Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Can Quit Blaming Myself for my Son/Daughter's Autism or Mental Illness

 If only I would have known more or been more careful when I was pregnant; If only I would not have given my baby a multitude of vaccinations; If only I had tried harder with the gluten free/casein free diet; If only I had gotten the expensive attorney and gone to fair hearing for more speech therapy; If only I had been more consistent with the vitamin and fish oil regimen; If only my spouse would follow through on the sensory diet; If only I would have mortgaged the house used the money for gamma globulin infusions;  If only I had stuck with the new chelation treatments; If only I had lived a better life, If only I tried harder in controlling my child's stims; if only I had more play-dates and insisted on full inclusion, if only I were doing a better job of parenting... my child would not have autism or mental illness.   Come on!  It is nobody's fault... When I accepted this, I felt like a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders.

When I accepted the fact that my sons had autism, I believed that I would never again have a reason to smile, or laugh.  Later we found that our daughter also had mental illness.  Getting together with other parents who had similar circumstances was invaluable.  It was such an amazing gift to have a place where we could go and be understood.  Finding other parents going though similar life challenges is a real life and sanity saver.

Now as I daily work these steps I experience a peaceful quality of life I had never dreamed possible.  We now had a new way of acting on life rather than reacting to it.  A new way of dealing with life's challenges that are quality of life enhancing rather than destroying.   I felt for the first time in many years, free and serene.

Working this program is a daily journey that is rewarding and provides an opportunity for personal growth.  I will be working this program for the rest of my life.  It is a way to cope with life's challenges.  The 12 Steps is a proven life changing program that is working for millions (whose life challenges were considered hopeless)  around the globe.  It originates within Alcoholics Anonymous.  Since then all types of Addicts, Codependents, (50+ different types of Anonymous Groups) and their family members (including parents) have found a "Quality of Life" Recovery.

The challenges of being a parent with a son/daughter with autism or mental illness do not end.  My circumstances have not changed.  But the quality of my daily life is now better than I ever dreamed possible.

I would love to hear your share of experience, strength and hope.  Send a confidential email by clicking on my profile photo icon.  Find another parent in your area to share your story with.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Embracing My Powerlessness Over Anything Outside Of My Hula-Hoop

 I am powerless to change the journey that my children, now young adults, are on.   I catch myself insisting that everyone “tip toe” around our son/daughter, and to be careful to not "set them off".   This dismissing of the needs of parents and siblings for the sake of the person with autism/mental illness, is stressful and not loving for anyone.  Maybe I place excessive expectations on myself and everyone in our family to cater to the needs of our son/daughter with autism?  Step One helps me with this.

What is the healthy alternative for my husband's and my needs and wants always being put on the "low priority" list?  I can schedule some times each week when my husband and I will have our needs/wants be of the utmost importance.  Date nights.  Regular date nights.  Morning and afternoon date days.   Making it "OK" to spoil ourselves and each other on a regular, planned weekly basis.

Another parent once told me that moms and dads need to take at least an hour each day to "gift ourselves with activities that we enjoy".  It is best if these activities are multi-sensory.  Like getting lunch and eating it in the park, under a big shade tree near the duck pond.  Or taking a brisk walk early in the morning before everyone is awake along a nature trail.   What kinds of things do you (or did you) enjoy?  Take a moment and write out a list and schedule one of them for tomorrow....better yet, for today!

Step One gives me permission to embrace my powerlessness over others and to go ahead and let my son/daughter get frustrated, angry and then throw a tizzy fit.  I am starting to see that powerlessness means that "making my son/daughter calm and appropriate at all times" is no longer my highest priority.  To let go and let God be all powerful.  It invites me to let go of trying to control the feelings/emotions of others.  I have heard that, "If it is outside my hula hoop, then it is not my responsibility to try and control it." 

