Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Frenetic Autism Mom

I've been doing some reading lately that has helped my little family a great deal as we work to manage life with autism and all it's challenges. The funny thing is, the book has absolutely nothing to do with autism. What have I been reading? At the risk of sounding all "new-agey " or like one of Oprah's lemmings, I'll confess that I've been reading Eckhart Tolle's " A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose." Oprah has introduced it to the world as part of her famous book club, and has co-hosted webcast and Internet classes with the author, connecting readers of the book all over the world.

The author talks a lot about a concept that opened my eyes: "Ego." We've all heard the term "Ego," right? Remember Psych 101? Eckhart's book really delves into Ego and how it keeps us from living the life we should, the life we want. I won't go into the whole thing here - you can read the book for yourself - but basically the Ego is that "story" you're going around telling yourself about Who You Are. You identify yourself by your job title, you identify yourself by your position in a family, you identify yourself perhaps by a disability your body has.

Another author, who has written some very simliarly helpful stuff, Wayne Dyer, calls EGO "Edging God Out." Both authors consider the Ego very limiting. You and I are MORE than what we do. We are part of a entity infinitely greater and deeper than what we see on the surface, and it's very limiting to see ourselves only as what are bodies are and what we go around doing in these bodies. Dyer says that identifying ourselves this way is, in essence, disrespectful of God's plan and purpose for us.

Have I lost you yet? What does this have to do with autism? After reading about the Ego, it occurred to me that I, and a lot of other parents (particularly mothers) of children with autism, identify ourselves almost solely in relation to autism. We've become lost in the EGO of being this person who has had this situation thrust upon us. It's become everything to us. I'm calling it "Frenetic Autism Mom." I don't think it's a good thing. It certainly hasn't been a good thing for me and my family over the years.

Frenetic Autism Mom is the Warrior in the War on Autism. Frenetic Autism Mom is the Long-suffering Martyr Who Must Endure, or the Hero Who Will Cure Her Kiddo. Nobody else fully or appreciates or understands all that Frenetic Autism Mom does and has to go through in the course of a day.

So what's wrong with that? It's nerve-wracking, for one thing. I believe my son strongly feels the mood around him, and having a frantic, nervous, frenetic mom made him a nervous wreck, too.

Also, who WAS I before I became this person? Who would I be if it all suddenly went away? I'm thinking a lot of Frenetic Autism Moms would be at a complete loss of who they are if autism were suddenly erradicated. Is it REALLY all about their child, or is it about THEM? I believe it's something a lot of people really need to take an honest look at in themselves.

Since reading Tolle's book I'm working really hard at kicking Frenetic Autism Mom out of my head. She's caused us more harm than good. My son is MORE than his autism. Seeing him as "My Son With Autism" or "My Autistic Son" has colored too much of our existence for too long. Since working to see us as MORE than a Family With Autism, my son's negative behaviors have nearly disappeared. It's amazing how much better an attitude of RELAX, ACCEPT, AND ENJOY -an attitude Frenetic Autism Mom never allowed herself to have - works than psychotropics ever did.

Autism no longer "consumes" me (see the name of this Blog), and we are better off for it.