So blogging frequently is not conducive to a clean house. And my house cleaner is on vacation, bless him. Do you know why I have house cleaners? In January of 2007, Miranda was an infant and Alex was adjusting to going to school every day and working at school every day, I couldn't keep up with the house. I felt helpless and alone. And the Wednesday Women's Bible study took a collection and paid for my house to be cleaned in January and February. I don't have the original cleaner anymore. She went home to Brazil so she handed me off to her sister, also wonderful, who had a baby and handed the business off to her good friend. So now I have Rhawan. And he saves my life regularly. I have his number, if you want it.
When Alex was a toddler, I started seeing a real pee-sychiatrist (to quote Dr. Scratchandsniff) who diagnosed me with OCPD, Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. It's not quite as debilitating as OCD and can be helpful. Can be. It still means I see every dust bunny rolling through the hallway and feel guilty about it but I can live with it, for now.
So why am I writing again tonight? Why do the words just keep flowing when for years--11 YEARS--I could barely write my feelings down to my dearest friends?
As I said (wrote), I've been talking with my therapist and my husband, and praying a lot more with my mother (it's wonderful; you should try it) and I felt ready.
I had a very frustrating winter. Marshall started a new--much better but still a little too exciting--job in January, leaving a long-time difficult position for something only 20 minutes away. So he's happy. Alex is thriving at Archway. Miranda had a very difficult third grade year but in fourth grade this year, it's been a lot smoother. She's more mature and, consequently (?) more cooperative. Marshall's father passed last August but by winter I was really moving past my intense emotions about him and remembering him wistfully, grateful for the good times. So everyone's good, but me. And I can't even lose myself effectively in books. I started listening to Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn books which are dry but usually interesting. Currently stuck in #19 (of course, I read them in order!), Off With His Head; such a boring start. They are the kind of books that you can listen to with half an ear, while you play Words with Friends.
Anyway, I was feeling stuck. Going through the motions. Nothing was engaging me. So much so that Marshall almost--seriously--bought me a convertible to cheer me up. And then I had the minor procedure on my shin that put me in bed for two weeks with a low grade fever and nasty antibiotics. When I complained to my dermatologist, she brushed my complaints aside, saying it looked like it was healing well and there's no more precancerous anything on my body. Well, that is what we pay her for. Redheads do not always have more fun.
In April of 2014, I found this article about Ongoing Traumatic Stress Disorder and blogged about it here. Apparently, it's a real thing now, called, by the experts, Continuous Traumatic Stress. Special needs parents are prime candidates. Aren't we lucky?
Anyway, last week, Marshall and I were talking about this and talking about how I feel so disconnected from everything. Stuck is the best way to describe it. I'm not moving like everyone else in the house. I should be feeling better, and I'm not. So we wondered if I'd finally moved into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The extreme stressors no longer exist, but my brain has been rewired and I can't just switch it off.
[Sidebar: In this house, we treat diagnoses as helpful descriptions of behavior that lead to helpful solutions and treatments. We try not to treat them like existential death sentences that limit all we will ever be. I learned this from another mom of a special needs kid who was incredibly kind to me right after Miranda was officially placed on the spectrum. She prayed for me and reminded me that God is never limited by labels and I should not see them as burdens but avenues towards help. Thank you, Amy. God bless you, too.]
So, if I have a working diagnosis of PTSD, that means I can get help. I am not condemned to live like this forever.
When I discussed this with my therapist on Monday, she thought it was a good idea to play with and told me to go home and pray about what it is that could be what's triggering me. And that lead me all the way back to 2006. All the way back to the beginning.
Why now? Everyone else is doing okay. Marshall's father is ill no longer (he was sick for a very long time), but is with Jesus. And something inside me said, I'm ready to say (write) all the words, look back through the feelings of helplessness and anger and grief and panic. Of feeling betrayed by God for having broken children.
The verses that I returned to again and again were from Matthew 15: 21:28 (MSG):
...[A] Canaanite woman came down from the hills and pleaded, "Mercy, Master, Son of David! My daughter is afflicted with an evil spirit."
Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, "Now she's bothering us. Would you please take care of her. She's driving us crazy."
Jesus refused, telling them, "I've got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel."
Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. "Master, help me."
He said, "It's not right to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to dogs."
She was quick: "You're right, Master, but beggar dogs do get scraps from the master's table."
Jesus gave in. "Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!" Right then, her daughter became well.
This is how I prayed, as that beggar woman, for years and years and years.
Then, when I was at church, praying for YG last fall, (I think; I didn't write it down!), I was reminded of the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15. My father has spoken of identifying with the older son in this story, who has always done everything right and is incensed when his younger brother is treated to a feast simply for coming home and reconciling with his father. (If you do not know Keith Green's Prodigal Son Suite, you need to listen to it right now! How did we live before YouTube again? Here is the helpful link.)
As I was saying, while I was praying last fall, I heard God say "All I have is yours." This is what the father says to the older son who never forsook his father. All I have is yours. I was no longer the beggar woman, but the faithful child who is bitter that the father is celebrating a reunion with the screw up child. Jealous for favor that I had never lost but couldn't see through my anger.
I was a parent railing against God for the suffering of my son, and my own consequent suffering. I was looking at my friends whose kids weren't broken (not true, but it looked that way) and I was so angry, which is the emotion I've always used to cover up my grief. If you are familiar with the Enneagram, I am a very strong One which means my besetting sin is anger. Ah, anger, my old friend. It works as fuel for a while, but then it leaves you empty and more miserable than you were to begin with.
When I was growing up, after eleven, I was the good child. Oldest child, a daughter, hyper-responsible, rule following. Or, I thought I was. In my pride, I think I've kept this image of myself: if I do everything right, then God will bless me. God would never send me special needs children. But then he did. Didn't I deserve better?
Grace is unmerited favor. Forgiveness for EVERYTHING. God doesn't rate sins like we do, on a sliding scale. And it's a broken world. I am a broken person, but so are my children, just not in the way I talked about earlier. They are precious, no less worthy than any child. Their unusual wiring often makes them harder to live with, but I am not cursed by God to be a special needs parent. I am blessed by God, the same as other believers in Christ. My suffering is living with autism. It's a broken world and knowing Jesus will not save you from suffering. But Jesus says, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." John 15:33b (NLT).
The song posted at the top is by Jars of Clay from their Good Monsters album, which was released in 2006. Funny thing, that. "I have no fear of drowning/It's the breathing/That's taking all this work." That's how I described my life in 2006 and for many of the years following. Begging for crumbs. But now I'm here, a blessed child of the father. God's favor never left me; I just couldn't see it.