavioral therapy at some level for his siblings. It works so well for him; it’s got to be just as effective for my neurotypical children too. I plan on reading, learning and growing right along with my children since they one day will be more than just siblings to Ronan; they will be more active caregivers to their brother.
New Path—I truly believe people are placed in our lives for a reason. I had the chance to meet a whole new group of people at the Autism One conference last May. They walked into my life at the right moment and I want to keep them in my back pocket forever. Before I made the trip, I was just coming to terms with the fact that Ronan’s autism was more prevalent than I wanted to admit. I had only two local friends who truly understood me, my thoughts, my fears, my dreams and the many road blocks to that hope I desperately clung to. Getting to Chicago was a gift on many levels. I did have a chance to ‘get away’ and in the process, I gained an army of parents and professionals I can tap into. I am now able to compare what is working in their community and think about how to bring it to my own. I hear about the road blocks they face and wonder why it’s so hard for so many. It doesn’t stop any of us; it only makes us stronger and more determined to make things better for all our children. Because that conference was so life-changing for me, I do hope to make it back to Autism One. I encourage others to do so also.
New Hope —I want to be that smiling and ever-pleased parent. Who doesn’t? I do have to constantly remind myself, especially on a bad day, to keep my chin up. Some days I feel completely overwhelmed. I watch Ronan stumble through his tasks, barely following through with a skill he’s already mastered. I watch his younger brother grow physically taller and intellectually smarter. Ronan’s baby sister is catching up to Ronan’s new word base (he can say FOUR words now!). Do these facts make me sad? Yes…but, the fact that we can measure Ronan’s progress gives me new hope that he can and is learning. I have taken his hope into my hands and we are going to make more opportunities for learning and discovering. Ronan tries so hard and has a will power that encourages me to keep moving forward. Thankfully, my husband has been a huge supporter of the countless therapies I’ve wanted to try. He reads what I ask him to check out and he comes back to me with the level-headed responses and arguments to either move forward or not. I appreciate Steve’s honesty and input since I know I don’t have to go this alone like some other parents do. I see that balance of us working together is paying off --the Daddy time Ronan gets is 100% pure belief in Ronan right now. Steve lets me worry about the future which always includes a bit of fear, a couple of questions, a whole lot of research and always a sprinkle of hope.
I don’t make resolutions. I have enough reminders swirling around me all day long without having to commit to a change. Am I ready to make some of those changes? Ronan’s determination tells me that yes, I’m ready. It’s always been time for more so here’s to a new year and a new decade of believing!
Cathy Jameson continues to write about her son’s journey because she needs all the help she can get. It’s through countless hours of reading, writing, praying and hoping for healing that she finds some kind of peace of mind. She runs the Age of Autism FaceBook pageHERE..