"The anchor represents how I stayed grounded during the difficult times in my life. It also reminds me of how I should have been better attached to something or someone instead of concealing all that I felt. Many times, I leaned on my faith, family, and friends, but more often than I should, I was leaning on myself. That eventually will catch up with you as your own foundation starts to crumble. It was a very unhealthy way of coping. It's only now that I can recognize that."
I wanted to take the opportunity and delve deeper into what the Hope icon means to me personally. Like I have stated before, the first three icons were very easy for me to development because they have a personal meaning behind them. Most people assume that this icon was developed for Jack and his/our family's journey with Autism. That does have a lot to do with it, but by no means is it the entire backstory to it. So, what does it mean to me? Let's talk about that. Hopefully, when you are finished reading this, you are inspired to share what gives you hope, or a time when you had to rely on something/someone or your faith to get you through a tough situation.
I had a miscarriage in November of 2005. I had my D&C the day before my birthday, and this particular year, the day before Thanksgiving. Not much to be thankful for, huh? That was my mind set then for sure. My husband, now ex-husband, and I just knew we were going to have a boy. We wanted to name him "William." It was too early to have known. I was around twelve weeks. I think no matter how far along, or how early in your pregnancy, for a lot of women the heartbreak is just as bad. I'll be honest, mentally I was not in a good place after this. I replayed the scenario over and over in my head; I literally walked in the hospital door pregnant, and left a few hours later, not pregnant and expected to just carry on like nothing. My doctor, ex-husband, and family, were amazing and sensitive, but no one at this point could put my mind at ease. Please hear ye, hear ye; never tell a woman who has lost her child it was meant to be. Never.
I had no trouble getting pregnant with Jack. He was a chunky, happy, healthy, perfect baby boy. I did suffer from post-partum depression that ultimately required medication. I was on Prozac for about a year. I think for me, it was the feeling of all the 'what-ifs," that go along with being a first-time parent, coupled with the fact that even though he was in my arms and safe, what if something happens to him. I think having a miscarriage scarred me in that way. However, I never felt like that with my two other children. I guess you could say it made me super over-protective of him. When I first noticed something was wrong with him, his primary physician made me feel like a crazy first-time parent. Note to all pediatricians; when a parent says something isn't right, pay attention. Consider what they are saying, and unless you are paying the bills for that child or the parent just flat out refuses help, please order, arrange, or do whatever you need to do to have that child evaluated.
I divorced in 2008. Jack was diagnosed with Autism in 2009. I went to court with our school system to fight for his right to an appropriate preschool setting, according to the IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, in 2010. This lasted approximately four years, and extended to the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta, with a victory for Jack, and in the end so many other preschoolers/students.
The Hope shirt, and icon, besides other reasons, stands for the Hope that I have in him. The Hope that I have in those who work diligently with him on a daily basis. The Hope that he will have a bright, promising, and fulfilling life, no matter what the definition of that is for him.
Despite many other life events happening as well, this time period from 2005-2014 was a little stressful. I admittedly did not mentally, emotionally, and physically handle these situations well. I felt like no one understood what I was feeling when I lost my first child. I kept a lot of these feelings on the inside. I cried a lot. Being pregnant with Jack, despite having a stressful pregnancy, was exciting but I stayed in a constant state of worry and panic. I cried a lot then too. During the time when Jack was diagnosed with ASD, I also was dating and enjoying my time with my now husband, Chris. He and my family were incredibly supportive during this time. I didn't always talk to many people about Jack and what was happening in our lives, except to my closest friends and family. At the time of his diagnosis, it wasn't very common to see or hear about Autism so again I felt all alone. I cried a lot during this time as well.
Once things started ramping up with our Due Process hearings, and experiencing it move from court to court, over those four years I stayed in a constant state of fight or flight. I ate, slept, breathed, all things special education law. I also was dealing with issues related to custody and child support in family court that also spanned out across four or five years. I don't think I can ever put into words how traumatic this experience was. I felt attacked from all sides. I felt like my child and his future were being attacked. I felt like my efforts as a mother and advocate were being attacked. It is true that when the enemy has nothing on you, they will use everything they can to come at you. If you aren't grounded in something bigger, this will beat you down, even though you may be victorious in the end. It was during this time, that I cried less and less. It was also during this time, that I ate less and less. We all laughed because I called it "divorce skinny," but really, I just didn't eat because I felt too out of control in every other area in my life. Sure, I looked great. I was very thin and standing at 5'7", often could slip into a size zero-two. I worked out constantly. I am a curvy girl and this was and never has been my "natural" me. I was a mess on the inside.
At one point, I collapsed at a restaurant one evening when I was out with my co-workers. For years, I never felt the same and no one could tell me why. I spent nearly a week in the hospital with not a lot of answers except maybe someone had slipped something in my drink. That was all I had to work with despite the fact we were at a nice restaurant, I had had one Mint Mojito and was with a large group of ladies. It didn't make sense, but that was my truth for nearly seven years. It wasn't until the Summer of 2016 that I was diagnosed with Dysautonomia. So many things made sense after being diagnosed, including the episode above. Not eating, drinking, or sleeping, lifting weights, running one hundred miles per hour on empty 24/7, were all on the top of the "No-No" and "Most Likely to Kill Me" lists. I now try very hard to take better care of myself. Dysautonomia can be very disruptive to your life, but I now after a year can recognize when I need to slow down and to not feel bad about it.
Even though there were a lot of moments where I clung to my faith, family and friends, most of the time I held to myself. I think that it is by only grace and the skin of my teeth I made it through those times. I was so weak emotionally, mentally, and physically. It's only now that the dust has settled, do I see that it was such an unhealthy way of coping. There were a lot of things that I could have handled better. The Hope shirt reminds every day (because I see them every day 😊) that I will always anchor myself down to something stronger than myself. I will always strive to be mindful and recognize when I need help, and hopefully with my story inspire others to acknowledge when they are feeling weak. I still struggle with some of those demons but I do try very hard to be cognizant of when they try to rear their ugly heads. My Hope is that our Hope stories encourage and lift one another up.
Be Brave and You are Never Alone.