The Whole Story
I haven’t written about what has been going on, but I’ve decided that all parts of the story need to be told. This month has been hard. I need to let my friends who call me a super-mum know that I’m really not feeling super. I need to explain that although we love living here, it comes at a price. But most of all, I just need to tell the truth about hard times, because I know many people are going through even longer, tougher, more challenging times. It isn’t fair to them, or myself to pretend everything is fine.
So, this month has been hard. Mostly it has been difficult because I’ve been unwell. So as not to scare away my (three) male readers, I’ll refer to my health issues as some ongoing lady problems that have been getting progressively worse. Ultimately, I’m now very anaemic, which is good in that it is treatable, but bad in that it makes me feel lousy. I’m weak and tired. My brain feels like mush, and can’t seem to retain any information, I’m forgetting appointments. I have heart palpitations, and wake up with numb hands, arms and feet. My immune system is struggling, so I’m catching every germ I come across, and each one is hitting me hard.
Some of my medications have nasty side-effects too, and one weekend my fingers swelled up and I had to have my wedding and engagement rings cut off. But I am receiving treatments, including iron injections every two weeks so that I’ll be back to speed in weeks rather than months. Though I can’t exercise at the moment, I’m doing my best to rest, eat an iron-rich diet, and take all the supplements to support the healing process. It just takes time.
I’m spending much more time indoors than I have previously while living in South Africa. Unfortunately, living in a house with bars on the windows inevitably feels a lot like living in a prison, this is made all the worse by the fact that recent events mean I don’t feel as safe in my home as I used to. Earlier this month, there was an armed robbery on our compound. By a huge stroke of luck, all the families who live here were out at the time. Generally on a Saturday afternoon, either our children or our neighbours are playing where the incident happened. Anyone who has a young child on the spectrum knows that in the face of danger, they are likely to behave unpredictably. I’ve lost many hours of sleep thinking about what might have happened if we hadn’t gone out that day. The security officers here are great, and have already made some changes to minimize the risk of this happening again, but I’m shaken that an electric fence, gate, and security guard were ultimately so easy to overcome.
It has been hard because I’m always far more homesick after my parents visit than I am before. Homesickness and culture shock are wrapped tightly together. The more you miss home, the more alien a place can seem. I’m struggling to remind myself to enjoy all the wonderful people and places here, rather than wishing for September to get here for an R & R trip back to England.
Last week brought things to a head. I forgot to take Pudding swimming one day, then Cubby to OT another. Then Cubby was ill, followed by Pudding too. Instead of wanting to rest in bed, my kids become more hyperactive when they’re sick. Not only was I struggling to keep up with them, but I’d missed the very things that help them to regulate. By Friday, I was just exhausted. Not only was I feeling too weary to face the effort of getting Pudding into school, or schedule an appointment for a 24-hour EEG for a child who couldn’t handle a 30 minute one; but I was too drained to get through another ordinary day.
Far from the “super-mum” a friend called me in an email, I was feeling physically and emotionally at rock bottom, and taking my frustrations out on the very people who most need my love and support. When Spectrummy Daddy got home from work, I took a bath, and let my tears fall into the water, until most of the tension left me. After we’d got the kids to sleep, we talked about what measures we could take to make things easier. But, once I’d finally let go of trying to keep everything together, I no longer felt like I was coming apart.
It isn’t the end of this hard month yet, but I’m starting to feel stronger. Yesterday when the car broke down, I didn’t join it. I was just grateful it happened with Spectrummy Daddy there, and in a safe place. I’m using visual strategies to keep me on track of the things I need to do this week, and hopefully that will keep me from getting too overwhelmed. After all, if it is good enough for Pudding, it is good enough for me too.
So now I’ve honoured the truth. I’m not a super-mum. Though I love living here, it does come at a cost. I can go through hard times, and while they have absolutely nothing to do with autism, they can challenge my ability to parent. I’m going to keep telling the whole story, even if I’m hoping that this particular chapter will come to an end soon.