It has always been difficult for me to be me. The year 2014 was a very challenging one for me. Challenging in a good way I suppose, now looking back, filled with a lot of painful growth experiences, but while I was in the midst of those growing pains, it was hard to see what fruit it would bear.
It has been hard for me to fully accept autism. At first the diagnosis came as no surprise. Both Craig and I knew that Serafina would be diagnosed with autism, yet even though we knew that, we didn’t exactly know what that would mean for our family and we still don’t know what our future with autism will be like.
Because we have a spiritual outlook on life and believe that everything happens for a reason and for a higher purpose, the diagnosis did not mean anything for us at first. It didn’t change the way we thought about Serafina, or the way that we treated her. It still doesn’t. She was (and is) still our precious angel of a daughter and we never want the label of autism to change that for us.
For the most part, Serafina is a happy girl. She only ever really gets upset when she is tired, hungry, or sick and because she can’t communicate by telling us what is wrong with her, she can act out and get extremely frustrated at times, which is hard for me as a mother to witness. Heart-wrenching would be a good way to describe it, although I am learning to not get upset when she does, because I know that only makes things worse.
It is hard to find the balance between not getting visibly upset and feeling, admitting and accepting my feelings. Feeling and accepting my feelings has always been hard for me and I have always been a very sensitive person, a contrast to the norm all of my life. I fell into a hard few years of anorexia/anorexia athletica during 2013 through the year of 2014, gradually restricting my eating and exercising obsessively and have only recently began my recovery in November of 2014. I felt as though I had no outlet for my real feelings and was running from facing my feelings too. I felt so much confusion over why Serafina wasn’t seeming to progress “normally” and begin to speak. We kept waiting and waiting, but the sentences never came and the few words that she did have, she lost. I felt guilt over why Serafina was suddenly different and delayed, as though I was the cause, running through every possible thing I could have/should have done or not done in my brain day and night emersing myself in guilt, imprisoning myself deeper in my eating disorder more and more every day. I felt so much anger and fear. I felt shattered as our life together was now forever changed. I felt sad and guilty for all of the things that Serafina is going to miss out on that I am still doing with Kesa and Autumn. I tried as hard as I could to deny myself happiness as punishment for Serafina’s autism. I didn’t want to enjoy life if I had caused her to be delayed and I still have trouble enjoying doing things with Autumn and Kesa and being happy when often times Serafina is off by herself or has to be left behind at home with daddy if we do want to go out and do something.
The feelings I was stuffing away with my eating disorder were not just feelings about Serafina, but about so many things that have piled up on me over the years: having a mother who suffered/suffers with depression, unhappily married parents, religious fears I learned as a child, inner spiritual seeking/self-reflection, and a general feeling of not fitting into society, to name a few. Serafina’s autism was the gift of breaking open and finally realizing that the running had to stop. It is still hard for me to let go of my eating disorder mentality, which I have carried with me throughout all of my life, something that I picked up from my mother as a young girl and has always been what I unconsciously run to in times of fear and confusion. It is hard to write about it here and be honest with myself with my demons, but I have felt inspired to for a long time. To actually admit my reality and face those demons so they no longer have power and control over me. Recovery is hard, but I am willing to do whatever I can to heal so that I can be the best mom that I can be and shine my light in this world. Recovery means taking time once again for self-reflection and writing and sharing my thoughts and feelings, because an eating disorder is not actually about food. The causes for the eating disorder behaviors run deep.
I am ready to come back to writing and face my fears of being myself. I have always believed that each of us is meant to light up this world and inspire and encourage others in whatever ways we can. I believe that nobody is perfect and that nobody has a perfect life. I know that is true and I am willing to admit my imperfections, fear, guilt, shame, and other human emotions publicly because I think we need more people in life to share that humanness and help us to know that we are not that different and we are certainly not alone in feeling as though we are.
