Last summer, after a particularly rough evening involving screaming and kicking and a soupçon of fecal smearing for good measure, I grabbed a bottle of rum and went out to my kids' swingset. I pulled out my phone and texted my best buddy, Deb.
Me: "Dude. I'm getting drunk on the boys' swingset."
Deb: "Whatever keeps you off the front page."
Debbie's wise like that.
It's good advice. I've recently become friendly with a mom whose son was just diagnosed. She's in the "Holy Shit" phase of all of this. She's reeling from the news and dealing with family members who are in denial. She asked me to meet her for a drink because she mistakenly believes that I've got my shit together. I do not have my shit together. (The shit is smeared everywhere. N'yuck, n'yuck.) But talking to her got me thinking about what's keeping me from losing my ever-loving mind, at least temporarily.
So, in no particular order:
1. Exercise. (Don't get excited. I'm not going to preach.) I'm not remotely athletic, but about a year before the diagnosis, I did my first triathlon. That gave me such a boost of confidence, that I figured I was up to any challenge--even autism. (Granted, I had no effin' idea how hard it was going to be.) I still race in the summer, though I don't have time to train like I used to. But I do meet my friend Dana at kickboxing once a week. It's very satisfying to beat the crap out of a bag for an hour, and it makes me feel badass--probably because there's nothing punching back.
Exercise is great and gets your endorphins going, but before you start thinking I'm well-adjusted, let me tell you about something I like even more:
2. Alcohol. I'm not being remotely ironic here. I medicate with chardonnay. Cheap chardonnay.
3. Friends. My oldest girlfriends are probably the only non-ASD parents that I can be totally open with. They are awesome at not pitying me--probably because they know what a jerk I am. I am awesome at not envying them--probably because I know how fucked up they really are. (I say this will all the affection in the world.) We don't get together nearly often enough, but even the occasional weekend at the shore is an effin' tonic for my nerves.
4. My husband. I know. I'm lucky. Though I have to say, sometimes we can't vent to each other. There have been times that he's wanted to talk about his feelings and frustrations, and I've cut him off because I can't take in any more. I've reached critical mass. I'm soaking in it. But I have a partner in this madness. And he can cook.
5. Downton Abbey. At least I don't have to worry about the pressures of maintaining a castle that's been in the family for generations. We live in a three bedroom ranch that was built in 1981. However, it does need new windows, so in that way I can relate to Lord Grantham.
Holy crap. What was that? Did I mention the alcohol? Do you see I wasn't joking?
5. This blog. You. All of this wonderful networking and communication has made me feel like I'm not the only one. Sometimes I'll read a blog or one of your comments and be amazed because someone has read my mind. It's the best thing I've done for myself in a long time.
I think that's the key. We have to have something for ourselves. We can't just be ASD parents all the time. We can be writers or artists or mediocre athletes...whatever it takes to keep us off the front page.