AT HOME WITH
Over the past few years, I have picked up my hammer and started knocking down walls. Walls built around the insecurities of my childhood, adolescence and young adult life. Some of the walls are made of the basics, sheetrock and wood. Others are composed of concrete. The peer squabbles, the not-so-fun feeling of struggle with a subject or class material, the rejection and hurt inflicted by others, the choices I made that didn’t give me the outcomes I had anticipated, the breakups… I am sure you can relate. These walls of “my home” were built as a coping mechanism for protection and to keep heartache and hurt on the outside rather than allowing it inside. By definition, the word “wall” can be defined one of two ways:
Noun. A thing perceived as a protective or restrictive barrier.
Verb. To enclose (an area) within walls, especially to protect it or lend it some privacy.
The walls inside my mind fit both definitions. They were protective and offered more privacy, but they were restrictive. What I was missing because of these walls was the vulnerability and richness life had to offer. I had small rooms that fit myself and, possibly one other when an open floor plan would have provided more opportunity.
Most of you, by now, are thinking that many of my words written in this blog serve as a metaphoric relationship for you to be able to process information in an abstract format. It is actually a reality in my life and how my mind works. See...
My mind is always working to understand and process what is happening in my life. Often times, as I am working on my personal adventures, I am attempting to understand the outer workings of my professional life.
Some walls are necessary. They are foundational pieces to the buildings of our lives. I have found whom we spend our time with tends to become key in the structures or walls we build. Those that hold us up or give out on us are part of our development and process of growing and learning. Furthermore, the experiences and changes we encounter as part of our development as human beings are essential material for those walls.
One of those changes in your life may be a new diagnosis. An autism diagnosis for your child can stir up many different emotions. Parents have described it as though they feel like their house is collapsing and that all of the bricks and mortar are coming down on top of them at once. For others, it forces tall, heavy-built walls to be put up in places we normally wouldn’t put a barrier because of the fear of hurt and rejection and the need for privacy. Others feel a powerful sense of relief.
I like to refocus the thoughts and worries around the child being diagnosed. For many children, it forces parents to gain a better understanding of their social world, communication strategies and behavior. Teachers begin to understand the burning, red-hot “why’s” of a child’s differences and his or her inconsistency with behavior expectations. The world starts making more sense to those around the child, creating more reliability and less tension with his or her internal functioning, producing more stress-free days for the child.
The travesty often lies within the parents’ expectations of what their child would become and their vision for their child. In my experience working with parents, it is either that shattered vision OR the BEAST that is FEAR. Fear of what life will look like for the child. The fear that others will look at them, the child or the family differently. The worry about the siblings and their reactions or the future children they were planning to have and the potential for another child who has special needs. Oh, yes, that BEAST can be mean, overpowering and vicious and it will get you, if you let it. It will hide inside lingering and waiting. The reality is the very beast has been inside for many parents and caregivers for years, banging on the walls and demanding escape. What parents have to understand is fear is not reality and the beast can be tamed.
The walls of denial and hope for a different outcome are quite strong in some, while others are willing to free that beast and knock down those walls hiding the diagnosis inside. Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s wall structure is varied. The walls were built for protection from fear and rejection and restrict unwanted circumstances and the unknowns of life. This rings true and, often, is a primary part of the diagnosis process.
When push comes to shove, we each build a house that fits our personal preferences and needs. Our walls serve a purpose that is unique to each of us. I do know from personal experience, once the walls come down, the sun starts to shine through. We are able to see the powerful, and beautiful beginnings and the future potential that lies within. As I said before, walls can be important. You don’t have to tear them all down. Just make sure they are full of windows and doors to let new experiences in.