This was one of our family pictures in 2019. Don’t we look like a happy family?
Two kids, a mom and a dad, what more can you want? But pictures can be misleading. You can’t tell in this picture that my son Luke is nonverbal. He can’t talk at the age of 3 and has been diagnosed as autistic. You also can’t tell by the picture how much the mom (me) has been struggling with motherhood, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Just another reminder to not compare yourself with what you see on social media.
The last few years have been unbearably rough. In November of 2018, we had another child. A beautiful girl named Hazel. But that same month, we also found out that our son, Luke, was probably autistic. He just wasn’t talking even at the age of 2 1/2. But even more troubling was his seeming deafness to everything we said and lack of eye contact even though his hearing had been checked several times.
After receiving the official diagnosis in 2018, I was perpetually tormented by thoughts and worries of what my life would be like with an autistic son. Would he ever talk? What if he was nonverbal forever? Would he have to live with us forever? What does this mean for our family and how many kids I wanted?
The worst part was the overwhelming loneliness. Luke was at the age when he might have started having friends and getting together to play with people. But my Luke doesn’t care about other kids and doesn’t play with them. Hardly anyone would invite Luke to come play. Even when we would get together with other moms that had autistic kids, I would still feel alone because of how much farther ahead their kids seemed compared to mine.
Was it somehow my fault?
All of these thoughts would then bring up the most frightening ones: What if I had done this somehow? Was I to blame for his lack of progress? For his nonverbal-ness? I knew that I wasn’t the most interactive parent. I wasn’t a “talker” for sure. Was the fact that I didn’t talk constantly to my child the reason why he couldn’t talk now?
I was haunted by all of these thoughts. Day and night I was in a living hell inside my brain. I didn’t see any way out. I thought semi-frequently about suicide because why should I continue if there was no hope?
The list of the things that Luke struggled with just seemed to get longer and longer. I knew that autistic kids struggled to talk, but they also struggle to eat and try new foods, They struggle to play and interact, and they struggle to get to sleep and stay asleep. Eating, Sleeping, Talking, Playing. All of these key areas of life are now a source of challenge and pain for us now.
Hurt people hurt others
I found that for me, when I am hurting this much, I want to hurt others as well. Maybe this is human nature. During this time, I hated everyone. I hated anyone that could be helping me but wasn’t. I hated anyone that was remotely happy, because I was miserable. I hated all parents with “normal” children that don’t realize how amazing they have it. How amazing it is if your child just talks. I honestly hated God a bit too, because why would he do this to me? Looking back, I can clearly see that when you feel powerless and like a victim, you search for anyone to blame. You search for a villain.
And my relationship with my husband? Strained for sure. A special needs child puts tremendous stress on a the marital relationship. I stopped teaching relationship classes at USU because I just couldn’t handle one more thing. Finally, after a particularly nasty fight after Luke had smeared poop on our couch for the 3rd time in one day, I decided that we needed to see a therapist.
Going to therapy
Going to therapy was scary the first time. But when we walked out, I felt so much relief. The therapist validated me. He said that of course this is extremely hard for me and that no one really understands. He showed Ian and I that what we want most is connection with each other. We wanted connection, but our actions were pushing each other away.
Slowly things started getting better. Ian and I began functioning more as a team. I hired someone to babysit for 4 hours a week so that I could have a little break. Extended family members occasionally helped us out. And a few church members started to take notice of our struggling family and reached out. We found a great school for Luke to go to during the day where he could work on playing and talking and interacting with people. I didn’t have to do it all alone!
Yes, things slowly got better. By March of 2020, I was even happy sometimes. But I still worried about the future. I felt so vulnerable. If any one of our helpers stopped helping us, what would I do? Even though our circumstances were improving, my mind was still quite diseased. It seemed cluttered with negative and catastrophic thoughts, set to run on repeat forever.
Finding The Life Coach School
I started to wonder if I needed to see my doctor about depression medication. I was just about to make that appointment, when I came across The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo. The principles she teaches about managing your mind lit up my heart with new hope. My circumstances are really neutral? My thoughts create my feelings so if I want to feel different, I can just change my thoughts? What if nothing has gone wrong in my life and this is exactly how things are supposed to be?All of these new thoughts and questions were like a breath of fresh, FRESH air that started to sweep out all the junk I had been thinking for years.
I would have joined Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching Scholars program right then, but it is really expensive ($300 a month) so I found a cheaper alternative: Jody Moore’s Be Bold program designed for moms for $50 a month. This program has saved me. I am learning how to manage my thoughts so they don’t spiral downward in negativity when anything scary or unknown presents itself. I am learning how to love myself and be kind to myself even when I make mistakes. My relationships with others are improving – probably because I don’t think hateful thoughts about everyone on repeat all day long. 🙂
So life is better. I feel hope for my future. And so in future articles I’d love to share with you all of the things that have helped me heal. Until then, take care!