Having… THE TALK

There’s those big important talks we need to have with our kids. The birds and the bees, death, anti-racism….. neurodiversity.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of telling your children their diagnoses. It is a part of them. It is a sense of understanding. It is an explanation for how they see and experience the world it is not a negative to be hidden away. It is not ‘just’ a label. (I’m looking at you, Boomer parents).

In fact. My counsellor asked me today: how would a diagnosis have changed your childhood? Dude. That’s so hard. BUT, if my parents just told me. If they just said “hey, you are this thing they call “autistic”. It means you process everything a bit different”. Then. At least I wouldn’t have felt like an alien. At least I wouldn’t have felt unknown, unseen, like a fake…. At least I would have known their was a legit reason typical society didn’t work for me.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe my teenage depression wouldn’t have run so deep.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled with weight loss as a way to gain a sense of control over life.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I could have given the nurses a heads up that I totally shut down in pain, and they would have believed I was in labour.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I could have sought out coping mechanisms instead of being thrown into the depths of infant-induced sensory overload.

So. I do not yet know how my own children’s brains work. I feel they are much more typical than mine. But, I also feel like 14 months into Covid regulations that they are potentially having any Autistic social tendencies forced upon them. Mommy’s brain however…

The girls and myself were all in the washroom. I just wanted to have my 5 minutes of face wash self-care. They were extra hyped up today. One shouted in glee and tried to slam the door. (If your auditory senses are anything like mine, you know how much a washroom reverberates noise. Uhg). I felt my anxiety spiking. And it was only 7am.

“Mommy has to tell you something important. Brains work in different ways. Daddy’s brain is something called ‘neurotypical’. That’s a big word to mean he feels comfortable with most of the world. He is great with people. He hears and feels things at a calm level.

Mommy’s brain is Autistic. That means it works differently. One way is that mommy has super senses. My ears and my eyes and my nose and my touch all work really really well. So I can see things other people can’t. And I can hear things across the house. And I feel things really big. Sometimes this is like a superpower! I can find little bits of glass or hear when you wake up. Sometimes there’s so much happening, my senses go AHHHHHHHH! and I need a quick break.

Now. I do not know how your or your sister’s brains work yet. They might be like Daddy’s or they might be like Mommy’s. Or, they might even be a little bit like both of us. Either way, it’s pretty cool.”

Who knows how much the 4.5 year old took in of that. But, she stayed surprisingly attentive. I’m sure a week or so down the road she’ll spew out some tidbit about mommy’s superpower eyes helping find missing lego pieces. That’s how I’ll know she actually listened.

Until then. I’ll brainstorm other differences to tell her about. Or over analyze where she may fall on the spectrum of all abilities. And keep telling her, “cause Mommy’s Autistic, that’s why”, whenever she asks me, “but WHY?!”

Mommy needs a break!!

I think the best self-care thing I have EVER- like ever-ever- done for myself was installing a locking knob on my bedroom door. Our ensuite had one, but there is still so much sensory overload hiding in a bathroom with sunlight streaming in the window, at least one kids bangs on the door echoing through the tile room, and little sad fingers reaching under the door. Now, I can lock the door and lie on my bed in the dark with a cocoon on blankets and pillows around me. And if the door banging permeates that haven, I can always get behind a second locked door into the washroom.

~I know its not just me: a cocoon muffles all those other sensory inputs while locking your body into place~

My eldest needs breaks, too, to stop the spiral or flailing body, hyped up actions, or cycles of attention seeking aggression. All which, of course, immediately over stimulate me. So, I’m (desperately) hoping that modelling helps teach her this strategy as effective and super acceptable.

Fantasy World: I feel frustration, annoyance, or overload rising slowly.. I tell my kids in a sing-songy calm voice, “Mommy needs a break, I’ll be back in 5!” My children look at me with loving, calm faces, “of course, Mommy.” I go into my room, lock the door, lie in my cocoon, take some slow deep breaths, do mini meditation or visualization exercise. Then, I emerge. My engine is set back to “just right”. I am in the “Green Zone” and ready to interact as the mom I always planned to be. I’ll show them how much I love to be their Mommy.

Reality: Due to the multiple children, desire to keep them both safe and alive- including from each other, and the sleep deprivation of young kids + insomnia; my reactions go from 0-60 before I am fully aware it is happening. My whole body is a burning ball of tension that wants to explode out. I manage some calm but firm words to my kids. No effect. I yell or slam a door to release the uncontrollable tension. At least one kid cries to see me upset. I apologize and comfort the tears while sacrificing my need to reduce physical sensations. The crying and hugs and guilt now only make everything more intense and I feel it all start to cycle in again. Usually one hurts me or gets very in-my-face (which is practically the same thing as physical pain to me). By the time I make it to my room, I’m at more of a “please.. please.. Mommy just needs 2 minutes… I love you.. 2 minutes please..” There is a struggle to get the door closed and then such a satisfaction in that locking mechanism. I usually still need to release the new build of tension from getting through that door. I need my own noise or scream into a pillow to hit the release. Then, I can start my cocoon time… and stumble through some breathing or calming thoughts. And step back out across enemy lines. My engine teeters back down out of the red. My body is heightened and my nervous system is ready fight or flee. I beg myself to just be the mom they need. I wish more than anything that they will remember the loving moments more than these.

My 2021 goal is to learn to identify those early signs in my own body. Take preventative breaks.