When my daughter was diagnosed with autism in 2004 at the age of 2 1/2, my heart was shattered again. It was first shattered when she was born 4-months premature and fought 81-days in the NICU to live, then she was diagnosed with visual disability known as Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Plus 2 disease with macular dragging, and then autism. I felt broken. Just the year prior, I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, my body’s response to the stress that came from caring for our daughter who was born four-months premature. I remember crying to my husband, and apologizing for the change that was going to happen in our lives. Little did I know, that it would be me who would end up changing the most from the autism diagnosis. I was overwhelmed with emotions; extremely afraid of failing as a mother and feared our marriage would not withstand the stress that comes with the challenges of having a child on the autism spectrum. As a former law enforcement officer, I had always been a strong-minded woman, BUT the diagnosis immediately weakened me and I was full of questions and self-doubt. I felt lost and frightened by the unknown, and I knew that we would have to make changes in our lifestyle to adjust to the challenges.
Fast forward to 2007, the year I left my job as a Special Agent for the FBI to become a stay-at-home mom, and hence the start of losing myself to the autism diagnosis and identifying myself as an autism mom. By 2012, my emotional eating was out of control and I had gained 47 pounds. I was no longer exercising and my health deteriorated. As my health deteriorated, medications increased and my weight fluctuated, BUT over 2-years ago, at the age of 53, I decided to confront my anxiety and take control of my health after a scary visit with my cardiologist. My cholesterol was high and I was overweight. I was having chest pains and I was sluggish. My doctor told me he was concerned, test results showed early heart disease and if I didn't get a grip on it, I would be directly impacting the potential for a heart attack. So, after crying the entire way home, I decided I could either A) give up and continue emotionally eating away my stress or come back swinging and take control over my situation.
That day, I decided to take back my life–every aspect, my health, my wellness, my mental well-being, and my physical fitness, all of it. I was just DONE denying I had lost myself to the diagnosis and I was DONE pretending to be okay! I decided that I was no longer going to allow autism to run my life that I would become STRONGER than autism and become the wife and mother my husband and kids deserve.
I am stronger and healthier now, and the autism stress no longer controls me. I’m learning everyday the importance of self-care, and because of my investment, we are now a STRONGER than autism FAMILY!
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