This Thanksgiving, there was a lot on my mind. One year ago, on November 24, our 3 year old son received a diagnosis. I think I’m ready to write it out even though I’m still not sure if it’s accurate. He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Other than the year my parents got divorced, this year, 2016, has been the most challenging in my little life. I will not number the ways in which I have been stretched to my limits. I think I was stretched so far that I snapped… I may revisit that another time.
Ever since we were told that our son is somewhere on that broad and often confusing spectrum, I have felt an intense feeling of loneliness. I have a wonderful husband, a loving family, a supportive network of friends, and still, with all of those people in my life, I felt like I was on an island.
I joined a couple different Facebook groups related to Apraxia and Autism in hopes of connecting with people who had families that were facing similar struggles. While I certainly learned about varying therapy approaches and different strategies for dealing with a lack of communication, the online world did not provide me with the REAL connection that I so craved.
Then tonight, a little more than a year since our very own D-Day (diagnosis day), I finally decided to go to a local support group for parents of children on the spectrum. It was pretty timely that had I weaned myself off of anti-depressants this past month, allowing my tears to return, because after the meeting, as I drove alone toward home, I had the most cathartic cry. These were not tears of sadness or joy. They were tears of relief. Relief that I wasn’t alone.
For the first time since D-Day, I felt totally at ease and comfortable in a room of people who just totally “got it”. I’m in online Facebook groups with at least a thousand parents that probably “get it” as well. But there is something about being in the actual physical presence of others that the online venue can just not replicate.
As we sat around and spouted off about this or that unsuccessful behavior modification strategy and ironically laughed about how much we all tend to cry, I felt so much less alone. They could see the tears in my eyes, I could hear the frustration in a dad’s voice and we could all feel the chairs bump around when a mom erupted in giggles.
We need to be in the physical presence of others. We were made for communion.
I’m still on an island and I know that it will still occasionally feel lonely because all of our children are different, with or without a certain diagnosis. But now I can see with physical, not just virtual, certainty that there are other people with me on that island, the Island of Misfit Parents.