By Kim Norton
Sitting on the floor of the bathroom in utter despair, half naked, glass of wine in one hand, tissues in the other. How could this happen? What did I do wrong? It was not meant to happen this way. I was meant to have kids that would not go through this. My kids were meant to be happy, healthy and all things nice. My kids were going to have everything. My kids were going to have the “Brady Bunch” family that my husband did. I did all this work on myself to make this happen: I broke the family chain, I did the hard work, I did all of those years of counselling and therapy and now this. Now he has Autism and I have been told he will never amount to anything, to not hold out “any hope” for a decent future, that “he will be lucky to be packing supermarket shelves as an adult”. The only chance he had was to be medicated and to go to a “Special” school, you know the one that you go to on that blue bus and get heckled and bullied by all the “normal” kids in the street. Where did I go wrong? Where do I go from here?
I allowed myself a week or two to cry and grieve what was supposed to be and then got on with the job. Looking at myself in the mirror, I said “F that”! This was not about me. This was about him. “This was about him”; that realisation hit me like a ton of bricks. This was about him. There were appointments to make, funds to raise and a family that needed me, a family that needed me to be strong, to be there and to “show up”. There was no more time for grieving.
With no social media like there is today, Dr Google became my best friend as did my newly appointed Counsellor who led me down the path of anti-depressants and high blood pressure medications. I was happy to medicate myself at the time but not my son. I wanted to try everything else first. I wanted to leave medication for him for as long as possible.
Workshops, seminars, courses, training, endless phone calls, emails and petitioning pursued. This is something that only other Special Needs Parents/Carers can understand: That fight that you find in you, that drive and determination you did not know existed, it just rises from the depths of your soul, it is a knowing that you are here to advocate and to do a job that must be done.
Friends drifted away (you can only turn down so many invitations before you stop getting invited) and family were either unavailable, did not understand or just did not want to. With no time to waste I left my job to devote all of my time to him. I was now a full time Autism Mum and not the high flying corporate chick I had thought I would be. I was lucky to be able to do this, but I was utterly exhausted; my brain was fried, and my soul was so very tired. Little did I know this was just the beginning.
12 years later he is still unmedicated and is attending a mainstream high school. Medication was always on the table and was something that I was trying to hold off on until puberty. Now it looks like we can hold off a little while longer as he is coping with all of life’s adventures, some days better than others but that is just like all of us really. I was able to come off my own medications and replace them with natural therapies; something that is not achievable and not even advisable for all, but something I was determined to do for me.
I wish I could say it all gets easier, but I can’t. The fight is constant. It never goes away. It will push every single boundary and button you have and some days it will break you. Some days it will break you into a million pieces but then you will look into those eyes, those eyes that melt your soul, those eyes that say “thank you” and that say “I love you” even when their words cant and believe me you will melt and you will continue to fight.
Some days you will retreat, and you will find yourself back in the bathroom. Back in the bathroom sitting on the floor, glass in one hand and tissues in the other but this time you will remind yourself of how far you have come, you will remind yourself of what you are doing right, not of what you have done wrong. You will remind yourself that you know exactly where to go from here. The path has been set, you will cry and release and then you will pick yourself up and you will get on with the job for you to are an Autism Mum, and that is what we do.
Kim is the founder of Rainbow Light Therapies and is a Holistic Counsellor specialising in stress and anxiety management for kids, teens and adults.
Kim provides a unique, intuitive and individualised therapy approach through individual, small group and family counselling sessions at her studio in Langwarrin. Also working with special needs kids, Kim is an NDIS registered provider and runs workshops for people of all abilities on various topics throughout the year.