If you had a time machine and could go back and make Ethan NOT have autism, would you? My wife asked me this question a couple of weeks ago, and I honestly could not answer it. On the surface, you would think there would be a clear answer. Yes, “take away Autism!”
While my life would be so much easier without its daily struggles and challenges, I am actually grateful for autism.
If I Could Take Away Autism, Would I???
This may seem like an odd thing to say, but autism has transformed me. I credit my son’s diagnosis for opening my eyes, making me a better person, and showing me what’s really important in life. Would I really go back and change all that if I could???
Of Course I Would Take Away Autism
If I look at it from a father’s perspective, then yes, undoubtedly, there is a definitely a clear answer, Goodbye Autism.
Autism has caused my son so much pain and makes his life so much harder. It causes him to be uncomfortable in his own skin. It gives him crippling anxiety and obsessive thoughts, and it robs him of the ability to talk about how he is feeling.
My autism is not the autism you see on TV. It’s not the high-functioning little boy who can recite every word in every Disney movie. It is not the quirky little girl who just needs a little extra patience and support in school. My son can’t even be in a classroom because there is not a school in the country that could safely care for him.
Autism Is Not A Gift For My Son
Autism in our family is a child that cannot care for himself. It is a little boy that has trouble communicating. Only close family members can understand the words he does say and we can forget about seeing him make a friend.
Autism in our family is a sweet little boy who often engages in self-injurious behaviors like biting himself and banging his head against a wall. It’s an 11 year old who still has accidents in his pants due to gastrointestinal issues.
So, yes. If I had a time machine and magical powers, I would take away autism forever. Even just writing this sentence makes me wonder what Ethan would be like without autism. I’m sure, he would still be the same kind-hearted, yet mischievous little boy that lights up my heart everyday.
I bet he would be a great athlete though. With the ability to focus and better coordination, he would excel at sports I have no doubt. He’d probably have lots of friends, and with a beautiful smile like his, I bet we’d even start to see the girls hanging out with him too. He would be in middle school by now after all.
BUT, Where Would I Be Without Autism?
While autism has prevented my son from anything that even resembles a typical childhood, it has transformed me for the better. I am a completely different person because of the journey that started 8 years ago with his diagnosis.
Before autism came into my life, I was not happy. I continually made excuses for feeling the way I did. There was always a reason I was unhappy. I blamed the people in my life, the circumstances, and just plain bad luck. It was never my fault that I felt so miserable.
I lived in a constant state of “If Only”. If only I could get this job, or if only this person would stop wronging me. If only I could finish grad school… And of course, if only I could catch a break, then I could be happy.
Much of my teenage and young adult life was spent battling depression and blaming everyone and everything else for my plight. I even spent the first few years after the diagnosis blaming autism for all my issues and sorrow.
I Am Responsible
It was not until I finally realized that it is not the circumstances fault. Autism is likely here to stay. Stress will always be a part of my life, and bad luck happens to everyone. If I want to live a happy life, and be a good father, then I have to learn to accept responsibility.
That small realization has made an incredible impact on my mental well-being. Through this journey, I was finally able to realize that I am in charge of my stress and the way I respond to situations. It’s not other people, and it’s not autism’s fault that I am not enjoying my life.
I am responsible for my own happiness, and my son helped me take control of my life.
Happier and Healthier
Before autism, not only was I unhappy, but I was an unhealthy mess. Back when my son was first diagnosed at 3 years old, I was about 100 pounds overweight. Diabetes was knocking on my door. I have no doubt I was headed down the path to an autoimmune disease.
From day 1, we took a holistic approach to treating his autism. We immediately started him on the gluten free casein free diet, and began to look into medical reasons behind some of his behaviors and challenges.
Helping Myself By Helping My Son
The more I learned about how to help him overcome these medical issues, the more I learned about how to help myself. I eventually made the leap to a gluten free lifestyle too (paleo actually) and lost 85 pounds. My constant pain was more manageable, my energy was better, and I had better mental clarity.
I don’t know that I would have ever made this shift without learning how to help my son, first.
Appreciating The Moments
When you live with someone who has severe autism, you learn what really matters. It’s not fitting in with society’s expectations. It’s certainly not how much money you make, or what you do for a living.
he moments that truly matter. Happiness comes from seeing your little girl singing along to her favorite song. It comes from seeing the look of pride on your son’s face just after he learns to ride his bike. It is seeing your son with autism light up as you spin him around and around and around.
It’s these moments that really matter. Appreciating these precious moments, helps make all those other not-so-good times, easier to handle. Autism has helped me slow down and really enjoy my kids and my time with them. I am immensely grateful to autism for showing me how to find true joy in life.
Would I Be The Man I Am Proud To Be Today?
I would take away autism in a second if I had the power to change time and circumstance. However, I would hate to see where I would be without it.
What kind of person would I be without this journey? Take away autism and I think I would have a perfectly “normal” life. But, I wonder if I would have learned the lessons and grown into the man I am today. I don’t think I would have.
The reality is I don’t have a time machine. The life I’ve been given is mine to live, so I embrace the challenge of being an autism Dad. I accept all the struggles, all the hardships, and take responsibility for how I handle them.
I will work hard to heal my son, and help him become the best Ethan he can become. As the journey continues, I will love my kids as I always have, and I will stop and find joy in those precious, fleeting moments.