“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~Paul Coelho
I will never forget that day.
It is still as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday.
My son was just a little over three. He was going to a mainstream kindergarten and, well, his teacher had very gently suggested we seek a professional’s help.
You see, he didn’t understand what the teachers were saying to him. He was restless and fidgety. He also bounced form activity to activity.
This was our first ever visit to a speech pathologist, and she suspected autism. The possibility that our child has a life-long disability seemed like a death sentence.
So we did what any normal, self-respecting parent would do: we dismissed her concerns.
We were outraged. How dare she say this? What right did she have? Our son is not autistic. He just has a language delay; he’s just tad over active.
Then we did the next best thing: we put him in an early intervention center.
Although we were sure that it wasn’t this thing that was wrong, we knew something was. And we had to do something. We had to be responsible parents. Now he was getting help with his sensory issues (something I understood much later), fine motor, play, and language skills.
In retrospect, I wonder how I could have missed those early signs. I guess that was the greatest form of a denial—only a mother could find a justification for every symptom of what could be wrong.
It’s quite ironic, actually. We had an appointment with the developmental pediatrician and been waiting for this day for over two months. And then we had to cancel
My husband called in to let them know, and the receptionist asked, “Are you sure you can’t make it today? It will take a long time to reschedule.”
My husband said, “Yes, my wife has just given birth to our second son.”
And so amidst all the chaos of having a newborn, my first born got diagnosed and I felt as if my life was completely shattered.
I felt cheated—for me, my son, and my family.
He did not deserve this.
We did not deserve this.
How could it happen to us? What did we do wrong?
There was time for grief and acceptance. (Don’t know how many days I cried for.) Then it was time to get to work.
And so I did.
I decided to leave my job in academia. I did not care about any of that any more. All I cared about was my son. I wanted to make everything right.
And the only way I knew was to become an expert myself. This is something I excel it— researching, synthesizing, and becoming a self-proclaimed know-it-all on a topic of my choice.
Only this time, the stakes were high. And the goal was to save my son’s present and his future.
I bought 30+ books on Autism spectrum disorders and therapies, and memoirs of parents living with these special children. I got informal training in speech, occupational, and ABA therapies and hired my own therapists to do the work.
And my son made progress by leaps and bounds. He went through two years worth of therapies in six months, shocking his therapists and consultants alike. How could he do this, they wondered. They had never seen any child do this before. Ever. They called him gifted.
We were so grateful for his learning ability.
This was the kid who “might never catch up,” communicated to us by a helpful early intervention staff member.
Two years of tears and sweat, a big chunk of our joint savings, and lack of any social activities went into this story.
He surpassed all their expectations. He outperformed all his fellow classmates in math and reading. He is a kid who is eccentric—the emotional age of kids half his age, loud, always happy, always fun. And he is going to a mainstream school.
His diagnosis was formally changed to Asperger’s, which has a better prognosis in terms of social and emotional well-being.
Because I ended up staying at home for over five years (my second child also started speaking late), I had time to re-evaluate my life.
I decided to let go of all that I was expected to do—a job that didn’t feed my soul, a social circle that started to disappear, and flashy stuff that we simply couldn’t afford anymore.
My son’s diagnosis turned our lives upside down. But it also taught us to appreciate both of our sons for who they are and to be grateful for each and every blessing in our lives.
At the end, I came out on top because I adopted the following beliefs:
Awful things might happen to you; take all the time you need to face the reality.
You need to grieve; do it.
Need to cry, not come out of your house, stay in bed all day? You can do that.
What you can’t do is keep it all bottled up inside, pretending it never happened. That your life is the same as it was a day before.
You need to face your emotions and deal with them. But don’t rush. Take your time. Healing takes time. It will happen when you come to terms with it.
It is not your fault.
I am sure you are thinking that it’s your fault—that whatever you’re going through, you caused it somehow.
We all feel that way. We scrutinize our life. We go over every inch to try and see if we did anything wrong.
It’s not your fault—and it’s also not going to do you any good thinking like that and torturing yourself in the process.
If you need to hear it, ask somebody you trust. And then really listen. Say it with me: It is not your fault.
Let go of what you don’t need anymore.
You have faced a setback. Your life is different, so you have to do things differently.
What is it that you don’t need in your life anymore? Is there a job that isn’t working for you? Any commitments you made? How many things do you say yes to that you could just pull back from?
Bow out gracefully.
Your husband loses his job. Your teenager has been in an accident. Your mom’s tumor is malignant. Your brother lost his house so his family has to move in temporarily.
Whatever it is, it needs your attention, which means the unimportant must go. Now.
Start believing and discover possibilities.
Your life is different now but that doesn’t mean it has to be worse. It can be better. Don’t listen to the naysayers and anyone else who tells you otherwise.
Don’t listen to the experts who tell you that your chances are not good. Listen to your gut. Do the work.
You might feel like you are all alone in this, or that you don’t have all the resources. You might feel trapped or feel like you don’t have many choices. Become resourceful. Do the best you can.
Amidst that chaos, can you discover any truths about your life and your dreams?
Now that you have let go of stuff that doesn’t matter, stuff that didn’t work, what could you do to bring normalcy to your life? What can you do to stay sane?
You don’t have to go through a major life change to appreciate what you have. All it takes is a wake up call. Mine was major; yours doesn’t have to be.
It took a diagnosis for my oldest son and give years of rethinking my life to find my priorities.
What will it take for you?
Photo by Tristan