Dear 35 year-old self:
Don’t worry, I’m coming for you. You are always in the back of my mind. I’ve kept you there for safe keeping. Until I was ready to see you again. I revisit that day in my head, but not on purpose. Mostly when I drive by Hennepin Ave. or walk down the hospital hallway. I’m relieved that they remodeled the scene of the trauma. Too much happened to you in that room for you to go back there, ever.
The doctors moved to a different building too, so that horrid day will be easier. When it pops up in my mind it usually brings me to a silent panic, then I stuff it down into the darkness again. Not ready to tell you what I know now. You were free back then, oblivious to what was yet to come. Still living in a world of fancy cars, lavish trips and casual friends all around. Sure, there was that one operation, but it was a common procedure, almost as common as appendicitis. You weren’t unique, you weren’t alone.
You were still coping well enough. Worn down a little by his constant crying and your commitment to comfort him, but still, not unique. You wore the $170 jeans you purchased when you got to prebaby weight. You pal’ d around with the other moms, attended baby yoga classes and still sanitized all the baby bottles. The milestones weren’t so poignant, the differences weren’t clear yet. They’re all babies in strollers, right?
I want to tell you what I know now. I want to tell you what happened. But mostly, I want to tell you that you are going to be okay, and you will never be alone. Even when you feel like you have nothing left to give and no one left to cry to, you are not alone. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot. And it still does. But what you discover and what you become is so remarkable and reassuring that I had to come back to you and tell you.
That day in November, ten years ago will stay with you forever. It will change the path of your life and your purpose for living. It will cause you immeasurable amounts of pain and trauma. It will make you do things you never imagined you could do, achieve things you wouldn’t dream of trying. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
You will slowly transform your values and your perception of a good life. Your perspective will broaden and you heart will break. Over and Over.
The people in your life will be there and then they won’t. Then they’ll be back, and then they’ll leave again. You will expect too much from them. You will lash out at everyone that doesn’t say the right thing. You will withdraw from people who care about you, because it hurts too much to see their lives unchanged. You will sit in your sunroom one evening, months after his first seizure and you will breakdown. You will feel defeated. But, you will finally ask for help. Help with your family and your kids and most importantly, help with your soul.
You will finally call that woman you’ve been watching. The one that seems at ease with herself and others. The one whose eyes are filled with pain and knowledge, but whose heart is full of kindness. She will say “yes” and you will start to heal. Hold on, hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
You will meet with her weekly. While your third baby grows inside you, you will meet, and you will heal. She will teach you to be better, to be who you are meant to be. The person who you will become. You will show up and you will roll your eyes at all the work she makes you do. The inventory, the prayers, the routines and the amends. It will all hurt. It will hurt, a lot. But every hour and every day, you are healing. Keep showing up. Hold on.
Your friends will change. Some will depart. Some will prove to you that they are there for you and you will learn to be there for them too. Some you will be angry with and some you think you can never forgive, but you will. You will forgive them, because they were doing the best they could. They were showing you how to exist in this new reality you are facing. Hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
Your family will disappoint you. They will say the wrong thing. They will do the wrong thing. They will be selfish and unaware, but they’ve always been who they are, you will just expect more from them than they are able to give. Some will leave you. Some will stay and surprise you by their grace. Some you are still to this day, unable to face. Please let that be okay. You have tried the best you can for now and that needs to be okay. You will reinvent what family means to you and you will invite friends to be your family too. Blood isn’t a requirement to be family. Love is. Remember to hold on. Hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
You will grow. You will find your voice. You will be forced out of your comfort zone constantly. You will become brave out of necessity. Please don’t forget to tell people how scared you are. They will help you. They will comfort you. You will become an advocate for your son. You will educate yourself on all things “special needs” and become a resource for others. You will ensure that no mother will endure what you are enduring, alone. You will connect others to your new-found tribe of special needs mothers. You will build a community from the ground up of mothers that know your pain, that have walked in their own version of your shoes. You will not be alone. Hold on, it’s still going to hurt. It will hurt a lot.
There is no running away from the hurt or washing the pain away. You will try to run it out of your body. You will injure yourself. You will try weekly therapy, that will work sometimes, until it doesn’t, and you will take a break. You will try acupuncture, chiropractic solutions and yoga. These solutions will help you. You will jump off a 35 foot platform with only a metal wire connecting you to the earth. You will speak publicly about your experiences to a room full of hundreds. Keep trying new things. Keep searching for joy. There will be moments of joy everywhere, you will learn to notice them and appreciate them more than before. But it’s still going to hurt. A lot.
There will be many hospital visits and ambulance rides. Too many to count. You will show up for every one of them. You will hold his hand and advocate for him every time. You won’t let anyone silence your voice. You will second guess the nurses and fire some doctors. You will say yes to some new therapies, and no to more medications. You will learn medical procedures only fit for trained professionals and you will shine as Dermot’s mom. You will find your place in all this new life. Hold on, hold on tight. It’s going to hurt, a lot.
You will trust people with him and allow others to love him and know him as you do. People will love him and find value in the gifts he brings to their lives. Some of these people will make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love him. They will keep trying. Because you keep trying. They will love him because they love you too.
You will learn to care about yourself more than you do now. You will learn to be compassionate with yourself. You will still find self-care to be a bit impossible, but most days you will be able to carve out a bit of time to do something just for yourself. Not because you want to, but because you must. Hold on. Hold on tight. It still hurts. It hurts a lot.
You will find yourself almost caught up to today. You will suffer frightening anxiety attacks. Don’t be afraid. Your body has been holding on to too much trauma. Ten years of reoccurring trauma. The anxiety attacks are your body’s way of telling you, it’s time to let go. It’s time to release your grip. You don’t have to hold on anymore. It will always hurt. A lot. But it’s okay to let go. You are not alone. You never were. The universe has been watching, the future you is telling you to let go and you will survive. Let go and ask for help, again. You will start a medication for your anxiety. Never mind that you said you’d never do that. You will start an alternative therapy to heal your trauma. Never mind that you thought it would never work. Let go and keep going. I’m here for you. I always will be.
Your 46 year-old self.