Keep yourself out of it.
I learned to lock away parts of me inside, so people wouldn’t see me messed up again. As I witnessed people’s reactions to my social awkwardness, I strove to disguise more of what I called, “the ugly.” I’d already been overexposed enough as a teen and in college. I understood I was different.
Mom said, “Everyone’s different.” That—to me—is like saying, “Bob likes music,” and “Sally likes to run.”
I was different as in unable to read social cues and communications. I easily disappeared into my imagination. It has taken me decades to understand myself. I thought—as a teacher—I could not expose the disaster within, but I needed dress down my personality into a sense of beige normalcy.
In fact, it took the oozing of my anger, sadness, and anxiety before the holiday break to help me realize: It’s no longer enough for me to continue the path of losing weight. The experience is great because I’ve lost 30 lbs. in 2018 getting back to my pre-baby weight.
Yet, I thought, I got to hide the ugly.
The holidays led me to one of my first realizations:
- Don’t Hide the Ugly
The diagnoses I’ve gathered from the age seven to now will never go away. I’ve collected them like unwanted rocks on a path long ago meant to become a paved road. A long time ago in place called 7D, a place in a hospital I’ve rarely talked about, the same nurse followed me like a deer stalker unofficially diagnosing me with OCD. I didn’t want more; I wanted less.
Over the 2018 holidays, I became honest with myself.
Why are you so angry all the time?
I was angry because I thought I had to hide my personality. The anger I’ve faced dated back to 2014 after I had my daughter. I learned that post partum did not leave six months after giving birth. It took longer for my body and mentality to recover. The anger mixed in with my depression, obsessive mind of exploding thoughts, and anxiety. I could not get rid of the social awkwardness.
This part of me will come out eventually—no matter who I’m around. People will either understand it and maybe help me or they won’t.
I can’t be afraid anymore of letting myself show because it will fail to help my mental health. Fear will falter in making me a better wife, mother, effective writer and teacher. Most important of all, if I continue to limp along a rocky road, what kind of example have I set for my son already diagnosed with ADHD, autism 1, and predicted to experience anxiety and depression in his future?
- Embrace Atypical
There are terms in the community—and when I say the “community” I mean the autism community–such as “neuroatypical” and “neurotypical.” This has received a lot of notoriety from the Netflix show, Atypical. (Watch it.) I’ve met parents so thankful their children are “normal” or “neurotypical” because, on the outside, raising a child with autism or another disability seems an inconvenience.
Exposure to neuroatypical children should be necessity for every person because we’re everywhere. The show “Atypical” addressed this by showing what happened between a well-off couple who were once friends of the parents of the character with autism. They stopped being friends with the parents because of their son’s struggles and diagnosis.
People’s reactions to a child considered “atypical” is another piece of how I learn to handle my anger. When the news showed the teacher dragging the nine-year-old boy with autism and who was non-verbal, I sat calmly thanks to the new changes I’ve made in my life. A tear left my eye. My husband wanted to turn it off, but I showed I could handle it. And, I’m not the only parent.
About three years ago, at an inside children’s play area another, another mom felt my child “attacked” her daughter in an upstairs play area. With a one-year old daughter, I had to follow her around, too. My mom came with me that day, and we tagged team. Hayes had one of his good days. I knew something was off. The mother hunted me down a second time while I waited for a bathroom to open up to change my daughter’s diaper.
She said, “I was just looking for an apology from you or your son.”
The anger and anxiety that coated my soul started after the birth of my daughter because Hayes’ diagnoses and struggles became more visible. I felt like I was at war with other parents and myself to make sure he had what he needed.
I said, “My son’s honest with me about when he hits someone,” which can be an uncommon trait in some children. At the time, my son was direct with me. He would tell me about school, “I threw a car at a girl.” This day he insisted, “I did not hit her.” When the girl walked around one time, he shouted out “liar” at the girl.
“Mom, she lied. She lied. She lied.”
He got into his repetition. The mom demanded an apology. My daughter’s stinky diaper wafted through the air.
To avoid more confrontation, I said, “If he did something, I’m sorry, but do not expect an apology from him. He will not apologize to you because he did not do anything.”
“You know, I have a friend with an autistic child, and I don’t like how parents make autism an excuse for their children.”
It took every bit of me to keep my spare hand at my side, and not punch the bitch, I mean pleasant mom, in the face. As a woman experiencing post partum depression myself, I held back.
I’m not neurotypical myself. I thought about it. Great parents of children with autism do raise their children to learn right and wrong. They learn how to teach them in different ways that help the message sink into their minds.
In a chicken fried way, I’d say: “Us atypicals ain’t going nowhere.”
We’re everywhere, and tired of hiding. I’ve chosen to use my voice in a positive and artistic way.
- Quiet the Mind.
A student said to me this week, “You have a glow.” No, it’s not that new maternal glow.
Just a few months ago, when I revealed the depth of my depression in dealing with certain challenges to a friend, she said, “Well, maybe this is not for you.”
That scared me because I love what I do for a living. In the same way I faced depression as a journalist, I knew I had to come up with a different way of tackling mounting anger, anxiety, and depression. I was driving to work on Monday morning struggling to breath. I did not want to expose it to anyone because it would be a weakness, I would be a freak, outside the circle, or not fit for this position in life.
I know I’m stronger than that. I’d worked eight plus years into this career starting as a sub, and I earned my master’s degree.
When I was in middle school, depression joined my diagnoses. I thought—maybe—it will go away. Depression never goes away. Sometimes its sister, anxiety, joins it in a twisted knot inside your soul.
When you feel like you can no longer be yourself to function or appear normal to others, anger festers. First you’re too different and you’re left out of social events, such as talking to other girls who might possibly join your sorority at rush only to be told to stay in a back room to work the music. You learn to push others away in fear of them getting too close and then hurting you once they are close and exposed to the demons within.
I read Dan Harris 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head … This book changed my life. It helped me realize that I cannot do anything about what I dislike in other areas of my life, but I can quiet the mind.
Quiet the mind.
I started meditation. I started incorporating items I love into my daily life while I meditate. I turned on my music, candles, and dimmed the lights. I began deep breathing focusing on the full straightening of my spine. I added basic Yoga, courtesy of YouTube, into my everyday life and workouts.
- Yoga, not Yogi Bear
I never realized how much tension stayed in my body during the school day and being with my children. I would come home exhausted knowing I still had work to do for my job. There are many debates about leaving work at work for school and the amount of planning time a teacher should have. I need the extra time to ensure my students are served through plans, activities, and grading with data. No matter what the school political debate over planning time is, I must have the extra time because I am a perfectionist when it comes to my lessons.
I’d come home: done and spent.
Over the holidays, I added the meditation and Yoga. I worked head-to-toe working out the tension. My body feels better, and I found I didn’t consider issues I’d faced earlier in during the day.
I have more energy for my children and life’s activities. Even though I stay up later, I feel relaxed doing the Yoga after work is completed. My mind eases.
In the first week back to work, my heart rate didn’t speed up driving to work. I picked my kids up earlier in the day and made them the center; not the side show of my life. As a child of a teacher, I know what it feels like to watch your mother come home—energy spent—lay down and be done with the day.
The Yoga has replaced negative habits. Because of the deep breathing, stretching, and exercise; I feel my mind clear. I believe I have more perspective.