Autism and Mental Health: 6 truths for survival

autism-and-mental-health-intro

Well, it’s been a long time, friends.

Thanks for gathering with me again. It is good to be together once more.

I have been struggling for some time to write this post. There are like eight versions of this in my drafts folder, but I think it’s best to explain my absence by just coming right out with it.

My husband was diagnosed with PTSD in March and went on medical leave over the summer. Just prior to returning, his job was eliminated. Shortly thereafter, he was offered a new job, we bought our first home, I single-handedly packed up the rental we’d lived in for 7 years, and we moved. From his job loss to the day we moved, fewer than 8 weeks passed.

They were good changes, but it was a delicate moment for all those things to happen, and when it added up together with an autistic kiddo who doesn’t like change (much less quick ones) and we threw in the most contentious election year maybe in the history of the US, I just lost it.

No, like, I mean I literally had a breakdown. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t talk, could barely move, couldn’t breathe well. I didn’t want to be a part of my life anymore and texted my husband to take me to the hospital NOW because I couldn’t take one. more. minute. I am much better now than I was (look, guys; I’m writing!), but it was uuuuuugly there for a bit.

When the content has been lighter in the past, this is where I normally ask the autism parents out there…you know that feel, bro? And y’all are like, totes, Maura. 

Maybe you don’t say “totes.”

But I’m not going to ask you that today, at least not expecting anyone to chime in, so maybe I’ll just whisper, and maybe you’ll just think your answer.

While it is somewhat shocking, it’s not that surprising, is it?

It was only a matter of time before someone’s brain broke here.

Special needs, all by itself, is consuming. A 2009 study published in the New York Times by the University of Wisconsin Madison even said that the stress levels of autism parents are comparable to those of combat soldiers.

Yeah, that’s a real thing. I put it out there on Facebook a year or so ago, and an actual veteran said to me that both people are often at burnout level of anxiety, and they wonder if everything they’re doing is even going to help. So there’s that.

Anyway, having special needs in your house, while a beautiful, beautiful thing, is hard without anything else added. But just because you have special needs doesn’t mean you get a pass on job loss, or cancer, or the death of a family member, or financial hardship. When those things overlap, what do you do? I mean, other than listen to other people say they “can’t imagine” (because trust me, dudes; we’re living it, and our imaginations still aren’t that good).

That’s why I’m kicking off my return to the blogosphere with a series on mental health.

It’s a touchy topic in the church, and I know a lot of people would argue that if you’re having mental health troubles, you need more faith. And I’m not saying that’s totally wrong, but I want to dedicate a series to the fact that it’s *much* more complicated than that.

Starting this week, I’ll begin with self-care. Normally here is where I would lay out for you a blast-y schedule of new posts in the next two weeks, but let’s take this one easy. I’m still in recovery, and I feel like the whole world is stressed right now anyway, so let’s just let this be organic and go where it wants. I have an outline, but I think we should watch this take shape together.

Lots of love to you.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. Jamie says:

    Totes Maura! I absolutely positively can relate and I thank God for a healthy dose of Wellbutrin to keep my brain healthy. And thank you, thank you, thank you for this series! Mental health stigma sucks, I hope talking about it and hearing others say “me too” makes it easier for someone else to get help sooner. I’m so glad you’re feeling better!

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    1. mauraoprisko says:

      I’m sure it will come up later, but I’m on three different medicines right now and THANKS BE TO GOD. Really. I am so thankful for it.

      And yes–that’s exactly the point! Let’s say “me too.” Let’s talk to each other and share stories so this ugly stigma goes away. It’s unfair to those of us who suffer and for our loved ones too.

      Lots of love and grace today. We’ll get through this together!

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  2. Emmie says:

    Maura,

    About 6 years ago I experienced something similar. A long period of stress and anxiety added to a cross country move, husband’s drployment and unexpected high risk pregnancy in my forties. And I had a teen with severe issues of his own and a tween with aspberger’s who was not adjusting well. I broke. And although it was completrly necessary, it was terrifying. I found out that my OB gyn actually had a therapist on staff and I went. Recovery for me was long because I was still in the midst of the circumstances. I was not in the church then, but I do believe rethinking everything started me on the path that led me there. God bless you and I am truly praying for you and your family.

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    1. mauraoprisko says:

      It’s like you know me. I mean, just *exactly.* It was all necessary, so couldn’t just “say no.” And recovery taking a long time because you’re still in the middle of it. All the yes.

      I am glad to hear that you survived–for you and for me. Thanks be to God. Thank you for your encouragement!

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  3. Juliana McGrath says:

    Oh wow Maura, that sounds so tough. I have an Aspergers son and dealing with his challenges, the appointments, the special diet, plus my toddler has me on a teetery balance line. I’m only *just* managing ok. But if my husband got sick, lost job, we needed to move etc I think I would totally lose it. Thinking and praying for you! Thanks for being so brave and sharing this xx

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    1. mauraoprisko says:

      Thank you, Juliana. And thanks for being a warrior mom–you’ve got a lot going on, too. Solidarity! *high five*

      Like

  4. Jennifer Romprey says:

    My dear friend you are an inspiration. Your transparency is refreshing and much needed today. Mental health needs to be an open and honest conversation. So thank you. I may not have a child with autism, but as a teacher and Children’s Pastor, I have walked beside many parents over the years. I have seen their joys and struggles (or at least the ones they have allowed me to) and I’ve done the best I could to help be apart of their village. Your blog sure has helped me along the way. Would you mind if I shared your blog with some of those families?

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  5. Elissa Bjeletich says:

    It is necessary to ‘break’ sometimes — and it’s a shame that in the church, people are too quick with urging one another to just say the Jesus Prayer more. If anything, Orthodoxy should teach us the value of humility. Human beings have real limits, and only pride could pretend that we’re the exception to the rule. I have had my own struggles with PTSD, and it was very humbling to find that I could not control my own mental state, but in the end, all humility really is fruitful. Thanks for starting this series, Maura, and welcome back. It’s wonderful to see you writing again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mauraoprisko says:

      Thank you for that, Elissa! It’s so encouraging to hear from someone else who has struggled as well. Lots of love coming your way! ❤️❤️❤️

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  6. Michael Haldas says:

    My sister daughter, my niece and goddaughter, is autistic. She is one of a set of twins and then has a younger brother who is nine years younger. My sister really struggles at times as does her husband and And it can be really difficult for her to keep her mental balance. Thank you for sharing your struggles and for having the courage to do so. It is inspirational for others to read who are in similar situation. God bless you and your family.

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  7. kayreusser says:

    Maura, Thanks for sharing. I was a Psychology major in college and firmly believe our brains can fail us as much as our bodies do. I’m so glad you’re seeking/ receiving help. You’re a strong woman and you’re leaning on God. He will not fail you, nor will His followers. We’re all here for you with prayers and understanding. You’re such a gifted writer. God may be blessing you with a way to help your recovery w/ your writing. Prayers and virtual hugs!

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  8. ada26 says:

    Beautifully and brutally honest. Thank you. Keep writing, but only if it’s therapeutic for you. ❤

    Like

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