by Stephanie Kodeck
Everyone’s familiar with the eras BC and AD. In my life, I’ve lived in two different eras – BA and AA: Before Autism and After Autism. One way to describe living After Autism is like being dropped into a polar opposite existence than the one you typically live in; you know, where you’re just moving along obliviously having a ‘normal’ life.
Life After Autism reminds me of the lyrics to that Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime”:
”And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself living in another part of the world….
And you may ask yourself
Well, how did I get here?“
Sorry David Byrne, but I think that question is best answered another time; after I tell you what it really feels like to live in the “After Autism” Era.
Well, for starters, it’s absurdly hard.
It feels as though someone has punched a whole into your chest, torn your heart out and strangled it; only to put it back into your body, mangled and barely beating. Yes, life after autism is heart wrenching. It’s painful. It’s raw. It’s scary. And you are completely unprepared for all of it.
You worry about what was, what is and what will be. Especially in the beginning when you get hit by that autism mac truck. That’s when my son suddenly transformed from a baby who joyfully hugged me when I came home – to a baby who avoided me when I came home; from a baby who sought out my attention, to a baby who avoided my attention; from a baby who used to dance with agility – to a baby who had the coordination of a wet noodle; from a baby who hid behind my back and blankets to play peek-a-boo – to a baby who constantly and reclusively spun his toys; from having such focus and determination that others commented – to being so hyper and unfocused that others commented.
Though that all seems like more than enough to digest, so is your child getting autism. And there is more; trust me, there is just always more.
See, you don’t just lose your child, you lose yourself; well at least, I did.
The pain and the fear wore me down. I felt like a walking shadow of myself. I barely laughed, I withdrew, I was always agitated, I felt angry; but mainly I felt fear. Fear is what ruled me. Fear was the root of it all. I was so scared for my son.
It was a long time before I learned to galvanize that fear into action. I can’t say anyone one thing got me to the point where I could enjoy my son, advocate for my son and work to heal us both. I came into contact with so many inspiring people, stories, films, groups, theories, therapy etc. It was, and is, mind bending. It was a whole new way, to this new way. I found out I could actually heal my child! I could take the power back! Yes!
But, then, even now, I have moments where the fear takes over and I say to myself, “Heal my child? I can’t do that. No. I won’t be able to it and I’ll just be disappointed – all over again!”
In those moments I try to breathe deeply and remind myself, it’s my choice, I can stand here full of fear; or I can work, hope, dream and love. Does it take hard work to choose the latter? Amazingly so, sometimes I feel like I’m performing Jedi mind tricks. But even though I have the choice, really, what choice do I have? And that is about as much sense as this whole autism thing makes!
So with that, I do declare, “Hear this Universe:”
I choose hope. I choose action. I choose unlimited potential.
I choose fighting the good fight for Ezra, for myself and for the true greater good.
I choose my son growing into who he wants to be.
I choose healing.
Stephanie earned her degree in Psychology at the University of Maryland, graduating as a member of the esteemed fraternity of Phi Beta Kappa. Two weeks after graduation she flew off to Zurich, Switzerland to be an au pair and perform other odd jobs while also traveling throughout Europe. After this, she lived in Israel for a year, volunteering on a kibbutz and waiting tables. All the while she had been accepted into a graduate program to get her PhD in counseling psychology; however, she quit the program when she realized that research conclusions were often forged to fit the hypothesis. After some thought, she embarked on a career as a copywriter in advertising. From here she worked with and advanced many famous brands such as Nike, Angie’s List, Xbox and more. Stephanie ended her career in advertising after learning her child had autism. Now she focuses on healing her son and herself. She calls her son her greatest gift because he awoke her to the true fundamentals in life.