Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Have you ever been so tired that you think you can't go on? There are so many different kinds of exhaustion. Physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, mental exhaustion, spiritual exhaustion ... The dictionary defines exhaustion as extreme weakness or fatigue.

I became intimately acquainted with fatigue in the year after Seth (now 5) was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at 2.5 years old. During previous times of my life I thought I'd known what it was to be exhausted, but it turns out I didn't. Though here's the thing - exhaustion is all relative. Meaning - what is exhausting for me may be a walk in the park for you, and vice versa.

However, when you are going through something particularly difficult, you can be exhausted in one way, but still strong in others. For example, you could be physically exhausted, but still be emotionally sound and spiritually in-tune. But when you are exhausted on all fronts, it feels like you're being beaten from every which way, so it seems as if there is no where to turn for respite.

Nearly immediately after Seth's diagnosis, he began in-home therapy four days per week - developmental, speech, occupational, and behavioral. For the first few months, he would scream through each session, and I would fight vigorously to hold back the tears.

That whole time period was all kinds of exhausting.

I dreaded each session, though I knew it was what he needed. I took in every ounce of what the therapists were doing with him so I could, in turn, teach everyone else who spent time with Seth, and put it all into practice when they weren't here. It was physically and mentally exhausting.

I spent the better part of the first nine months in denial about his diagnosis. Even though I worked with him nearly non-stop during his waking hours, I think I still thought that therapy was going to "fix" him. The first time I actually verbalized "my son is autistic," was exactly 9.5 months after the diagnosis. It was during a particularly ugly scene at the orthodontist's office, and after the words rolled off of my tongue, I proceeded to my van with Seth, where I sat and bawled my eyes out for about 15 straight minutes. This will sound crazy, but I had the revelation (or realization) that this wasn't going away. It was emotionally exhausting.

I just could not understand why Seth. Why? I spent a great deal of time in prayer - confused, upset, in pity, and downright angry. Even though our family was 150% there for us and jumped in without hesitation learning how to help Seth and us, I was still angry about the support that wasn't coming from those who I thought I could count on. Some of those relationships are broken to this day.

Looking back, I guess it's my fault for virtually leaving those relationships in the dust; but I thought people understood that when there's something wrong with your child and you have a small window of opportunity to recover them, everything else falls by the wayside. I was wrong. They don't understand.

I struggled and struggled with my emotions, my physical fatigue, my mental capacity and trying to know everything I could to help my son, and my views on how I thought prayer worked. And I got a great piece of advice from my mom. She told me that when you can no longer go on and put one foot in front of the other and no longer know what to pray any more, you pray for God just to carry you. One simple sentence, "Please just carry me, Lord."

And carry me, He did. We are now on the other side of that very difficult time period. Seth is doing very well, and will be starting kindergarten in the fall in the regular classroom with just a few concessions. He is autistic. He always will be, and we deal with the effects of that every day. I don't know if we've been through the worst, but what I do know is that, like Paul wrote of in 2 Corinthians, God's power works best in my weakness.

God does not promise that we will never hurt or experience bad things. He promises to carry us through them and make us stronger because of them.

My life is very different now than it was before in so many ways. I have learned to deal with all the different types of exhaustion (or learned to live with them!). I have a super group of friends who have only known me as the mother of an autistic son as well as friends who supported me through the transition and rejoice in all the tiny victories that are huge for Seth. I have experience that I can use to help others who are still on the dark side of a situation. And I have a better understanding of God's role in my life.

Now if I could just get a handle on my laundry, I'm telling you, I could conquer the world.

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