Taking Stock: As Summer Comes to a Close

The summer had a rocky start as well as a rocky middle, but as we go into the last month and I prepare to go back to full-time work and the girls prepare to ramp up their studies to include all the relevant subjects, I can at least say with confidence that the end of summer is so much better than the beginning or the middle.

It's not fair to paint the last two months in a negative light, though. Much about them was good; I was just too tired and too sad to see the good clearly. Looking back, I can see it. The kids had a wonderful summer, and are happy and healthy. That alone is enough for me.

I finally found a term for those episodes of sadness involving Bobby--chronic sorrow--and have been reading Susan Roos's book on it. It's helped me recognize the universality of the episodes, that they are normal, expected, and reasonable. That makes it easier to tuck it back into the box in my mind that I keep it in. Plus, my son's happiness makes that sorrow all the more unnecessary. It's a clinical work, Susan Roos's book, and it's one that may have parents and individuals occasionally wincing, as chronic sorrow was first elaborated in relation to parents of significantly developmentally delayed children. Here in autism land we're supposed to be past that--how dare we grieve publicly and give voice to our sorrow? Or, heaven forbid, voice jealousy?

It's one of those things that makes the chronic sorrow a person's feeling even heavier as guilt is added to it. Look, it's entirely reasonable for me to look at my son at 23 and feel sorrow that he's not experiencing the things that other 23 year olds are. It's NOT reasonable for me to wallow in and make him feel like crap. He honestly doesn't know any other normal than his. And it's that realization--it's his normal and he's happy, he's satisfied with his life, that makes me okay again, happy for him. We have to learn to not compare. It's not fair to anyone.

I suspect the sorrow weighed so heavily because Lily has moved forward to being his helper, his reminder. She does it with hand on hip, but not meanly, and my son is relieved that he has someone who can help him navigate the day. And I feel a weight lifted now that I'm not the only one helping Bob navigate. If they're both happy with this paradigm shift, then who am I to feel sorrow over it?

The three of them got along well this summer, had animated, interesting conversations about anime, movies, books, philosophical questions, and even discussed ancient history, with Bobby impressing us all with how much he remembers and remembers correctly about ancient Egyptian history, making me feel satisfied that all those years working with him truly did leave a mark. They also talked about their futures, with Bobby telling Lil to be ready for when he was in a wheelchair and wouldn't be able to do litter or walk the dogs. Her rejoinder--they'd have only one animal--a house-trained dog.

The summer is coming to an end with me coming out of my depression (admitting I needed to increase my antidepressant and then doing so made a huge difference in how my body felt), tucking that chronic sorrow away, and looking forward to what the fall will bring.

I suspect I may even have the energy to make my hair pink again finally, having remained red haired for several months now--which is totally not like me.


Maddy said...

I think there is a natural ebb and flow to life and the feelings we experience over time.

E Fischer said...

It took me a few years to realize that what my perspective of life has become is coming from depression. I would never have dreamt, nor admitted that I could suffer from depression, refused to recognize it. It took a few more years, until last Sunday as a matter of fact, and Kim, you know my story, to try any kind of treatment. But despite the hardships and absolute lack of ability that my son has, whenever I was in hospital with him i would look at the other children, objectively in a much better state, and think to myself, how could they do it? I could never deal with what they are going through. I think that actually helped me tremendously in creating a minimal context so that my perspective was not all consuming. Until recently when physically I became so affected by depression that I could barely function. The thought how this would affect my ability to help my son finally drove me to try some outside help, after fifteen years.

K Wombles said...


yes, I think so, too, and learning how to ride the wave of that ebb and flow is key. I wish it were easier.


I hope that the outside help does help you. Sending you big hugs and the hope for peace for you.