A friend once told me that 85% of marriages where the parents have an autistic child end in divorce. She also has a son that has autism. She is divorced. I have never validated that statistic, but it feels accurate to me.
When Will was diagnosed, I threw myself into making him better, getting him everything he could possibly need. I was looking for a cause at that point in my life, always joking that I needed some purpose. Be careful what you wish for, right? Once I moved past the point where I cried every day, I dove right into the research. I found the doctor’s, the therapists, and started the diet. I pursued information with a vengeance, tracked down people who could help me.
At that same point, I went back to work fulltime. For a short period, I had this notion that I would be a stay-at-home mom. Going back to work was necessary given the economy, but also necessary to keep me sane. I think I’m a better mother when I work fulltime. He was officially diagnosed during those first few months I was back at work.
His diagnosis has made me really strong. I know that and I have also been told that by others. Strong-mind, body, soul. Like a machine, some have told me. I think that might actually be part of the problem. I now know that I can face anything head on and beat it. I now know that I am stronger than ever before.
Where did it all fall apart? I believe it was never really totally together from the start. Our relationship was created on a cracked foundation and we never took the time to fix it. I tried; I really did, to make it work. I pushed and pushed and tried to make all the pieces fit together. What happened after Will’s diagnosis? I didn’t have time to force the pieces together anymore, didn’t have the energy left to fix that, too. So, here I am.
The ironic part is that I didn’t start that way. The day I took him to his first speech therapy session was absolutely the worst day of my life, second only to the day my dad died. That session made me realize that it was bad, that the diagnosis was coming. I came home, lay on the bed and cried my eyes out. I told my husband that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t do it. At that moment I was certain that I did not have the fortitude to survive this. The speech I got from him was harsh, but necessary. It changed the game for me.
I’ve grown in so many ways. I’ve grown away from this person who was supposed to be my partner for life. I’m not sure I can go back to being the person I was before the diagnosis. I’m not sure I want to, either. Part of me really wishes we had taken the time to fix it back then. The other part of me knows we might not be able to fix it now.