So what would practicing this new behavior involve?   Today for me, letting go means that I am going to sweep away the “eggshells” and let the chips fall where they may.  Maybe I can look for ways to honor my own wants and needs and those of my spouse, or of the siblings at regular pre-planned times. 

It was then that I truly discovered how beautifully letting go and letting God can work.  When I fully understood how powerless I was over the situation, I was able to trust that…” my son/daughter “has her own Higher Power and that, together, they can work out her own future.  I was free of the constant need to watch over her, free to live my own life.

I care about…” my son/daughter with autism/mental illness “ …in my life more than I can say.  I wish him/her health, happiness, and…” appropriate behaviors “…but I cannot hand these things to him/her.  She/he and their Higher Power are in charge of that.  I can only love her/him, and when I stop to think about it, that is enough.”

Following the First Step and accepting my powerlessness and that my life is unmanageable, means that today I am going to “stand down” and trust the Higher Power of my son/daughter to handle the results.  I can place my trust in my Higher Power and know that all is well…just for today. 

If we supply the willingness, God supplies the power.”

[Courage to Change, Al-Anon January 8th, and the Al-Anon Family Groups –Classic Edition]

Step One: I admit that I am powerless over __________(autism, mental illness, etc.) and that my life has become unmanageable.

This is one of my favorite steps.  It is key to finding peace of mind.  It encourages a mind-set that relieves me of a lot of unnecessary stress.  Step One reminds me that "I am not in charge."  I am an "actor" in this "show" called life.  I am not the Director.  I don't get to decide the story line.  I don't get to tell the other actors (my family members/friends) how they are supposed to "act".  That is not my job. 

When I try to control the "show" and change the story line, my life is super unmanageable.  I don't know why I have 2 sons with autism and one daughter with mental illness.  I may never have the answer to that question.  And that is "OK".  Because I am not in charge.  I don't get to decide nor am I responsible for what life hands me.  I am only responsible for how I deal with what life hands me.  The 12 Step Program helps me to learn new ways of coping with life's challenges.  It helps me to change the things I can and to live in peace with what I cannot. 

God grant me the serenity;
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

[The Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr]

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Step One and Reflection Questions

Step One

We admitted we were powerless over ________(autism, mental illness) and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step One is the beginning of a journey that will eventually lead us to the experience of the following "promises" in our own lives:

"...We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.  Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us..."

The practice of Step One will bring us peace of mind, that is not dependent upon whether or not our child is cured.  By practicing this Step, our serenity will not be held "hostage" by autism, mental illness or any other life event.

In Step One we stop trying to be in control of life. We cease blaming ourselves or others.   Just for today, we are not at war with anything or anyone.  We didn't cause it, we can't cure it and we can't control it.  Self care and balance are the new priorities in our lives.

Powerless means that are not running this "show" called life.  We need to see ourselves, not as the Director, but as one of the actors.  I did not get to decide whether my child would have Autism. The things that are most valuable to me, I have no control over. 

When I forget and believe that it is my job to "run the show", my life is unbearable.  I make others miserable when I try to control the details of their lives.  In order to survive and thrive in this life, I must accept that I am powerless over it.  When I surrender and accept life, on life's terms, I find peace.  

I can decide my reaction to life’s circumstances, but I am powerless over what life brings.  I can decide my reaction to my child’s Autism, but I am powerless over the reality that my child is affected by it today. 

God Grant me the Serenity,
To Accept the things I cannot Change,
Courage to change the things I can, 
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

Applying Step One to My Life

1.    What are the different things I have tried to cure my son/daughter's autism, mental illness?
2.   What have I sacrificed to try and cure my son/daughter or make them indistinguishable from their peers?
3.   In what ways is my life unmanageable? What is unacceptable in my life right now?  What people/situation have I been struggling to change?
4.   What does it mean for me to be powerless and for my life to be unmanageable?
5.   Share these answers with someone who has experience in working the 12 Steps.  Ask them what Step One means to them and how they apply it to challenging situations in their lives.