Unchained by Sara Stansberry
I’m worried, I say – I’m concerned because we’ve been on antidepressants for over a year now and she’s still depressed.
“Of course she’s depressed.”
We’d found a new therapist, one who is working with new techniques. These techniques have worked with other kids – we are hopeful.
“Every day is hard for her – everything she does, everywhere she goes it is too bright or too loud or not loud enough. It takes all she’s got to just get through the day. She has a right to be a little depressed. I would be worried if she was not a little depressed.”
I quickly remember the little girl who would burst into our bedroom at 3 A.M. crying that she needed to be held. I would wake up and hold her – but she would still scream; she said she couldn’t feel it. She couldn’t feel my arms wrapped tightly around her. I was beyond confused.
What do you mean you can’t feel me? Is there a wrong way to hold a child?
Sh*t - please don’t wake the baby.
My God, I am so tired – can a person be this tired and still live? No, surely I will be dead soon.
My daughter suffers from extreme sensory dysfunction which is probably the by-product of Asperger’s/Autism or perhaps it’s simply a stand-alone condition. I have learned, this is not a game show, there are no final answers. I have learned to be comfortable in the unknown.
This child clings to me with tenacity. She depends on me as a stable source of comfort in a world that is mostly confusing to her. Like any mother, I love her - I love her fiercely.
But the truth is, I have no idea what it’s like to be in her skin. She can’t explain it. She doesn’t understand how her experience of the world is different from mine. Her experience is all she knows - it is her truth; her reality. We all have our truth, our own realities.
But she knows she’s different, she can tell other people don’t seem to have a problem with noise and lights and smells the way she does. She gets angry and confused when others become frustrated with her for talking too loudly and having extreme anxiety over the simple things we all do with ease each day. Like all of us, she wants someone to see her, to understand her, to know her. She wants to be accepted.
I wish I understood her. I know I don’t – fully understand her. I want to. But it’s like we’re on two different highways, I can see her, we’re moving in the same direction, but we are not on the same road.
Motherhood, and mothering this child in particular has stretched me in ways I never thought imaginable. And for that, I will be forever grateful for it has broadened my perspective of love.
Through her, I have learned I don’t have to fully understand someone in order to love and support them. Real love has no conditions – it is not a math problem with an ‘if -then’ statement at the end. Love says, I see you, I see you’re struggling, and I’m here. I might not fully understand, but that’s OK – for right now, my understanding is less important than the state of your heart. Love says, take my hand and we’ll do this together.
My first-born has given me a gift I can never repay.
In the light of recent events that have taken place in our nation, I can remember this lesson. No one knows what it’s like to be in another’s skin. But you can learn what love is, and use it.
Here’s to making it great.