We all have witnessed that special kind of shock that comes along with accepting autism into our lives: The rapid heartbeat, adrenaline-fed fear that shakes our souls. The anger and disappointment are unavoidable; the acceptance and resulting dedication to serve and survive, welcomed once they arrive.
We embrace our new mantra: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
”As our energy and dedication turn into action and accomplishment, our children grow, learn, and thrive with our assistance. Each of my children is amazing, and my son on the autism spectrum is 26 now and continues to outpace our expectations. Our efforts have been arduous, yet the rewards never seem to end.
As we give our all to those we love, too often we neglect ourselves. In reflection, this seems a selfless act, focusing all our energies on helping our children and family manage the challenges we face, but it is a most dangerous thing. If we don’t work diligently to take care of ourselves, we suffer, fall ill, and are unable to lend the vital support our family needs. The caregiver requires care!
The intent of my message is to urge you to take a different pathway than I did. Although I managed to develop a good professional career and to help my son and others in our community, along the way, I sidelined my personal well-being. I allowed myself to get rundown and slipped slowly into a danger zone of fear, anxiety, and depression. And I began drinking way too much alcohol. It was a gradual submission but a dangerous one. Eventually, I reached my low point.
I made it back from the edge of total despair, and bring this message to you out of concern for your personal journey. Please keep an eye out for yourself. You need care if you are to care for others.
Sun contributor Rob Gilsdorf is a long-time autism advocate, father of a son on the autism spectrum, and former member and president of Autism Delaware’s board of directors.
This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the April–June 2017 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.