No Tragedies Here

I don’t know how to write about my children here anymore.

I don’t know how to write about being their mum.

And it shouldn’t be this way, because of course I could wax lyrical about their sweet natures, the funny dances in the living room, the look on Tristan’s face when we took him to CBeebies Land, the way Leo presses his face against ours and closes his eyes to say “I love you” in a language that’s only his. I could write, talk and sing about my children.

What I mean is that I don’t know how to write about autism.

And that’s not my fault. It’s because I love my children that I don’t write about autism. It’s because I love three autistic people more than anyone else I’ve ever known that I don’t write about autism.

The internet is brimming with blogs written by parents of autistic children sharing details of the tragedy of their lives, the hardships, the ‘victories’, the regrets, the vaccines (or not), the meltdowns, the poo smearing, the anger, the pain, the BEWARENESS. That isn’t me. Those people make me angry and sad, and angry some more.

Because autism isn’t a tragedy.

My husband is autistic. He is the most beautiful, kind soul. He is fiercely intelligent and lacking in all common sense. He can be selfish and stubborn and silly, and looks amazing without a shirt on.

My eldest son is autistic. He is a star, as close to an actual embodiment of a twinkling celestial ball as is possible. I don’t know what universe he’s from but it must be a magical, enchanting place. He’s funny and creative and so innocently charming that it makes my heart flutter. He can be feisty and bossy too, but so, so sweet. He sees the world through his own kaleidoscope and it is simply beautiful.

My youngest son is probably autistic too. He hasn’t been diagnosed yet as he’s still so young and the process is more complicated, but we believe he is, as does his speech therapist, and we’re waiting to hear on his referral. He is my baby, my two-year-old-but-more-like-a-one-year-old. His favourite place to be is in my lap, whether he’s happy or hurt. He doesn’t speak at all, but his eyes sparkle with mischief and his smiles take over his whole body. He hiccups when he laughs too much. He feels with every inch of his body.

There are no tragedies here.

What I wish is that I could be an antidote to the vast wealth of negativity out there. A parent writing as an ally to my autistic family and the community as a whole, not as a victim.

Because I’m not a fucking victim. My children aren’t victims. My husband is not a victim.

(…Well they might be victims of an ignorant society, but certainly not of their neurotype.)

I hope to be that blogger, that ally. I want to throw my hat into the ring and use my privilege as an allistic adult to advocate for my children and fight for autistic rights and the recognition of neurodiversity. I care more about this than almost anything else in my life.

But right now there are other things waging war in my head. Some tangible, real life monsters – most not. I am tired, worn, drained. And everything I feel I want and need to say for the benefit of my family and to show my pride in them for being exactly everything they are gets lost on the journey between my brain and my fingers, and I no longer outwardly have the fluency to say everything the way it deserves to be said.

You might suppose I could write about my family without mentioning autism, but you’d be wrong because to understand autism as a concept you must first understand that it isn’t something that’s separate from my children. They don’t have autism. They don’t suffer from autism. They don’t live with autism. They are autistic. It is who they are. To write about our latest trip away or the loss of our dear pet or why Thom created a YouTube playlist for Tristan of themed hotel rooms would mean writing about them, and they are autistic. I can no more remove autism from my family than I can change the colour of their eyes. And I would never want to.

I want to write about my family more freely and confidently, knowing I won’t hurt them or their community with my tired words. I want to stand up and say, “I’m not a victim.”

I’m not a “warrior parent.”

I’m not an “autism mom.”

I’m Lindy, and I’m the luckiest wife and mummy in all the universe (and wherever Tristan’s from).

I just need a little time to do this right.

30 Floors Up

Today is my 30th birthday, a day that should by all accounts feel like a notable step up the ladder of adulthood. I’m typing this from the bedroom while Tristan sleeps peacefully beside me, and the only awareness I have of my age is a strange feeling like I’m stood at the top of a 30 storey building looking down at the ground and pondering how high I am, and not really knowing how I got there.

Turning 30 years old isn’t important to me because of some societal expectation that all women should fear the loss of their youth. I don’t care about that. In fact, I feel more free from the pain and fear of my adolescence and early twenties the more distant they become. And that brings me to why this age feels significant.

My early adulthood was an endurance, something to be survived. I fell to my lowest, hit the ground at a violent pace, then fell even further, through the darkest places, and finally, at the age of 24, landed in a cushion of apathy, self-destruction and disassociation. It sometimes felt as though the fall would never end and the darkness would never stop growing, but in many ways the psychosis that followed was worse, like the world existed behind a thick pane of glass with those I loved banging frantically against it to try to bring me back. Most heartbreaking was that I simply didn’t care.

But today I am thirty years old and this morning I looked at my hands and gently traced the lines and imperfections with my finger. I have scars, accidental and deliberate, and I admired those too. My brown hair is spun through with whisps of silver. My body is fat and flawed and though I don’t love it, I value it fiercely and I’m grateful for every trial it’s endured and every second of joy it’s allowed me to live.

I am thirty years old and this morning I smelled my son’s hair, a mixture of sweat, milk and sleep. I drank him in, held him close, and marvelled at his energy and joie de vivre as he jumped on the sofa and carried on conversations with his toys.

I am thirty years old and I’m pregnant with my second child. I can sometimes feel his or her movements in my stomach, a reminder as if to say, “I’m here!” and I don’t begrudge the sickness or restless nights or pelvic pain because every moment with this little one is a gift to be treasured.

I am thirty years old and I am married to a sensitive, kind and beautiful man who loves me and keeps me safe, and accepts my failings. A man who truly sees my soul and doesn’t flinch or hide. A man who has never once put me down or thought me weak. A man whose eyes first met mine across a busy room more than 8 years ago, who looked at me as though he already recognised me from another life, or perhaps the one we had to come.

My life is vast and wonderful. Every second of it is a glorious blast of light that I never could have imagined from the darkest depths of my illness. I’m beyond blessed; I’m living the kind of life I didn’t think ordinary people could easily achieve, much less a scared and damaged girl with baggage spilling out of every corner of her mind. Mine is a story of patience, strength, fear by the bucketful, and a good deal of fight. I had help along the way, from friends, family and most of all the man I now call my husband, but the decision to keep going always, always came from me. I dusted myself down and carried on somehow, and I thank myself and my courage every day for what I gave myself, which is a life, a real, beautiful life to be grasped with both hands.

I am thirty years old and I didn’t always think I’d be here to see this birthday. I believed with every conviction that one way or another my illness would beat me. It’s not something I spoke about or something I feared; it simply was, and that’s why today isn’t a milestone for me, it’s a tribute to survival and a war fought and won. To glance at everything around me, everything I have and all I’ve become, is to look upon a private battlefield covered in daisies; pretty little miracles growing out of tired old earth, and the best view is right here, from thirty floors up.