Friday night was one of the worst nights of my life. It wasn't the worst; I was with my brother the night he died. No one was injured (much). No marriages were ended or houses destroyed. But it was a night I hoped would never repeat itself, but has, to some degree, every night since.
I wrote a post about what happened, a play by play of the seven hours that Moe spent screaming. I decided that maybe such detail was better left for a private journal entry. Toward the end of the piece, however, I wrote this:
And this is where I will say what I try to avoid saying. Sometimes, autism sucks. I know that is hard to hear, and I am not trying to offend anyone. But it is our truth right now, and I dare say Moe might agree with me. For some, autism may bring great gifts alongside the challenges. But not here, not today.I've spent the last few days trying to decide if I would post that statement. On the one hand, I know that many are offended when someone says "autism sucks." On the other hand, it was exactly how I felt.
Autism isn't just a disability. It is the very lens through which autistic people view the world. It is, to put it most simply, their brain. There is no Moe with autism and Moe without autism, so if I say "autism sucks," I am really saying "Moe's brain sucks," ergo Moe sucks. And how could I, as Moe's mom, the person who loves and cherishes him more than any other person in the world, think that, let alone say it out loud?
The flip side of that, however, is that autism is, for Moe, quite debilitating. After all, what is autism if not a disorder? We parents are often criticized for focusing only on the challenges of autism, and not the gifts. But without the disability, what is autism? In other words, if someone had all the "gifts" of autism (say, for example, Temple Grandin's astounding visual thinking skills), but none of the deficits, would she still be autistic? Can you ever separate the person and the disorder? Different people will have different answers to that question.
Moe's autism makes him unable to sleep. It makes him aggressive. It makes him unable to speak or clearly express his wishes, causing immense frustration. I can only guess that if Moe were able to make all of those challenges go away, he would. If behavior is communication, what does his scratching and biting say, if not "this sucks?"
But I cannot say what Moe thinks. I can only say what I think. And I think autism is really, really hard on our family. On days like today, when I've slept only three hours, I love Moe but I do not love autism. The idea that I cannot hold those two opposing views in my mind at the same time is someone else's construct. Not only can I make that distinction, but I do it every single day. I have to.
|Scratches from earlier today|
It is autism that makes him unable to sleep or speak, or use the bathroom, or play with his sister, or go to school. It is autism that makes it so that he can't say "Mommy, I love you."
I have to believe that he would if he could.
Because that is how I keep doing what I'm doing. That is how I get up every morning no matter how little sleep I've gotten and give Moe a hug and a kiss and get to work helping him be everything he can be. That is how I keep moving forward, fighting every single day for more for him, for more than just "appropriate." That is how I live in a house you wouldn't believe, with locks on every door, unable to even have curtains because Moe has pulled them down. To live in constant fear for his safety, now and forever.
If I am going to be able to love Moe and fight for him, I need to be able to, once in a while, shout to the universe that "autism sucks!" and not be filled with guilt that it must mean I don't love my child. Because I do. Some days, that love is the only thing that keeps me going.
|My beautiful boy|
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