I remember about 6 years ago, I was driving with my Mother-in-law and we were talking about different challenges that we had or that our family was having. I remember how I felt. I realized how easy my life had been so far. I had trials but never those life-altering challenges that people talk about. For months after this I remember having this feeling of inadequacy. I know that sounds ridiculous but I did. I remember thinking “Why is my life so easy? I know the Lord only gives us what we can handle, so can I not handle anything difficult? What does he think of me?” I am proud to say I no longer have that same feeling of inadequacy. I am now a mother of three and am reminded of what my mother-in-law so wisely told me in the car that day. “Just wait, It will come.”
Don’t get me wrong in no way do I feel like my life is harder than anyone else. I see so many people and I think to myself “I am glad I have my challenge because I could never get through that”. And I watch some women with my same challenges keep it together so much better than me, but I will tell you that that doesn’t matter. What matters is that my life is hard for me. What matters is that some days I feel like I am drowning in my challenges. I am not going to talk specifically about the challenges that come with having an autistic child; however I do want to speak about how it has affected me, socially, physically, emotionally, and most importantly spiritually.
Last year my son was finally diagnosed with Autism. I could talk for days about the events leading up to it but right now I want to focus on the experiences afterwards.
The first change that I went through was socially, and physically. Very soon after his diagnosis I felt this awkwardness with my friends. I didn’t know how to share my experiences in an appropriate manner. I was constantly worried about what they would think and how my comments would make them feel. I had now experienced that awkward moment when you realize you have shared too much about an experience you had that day with your child (usually involving bodily fluids or knives). I started closing myself off. Feeling like I couldn’t relate to others and that I could just save myself the embarrassment that would inevitably follow me if we were to venture out of our house. I also found that my body was just exhausted. Exhausted from the multiple loads of laundry, the mountains of paperwork, hours of therapy, cleaning poo and marker off my walls, carpets and any other object that happens to be in his path, and the countless other things that make up my day. This is still something I am struggling with but with the help of some friends and Jacobs therapist we are finally venturing out of our home again. I have found that the easiest way for me to feel connected with people is to be open and proud of my life. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. I now use our embarrassing moments to teach others about the struggles my son has. In hopes that their understanding for others will grow.
The next change I went through was emotional. For those who haven’t experienced it a Diagnosis is a tough thing to go through. It is a whirlwind of emotions. And let me tell you I am not an emotional person. I can count on one hand the number of times I have cried in a movie (To count as crying my eyes just need to moisten). Looking back I was emotionally detached about the assessments we were going through. I had the attitude that we just needed to do it. But as time went on I became more and more affected by my situation. Every experience I had, started to bring up sad feelings inside me, and by the end of last year I was really struggling. I was feeling like my challenge was getting to hard to bare. I struggled to know what to do. So as new years arrived I attempted to make some changes. I wanted to feel that joy again. I wanted to be positive and kind and all those great attributes that everyone wants to possess. One night while talking to Jason I remember telling him that I just didn’t like the person I was becoming. That I look back at the person I used to be and I felt like I had lost So much of myself. I have always had thick skin and have always been resilient to those around me. But living with someone who constantly says how much they hate me and everything else in the world for that matter had worn me down. I was really struggling to see the good in my life. I felt like my spirit had been broken. This caused my final change – My Spiritual change.
This change has transformed me. It has allowed me to feel the Joy that comes with the many blessings that I receive everyday, It helped me to better understand why I am given these challenges. It has helped me love all my children more fully and to bring that much needed light back into my life.
For the next few weeks I was bombarded with lessons and articles about the trials we face in life. I knew that God was speaking to me through others and that he wanted to comfort me, and remind me of how important I am to him. So I started a spiritual journal. I started writing things that were specifically about the trial I was having. And what I have now is a notebook full of uplifting messages about love, hope, and Light.
President Thomas S. Monson shared this “We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were – better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before. This should be our purpose – to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life.”
So I say to all of you that are struggling, remember “God Loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, he desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.” – President Dieter Utchdorft
I know that if I allow my trials to change me for the better I will become the person that He wants and needs me to be. And as we draw nearer to God the darkness will fade because it cannot exist in the presence of light. The Savior said “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life”. The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night gives way to dawn, the light will come.