A few weeks ago I wrote about my week in paradise (again, don’t hate me, had not been away for three years) and my desire to “keep my calm” upon my return, knowing that within days my eldest son who is severely autistic would be home for the better part of three weeks.
I’ve made a conscious decision since our return to try to take things more as they come, which is not easy for a girl who’s a planner extraordinaire, always thinking two steps ahead and not necessarily living in the moment. I’m not complaining, for this trait served me well as a teacher and has also served me well as the mom of two special needs kids, so I’m not hanging up my perseveration card just yet.
I’m just thinking I don’t need to wear it quite as often as I do.
The last three weeks with Justin home had their ups and downs, but several things happened that were huge milestones chez McCafferty. I screwed up my courage and took both boys to the beach by myself (on 4th of July no less, barely missing getting stuck watching the Ocean Grove parade which would not have gone over well with my eldest). Zach made it through acting camp beautifully, no curbs on impulsivity needed for my dragon king. My husband and I finally had enough perspective to see how really bad Justin’s OCD has gotten in the last few months, and have decided to take the plunge and begin a new medication we’ve been resisting trying because it seems, well, so damn serious.
But the truth is I’m the big picture girl in this relationship, and when I think of where Justin might be living down the road I realized nobody is going to put up with him reorganizing their closet (I use the term reorganizing loosely here) nor are they going to want every sticky note they’ve written “vital information” on to end up in the trash.
Okay, that last one might just be my issue.
I think what I realized on the sands of St. Lucia was that I’m often so stuck in the myriad details of raising two kids on the spectrum that I’m unable to look beyond where we are now, and subsequently to work backwards and take the steps necessary to where I want to be. Sometimes my stress level with Justin (and my husband’s too) is through the roof, and we lose sight of the big picture by simply immersing ourselves in the day-to-day. Stress literally decimates my ability to think “down the road,” and I’ve got to do whatever it takes to reduce that in my life. Even if that means that sometimes when someone asks me to do something I just say no.
Imagine, what a concept.
So I’ve come back determined to keep my calm at any cost, so I can make those big and small decisions with a clear head. Keeping my calm includes exercise, sleep, yoga (and of course my faves wine and chocolate) and times when I’m not actively anyone’s wife or mother. Periods where I’m just me, giving myself the chance to recharge.
Fortunately, I like hanging out with myself. Seems I’m still good company.
Whether you’re just starting your autism journey or are staring down the barrel of your autistic kid’s teen years, especially if you’re the primary caregiver, make that time for yourself. It’s crucial physically, emotionally, and will literally save your sanity. If people have offered to watch your kid for you take them up on it. Hubby offering you a night out- go.
Hell, you’re probably going to have to ask for it. As Nike says, just do it.
Carve that space and time for yourself. Make it happen no matter what.
Do whatever it takes to find your calm.
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