Serafina is extremely sensitive to energy. That includes energy of the environment that she is in (stores, houses, music, noises) and also of the people around her and their mood. I remember how distant Serafina was from me for a while when I was in a bad place of not accepting our life with autism. Of being afraid and of feeling very intense anxiety, fear, guilt, and sadness. She simply did not want me around her at these times and for a while really enjoyed to be alone and away from those energies. I don’t blame her!
I have always been sensitive to these things too and so are Craig and our girls. Craig and Kesa are the stronger ones, whereas Autumn and I are so sensitive and empathic, it can be hard to see/hear different things or be in certain places. Kesa has a really thick skin for a little girl and surprises us with how brave she really is.
Over the past four months (since the date of Serafina’s diagnosis of September 2nd), life with autism has still been hard to accept some days, but I know that every day I get more and more accepting of the fact that our life is forever changed. Every day I feel less and less sorry for myself and realize how pointless it is to be anxious about the future. I become more and more aware of my energy (the energy that I am putting out into our world and in our home), and how powerful thoughts, words, and actions really are. I have always believed that, and having Serafina being born so sensitive to energy makes me realize how real and true it really is.
Serafina is teaching me daily to let go of what does not matter and that can be hard for me to accept sometimes in my human self. I see how fearless and totally loving she is and realize how so many of us can learn so much from these autistic children who have so much to teach us about what truly matters, which is only love.
I used to put so much emphasis on the outer things that I was doing, like the vegan diet, recycling, how we shop, yoga, exercise, eating meals together, etc. and Serafina showed up with her autism to tear that all to pieces and have me really look and see that it does not matter so much what is going on in the outer sense, but in the inner. I used to think that my vegan diet was everything to me and that helped me to develop my spiritual awareness and consciousness and be a more loving and compassionate person, but now that I have had some time where I had to let go of being a vegan in 2014 and to eat some meat and dairy products, I realize that all of that is not true either.
The only enemy is fear. The only truth and freedom is love. It does not matter whether you are a vegan or not, if you have not love and compassion for and a connection to people too. I have always struggled with the superiority complex I see in so many vegans who feel as though they are really being loving and compassionate people, yet they alienate themselves from the rest of the world and have no love and compassion for their fellow human beings who do consume animal products, either by choice or because they need those foods to perform their specific function in our society. I used to think that if I was 100% vegan, then I was more loving and compassionate than those who ate animals, I didn’t realize in my selfish ego that I was alienating myself from others by labelling myself and not having compassion on and understanding for those who are out in the world, paving our streets and working in big businesses to build our world who need to eat animal foods and do not have the time and energy to spend on thinking all day about their dietary choices. The truth is that there are so many more important things in life than just that vegan component and I think that we can miss out on that and deceive ourselves into thinking ourselves as more superior to others just because of our dietary choices.
I am still doing a lot of healing in this area. I am a vegan at heart and love to make healthy choices and make home made meals, but some days that is just not the reality for us. There just isn’t the time any more to spend in the kitchen or shopping for special vegan or organic foods when I am dealing with frequent autism tantrums or just wanting to spend more time teaching and being around Serafina as much as I can. I also really need friends and family more than ever in this difficult time in my life and socializing in our world often calls for having to consume animal products.
It has been a year of a lot of inner struggle. Head vs. heart, ego vs. spirit self, good vs. bad, black vs. white. Frankly, I am tired of the duality that I see in myself and in our world, but I know that we need that dualistic mindset to help us navigate our way through this world and find our balance and what truly matters in spirit. Like the yin yang symbol, the true reality is that no mater how bright it is, there is always some darkness and no matter how dark it is there is always a bright spot. I believe we are here to learn and accept this.
I hope that this writing and open and honest sharing touches the heart of someone out there today. No matter what you may be going through in life, know that you are not alone. We all have our battles and our demons to face in life, even though each of our paths are completely unique. Nobody on earth is perfect. We are also all on our unique path through life that can take unexpected twists and turns, often for the reason of teaching us what truly matters and letting go of what doesn’t so that we can share our light and truth and individual stories with the world.
Wishing you a peaceful week ahead!
If you feel inspired to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!