On Autism Break: Parents, It’s Okay to Sometimes Put Yourself 1st
Mugdha Kalra, parent to a 9 year old boy who is in the Autism Spectrum, talks about mental health of a caregiver.
So, I am not reading about Autism. I am not talking about Autism. I am not actively engaging with anyone with a differently abled child and I am off all the autism support groups.
I AM ON AN AUTISM BREAK. AND I AM LOVING IT.
I am otherwise someone obsessed with research. My son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum in 2013, when he was 4 years old. I have actively read, written about, attended conferences with the top researchers on the cutting edge of autism. I wrote a blog series called #RaisingANonConformist, I was active in parent support groups, I wrote journals, I met and counseled new parents. This was until a year ago. I desperately needed a break.
It wasn’t easy I must admit. The first thing I did was write to my support group friends.
Dear all, I am taking a short break to reboot my system. Will be back soon.
Not an Easy Decision
The moment I hit the exit button I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. It was as if I was carrying the burden of information on myself. I realised that this constant bombardment of issues - solutions, grief & celebrations were exhausting my brain. I was consumed by everything spectrum. I would read about an issue and internalise it almost every time. I started looking for problem behaviour that didn’t even exist in the first place. I started trying too many things at once because other parents were doing so much.
I had FOMO if I was not reading every single message on the group - and on an average there were 50-100 messages every day.
My mind would jump from one issue to the other, unknowingly comparing my child’s issues and condition with the rest and getting involved with parents struggling with a problem with their child as if it were my own.
I had stopped reading fun stuff. I had stopped writing about things other than special mommy issues. It was as if my whole existence was in the spectrum too.
It was around this time that I got an opportunity to write a docu-series on a subject that was totally out of my comfort zone. I was apprehensive as this was going to be a full-time commitment of my mind space. I thought to myself - my son’s school and therapy schedule is in place - by which I mean that it doesn’t need to be reviewed for the next 6-7 months, problem behaviours are minimal, support system is in place – let me take the plunge.
And so I started the project, slowly pulling myself away from the world of autism bit by bit.
And I realised I was a much more positive, engaged and hopeful parent. I was not fussing so much over my son’s condition. Not reading too much of autism into his every action and addressing these issues as any other parent would. I was meeting new people, talking about different subjects and engaging in different activities.
For the first time I actually finished an almost eight month long project without anyone knowing that I have a differently wired nine year old boy. And it was refreshing! It was an assurance that I too could have a normal life if I actively chose to.
My autism FOMO became my autism JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).
Yes, I know this is temporary. I will need to go back to reviewing my therapy goals and progress card. Summer holidays are almost here. I will need to be actively involved in the vacation schedule. If I have a problem behaviour coming up, I will need to knock on the Whatsapp windows of fellow parents.
But sometimes when things are going smooth one should just take a break and enjoy that time off.
As autism parents, we don’t realise how we cram our brain with information. Life only becomes about a condition. Mental health of the caregiver is of utmost importance in all scheme of things, and you should do anything and everything to preserve yourself.
On this World Autism Awareness Day I highly recommend an Auts Break to fellow mommies and daddies in the same boat.
Try kar kae dekho!
(Once a news anchor, now a full time mom. Foodie, avid reader, film buff, and erratic blogger, Mugdha Kalra writes about living with a nonconformist)
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