I remember hearing this statement a few years ago and it really stuck with me…
Before I became a dad I don’t think I ever realised just how much my happiness would be tied to that of my kids.
My childhood was a simple, straightforward, happy one. I never had any major dramas, any periods of significant sadness. Life seemed pretty easy, and I expected it to be the same for my boys. Our lives would be happy ones, maybe there’d be a few bumps along the way but that’s all they’d be, bumps.
Autism has meant that life has been far more different than I ever could have imagined. For Tommy and Jude far more challenging, and because of those challenges, I’ve experienced greater lows than I ever imagined possible.
A few years back Jude began to self-harm. It increased quickly in frequency and intensity. Soon most of his day was dominated by these meltdowns where he would hurt himself over and over.
As the weeks turned into months, and years, naturally my happiness plummeted too. Seeing him so unhappy, so anxious, so ill at ease with the world was heartbreaking.
Nothing mattered anymore to me. Work was unimportant. I couldn’t care less whether we made money or lost money that month, it wouldn’t change the fact Jude was beating the crap out of himself every night.
Trying to socialise and go out with friends, I’d fix on a smile and try to convince myself I was having a good time, but I wasn’t. If my football team won or lost I didn’t care. None of this would make Jude any happier and that’s all that mattered.
As we found a way to help him, as he began smiling again, enjoying life, so did I. If he could have fun so could I.
Then last year it was Tommy who started to struggle with life. Soon huge violent outbursts would puncture our days, lasting for up to an hour at a time.
Once more I felt my own happiness plummet. Those dark thoughts and feelings came back. What was the point. How could I be happy if my son was going through this every day?
A year later we’re in a better place. Tommy has a lot more control, is much happier, and therefore so am I.
And as much as I know that’s not healthy, I can’t seem to get away from it.
I know that we should be able to control our own happiness. We’re the ones who can decide how happy we are, no-one else.
But when you see your child have such incredible low periods, struggle so much to just function in the world, it can be hard to see anything happy about it.
What we can do, once we’ve recovered from the lows, is draw strength from them. Remind ourselves that we’ve been through them before, and are more prepared if or when they happen again. Realise just how resilient you really are, just how resilient our kids are. Know that things can and do get better.
Right now both boys are happy. So am I ❤️