There was a time in my life that it took every ounce of me to force myself out of my bed. Had I not had two small children to rely on me for their every need, I can honestly say I am not sure if I would be here today. I live battling depression every day of my life. Some days are worse than others and are hard to make it through, thank God I do. There were times I doubted this over and over again.
In 2005, I watched my mom take her very last breath from a hospital bed. Just two days prior to that, I had been in the same hospital for 61 days due to an infected knee replacement. By her side, I was still in a wheelchair with only the use of one leg. Two weeks to the day of burying my mother, (who was also my best friend), I sat across a desk from a physician and heard the words, “Ms. Allen, I hate to tell you this, but your son has autism”.
My world shut down right there; it became very dark and bleak. There were to be no proms, no baseball games, and no football, nothing I had imagined myself enjoying with my first born. Everything I had visions of as being a mom and sharing them with my mother was all gone in a matter of two weeks’ time. I wanted to die or at least find some type of end to the torture my soul was going through. I was grieving so heavily for the loss of two people actually. I was grieving the loss of my mother and the son that was in my thoughts and my dreams all along.
When you get a diagnosis like that of autism, you realize that the child you have is not going to be the child you had made all those plans for in your mind. That’s not to say you don’t still love the child just as much, you just have to let go of that child and reprogram your mind in a new direction for the new child you are going to have. As a parent, you grieve the loss incredibly hard. The visions of t-ball, football, marriage, kids, suddenly are replaced with intense therapy, special foods, securing the house so he doesn’t escape and run away or even worse, get run over.
Life turned on me so fast I wasn’t prepared or ready for the battle. I slowly turned away from life and those that loved me. I wanted nothing to do with the world or those with happy, healthy children. I didn’t want to be around people at all. The problem was I didn’t get the chance to grieve either of these major losses in my life. I had to jump right into “saving my son from autism” mode, plus, by now we had a newborn little preemie daughter.
Depression took over my life for a long time until I was faced with life, all alone, I had no choice but to deal with it. I found myself single with two children, with a plan to move 1600 miles away from my home in order for my son to get better treatment and education options. My two children and I moved to NY for a new life.
The darkest days of my life are what I contribute to my healing days. I had to face a lot of demons I had left behind for many years. I moved to a place where I was all alone, just my kids and I. I had a lot of time on my hands. I found Jesus again. I had to face all the steps of grief of losing my mother and coming to terms with her being gone. I had to accept that my son was the son God picked for me and he was perfect just the way he is. He has come so far and is actually my best buddy. I would not trade him for anything or any other child. He has taught ME how to live. The world he sees is such a prettier place than the one I see, and for that, I am so thankful.
I still have really bad days. Like right now, writing this stirs up some painful emotions. I still have a hard time without my mom. I know how to cope with my bad days though. I know it's ok to just go somewhere and cry and that’s ok. It’s ok to feel lonely for that little boy that would have been but I wouldn’t give the one I have now up for that other one. It’s ok to grieve, it's human. The best lesson Life, death, and autism have taught me are there is a life here that needs to be lived while I have it. It's mine to live to its fullest, never to take one breath for granted and to always take the high road on my journey.
By Malissa Allen