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5 Strategies When Riding the Waves of an Autism Diagnosis

It's been 3 months since my son was diagnosed with autism and the feelings move like a wave. I use the wave reference a lot in life, so much so that I have a tattoo of three waves on my wrist.

5 Ways to Ride the Wave and Be One With the Ripple

What I mean is that your feelings are like a wave. They start level with the ocean until feelings, whether negative or positive, rise in your system. The emotion builds, just like the top of the ocean wave, and then it reaches different heights because not all waves are linear. The height of the wave depends on the intensity of your emotions. The higher the wave the more you feel your emotions come forth. Then, it reaches a breaking point, and you/the wave breaks. Once the break occurs you are level with the ocean again. It's a cycle that can be reckless or calm. I love the ocean because it's a calming Earth element but it can also be a force of unforgiving nature.

This analogy serves a purpose for our journey with Ellis. Sometimes we experience several waves at once and other times we're calm for several days in a row. These emotions are kind of as mysterious as the ocean which is why surfers look at the surf report in the morning. You just never know what the day will bring.

Although I cannot simply read a surf report, I have learned that motions change in an instant and a summer storm can come and go. You are the sky and everything else is the weather.

Emotions Take Control Over More Then We Know

There are MANY days when Zack is my surfboard. He rides the wave beautifully and only once have I seen him crash. Most of the time he's calm, cool, and collected. I, on the other hand, am not. I crash a lot, but I always get back up. My waves are intense, choppy, and erratic. My emotions about having a child with autism and living this atypical life have not leveled out yet, but they are better than they were 6 months ago. We all have our good days and bad days and that's okay. From what I have learned, this is typical for special needs parents.

We all Cope with Autism Differently

Most families have pretty similar reactions where the father hides his emotions and occasionally dips his toes into his feelings, otherwise, they are strong and steady unseemingly bothered. Mothers, we show everything, but we also work our asses off to provide the best care, services, and opportunities. This is of course stereotypical and can differ in different families.

I started following a lot of autism mamas on Instagram and knowing there are others like a community out there does help, but every child and situation related to autism is 100% different. Resentment trickles in from both sides and marriages can be rocked. Kate, from Finding Cooper's Voice, demonstrated this exact event in her marriage in her book.

Finding out your child is autistic really changes the dynamic of your family. The way you cope can make a difference in your outcome but no one can tell you how to do that you and your family has to figure it out on their own.

What I can tell you is that you can manage your own emotions and how you react to others. Trust me, this is a process that I am still understanding today, but with every new day, I adjust and change for the better (hopefully).

The 5 Strategies to Manage Your Emotions

Here are 5 strategies I have picked up to maintain a calm ocean thus far that may benefit you in your new journey whatever it may be:

  1. Take time for yourself. I know this is really hard to do, trust me, and the mom guilt comes into play but believe it or not it's necessary. My go-to is a good workout. I personally try to work out 1x/day by myself. However, you can choose what refreshes you like reading a book, taking a class, going to the mall, or going for a walk, just pick something that refreshes your soul. Funny, I am actually writing this at a hair appointment. I love to write. It's an outlet for me, but I am also taking time for self-care by treating myself at the salon.

  2. Get out of the house. The introvert in me hates it, but sometimes we need a change of pace. Getting out of the house can release your mind from the daily to-dos that need to be done. Where this gets tricky is whether or not to bring your children. I personally get even more in my feels taking my children out and about, so if you're like me then go by yourself.

  3. Talk to your loved ones. Sitting in silence is not the way to go, trust me here. Talking to friends and family is super beneficial and if they don't understand or want to discuss your needs/wants then get a licensed therapist. I have done both. I loved having a therapist but it had to be online because I literally have no time or help to go sit down for an hour at a different location than my kids. My husband, coworkers, family, and best friends have been my lifeline. I need them in my life. These beautiful people help me get through each ride on our waves and are literally my backbones.

  4. Don't be ashamed or hide from the truth. At first, I was nervous to tell the "world" that Ellis has autism. I was nervous about what my friends would think if they would let their children play with mine, but then I thought how silly is that? My friends love me and they should support Ellis and if they don't then they're not really a friend. Trust me when I say I lost zero relationships when I told my people about Ellis, in fact, I gained more love and support than I would ever have known.

  5. Start with your health. So, this is a difficult one. You're a mom, you're busy, and you're last on the list. I get it. However, if you're not well, then how can you take care of yourself to your best abilities? This took me almost 2 years to realize. So now I take my health extremely seriously. I get blood tests, take supplements, go to all the necessary appointments, try to eat as healthy as possible (but I also live my life), cut back on alcohol (caffeine is a working process haha), try to meditate, exercise, and laugh a little more. Most recently my husband and I have been working on taking life a little less seriously and that a mess in the house here and there is not the end of the world.

These strategies are just ideas that have helped me and you may have many more to add to the list, but if you're finding yourself in this black hole of emotions over your child's diagnosis then I urge you to stop and step out to the light. Ride the wave. Ride it proud, head on, and with so much joy. There are many worse things in this world than autism. Autism is a different outlook on life and it's the way we perceive it that makes the difference.

Take care!


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